Everest Skydive 2023 concludes on a high note – Shital Mahajan from India claims world record

A lot of us would have pondered- What does skydiving feel like? And why is it in so many people’s bucket list? A leap of faith as many call it, it requires a spirit of adventure dosed with a rush of adrenaline.

To find out more, this year I was lucky to be amongst the extremes of skydiving and skydivers- Everest Skydive, the world’s most adventurous and exciting aerial event has been organized in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal since 2008. Continuing its successful history this year marked the 16th edition of the event and was held between the 10th and 13th of  November 2023.

What makes Everest Skydive unique and a very sought after for skydiving enthusiasts is that it requires more precision and finesse. Known as HALO( High Altitude Low Opening) jumps, they are a testament of a skydiver’s abilities. Since it is also attempted at some of the world’s highest altitude’s there is also the added challenge of extreme low temperatures and very low oxygen levels.

Everest Skydiving also means you trek to the location of the jump- this is for familiarization and also to gain acclimatization to low oxygen and prevailing weather conditions. Puja is also done gain favour from the Gods above.

With all this done, this year’s jumps with high altitude landings were conducted at Ama Dablam Base Camp, Kala Patthar and Syangboche air strip. The three days event had solo jumpers from all over the world and highlighting this year’s jumps was an Indian National Ms. Shital Mahajan vying for multiple records. Like previous years it was backed up by the core crew team of  Wendy Smith, Paul Henry, Nadia Solovyeva and Omar Alhegelan who have been doing this since 2008.

On the next day, November 11, the weather was ideal. With the Capt. Kiran Pun on the helm, the jumps were initiated first with a Hop & Pop jump to check weather and wind conditions and on this load were the daredevils-Alberto, Shittal, Laurent and Wendy . Once affirmed that it was okay 2 loads were concluded on November 11 by Omar Alhegelan, Nadia Solovyeva and Alberto.

November 12th was yet another day of history making .Captain Francois Favart took over flying duties and the load of the day itself was historic as it consisted entirely of women- Wendy Smith, Shittal Mahajan and Nadia Solovyeva. The history was added with Shital successfully completing a  Flag jump with the Indian Flag. Shital took her first leap from 5000ft AGL (Above Ground Level) at a staggering 17500ft altitude, successfully landing at 12500ft at Syangboche airport with legendary skydiver Wendy Smith from New Zealand serving as her instructor within the aircraft. November 13 was the day for the history books. Shital again created multiple records by being the first woman to skydive in front of Mt. Everest and land in some of the highest drop zones- Ama Dablam and Kala Patthar.

Mahajan continued her extraordinary journey as she made an audacious leap from and landed at Ama Dablam mountain base camp front at an astonishing 23,000 ft altitude, landing at 4600m (15091ft). For this high-altitude jump, she was guided by the renowned skydiver from France, Paul-Henry de Baère, known as the “oxygen man” in high altitude jumps.

But the ultimate of Shittal’s exceptional feats was when she performed a breathtaking jump from 23000ft in the presence of Mount Everest, landing at the highest altitude at Kala Patthar, 17444ft (5317m). In this jump, Paul Henry de Baère again served as her HALO instructor. This jump not only marked the Highest altitude skydiving landing done by a woman but also established two additional National records for an Indian – First Indian woman to skydive in front of Mount Everest at Kala Patthar and Highest altitude skydiving landing done by a woman. These records are more remarkable considering Shital has no military or defence background- she has been able to achieve all this as a civilian.

All these were possible with the vision and years of  meticulous planning of Mr. Suman Pandey, President and Mr. Anuj Pandey, MD of Everest Skydive along with the expert crew of some of the world’s best skydivers, cameramen and camerawomen.

After watching Tom Cruise do his own stunt in Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning- riding his motorcycle off a cliff and landing safely after opening his suit, I’d thought I’d seen it all when it came to stunts. Shital proved me otherwise. So what does skydiving feel like? Unlike anything you have ever imagined, Shital told me. Transcending and meditative, it will teach you- it is not the years in your life but the life in those years, so go live it! I couldn’t agree more!

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