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Fri, Oct 10, 2008

Three Skydive Over Mount Everest

Land At Drop Zone At 12,350' AGL

Apparently so many people have now summitted Mount Everest that it's become passe. The Times of London reports a British woman was among three skydivers who became the first to freefall at extreme altitude through the skies above Mount Everest.

The paper reports 29-year-old Holly Budge, an extreme sports enthusiast from Winchester, made a safe landing Sunday at a site 12,350 feet above sea level. It's said to be the highest 'drop zone' achieved by a parachutist.

"We had one minute of freefall and while we were above the clouds you could see Everest and the other high mountains popping out of the top," Budge said.

Holly was accompanied by jumpers identified as Wendy Smith of New Zealand, and Neil Jones of Canada. They jumped from an aircraft at about 29,500ft, just higher than the peak of Everest.

In the thin air, freefall speeds reached a reported 140 miles per hour, and the canopies were made three times the normal size to compensate. The jumpers required oxygen masks, and wore special neoprene underwear to prevent frostbite. 

Budge said she settled on the stunt to celebrate her upcoming 30th birthday. High and Wild, a British adventure company, says this particular outing is, "a feast for those who seek to stimulate all their senses to the point of near overload."

If turning the big three-oh gives you the blues, perhaps this is an antidote. Jumper Wendy Smith commented, "I had never seen so many mountains before. To be on top of the world was simply stunning."

The company says it has 30 more bookings for the jumps over the next few days. It's not cheap... at over 12,000 British pounds, or about $22,000 US per person. But organizer Nigel Gifford knew he'd have a winner.

"The Everest skydive came about because I have been a Himalayan mountaineer and took up skydiving. I love doing both and I thought it would be good to marry the two."

Speaking of which... you just know someone's going to decide to exchange vows during an Everest skydive...



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