American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Western Nepal, Janak Himal, Everest, First Complete Ski Descent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Everest, First Complete Ski Descent. In the post-monsoon, Slovenian Davo Karnicar was the first person ever to descend by skis from the very top of Mount Everest to base camp; he accomplished this feat on the Nepalese side of the mountain without once removing his skis, and without artificial oxygen below the South Summit. He had already successfully skied down one 8000er, Annapurna I, five years before.

On October 7, he climbed Everest’s normal route on the Nepalese side, reaching the sum- mit at 6:45 a.m., making use of bottled oxygen; a Slovenian teammate and two Nepalese Sherpas summited at about the same time and went down on foot. At 8 a.m., he pushed off alone from the top on skis. He dropped the oxygen equipment and its six kilos of weight 20 minutes later at the South Summit (8748m). His biggest problem was a steep section just below the Hillary Step. He passed the Step beside fixed ropes along one side of it, but when he came to a difficult part below it, he had to descend one step at a time with his skis sideways to the mountain. At 8:40 a.m., he was down at the South Col at 7900 meters, where his Camp IV was located and where he picked up a three-kilo camera to mount on his helmet. Other cameras were placed at several spots along his route.

Karnicar reached Camp II (6500m) at 11 a.m., where he stopped to drink something and to wait for movie cameras at base camp to be ready for his final descent. At 11:30 a.m, he was off again. At 11:50 a.m., he passed Camp I (6000m) at the top of the famous Khumbu Icefall. The impenetrable Icefall, with its gaping crevasses and huge unstable towers of ice, would be impossible to overcome, so he didn’t try. Instead, he bypassed it by skiing along its very edge at the bottom of Everest’s southwest face and Lho La. He moved here just as fast as he safely could and fervently hoped that a falling serac would not happen to arrive at the same place at the same time as he. Finally, he was at base camp at the foot of the mountain (5350m) at 12:40 p.m. Total elapsed time: four hours, 40 minutes. He had had no sleep from the time he started his ascent from Camp IV toward the summit at 10:30 p.m. on October 6 until his return to base camp on the 7th, and there the merry celebrations with the champagne flowing postponed his sleep for a lot longer.

Elizabeth Hawley

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.