Pierre Carter: The man who paraglided off Mount Everest and into the history books

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(CNN) – Many climbers will tell you that it is harder to climb than to climb Mount Everest.

But South African Pierre Carter has come up with a compelling, death-avoiding solution: Hang gliding back down his path.

In May 2022, Carter made history by becoming the first person to obtain permission from the Government of Nepal to climb Everest. While some courageous souls have completed the first attempt, their descendants were technically against the law. (No one was ever fined or prosecuted.)

Carter’s journey to Everest has been a long one. An avid climber, he became interested in paragliding but waited for the gear to become cheaper and lighter before he could climb the mountain with it.

The 55-year-old Johannesburg native has no corporate sponsors or financial backers. He earns money by supporting his climbing and gliding habits through his contracting job.

Once he started thinking seriously about climbing Everest, Carter decided to team up with him Asian TrekkingA high-profile company that has been working on the mountain for 40 years.

Its CEO, Dawa Steven Sherpa, is a native Nepali and enjoys paragliding, but he told Carter that getting a permit to climb the world’s highest peak would never happen. However, as Carter prepares for a tour of Nepal in the spring of 2022, he thinks staying put will not hurt.

“Something has happened in politics. I’m not sure what exactly. But one minister changed somewhere, apparently blocking him. He left and another minister came. And the claim sent me a sudden message, ‘I think “We will get the permit. There is a new minister,” Carter recalls.

The permit was received on time. Carter was already in Nepal when it was confirmed.

The terms of the permit meant he would not be able to take off from the summit of Everest. Instead, the document clarifies that Carter will not be able to depart from an altitude of more than 8,000 meters (26,000 feet), so he chose to take off from the South Colonel.

Carter's paragliding gear, which he was to carry with him, weighed 2.2 kilograms (about 5 pounds).

Carter’s paragliding gear, which he was to carry with him, weighed 2.2 kilograms (about 5 pounds).

Courtesy Pierre Carter

Originally, Carter planned to climb Everest, then return to South Cole and take off from there. But he contracted altitude sickness at Camp Bay and was delayed for several days. Since the clock was ticking, he had to decide – go to the top of the world, or paraglide it down.

As Carter tells him, there really was no choice. And finally, the weather conditions were perfect.

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Carter explains, “When you’re flying at that altitude it’s not the weather that’s where you are. It’s the weather where you are, it’s the weather that’s half down the mountain and it’s the weather where you’re going to land.” Carter explains. He left South Cole on May 15 at noon local time with a 360-degree camera.

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In all, it took him a total of seven and a half weeks to travel to Nepal and climb the world’s highest peak. It took 20 minutes to get down.

Reaching higher speeds during paragliding, Carter and Sherpa worked ahead of time to find the best way possible. Although he succumbed to the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčlanding at Everest Base Camp, Carter quickly abandoned the idea when he realized that he could easily break a leg or ankle if the wind was too strong.

Eventually, they chose the road where Carter landed in Gorak Shep village, about 7 km (4.3 miles) from base camp.

There a Sherpa guide found him with a change in footwear so he could return to base camp wearing regular hiking shoes, not the snow boots he had slipped down. There was no celebrity party or welcoming committee – just the way Carter, who considers himself an ordinary hobbyist, wanted it.

Carter’s goal is to climb the world’s seven highest mountains and paraglide down.

Everest is now under its belt, it has climbed six out of seven – only Mount Vinson, also known as Vinson Massif, remains in Antarctica. He couldn’t get out of it all, though – Denali in Alaska denied him a permit. He documents his travels on his website, 7 Summit 7 Flights.

However, he knows that his paragliding from the world’s highest mountain is more than just a feature of personal life. Everest tourism is a huge source of income for Nepal, and previous governments have struggled to come up with other sources of income without exploiting the mountain.

Carter and Sherpa believe that “climb and fly” experiences like Carter’s could be the next big trending trend on Everest.

As a result, South Africans felt a sense of responsibility to glide as safely and responsibly as possible.

“The precedent has been set,” he says. “I think we’re going to see a lot of people flying next year.”

And what if the Nepali government changes its guidelines to allow people to paraglide from mountain tops?

“I’ll be tempted to go back,” he admits.

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