In a wave of controversy, two Europeans recently laid down the first snowboard tracks on Mount Everest. Duotone rider Stephan Gatt and Elan teamrider Marco Siffredi completed the task within just two days of each other. Because the riders were within such a close time period, each company is staking rights on the title for the first snowboard descent. However, the details of their expeditions show both are entitled a variation of the claim for slightly different reasons.

On the morning of May 22, 2001 Stefan Gatt climbed the 29,035 ft/8,850 m summit of Mount Everest without the use of oxygen and carrying all of his own equipment. After riding from the top to a height of 8,630 meters and accessing the Norton Coloir descent route, Gatt opted to climb down the ascent route. He stated the snow looked hard and therefore not very fun to ride. The snow was better at 7,600m, and from that height he rode down to 6,450m.

Two days after Gatt’s epic turns, Elan snowboarder Marco Siffredi reached the summit at six in the morning alone. However unlike Gatt, Siffredi had Sherpas carry his snowboarding equipment and climbed with the aid of oxygen. After locking into his bindings at the top, Siffredi went for it, and began his descent down the Norton Coloir North Face. Just 200 meters below the summit (near the same altitude that Gatt opted to climb for a while) Siffredi’s binding broke due to the extreme cold (-35 C). After a Sherpa came to his aid and fixed the binding with a tool kit, Siffredi continued with what became an approximately two-hour descent. The ride was completed from 8,848m to 6,400m, without the use ropes or rappels.

So, in reality both riders completed the task of laying down the first snowboard tracks on Mount Everest. However, breaking it down, technically Gatt was the first snowboarder to lay any tracks on the mountain. Plus he receives extra points for completing the task carrying all his own equipment and without the use of oxygen. Therefore, his accomplishment should be called the First-Ever Attempted Descent. Keeping this in mind, Elan rider Marcos Siffredi did do a longer, complete descent of Mount Everest, so he could be crowned with the First-Ever Complete Descent. Essentially, they both deserve credit … they are definitely the only two people who can claim they’ve snowboarded on the tallest mountain in the world. At least until further notice.

Leah Stassen