Breckenridge man skydives over Everest
October 11, 2008
Not many people can be browsing the Web, come across the words “skydive,” “Everest” and “$25,000” in one paragraph and think: “Well, I’m in.”
Especially when it mentions that it’s never been done before.
But when Breckenridge resident Simon Repton came across the ad one year ago, he immediately knew “it was for me.”
On a whim, he signed on.
At 10:41 a.m. local time on Monday, Repton, 34, went through with it.
Willingly ejecting himself from a fully-functional airplane at 29,500 feet, Repton “did a bunch of 360s and checked out everything” ” including Mount Everest over towards his right … er, left, depending on his ever-changing orientation.
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In doing so, Repton, along with 31 others, made history. Mount Everest, long a target for novel feats, has now been skydived.
High and Wild, a United Kingdom “adventure holiday” company, organized the 15-day expedition for team members from Britain, South Africa, Canada and the United States.
According to Repton, it was an eclectic group.
“There was a guy going to space in a few years through to a banker from London,” he said.
The company provided equipment and sent the participants through practice jumps before the real thing.
The actual skydiving consisted of a 62-second freefall and 4-minute under-canopy float. High and Wild’s website declares the landing zone, at 12,350 feet, to be the highest in the world.
“The skydive there itself isn’t anything ‘impossible.’ It takes skills from various different types of skydives and puts them together. A high-altitude jump from 30,000 feet is possible in the U.S.; you just don’t happen to pass mountains at the same height as soon as you get out of the plane,” Reston explained.
Minus one busted ankle, all 32 participants made it down without incident ” although that is somewhat dependent on how one defines “incident.”
Repton, for instance, lost visibility in a low-lying cloud, missed his intended landing zone, and proceeded to land in the midst of a field of yaks. The four Tibetan locals he dropped in on were “giving me a very funny look,” he reported in his blog.
Given the circumstances, his unconventional landing was actually quite fortunate.
“What makes it dangerous is that if you can’t get to the landing area in that part of the world, you are hosed. The area is surrounded by the biggest peaks, most vicious rivers and most unforgiving boulders and angles you could imagine. I was very lucky to come across the Royal Yak Farm when the weather came in on me,” he explained.
There are other factors that complicate skydiving high in the Himalayas. Repton ended up using a 280-square-foot parachute, which is nearly 50 percent larger than the canopy he uses in Colorado.
The larger size is necessary because of objects ” including skydivers ” fall faster in the thin air of high altitude. This also necessitates the use of oxygen.
In addition, temperatures at those extreme altitudes tend to be well below zero.
To be clear, skydiving over Everest is not something you can just jump into.
Repton, an IT consultant by career, came into the expedition exceptionally well prepared. A recreational pilot since 1996, Repton has skydived 132 times since April. He has practiced unconventional landing scenarios and even made a practice jump in Mississippi from 29,500 feet.
He credits his preparation for readying him in “body, skills, and mind.”
Reston may need even more prep for his next venture. Now that he has experienced the mountain from above, he is ready to make an attempt at an ascent.
“I am really interested in giving Everest a shot before I am 40, which is in six years. I am going to summit a 14er this winter and camp up there. If I survive, then I will keep it on the list… I have always had Everest on my mind, and I thought this would put it to rest. But it might of ignited another fire.”