'Insane' daredevil skis down Everest
Extreme sports hero slides to a record
Triumphing over extreme cold, treacherous ice and people dismissing him as mad, Slovenian Davo Karnicar yesterday became the first person to ski non-stop down Mount Everest.
After a dramatic plummet over almost sheer cliffs of snow, boulders and ice, 38-year-old Karnicar emerged exhausted but exhilarated in his base camp after five hours of skiing that gave new meaning to the words off piste.
At one stage he had to speed over stretches of ice that collapsed and broke underneath him and could have sent him tumbling into the deep crevasses that dot the mountain.
'I feel only absolute happiness and absolute fatigue,' he said after his successful run landed him in the record books and notched another in a series of bizarre firsts for conquerors of Everest that already includes launching a paraglider from the 8,850-metre summit.
The descent by the father of three had been seen by many as insanely dangerous. The Darwin Awards website, which documents and applauds foolhardy deaths, called the descent 'madness' and urged people to log onto internet broadcasts of the attempt. 'Keep your eyes peeled for a live Darwin Award,' it said.
However, the only body to make news yesterday was a corpse of an unknown mountaineer which Karnicar zipped past as he descended, one of an estimated 120 cadavers thought to litter the slopes. For Karnicar it was a reminder of the potential perils of his sport, but it did not stop him.
'This mountain is always full of surprises, seeing a dead man out there was a really shocking experience,' he said.
Thanks to strategically placed cameras on the mountain and one attached to his safety helmet, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 70 countries witnessed his descent on the internet. During the run more than 650,000 hits were registered on the expedition website - www.everest.simobil.si
- jamming it for a time as others tried to access the site.
Those successful in logging on shared in the drama. At one stage Karnicar prompted deep concern after he failed to radio in to his support team just before he negotiated a notorious outcrop called the Hillary Step. But there had been no disaster. It was just the extreme weather hampering the operation of his radio batteries.
In fact the conditions were so severe that he abandoned plans to rest on the summit before attempting to descend. Instead, suffering from fatigue, as soon as he reached the top he put on his skis and flung himself back down the mountain.
He had already skied down Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, the Eiger and Annapurna, but Everest was the last great challenge of the extreme side of the skiing world.
Tackling the mountain had already cost Karnica two fingers in 1996 when a failed attempt saw him get frostbite as a fierce storm lashed the peak.
Karnicar comes from an illustrious skiing family in Slovenia and took part in his first Himalayan skiing expedition in 1989. Since than he has been tireless in raising funds and sponsorship for more expeditions, with Everest as the eventual goal.
'Extreme skiing, is my sport, my thinking and life itself,' he said.
Mountain of facts
Compiled by Dorota Nosowicz
Age: About 60 million years old
Elevation: 29,035ft (8,850m). New height, 6' greater than was thought, calculated in 1999
Name in Nepal: Sagarmatha (means 'goddess of the sky')
Name in Tibet: Chomolungma ('mother goddess of universe')
Named after: Sir George Everest, British surveyor-general of India in 1865. Once known as Peak 15
Location: Latitude 27 59' North, longitude 86 56' East. Its summit ridge separates Nepal and Tibet
First ascent: 29 May, 1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tensing Norgay, above, via the South Col route
First solo ascent: 20 August 1980, by Reinhold Messner, via the NE ridge to North Face
First ascent by an American: 22 May, 1963, James Whittaker, via the South Col
First ascent by a woman: 16 May, 1975, Junko Tabei, via the South Col
First oxygenless ascent: 8 May, 1978, Reinhold Messner, and Peter Habeler, via the South-East ridge
'Insane' daredevil skis down Everest | World news | The Observer