Alpinist paragliding from Mount Everest

South African alpinist Pierre Carter became the first person to fly off the roof of the world with a paraglider and a Nepalese permit. Kathmandu’s squinting at new tourists will hardly reduce the congestion problem on Mount Everest.

Many want to climb Mount Everest, now paragliders too. A recording from May 2019.

Nirmal Purja / AP @Nimsdai Project Possible

Glide down from the roof of the world. Pierre Carter has fulfilled this dream. The South African towed his paraglider up Mount Everest and took off from there. For the first time, Nepal’s authorities gave their approval for such an adventure.

The flight from the highest mountain in the world took around 20 minutes at a top speed of up to 80 kilometers per hour. The landing took place at an altitude of almost 5200 meters above sea level, not far from the settlement of Goakshep.

fall while climbing

The view was spectacular, the 56-year-old told the AFP news agency after landing. He wasn’t afraid, but of course he was excited. The take-off was particularly difficult, as a paraglider does not take off as easily in thin air as it does at lower altitudes.

Carter originally wanted to fly from the summit, 8,849 meters above sea level. According to agency reports, however, he only received approval for a start from 8,000 meters. Due to the uncertain weather conditions, the decision was finally made to take off from 7,960 meters.

At this altitude, the adventurer and his team had to wait a long time until the wind strength and visibility were finally right. Previously, the ascent had already been difficult. At an altitude of 6500 meters Carter had fallen and was temporarily unable to walk any further.

The flight is not a pioneering act. Several other paragliders had already lifted off Mount Everest before the South African alpinist, the first being Jean-Marc Boivin in 1988. In 2001, a French couple even managed a tandem flight for the first time.

However, these flights all took place illegally, without permission from the Nepalese authorities. Carter’s gliding, on the other hand, received official permission. And the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is open to allowing such flights over the Himalayas in the future.

«Climb and Fly» in vogue

There should hardly be a lack of interested parties. “Climb and fly” has been a trend sport around the world for some time: you climb a peak and then let the paraglider carry you back down to the valley. The fascination for this combination seems unbroken.

Now Kathmandu is also recognizing the potential of the trend. After the Covid pandemic, which tore deep holes in the public coffers due to the absence of foreign tourists, the Himalayan state is more dependent than ever on new sources of income.

Squinting at new guests should not remain without criticism. Before the pandemic, there were often traffic jams on the highest mountain. At times, for hours, it only went on in tripping steps because countless alpinists were thronging Mount Everest.

The authorities allow up to 400 mountaineers a year to climb the mountain, with the expeditions being concentrated over a few weeks due to the weather. Every mountaineer is accompanied by local companions who show the way, transport the material or cook for the team. The resulting waste is usually left behind on the mountain.

boosting tourism

For this reason, environmental circles in particular have repeatedly called on the Nepalese authorities to be more restrictive about their permits. But according to World Bank data, every second inhabitant in Nepal lives on less than $3.20 a day. And permits for climbing tours, which cost around 11,000 dollars in the case of Mount Everest, are important foreign exchange earners.

That Expedition company Asian Trekkingwhich organized Carter’s paragliding flight, sees great potential for attracting “climb and fly” adventurers to Mount Everest: “The authorities now see that this can boost Nepal’s tourism industry,” the company says.

Carter also wants to return to Mount Everest. If he gets permission to take off from the top of the mountain, he wants to do it again. He is not deterred by the tens of thousands of francs that such an expedition costs.

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