Mount Everest will be the launch pad for a first-ever wing suit flight from its summit when Joby Ogwyn jumps off the top of the famous peak in May of this year. The exact date has not yet been decided. When Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay scaled the world’s tallest mountain in 1953, they returned on foot. After them, many others have scaled the summit and then made the arduous and sometimes deadly descent the same way they climbed it – on foot and using mountaineering gear.
Ogwyn intends using a much faster technique to descend what is among the tallest mountains in the world. He will plunge from the summit wearing a customized wing suit that will have cameras fixed to it. “I’m very scared. I think it’s the fear of death or destruction that kind of keeps you above that,” said Ogwyn during a skydiving practice session.
Ogwyn is no stranger to Mount Everest. He was just 24 years old when he first reached the summit and this made him the youngest American at that time to reach the peak. It took him just 9.5 hours to reach the summit from the base camp. Today, Ogwyn is 39 years old and has been practicing assiduously for this new challenge. Three years ago, he performed a test jump from an airplane in order to gauge the effect of the thin air on the jump.
Joby Ogwyn, who intends using Mount Everest as a launch pad for his wing suit flight, is also no stranger to daredevil feats. He is the star of Adventure Wanted, a National Geographic television show. Each adventure takes place in remote and unexplored areas of the world, with Ogwyn using his fitness and training to overcome the natural obstacles that crop up. He has also jumped in a wing suit from the Matterhorn and Eiger.
When Ogwyn performed his test jump from the airplane, he was surprised at the results. He expected his flight to be slow. On the contrary, he flew faster and a greater distance that he would have done at a lower altitude. He explains that to be successful in this new challenge, he needs to win the mental battle. “What’s in your head and heart are more important than what’s in your arms or legs,” said Ogwyn, who admits to not being an extremely gifted athlete, but claims to have a high threshold for pain and suffering at high altitudes.
Mountaineering is an important source of revenue for Nepal’s tourism industry and also provides jobs for the local population. However, in recent times, with so many commercial climbing companies cropping up, the route to Mount Everest has become increasingly crowded. Many of the climbers are amateurs with no climbing skills but are sufficiently wealthy to pay the steep fee that is required before making an attempt. Having paid large sums of money they then feel that their sherpas and support teams have to bear the full responsibility of getting them to the top one way or the other. This can pose a risk to their own and other’s lives.
In an effort to reduce congestion and give the genuine climbers a chance, the Nepal government intends to reduce the fees that climbers have to pay for an Everest expedition. This reduction will be applicable during non-peak seasons in the fall, winter and summer.
Mount Everest is set to be the launch pad for Ogwyn’s wing suit flight in May. He will walk to the summit on foot over a three-day period from base camp and then change into his customized wing suit before jumping off. His descent back to base camp is expected to take just about ten minutes. Ogwyn seems determined to attempt this spectacular feat and says, “I’m not afraid to die. I’m not afraid to live my life on my own terms. And this is my dream and I am willing to risk everything to make it happen.”
By Grace Stephen