Snowboarding down Mount Everest

Snowboarding down Mount Everest

Marco Siffredi was a French snowboarder and mountaineer from Chamonix in France also known as the birthplace of Alpinism. His father was a mountain guide and his brother had died in an avalanche in Chamonix. Marco was the first to descend Mount Everest on a snowboard in 2001 via the Norton Couloir. In 2002, he disappeared after making his second successful Everest summit, while attempting to snowboard the Hornbein Couloir.

As a kid in Chamonix, Marco didn’t need to look far for heroes when local skiers like the emblematic Jean-Marc Boivin were already larger than life with their outrageous first descents of impossibly steep lines. Marco soon began riding some of the valley’s steeper routes. In May of 1996, only a year after learning to ride, Marco knocked off one of the valley’s test pieces: the Mallory on the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi, a 1000 meter (3281 feet), wildly exposed rock garden with passages close to 55 degrees and later stuck the first snowboard descent of the Chardonnet.

Following other first descent like the Nant Blanc, the Dorje Lhakpa, the Cho Oyu, the Huayna Potosi and quite a few others, high on these successes, Marco was ready for Everest. In spring of 2001, Marco left with Himalayan Expeditions for Everest. His hope was to summit and descend by the Hornbein Couloir, but when he got to the mountain, there was hardly any snow on the windswept summit. As the climbers moved up the mountain, enough snow accumulated to enable the descent via plan B, the Norton Couloir. Marco reached the summit the day after his 22nd birthday. He dropped in and started making turns entering the couloir, shredding 1800 meters (5905 feet) on slopes of 40 to 45 degrees. He stopped at the North Col to rest for an hour before finishing off the last 1000 meters (3281 feet) and arrived at Advanced Base Camp less than four hours after leaving the summit. Marco’s historic descent was recorded as the first continuous snowboard descent of the world’s highest mountain.

Marco and his Sherpa Phurba spent the following summer in Chamonix. It was during this time that the plan for a second Everest attemp was drawn up to ride down the Hornbein  couloir, the steepest of all potential lines on Everest, with 45- to 55-degree slopes the entire way. But it was Marco’s last descent as the only thing found was tracks that faded just 350 meters (1148 feet) below the summit.

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