At Syangboche we set up for our first jumps, the first helicopter would consist of three of the most experienced jumpers – Dr. Ryan Jackson, and Dakota and Hunter Williams. What happened next is a testament to the violent power of the Everest region. A low-level cloud layer moving at 25+ knots climbed up over the ridge of the mountain and quickly overtook the drop zone, covering the entire airstrip, leaving the jumpers with no visual reference of the drop zone or where to land. The second group––Tom Short, Mike Ortiz, and I––donned our gear and loaded into the helicopter with palpable anxiousness and nervousness. Mike Ortiz, with almost 20,000 jumps, uses hand gestures signaling us to breathe and providing reassurance that we will execute a safe jump. I close my eyes and visualize each stage of my jump as if going through a mental checklist––a skill taught to me by mentors in the SEAL Teams and Marine Recon community.
No jumper was injured, and the group learned a valuable welcome lesson from Everest herself––conditions change quickly in one of the world’s harshest environments.