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Everest South: "Ultralights flying up toward the Western Cwm!"
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May 24, 2004 00: 02 EST
FlyMicro out testflying?! Well, at least this is what Ellie, the BC manager of Alpine Ascents reported early this morning:

"We are also being treated to a rare sight this morning - there are a couple of ultralights flying around up toward the Western Cwm. The sherpas think they flew up from Shayngboche, and that there are a lot of them over around Pokhara. This is the first time I've ever seen one here. I guess that just proves the conditions up there are good."

FlyMicro! We quickly checked their website but nope, no updates since Friday. This was the latest:

"21 May, Nearly....
Up before 5. Sent a SMS to my beautiful wife Mma N.L.M Hardy saying simply 'Fog', she likes to know whether she can sleep soundly or not. Got up anyway and wandered about the campsite a bit and then up onto the small hill nearby where you can see sown the valley to Lukla. Suprisingly, the fog was clearing and under the overcast you could see quite far.

I sat and watched. It seemed to be a bit different today, more stable and no massive cloud waiting to surge up the valley. By 6 it was really quite clear and I was wondering whether I should rig my machine just to have a fly around.

It would be useful to test my new cooling duct and to fly 10 or 15 minutes up the valley to go and see the airstrip at Mingbo (see separate article in the 'History' section) as it might be a useful diversion strip but we neither know exactly where it is or what sort of state it is in, it was, after all, last used in 1961 though Simon Baker did tell me that they went up there and cleared a few stones off it for use as an emergency strip on their 1986 expedition here (see history section for more about this too).

The camp began to rise at about 6.30. Barty wandered over with a mug of milk tea all excited because it might be worth going for a walk a bit later if there was the possibility of actually being able to see something. I was more keen on the idea of acually being able to commit some flight.

A team of Korean climbers who had successfully climbed Lhotse on the 15th started emerging from the Lodge carrying a load of stuff to the middle of the strip, they were expecting a helicopter to Kathmandu.

By about seven it was looking better than ever so we decided to give it a go. Uncovered and rigged the machine, for once the camera people finished setting up their stuff on the trike at the same time as I was dressed and ready at about 8.

Fired it up and then Barty pointed out a cloud forming rapidly at the end of the strip. It drifted over so I switched off to wait and see what would happen. After ten minutes or so it cleared off so I started up again and taxied over to the end of the strip. By the time I had got there there was not only another cloud at the end of the strip but the big helicopter was in it somewhere, trying to find a way in.

This was a bit of a nasty moment because we could all hear it pootling about in the murk and there was a real risk it might suddenly make an unconventional approach through a hole in the cloud and appear right over my machine and destroy it. I tried to call them on the radio but for some reason there was no response. I rolled down the hill as far off the strip as I could and with several people ready to hang on to my wing we waited to see what would happen.

Eventually it appeared below the end of the strip with it's rotors in the cloud, climbing to land, with the most tremendously dramatic spiral vortexes coming off the rotor tips, an indication of how humid it is. It landed several hundred metres from me without drama and for once without a huge cloud of dust, the rain last night and yesterday had seen to that.

It took 30 minutes or so to unload the cargo of plywood, aluminium framed windows and a vast quantity of bathroom tiles and get the Koreans and their kit on board. Oscar, one of our team who was due to leave today got a lucky break with a ride directly to Kathmandu rather than having to walk down to Lukla to catch a plane.

All this time it remained clear but I couldn't take off, not so much because the helicopter was parked in the middle of the strip, I could probably have got past it, but because of all the people milling around. By the time it had departed at about 9 it had begun to close in again so I just taxied back to our parking place. Within half an hour it closed in completely and started to rain. It has been the most miserable damp day ever since, and rather colder than of late.

Apparently Lukla has also been closed for the last three days so there must have been a terrific rush first thing this morning. It looks like we may get a weather opportunity in three or four days time. We are coming to the end of our time here so this will be our last chance - but we will not be taking any risks - it is simply too dangerous. We have just received a report that there have been four deaths on Everest in the last 24 hours and another report of 10 climbers missing.... "

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

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