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Ski Everest 2000
On Skis, On Everest

Karnicar Skis Everest
Ski Everest 2000 Dispatch
08 OCT 2000

It was an historical day for Slovenian Davo Karnicar, of Jezersko, who accomplished an uninterrupted ski descent from the top of the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest (8848 meters, 29,028 feet).

At 8am local time, Davo started his historical ascent, fulfilling his longtime dream, which he'd already attempted in 1996 when a snowstorm halted his efforts. Today, in only five hours, Davo skied uninterrupted, from the top of the mountain to Base Camp at 5340m (17,519ft) without taking off his skis.

Davo Karnicar and Franc Oderlap began the ascent early in the morning Wednesday. They left Base Camp, climbed the notorious Khumbu Icefall, and reached Camp II before noon. The same day, the Sherpa assistants went to Camp IV to establish tents. One of them had to return due to altitude sickness.

After a good night's sleep, the Slovenian mountaineers, heavily loaded with gear, pushed further Thursday morning. On Friday, they traversed below the Lhotse Face over the Geneva Spur and the Yellow Band, the highest-lying tectonic joint in the world, and reached Camp IV at the South Col at an altitude of 7950m (26,082ft) just after noon. Davo was in a very good mood, feeling the Everest summit at his hand's reach.

After setting up two tents with the Sherpa assistants, Davo and Franc put every effort into eating and drinking — quite a strenuous pursuit at such an altitude. Davo ate a large portion of tsampa mixed with cottage cheese prepared by the Sherpas.

At 5pm, the two Slovenians tucked into one sleeping bag and slept for three hours with additional oxygen. Upon waking up, they were more exhausted than before, but focused enough to prepare the gear and get dressed. They departed for the summit at 10:30pm. Franc put on a down suit; Davo wore two fleece layers, a wind stopper and an anorak. Davo joked that it was a romantic night as the moon shone brightly. Davo put on his ski boots, while Franc wore high-altitude hiking boots. They both wore crampons— the slopes were icy and the snow was compressed by wind. They broke a new trail through breakable crust and did not use the same trail as the Korean team that summited last week.

Just below the Hillary Step, Davo contacted Base Camp via radio. Conditions at the most dangerous section were ideal. It took Davo therefore only half an hour to reach the summit from the South Summit.

They reached the top by 7am. On the summit of Everest, it was extremely cold, but clear, with great views of Lhotse, Makalu and neighboring peaks. After an hour of making preparations, photographing and warming up, Davo skied down, while Franc Oderlap, Ang Dorjee Sherpa — who summited for a seventh time — and Passang Tenzing Sherpa descended on foot. The most difficult section of the ski descent was not, as Davo had supposed, the Hillary Step, but the steep section leading to the South Summit, with a considerable threat of avalanches. At Camp IV, Davo put on a camera weighing three kilos (6.6 pounds) —which is why he decided not to ski with it right from the top. After several steep sections, he reached Camp III where he met other climbing members of the expedition, Tadej, Urban, Matej, Grega and Jurij the doctor. The adventure was far from over; Davo still had to ski the Icefall, an immense psychological test for any skier. He skied under the haunting seracs, which could have unexpectedly broken and fallen at any time.

The celebratory atmosphere at Base Camp was beyond description. We opened a bottle of champagne and toasted to Davo, who didn't go to sleep for a long time, though he was very tired.

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