Update of the update of the update: It appears that indeed a climber and skier named Tomas Olsson, who was associated or at least friends with the “Viking” crew Mount Everest expedition, was trying to ski down Everest and fell to his death when a rappel anchor pulled. Around the time of the accident a pair of guys known as the “Vikings” (Olof SundstrÃ¶m and Martin Letzter) did a ski descent of the north side of Mount Everest, one on free-heel gear (probably a first), one on Dynafit bindings, and both using Dynafit skis via a sponsorship.
The Olsson tragedy sadly appears to be playing out in typical Everest fashion, in that once people are on the mountain many appear to adopt a brutal attitude of every man for himself. People who need help are frequently ignored, their bodies decorating the mountain for days or years after they die. Climbers who are assumed dead, such as Olsson, usually don’t get the dignity of a complete search or body recovery unless doing so is convenient and safe, which it usually is not (as everything you do in that environment is dangerous). What more can I say about that, except condolences to Olsson’s family and friends.
Update, May 20: According to Olsson’s blog It appears Olsson’s friends and loved ones were able to get a search together and locate his body. Nice to hear this — as I wrote above, the dead on Everest are frequently treated with less respect than one would be comfortable with in normal civilized life.
How much of the mountain the “Viking” pair actually skied is still unknown — if they made a somewhat complete descent it will be quite a first or second. I’m fairly sure this side of Everest has only been skied once, but with enough downclimbing to make one wonder if it was really a ski descent of the peak, or just a bit of skiing “on” the peak, (by Hans Kamerlander a few years ago). It has also been snowboarded in stunning style by the late Marco Siffredi, who people say got the peak during unusually snowy conditions and was able to stay on his snowboard the whole way down. Sources who know Everest tell me that during normal conditions, getting from the summit down to skiable parts of the Everest north side involve large amounts of scary downclimbing, not to mention likely rappels.
But hair splitting aside, according to their blog the duo has put together a cool “ski the 7-summits” project that even includes some 4×4 action. They’ve only got one more peak to go, Vinson in Antarctica.
As for what kind of ski bindings Sundstrom and Letzter used for their descent, that seems a bit of a reach as a “first” and doesn’t exactly ring my bell (yawn). On the other hand, Mount Everest is known for the endless stream of people trying for a unique first, at least free-heel skiing is a viable style of skiing that has a good ring as a “first,” rather than something like “first guy with false teeth to ski Everest.” As for using Dynafit bindings, perhaps that’s a first too? If so, that “first” gets a yawn from me as well. Call me a curmudgeon, but what gets me excited is the ski route, not the gear.
Reiner Gerstner of Dynafit (sponsor of the expedition) forwarded me this from the duo:
“Just wanted to inform you, before I have time and energy to write a proper update (in case you would like to make your own press release or to still your curiosity), that both Olof and I summited, each with a pair of Dynafit skis, on the morning of the 16th, and then proceeded to ski down the north and north east ridges to advanced basecamp at 6400 m. Olof thus, to our knowledge, became the first person to ski Everest in telemark style, and we now only have one more summit before our goal of skiing the 7 summits has been completed. The Dynafit skis worked very well, and were very easy to carry up to the summit. We would like to extend our thanks to all the people at Dynafit and Salewa for believing in our project and supporting us, and look forward to seeing you all when we return to Europe.
Regards, Martin and Olof.”