Bucket List 10: Ever dreamed of flying over Mount Everest in a hot air balloon? Well now you have your chance!
By Simon Vaughan
We all have our travel bucket lists and whilst not all of us may yearn to visit exactly the same destinations, trek exactly the same trails or see exactly the same events, I’m confident that we have a fair few in common. And one of those common goals is likely Mount Everest.
Whether simply catching a glimpse from a neighbouring peak or a sightseeing aircraft, trekking to base camp or actually reaching its summit, I suspect that a good chunk of climbers, trekkers and adventure travellers the world over have Sagarmatha, Chomolungma or Mount Everest on their wish lists. However, not many of us have likely dreamed of floating over it in a balloon.
Surprisingly—to me, at least—nobody had succeeded in flying over Mount Everest in a hot air balloon until 1991. Others had certainly thought of it, and some had even attempted the feat, but it wasn’t until Australian aeronaut Chris Dewhirst and British adventure filmmaker Leo Dickinson gave it a go that that particular record was achieved. And even more surprisingly—well again, to me at least!—is that Dewhirst, Dickinson and their team still remain the only people to have flown over Everest in a balloon.
Until now, that it.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to dust off your bucket list, empty your penny jar and do something with your life. Because Dewhirst is prepared to follow in his own whispy footprints and take you over the king of all mountains in a balloon. All you have to do is convince him of your health and fitness, ask nicely…and pay a fee of a mere USD$5,215,000 per couple. Yup. Five million dollars. In real money.
As huge a sum of money as that is, I’m actually not mocking it. If you have that chunk of change, you would be part of only the second group ever to fly over Everest. That’s pretty cool, although not as cool as the air you will be flying through. And that’s where the fitness comes in. Even if you have the necessary funds in used, unmarked, low denomination bank notes in a very large paper bag, Dewhirst won’t automatically take you as the whole thing is a bit more taxing than eating pretzels at 40,000 feet while flying to Europe.
Flight organizers forewarn that:
“…although Chris can train most people with decent physical and mental faculties to complete this journey, the experience is understandably only appropriate for the most intrepid of thrill-seekers. You will need to be in moderate physical shape and able to make a considerable commitment to the project, as a trip of this nature requires substantial fitness and skills training. However, with enough enthusiasm, determination, and preparation, you and Chris will conquer one of Earth’s greatest obstacles.”
And just in case you have the funds, the fitness and the desire, potential mountain-aeronauts are also forewarned that this isn’t the sort of thing whereby you land in Kathmandu on a Saturday, fly over Everest on the Sunday, buy the t-shirt on Monday morning and are back in the office on Tuesday.
Weather conditions must be absolutely perfect to have any chance of success and therefore participants are told that they may have to spend 3 or 4 weeks in Nepal waiting for the right opportunity. This on top of the assessment and training which can take another month. So a weekend break it isn’t, but just think of the comments that t-shirt will get!
And finally, if you have indeed got the time, the money and the fitness, you’re still not guaranteed to join the hallowed halls of ballooning history. Organisers underscore that what you get for your time and money is merely “… an attempt at crossing Mt. Everest in a hot air balloon, not necessarily the successful completion of that journey.”
Needless to say, Dewhirst wants nothing more himself than to fly over Mount Everest in a hot air balloon once again, but nothing will jeopardise his—or his customers’—safety, and no one can control the Himalayan mountain gods.