Friday, May 18, 2007
British explorer and mountaineer Edward “Bear” Grylls, has set a new altitude record by piloting a powered paraglider above Mount Everest reaching 29,494ft (8,990m). He and his fellow pilot, Giles Cardozo, who had invented and developed the parajet engine, set out on their attempt from the Himalayan village of Pheriche (altitude 14,435ft (4,400m)) in the early morning of 14th May.
Grylls, 33, is a mountaineer, best selling author and television presenter who spent three years with the elite British Special Air Service (“SAS”) forces. During this time he was involved in a horrific parachuting accident in which he broke his back in three places, almost severing his spinal cord. Remarkably, in 1998, after months of rehabilitation, he became at 23, the youngest British climber to scale Mount Everest and return alive.
Cardozo is considered to be one of the top paragliding pilots in the world, and it is reported that he and Grylls first came up with the idea for the attempt about a year ago when he had invented the engine that would take them up the mountain.
Grylls and Cardozo flew their paragliders together to 28,001ft (8,353m) surviving temperatures of minus 76°F (-60°C) and dangerously low oxygen levels, when a fault developed in Cardozo’s engine, and he had to abort his attempt just 984ft (300m) below the summit. Grylls went on to reach his record height at 09.33 local time. He had originally intended to cross the Mountain but turned back to base camp fearing that he might be arrested if he entered Chinese airspace.
On his return to Kathmandu, Grylls voiced his feelings of loneliness and exhilaration:
|When Giles descended and I found myself alone so high up I was feeling a lot more vulnerable but I knew the weather and wind conditions were perfect. It was so amazing to look into Nepal, India and Tibet and all of a sudden these great Himalayan giants looked so tiny. It was a very special moment when I realised that there was no mountain in the world above me, especially after having stood on the top of the world myself nine years ago.
The attempt was sponsored by British technology and engineering group GKN. The project, GKN Mission Everest, raised £500,000 (approximately $1m) for Global Angels, a charity helping children in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In a separate incident, a German paragliding champion has survived being sucked up by a storm to a height of 32,612ft (9,940m) whilst preparing for a world paragliding championship in Manilla, New South Wales, Australia.
Ewa Wisnierska, 35, the 2005 World Cup paragliding winner, lost consciousness and was covered in ice and battered by orange-sized hailstones as she was pulled upwards by the sudden tornado-like storm which she had been attempting to skirt. After regaining consciousness as she descended she was able to make contact with her ground team which had been tracking her by her GPS equipment, and landed safely 40 miles (60km) from where she took off.
Remarkably she spent only an hour in hospital after her experience, being treated for frostbite and blistering to her face and ears.
A fellow competitor, 42 year old Chinese man, He Zhongpin, who was also caught up in the storm, was not so fortunate and died from lack of oxygen and the extreme cold.