For many climbers, reaching the summit of Mount Everest is the ultimate achievement. For Joby Ogwyn, it's the first step. In May, Ogwyn will attempt the first wingsuit flight off Everest's summit, descending more than 10,000 vertical feet at speeds of more than 150 mph. The event will be broadcast live on the Discovery Channel in 224 countries and territories.
Odwyn is no stranger to the world's tallest peak. He summited Everest for the first time in 1999, at the age of 24. In 2008, he set the world record for the fastest ascent, climbing from south base camp to the summit in 9.5 hours, an endeavor that typically takes three to four days. Odwyn plans to ascend in May with professional Everest guide Garrett Madison and three Sherpas.
The success of Odwyn's jump hinges largely on wind conditions, and his wingsuit, custom-made by Tony Suits. The minimalist design keeps Ogwyn's legs free so that he can take a running start from the top—a critical step in ensuring he clears the mountain's enormous mass.
The suit is the first-of-its-kind, and has been under development for more than a year. "It's smaller, more sleek, less like a plane and more like a missile," Ogwyn told Men's Journal from his home in California on Friday. "It will go as fast as you want, and stay in the air a long time."
Ogwyn and team will depart for the Himalayas in March. In the meantime, he's taking test jumps from airplanes, like last week's practice jump in California (video below), and others in Florida, Utah, and the Swiss Alps to dial in the wingsuit's final design. As added insurance, he performed a test jump from a plane flying beside Everest in 2010, while wearing an early prototype of the wingsuit.
Ogwyn is confident in both his ability and his gear, but concedes that until you actually jump from Everest wearing a wingsuit there's still a lot you don't know.