On October 5, 2008, Holly exited a Pilatus Porter aircraft at 29,500ft, falling at 140mph, in -40C wind chill conditions, getting a bird’s eye view of Mount Everest and some of the world’s most breath-taking mountain scenery before landing on the world’s highest dropzone at 12,350ft.
Skydive Everest was an incredible experience. After acclimatising and trekking for 8 days, we based ourselves at Syang Boche, a disused airstrip at 12,500ft. This was also to be our landing area, the highest civilian landing area in the world. It is bizarre to think that I am normally getting out of the plane at this height. The implications of jumping in such a hostile environment, where the air is much thinner, meant my landing speed was much faster. My parachute was three times the size of my normal chute but still landed at the same speed! The plane, a Pilatus Porter, that we jumped from was flown in especially from Switerland for this expedition. When the pilots landed the plane in Nepal, the Nepalise officials told them they had to prove they could fly a plane (despite their five day flight to get there!) and they had to take a written exam. This delayed us by a couple of days but thankfully our pilots proved they were worthy of flying the plane. I did two skydives in total. One was an acclimatisation jump from 18,000ft and the second, was the big jump from 29,500ft, both were oxygen assisted. The plane had not actually flown to this altitude before, so it was new territory for the pilots and the plane also!
Jumping with oxygen felt strange. I had never jumped with O2 before. The acclimatisation jump from 18,000ft was one of the most amazing and peaceful skydives I have ever done. Being in freefall and flying your canopy around, with such an awe-inspiring backdrop of some of the world’s highest mountains is a memory I will treasure forever. The scale of the mountains make you realise how small and inferior you are in comparison. The flight to 29,500ft took us 45 minutes. The view was incredible!
I have been asked many times if I was nervous just before the door opened and the answer I give is, i would be lying if I said I was not nervous (i think nerves are a healthy thing) but it was more of an excited feeling and a keen anticipation to get out of the plane. When the door opened, my camera flyer climbed out and I sat in the door. Sitting in the door, with my feet on the step was an amazing feeling, knowing I was totally committed to what I was about to do and listening to my intuition, everything felt right. I started to give the count, READY, SET …. and I was just about to go, when I felt a firm hand on my shoulder, trying to pull me back into the plane. The pilot had held up the STOP sign but as I had my back to him I couldn’t see this, and in my count, I had far too much momentum to stop! I consequently fell out of the plane and my camera flyer dived down after me!
I pulled my chute at 18,000ft and immediately set about trying to locate the landing area. The landing area was a perfectly good size if you made it back there but the surrounding areas were totally uncompromising. If you had a bad spot out of the plane, which is what almost happened to us, hence the pillot holding up the Stop sign, then there were very few outs, in the steep valleys and cliff edges. Under canopy I was struggling to see anything, as my O2 mask was obscuring my vision, so I decided to take it off. Having spent 45 mins breathing in pure oxygen, It was a shock to the system to remove the mask. I feel rather dizzy but knew my main focus was to get back to the landing area and land safely, which is exactly what I did.
After landing, there was an army of cameras and keen interviewers running towards me! This media madness did not stop for the next few days. I arrived back in UK two days later, having been upgraded on my Virgin flight home as they had seen me on the front page of the Kathmandu Times. I did 6 live TV interviews in 24 hours! I was thrown in at the deep end but I got a real buzz out of being put on the spot and being told “Don’t worry your just going out LIVE to America!”
So what did the Skydive Everest Expedition achieve?
1. A World Record
2. $300,000 was raised by Global Angels for the children of the Himalaya & Asia.
3. 200 computers were donated to local schools & an internet connection set up.
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Holly feels passionate about sharing her experiences of the Skydive Everest Expedition with others – emphasising how important it is to set goals in life, seize opportunities and overcome challenges. Click here for more information.