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21 July 2010, 18:51. Elbrus, all programs »

The 'scariest thing' she's ever done …

Champion paraglider Pierre Carter needed all his experience yesterday to fly safely off the top of Mount Elbrus in Russia with top climber and The Times photographer Marianne Schwankhart.

The daring pair reached the summit of the 5642m Mount Elbrus at about noon and succeeded on their third attempt - after two crash landings - in flying tandem on a paraglider back to their high camp at about 4200m.

The South Africans aim to be the first team in the world to climb the highest peaks on each continent and fly off all the summits.

Carter, 43, who has competed internationally, said: "We had no wind and it was the hardest take-off I have ever done.

"But it was more scary for Marianne as she could see what was coming [the pilot flies at the back on a tandem flight]."

Schwankhart, 33, who has climbed dangerous and difficult rock walls from the Andes to the Karakorum, said this was the "wildest experience ever".

"We were okay but Pierre landed on me and the camera hit my nose.

"On the third attempt we had a slight, slight breeze. We ran and ran until the paraglider lifted me and then Pierre had to run for both of us. It was now or never, but it was the most scary take-off."

She said the weather was clear and still when they left for the summit at 4am, but it was a tough ascent and took about eight hours.


The Times Johannesburg