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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Israeli mountain climber passes on Everest summit to save Turk's life

An Israeli mountain climber who was less than 1,000 meters from being the youngest Israeli to reach the top of Mount Everest gave up that record in order to save the life of a trapped Turkish climber.
Nadav Ben-Yehuda was moving fast on the bitterly cold night of May 19, skillfully maneuvering through the final 1,000 meters from Mount Everest’s Camp IV to its summit – the highest in the world at an altitude of 8,848 meters.


He continued trudging, with his Sherpa guide trailing behind him, until he suddenly came to a stop some 250 m. away from the summit.

Shocked, he saw the body of his friend from the base camp, Aydin Irmak, 46, sprawled lifelessly on the icy ridges.

“When we saw my friend Aydin there was no question,” Ben-Yehuda said, noting that on his way to Irmak he had already passed two dead bodies clipped to the climbing rope.

Knowing that they were going to die, these men had purposely fastened their bodies to the ropes affixed to the snow covered ridges, freezing into a permanent slumber. In the end, four people died on that icy Everest night – but Ben-Yehuda and Irmak were not going to be among the departed.

“Spring 2012 will be remembered as the deadliest season of Everest ever,” Ben-Yehuda said.


Lifting Irmak over his shoulders, Ben-Yehuda carried his Turkish-New Yorker friend alongside his Sherpa guide for about eight hours back down to Camp IV – without gloves, as they made the rescue process too challenging – and without oxygen, as his mask had already broken.

“You don’t feel it straight away,” he said of climbing without oxygen, a sentiment that quickly changed. “You are about to faint all the time.”

During the breathless march downward, the group passed by a Malaysian climber, also prostrate and semi-conscious. Unable to carry a second person, Ben-Yehuda said he luckily soon crossed paths with a British climbing team, who were able to bring the Malaysian man oxygen and revitalize him.

The negative 40-degree Celsius temperatures left both men with severe burns all over their faces, and Ben-Yehuda’s ungloved hand is blackened to a crisp, some of which may need to be amputated, he explained. But eventually, the men made it back to Camp IV, where a helicopter came to their rescue – allowing both of them to live.

To Ben-Yehuda, the choice to forgo his summit climb and save his new friend was simple, a no-brainer.
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