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Everest only complete ski descent flashback: Davo Karnicars non-stop ride

Posted: Jun 28, 2006 02:30 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) Before his Cho Oyu climb 2 years back, Tomas Olsson told ExWeb: "Ill try to stick to the motto of the grand old man of extreme skiing, Pierre Tardivel from France. He said: 'climb what you aim to ski'. But two years later, on Everest, something went wrong. Tomas mentioned long waiting lines on the normal route and feeling very tired on the summit. Entering the Great couloir Thomas reported the hardest skiing conditions he had ever faced. Shortly after, he died when rapelling down a section of the unfamiliar route - with his skis still on.

Snowboarding and skiing down Everest

This year, two Scandinavian expeditions skied down parts of Everests north side. Swede Tomas Olsson fell to his death on the Great couloir right before the eyes of his team mate Norwegian Tormod Granheim. The second ski-team, made up of Olof Sundström and Martin Letzter from Sweden, made it safely back down the normal route.

None of the skiers had managed a complete ski descent of Everest.

While there have been 17 ski descents from Everest with this year's attempts, only one has ever been complete - from summit to BC: On October 7, 2000 Davo Karnicar skied down from the summit on Everest south side. Hans Kammerlander skied down the north side in May 1996, but his descent was from 7800m and not complete.

Post monsoon climb on Everest south side

On October 7, 2000, at 7 am, Slovenian extreme skier Davo Karnicar reached the top of Mt. Everest from the South Col route. This was Davo's second shot at the mountain he had previously lost two fingers in an earlier attempt on Everest from the north side, in 1996.

Reaching the summit, however, was not the most eye catching part of Karnicars climb. An hour later, he clicked into his bindings and began to ski down the mountain. He would not remove his skis until 4 and half hours later, near BC at 5360m. Davo made it down the Hillary Step, the Lhotse face, and the Khumbu Icefall!

His was the first, and remains the only complete ski descent from the Top of the World until now.

Danger ahead the Hillary Step

Davo started on supplementary O2 from C4. He reached the summit with team-mate Franc Oderlap and Sherpas Ang Dorjee and Pasang Tenzing the three of them would walk back down after Davo started on skis.

After the descent, the Slovenian skier said the most difficult section was not the Hillary Step, but the following section towards the South Summit, which was not only steep, but also avalanche-prone. Back at C4, Davo attached a camera to his helmet, in order to record the descent on video.

A few other members of the team were waiting for Davo in C3. Among them was Slovenian climber and photographer Urban Golob. Urban shot some amazing images of the lower half of the descent, which he is now sharing with ExWebs readers. Check them out, and try to imagine how it feels to cross the Khumbu Icefall with its menacing seracs and crevasses - on skis!

Slovenian skier Davo Karnicar was born October 26, 1962, in Zgornje Jezerko, Slovenia. On October 7, 2000 he became the first person ever to ski non-stop from the summit of Everest. His is the first, and up to now, only complete ski descent from Everests summit to BC.

Davo summited at 7:00 am with Franc Oderlap and Sherpas Ang Dorjee and Pasang Tenzing. During the nearly 5 hour descent, he took some short breaks to catch his breath but never took off his skis.

Urban Golob was born in 1970 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He made his first climbing ascent at the age of 9 when he was already sick with cancer. After spending the next four years in and out of hospitals, he stood on Mont Blanc's summit - he was only 14 at the time. In 1985 he started to climb more seriously and since then he has made around 700 ascents, extreme ski descents and more than 50 first ascents mostly in the Slovenian Alps but also in Austria, Switzerland, Canada and the Himalayas. He currently works as a free lance photographer. As an alpinist and photographer, Urban was a member of Ski Everest 2000 expedition and his work on the first complete ski from top of Everest by Davo Karnicar was published worldwide.

Swede Tomas Olsson was the 8th casualty on Everest this year. The accident took place on the Norton Couloir, about two hours after the climbers summited the mountain on May 16. In a call from the top, they reported a very hard 14 hour push through a snow storm. "I hope we will be strong enough to ski down the north face," Tomas said.

Tormod told Norwegian TV2Netavisen that Tomas fell when rappelling down a 150 ft rock cliff at around 8500 meters. The snow anchor broke off and Tomas is believed to have been knocked unconscious during the fall, continuing to slide down the wall.

Swedes Olof Sundström and Martin Letzter summited Everest from the North side on May 16, 2006 at 9:30 am Chinese time. Olof became the first man to Telemark off the summit of Everest. "Only a few turns later, skis had to be removed however, as the North Ridge was far to barren to allow skiing at this time - thus we retreated down close to the climbing route, repeating the route Kammerlander had skied in the 90s, skiing snow covered sections and down climbing rock," reported the climbers.

Italian Hans Kammerlander also skied down the north side of Everest after a speed ascent in 1996. However, his was not a complete ascent, and he didn't start skiing from the actual summit, but from 7800m.

Marco Siffredi snowboarded down the Norton Couloir in 2001, after summitting through the normal route with Himex. Only one year later, on September 8, 2002 Marco attempted a snowboard descent of the steep Hornbein Couloir. He arrived at the summit at approximately 2:00 p.m. and waited for about an hour for the clouds to dissipate before starting on his way down. Teammate Olivier Besson watched Siffredi through a telescope at Advanced Base Camp. At about 3:30 p.m., Siffredi slipped from view and was never seen nor heard from again.


Karnicar checking his skis' edges before the summit push (click to enlarge). Image courtesy of Urban Golob.
Climbing with skis on his back during the ascent (click to enlarge). Image courtesy of Urban Golob.
In the latest report, Sherpas said Kit was putting on her skis. Kit DesLauriers is the reigning womens world freeskiing champion, winning the title for two consecutive years. In the image, former Everest skier Davo Karnicar dealing with the Khumbu Icefall in 2000. (Click to enlarge). Image courtesy of Urban Golob.
Davo Karnicar skiing the Lhotse Wall just below Camp III - 7300m (click to enlarge). Image courtesy of Urban Golob.
Watching tonight? On October 7, 2000 Slovenian extreme skier Davo Karnicar achieved the first (and only) complete descent on skis from the summit of Everest. Image by Urban Golob, check link section for his website (click to enlarge).
Skiing without ropes or rappels in the Khumbu Icefall (click to enlarge). Image courtesy of Urban Golob.
Safe and sound back in BC (click to enlarge). Image courtesy of Urban Golob.