The Ultimate Descent

By Katelynn Barnatt 22 August 2011
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Nepalese adventurers make a non-motorized descent from Mount Everest to sea level.

AFTER TWO MONTHS, NEPALESE adventurers Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa successfully completed not only a climb up Mount Everest, but also a record-breaking, non-motorized descent to sea level.

Sano, a paragliding tandem pilot for APPI, always dreamed of flying off Everest. Lapka, an experienced mountain climber, had long wanted to learn to fly. The two met in February after Lapka heard about Sano’s flying experience, and together they decided to make each other’s dreams come true.

“You take me up to Everest,” Sano told Lapka, “and I will take you all the way to sea.”

The two started their climb on April 1, successfully completing this phase in mid-May. They set to make their descent on May 21.

Using a tandem paraglide, Sano and Lapka set a World Altitude Record in paragliding by circling 30m over the summit of Mount Everest. Incredibly, Lapka used no oxygen during this 45-minute flight.

They continued on a 5000m descent, completing the first ever cross-country flight off Everest.

From there, the pair completed three days of hiking and flying until they reached the base of the Himalayas, where they met up with members of Paddle Nepal as well as fellow kayaker Krishna Sunuwar to kayak 500km through India to the Bay of Bengal.

On June 27, Sano and Lapka finally completed their journey, making this the first complete descent from the highest point on Earth to sea level.

“The Nepali people now view Babu and Lapka as heroes,” says Kimberly Phinney, representive of the Ultimate Descent. “All the people now know their names, and they are very proud.”