Everest is by far the highest mountain in the world. The Earth Goddess of all mountains. The inspiration for all those who have stood on her summit. In our freerider soul it is the supreme descent, the ultimate ride.
Davo Karnikar became the first person to carry out the complete ski descent of Everest. The 38-year-old Slovenian talks to us about his skiing adventure.
So Dave, where did the idea to ski off the roof of the world come from?
> My brother and I spend most of our lives travelling following the World Cup circuit, working as technicians and ski men for Elan. Up until a short while ago I worked for Furhuset, but I always managed to go away on expeditions overseas about one every two years, to ski down the highest mountains in the world.
In 1989 I went to Narga Parbat for the Diamir face, in 93 I went to K2, in 95 I went to Annapurna where I reached the summit and made the first ever ski descent. It was there that I realised Id be capable of skiing down Everest and the idea soon began to transform into an obsession. In the meantime I summited another 8000m peak, Shishsapangma in 1996.
Your first attempt at Everest?
>In 96 I tried to reach the summit from the north, but at 8300m I was forced to turn back. Even if this was a big disappointment that extenuated my obsession, it proved to be a great help to discover what I really needed to successfully reach the summit.
During my first attempt I lost two fingers due to frostbite my index and little finger. I realised then that Id need a team of people to back me up, specially designed gear and, above all, I would try from the other side, from the south.
Just like Kammerlander I encountered very little snow. Even if I had reached the summit I wouldnt have been able to make a continuous descent. I dont reckon one can make a continuous descent down the N. Face: the colouirs are difficult and very rarely in condition (Editors note this interview took place before Marco Siffredis snowboard descent).
So you chose the South Face. Obviously not the cheapsest of options.
> No, absolutely not. The costs are staggering: $70,000 just for the permit. I tried to raise the money for two years but failed. Then I considered diversifying the project, making it innovative. One of the staff members came up with idea of transmitting the entire expedition live on the internet, day by day, hour by hour.
It soon became clear that this was the only feasible option, even if the costs doubled! But, incredibly, it proved easy to raise the necessary funds thanks to internet, much more so than a cheaper project with traditional sponsors. If Ive stood on the summit of Everest with my skis, then its only thanks to Internet.
So you found yourself caught up in a huge communications project, totally different from what you were used to. Was it difficult dealing with your staff and your emotions? Did you feel under pressure?
> It wasnt easy managing such a big and diverse group of people. There were 6 mountaineers in the group, but also operators, telephone technicians and journalists. It wasnt always easy, but I knew that it was my only and probably last chance to ski from the top of Everest, so I made a huge effort to make the most of the situation.
I knew that I had the eyes of Slovenia watching me; Simodil (the national Telecoms operator) had put a lot into this project, but my attention was entirely focussed on the mountain and on my descent. Thats what I was there for, the others had to take care of everything else. My task was to manage the mountaineers assisting me as best as I could, and to try to gratify each one, but not to lose sight of my personal goal. At times I had to assert myself over my companions. You know, Everest is a huge temptation for everybody.
How did things go on the mountain?
> As with all normal expeditions to Everest, first we had to acclimatise, then carry up the gear and equip our camps. Then we had to wait for good weather for our summit attempt.
It took a huge amount of effort, because climbing in autumn with no other expeditions around meant taking on a huge workload. Each time it snowed there was no one else to beat the trail. I reached the summit during the night of 7 October, and at 8 oclock the next morning I was ready to ski down.