Nadav Ben Yehuda, the Israeli mountaineer who on Saturday halted his ascent of Mount Everest 300 meters from the peak to save an unconscious Turkish climber, said on Wednesday that he still hoped to make it to the summit one day. And the climber he saved, Aydin Irmak, said he hoped they’d do it together.
Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 news from Nepal, Ben Yehuda, 24, a law student from Rehovot who would have become the youngest Israeli to summit the world’s highest mountain, described how he had revived Irmak — who he said he knew before — and carried him down the mountain.
“I’d passed two fresh corpses,” Ben Yehuda said, “when I found him. He was unconscious. He had no gloves. No oxygen. No crampons. No cover… He was waiting for the end,” Ben Yehuda told Channel 2.
Ben Yehuda said he was certain he would have made it to the summit. But “if I had continued climbing, (Irmak) would have died for certain. Other climbers just passed him by and didn’t lift a finger, but I had no second thoughts. I knew that I had to save him,” Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Ben Yehuda saying.
Ben Yehuda said he tied Irmak to his harness and began the descent — about a nine-hour journey to the nearest base. “It was very hard to carry him because he was heavy. At times he would gain consciousness, but then faint again. When he woke up he would scream in pain, which made it even more difficult,” he told Yedioth Ahronoth.
Irmak told the newspaper that, without Ben Yehuda, “I would have died on the mountain. It was a miracle… I remember falling down. I woke up with Nadav standing over me and shouting my name. Nadav did a great thing. He built a bridge between Turkey and Israel, and our leaders can learn a lot from him… I may have missed the summit, but I gained a new brother. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll climb the Everest together.”
Ben Yehuda held up his white-bandaged right hand to the TV camera — “my boxing glove,” he called it — and said he had frostbite in four of his fingers, as well as in two toes, and that he had a certain loss of sensation in his left-hand. “They don’t quite know what to do about (my injuries)” in Nepal, he said. “I think I’ll do most of my treatment back home (in Israel).”
Asked if he still hoped to scale Everest, he said, “I do want to see the view from the top.”
Ben Yehuda said on Monday that he assisted two other climbers in the course of his attempted ascent — a Briton and a Georgian.
Four climbers lost their lives on Everest at the weekend, and Ben Yehuda said his route was “strewn with bodies.”
Israeli-Turkish relations have been under heavy strain in recent years, with Ankara repeatedly criticizing Israel for its handling of the Palestinian conflict and specifically its blockade of Gaza. Two years ago, ties worsened still following the death of eight Turkish nationals and one American of Turkish origin in the naval commando raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which participated in a flotilla aimed at breaking the blockade. Turkey has since been demanding an official apology from the Israeli leadership.
This past weekend saw a “traffic jam” of climbers scrambling to conquer Mount Everest, Nepal officials said, and they anticipated another rush up the world’s tallest peak will begin this weekend.
About 200 climbers are expected to attempt to scale the summit of the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain between Friday and Sunday, Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha said. Some have been at a staging camp for days, waiting for a window of good weather during this worse-than-usual climbing season.