On October 7, 2008, Carrie Holmes, 30, and a team of international skydivers became the first to skydive from above Mount Everest. With oxygen tanks and custom high altitude jumpsuits, the 16-person team broke a world record when they jumped from above the summit and landed in the highest drop zone ever—at 12,350 feet in the nearby village of Syangboche. —As told to Bryn Fox
When I heard about the Everest skydive, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to be a part of it. I try to have goals to further my skills on every jump. In an effort to continue to learn, I often jump with more-experienced jumpers and seek out feedback and advice from those in the dropzone. I became a part of the (Everest) jump team in December 2007.
I have always been an active individual, but [to prepare] I upped the workout program, sought exercise advice from my trainer Josh Morse, and incorporated hiking on a regular basis. Because the Everest skydive required oxygen, which I had never used on a regular basis before, I took a course on aerospace physiological training that discussed the effects of hypoxia on the body. SkyDance SkyDiving in Davis, California, offered a HALO (high-altitude low-opening) program, so I traveled there to experience jumping with full oxygen equipment. I had previously lived at altitude, so I knew I was easily susceptible to altitude sickness.
To acclimate, the Everest skydive team met in Katmandu and then flew to Lukla— the main starting point for treks through the Himalayas. From Lukla we trekked for eight days, stopping each night at local villages. Then we headed to the dropzone at Syangboche. It was the first time a plane had landed in Syangboche since the early 1990s. We were all staring down the valley, just waiting to see a plane. Finally, we saw a helicopter followed by an airplane, and we all cheered. Shortly after the plane arrived, a Russian M17 helicopter arrived with barrels of aviation fuel.
Each solo diver did two jumps. The first jump was from 18,000 feet, with only a five-second freefall before pulling the canopy. The intent was to familiarize us with the equipment and the landing area. The second jump—the big jump—was from 29,500 feet. As the plane flew to altitude, I was trying to take in the moment and engrave the images on my brain so I would never forget. We flew close to Everest, and the scenery was jaw dropping. As we approved jump altitude, we switched from the oxygen system in the plane to our personal oxygen bottles.
Chris Parsons and I were doing the first-ever two-way, meaning the two of us were linked on exit and held hands during freefall. Once Chris and I were linked, he gave a count of three and we exited the plane. We freefell for about 60 seconds before pulling our parachutes. The canopy ride was about five minutes before we reached the ground. On the 29,500-foot jump, the clouds came in after we exited the aircraft, and they covered the landing area. The moment I realized that I was going to have to find an alternative landing area was not a good feeling. I ended up landing above the dropzone on uneven terrain and sustained injuries: a compound fracture of my left ankle and a fracture in my lumbar area.
The event was huge to the country of Nepal because there had never before been skydiving there. It was the farthest I had ever traveled and the longest holiday I had ever taken. It was the world record. And it was the first time these jumps were attempted. There aren’t many firsts left in the world, and it is great to be a part of something so rare.