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Catching air on Everest: Paragliders Microlites Hang gliders and Spiders
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May 18, 2004 11: 58 EST
Every climber on Everest is acutely aware of wind speeds, but none more so than those rare few who plan on using the wind to their advantage. Take for example, Wilco Van Rooijen. He is making an oxygenless Everest attempt that will be followed by a jump off the summit, with a paraglider of course. Wilco and Rex Snelder are holed up in Camp 3 right now, waiting for the weather to clear before making their final push.

Everest has seen several people paraglide off its summit, including the French couple, Zeb and Claire, who did it in tandem. K2 has yet to see a paraglider jump off its summit or even come near.

That may change, however, with UK paraglider, John Silvester who has a little deviation on paragliding off an 8000m peak. This summer he is expected to paraglide off K2, but he doesn’t plan on climbing up first. Instead, the idea is to paraglide up to the summit riding thermals and the dynamic wind, and then down. He has previously been on trans-Himalayan cross-country paragliding flights and when ExplorersWeb spoke to him last year, he felt pretty certain that he’d be able to soar above the 8000m level.

Skeptics believe that the air is too thin for a glider to ‘climb’ to those heights. But adventurers like John, Wilco, and coming soon; British Microlight pilot Richard Meredith-Hardy and Italian hang-glider pilot Angelo D’Arrigo, don’t give the nay-sayers a second thought.

RMH, Angelo, and Sydney Spider are stuck in the valley below Everest right now because of thick fog. Here is what Sydney had to say about meeting an eagle while waiting around:

A High altitude spider’s brush with tragedy

"I can tell you it was a very unpleasant experience. Before I could escape, the eagle grabbed me in his beak and in a moment I was pinned on the ground in his claws and he was trying to rip my legs off! Luckily I am a tough old thing and none of them came off (even if they did, everybody knows I can grow them back again).

Richard wasn't being much use all this time, just leaping around shouting "no no no" a lot, which didn't have the slightest effect on the eagle. Luckily he did come to my rescue in the end though, just as I was about to be swallowed whole he grabbed the eagle round the neck so I wouldn't go down its throat and I was spat out. I can tell you I was away out of range as fast as my eight legs would carry me, and apart from a few bruises utterly unscathed. Angelo told me later that the eagle was disappointed to have missed such a tasty looking meal, but otherwise quite unharmed." Sydney hopes to be the first Spider above 8,000 meters.

Lingo:

Thermals: A rising current of warm air, paragliders can use these to gain altitude.

Wing: Another word for a paraglider.

Dynamic air: Wind, compressed against the face of the mountain and deflected. Paragliders can use this to gain altitude as well.

Dutch climbers Wilco van Rooijen and Rex Snelder are going for an attempt on the Everest’s North side. Wilco, climbing with out oxygen, hopes to paraglide off from the summit. He has previously reached both the North and South Poles and turned back on Everest in 2002.

A European duo wants to fly over Everest, one guy in a Microlight pulling the other in a hang glider. The pilot of the Microlight will be Richard Meredith-Hardy (RMH), from the UK. Sicilian Angelo D’Arrigo will be the man in tow; Richard has previously pulled him on other flights. This Everest expedition also involves a study of the migratory route of the Steppe Eagles (Aquila Nealensis). Where the duo will be flying is on the line of the bird’s migratory route.

British paraglider John Silvester along with a few others will head over to the Karakorum this upcoming summer of 2004 attempting to soar as high as K2’s summit and as near to it as they can. Silvester is no stranger to Himalayan paragliding - In 1999 he went on a journey through Western Tibet via paraglider along with filmmaker Alan Hughes, taking off and landing in remote villages. John has previous been to Pakistan and soared above the 7000m mark.

Images courtesy of Over Everest 2004

From top to bottom; Syanboche, two rare types of transport, testing out the runway, takeoff in Syangboche, Sydney Spider's close call, Lukla from the North.

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