SHYANGBOCHE (Nepal) (AFP) - Skydivers in Nepal plunged through the shadow of Mount Everest on Saturday in preparation for a planned free fall over the world's highest peak. Launching themselves from 6,666 metres (22,000 feet) on Saturday morning, the skydivers had around one minute in free fall before a parachute descent that offered a stunning Himalayan panorama. "It was like floating on a cloud while looking at the highest mountains in the world. The views of Everest were amazing, you could even see base camp," said Steve Hennessy, an Australian skydive instructor who made one of the first descents Friday. The unprecedented jumps are being offered as a commercial enterprise by the British adventure travel company "High and Wild". The first 32 clients each paid 24,000 dollars to be part of an exercise that the company itself classified as "touching madness." Around 20 people jumped Saturday morning and Ian Bishop, one of the organisers, said that " weather permitting " they would start diving from above the height of Mount Everest (8,848 metres, 29,028 feet) on Sunday. Jumping out of a plane at such altitudes poses a raft of challenges. The air is extremely thin, forcing the skydivers to use specially-made parachutes with canopies three times the regular size. They also wear neoprene suits and thermal gear to keep out the freezing cold on the descent and have bottled oxygen strapped to their waist. For Nigel Gifford, the director of the company, the first "Everest Skydive" is the realisation of an idea that has been 15 years in the making. "It came about because I have been a Himalayan mountaineer and took up skydiving. I love doing both and I thought it would be good to marry the two," said Gifford. Mount Everest, known as Sagarmartha in Nepalese and Chomolungma in Tibetan, is considered holy by both Buddhists and Hindus, but Gifford believes that the adventure will not offend the gods that locals believe inhabit the Himalayas. "Before I made my first approach to Nepali authorities for permission, I spoke with many friends who live in the Everest region and asked if they thought this was appropriate culturally and spiritually," said Gifford at the 3,900 metre landing zone in the foothills of Everest. "The feedback was positive," he added. Ningma Jamyang, a local Buddhist monk from a nearby monastery who watched the first descents, had no objections. "I like this a lot. I enjoy the way they come down so gracefully from so high. It's amazing," said Jamyang. The 48-year-old monk did not think the thrill-seekers would offend the local deities. "They are doing daily pujas (religious ceremonies) to pay their respects so I don't think the gods in the mountains will be unhappy and they won't cause them any problems."