Best of ExplorersWeb 2011 Awards: Everest paraglide

Posted: Dec 30, 2011 04:38 am EST

One couldn't fly, the other didn't climb: it was stealth, it was shoestring, it was crazy, but they did it. Dark horses Babu Sunuwar, 28, and Lakpa Tshering Sherpa, 35, summited Everest on May 21st and broke the World Record of Altitude in Paragliding.

Return of the Everest birdmen

In 2004 FlyMicro stunned the entire mountain as they came " target="_new"> soaring toward the summit of Everest. They waved at wide eyed climbers near the top and then they were gone. "You rarely get a story like this even at ExplorersWeb," we wrote about the flight that rocked Everest back then.

That's why at the height of summit season this May we jumped up at a cryptic email arriving our newsdesk. "You should check out those paragliders' tracker," it said, "not sure but it seems they are moving away from Everest..."

The scoop was a fact.

Babu and Lakpa summited Everest on May 21st and took off as the crow flies from the north-west side of Everest, down to the other side to the western ridge and into the Everest basin.

From there to the south-west, crossing the massive Nupste of 7,861m, continuing in a straight line, past Pokalde, Ama Dablam, Mera Peak, and Tawoche flying 20 km to the Syangboche airstrip, near Namche.

The record came from the fact that they actually flew 30 meters over Everest before coming down.

The project had been put together in less than 2 months, and it wasn't over yet. From the top of the world, Babu and Lakpa would hike and kayak to the edge of the sea in Bangladesh.

A serial Everest summiteer, not only did Lakpa not know how to fly, he also didn't know how to swim. But that was fine with river guide Babu, who would help his friend out on that particular stretch, since after all, Lakpa had given him his own 02 bottle on the ascent, actually not only climbing but also flying around in the thin air without any supplemental oxygen!

Ryan Waters: "we did the math together"

One who knew more about the two was American climber (2010 ExWeb award winner and Antarctica record skier) Ryan Waters, who had met Lakpa on K2 in 2006. This time around, in a shared BC for his climb on Lhotse, he lived with the two while the plan was finalized.

Using the Sierra Designs Mothership as the office, Ryan wrote the two were laying out the new paraglider which had never been tested. "We did math together to see if the drop vs. horizontal rate of the wing would carry them over Nuptse etc," Ryan said.

"Lakpa has been climbing for years with many ascents of Everest, but Babu, a Nepali who comes off as extremely friendly and gentle, had never really climbed before," Ryan wrote. "Instead he brought the flying and paddling power. He is a national champion kayaker, and expert paragliding instructor who made the first flight across Nepal with 18 flights crossing the country from East to West."

"Both amazing guys. They also had a great deal of help from Ang Bae Sherpa, a super nice guy who made his first climb of Everest on the project and carried many loads of oxygen to the camps."

As for the actual descent Ryan wrote:

"They managed the flight off the summit and we were able to see them clear the Nuptse Ridge as we descended from our summit back down past camp 1."

"While hiking out of the valley I see our heroes hanging at a teahouse, waiting for the rest of our team to all walk into Lukla together, even their families were there."

"It was one of the special times in my adventure career to walk together with them down the path at sunset while their friends congratulated them like movie stars!"

By June 27 they had made it to the Bay of Bengal, and the rest is history.

Birdman Angelo D’Arrigo is nodding from above.

Previous Awards in 2011

4. Hemingway award: Mr Park
5. The Wanderer: Henk de Velde
6. Himalayan knights: Abele Blanc

Special mentions:

Adrian Ballinger: Manaslu ski descent
Erden Eruc: Indian Ocean row finish
Arjun Vajpai: youngest on Lhotse and Manaslu
Sarah and Eric McNair-Landry: kiting the NW passage
Erik Boomer & Jon Turk, Ellesmere Island
Irena Mrak and Mojca Svajger, Nanga Parbat Diamir face
Christian Eide, South Pole speed record
Ueli Steck - Shishapangma speed climb

We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2011. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.

And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 6 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in 2011.

By their performance, these expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:

- Courage
- Determination
- Persistence
- Self reliance
- Ingenuity
- Pioneering
- Idealism
- Comradeship
- Compassion
- Respect towards competition
- Honesty

#Air #topstory #choice

Lakpa to Babu: "Dude, this is COOL."
Image by Unknown courtesy Association of Paragliding Pilots & Instructors, SOURCE
Lakpa to Babu: "But I won't swim."
Image by Unknown courtesy Association of Paragliding Pilots & Instructors, SOURCE
Because Lakpa gave Babu his own 02 bottle on the ascent, he was actually not only climbing but also flying around in the thin air without any supplemental oxygen.
courtesy APPI, SOURCE
Recent Lhotse summiteer and Antarctica record holder Ryan Waters ((waving in middle back row) with the team on May 25th.
Image by Unknown courtesy Association of Paragliding Pilots & Instructors, SOURCE
Babu and Lapka in BC after the flight.
courtesy APPI, SOURCE
David Arrufat (Master instructor, representative of APPI), Babu Sunuwar and Lapka Sherpa receiving flight film award.
courtesy APPI, SOURCE
Birdman Angelo D’Arrigo nodding from above.