Approaching 62 years old, and after retiring from a police rescue squad in 1996, Ken Hutt needed some adrenaline replacement therapy.
He had watched the documentary, Miracle In The Storm, about a paragliding competition in which a German flier was sucked up to 9,947m, blacked out and only just came to in time to land it. Another Chinese competitor was also lifted by the same storm, and was killed by lightning.
A year after watching the documentary, Hutt was trekking to Everest Base Camp, acclimatising himself before paragliding off the summit of the world’s sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu, when he started to suffer from altitude sickness.
It was April 2014, and an avalanche had just killed 16 Nepali guides on the Khumbu Icefall. Above him, helicopters with stretchers dangling ferried bodies down the mountain.
“I’m sitting on the glacier next to Lobuche, watching them, one after the other, feeling really sick,” he recalled. “It was only 5,000m, and I’m supposed to be climbing this 8,000m mountain and flying a paraglider off it.’”
His adventure was being sponsored by the Gates Foundation, which was going to triple every dollar he made to help polio eradication. Nepal got rid of polio in 2000, but the disease still afflicts children in parts of South Asia.
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