British skydiver, 62, lands on Mount Everest to break world record
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 5:42 PM on 24th September 2009
Two British skydivers have set a new world record after successfully landing on Mount Everest 16,800 ft above sea level.
Leo Dickinson, 62, and Ralph Mitchell, 42, were joined by Indian Air Force officer Ramesh Tripathi, 45.
They are believed to have smashed the previous record for highest ever parachute landing.
Feat: Leo Dickinson plunges through the shadow of Everest to land at the world's highest drop zone
‘Last year some skydivers jumped to a drop zone in the same region at 12,350ft. We still have to get it verified by Guinness but we’re confident we’ve easily beaten the record,’ said Leo.
Fraught with danger, the daredevil team were in a stomach-churning race against time, with just five seconds freefall to safely open their parachutes after jumping out of a helicopter at the maximum 20,500ft altitude.
And after stabilising and safely opening their chutes, the peril was far from over as the team prepared to land near Everest base camp.
The thrill-seekers had to home in on Gorak Shep - a narrow lakebed covered with sand and the only safe landing spot for miles around.
Top of the world: Mr Dickinson, flanked by fellow Briton Ralph Mitchell (left) and Indian army officer Ramesh Tripathi, stand at the 16,800ft-high plateau after they all skydived on to it from a helicopter flying 4,000ft above
‘It was pretty hairy,’ said Leo. ‘If you missed that or even just overshot it you were either going to die or end up with something important broken.’
Fortunately both Leo and Ralph have nearly 10,000 jumps between them, with Air Commodore Tripathi having notched up over 3,000 jumps.
During his rapid 3,700ft fall between the helicopter and the landing zone - severely shorter than most dives - stunned Leo said he enjoyed an ‘unparalleled panorama of the Himalayas and magnificent Everest’.
He said: ‘What I wasn’t prepared for was the view.
‘In a very British way I shook the helicopter pilot by the hand and just jumped.
Sheer: One of the skydivers, plunging down close to a snow-covered mountainside, prepares to land at Gorakshep
‘Despite being nearly four miles from Everest itself, I felt like I could reach out and touch it. ‘Normally when you are looking at Everest it is obscured from view but up there, I could see the whole thing from top to bottom.
‘It was an unbelievable sight that I want everyone to see for themselves. Nothing can prepare you.’
After opening their parachutes Leo, Ralph and Ramesh enjoyed five minutes of floating down to the landing zone.
‘The view of the mountain range was beyond my wildest dreams,’ said Leo. ‘It’s not often a 62-year-old gets to experience an orgasm in freefall.’
A long way down: How the plateau they landed at looks from above
The amazing event was organised to boost tourism in Nepal, with the country’s government hoping to boost much-needed numbers of holiday-makers coming to the country.
By May next year Ralph and Leo hope to run organised trips for tourists to enjoy the mind-blowing jump near Everest themselves.
‘It will be for divers with some experience but we really want to open it up as one of the world’s choice drop-zones,’ said Leo.
All three jumpers are now waiting for Guinness to confirm the new record.
The previous record was made last year when skydivers jumped to a drop zone in the same region at 12,350ft.
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