Israeli gives up on Everest summit to help Turkish climber

Nadav Ben Yehuda, 24, was 300 meters from peak; would have been youngest Israeli to complete ascent

Mount Everest (photo credit: AP/Binod Joshi)
Mount Everest (photo credit: AP/Binod Joshi)

An Israeli mountaineer abandoned his dream to reach the summit of Mount Everest just 300 meters from the peak in order to save an injured Turkish climber.

Twenty-four-year-old Nadav Ben Yehuda would have become the youngest Israeli to summit the world’s highest mountain, but he aborted his ascent to assist the stranded climber, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.

Nadav Ben Yehuda (via Facebook)
Nadav Ben Yehuda (via Facebook)

The two climbers were then evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu. Ben Yehuda was said to be suffering from frostbite in the course of the rescue, and there were fears that he might lose one or more of his fingers. The condition of the Turkish climber was not immediately known.

Ben Yehuda told Israel Radio 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.”

Two months ago, preparing for his climb, Ben Yehuda won a stair-climbing competition at a Ramat Aviv skyscraper, ascending the 78-story Moshe Aviv Tower 13 times — a record-breaking feat that involved going up almost 20,000 stairs.

Doron Erel (via Facebook)
Doron Erel (via Facebook)

In 1992, Doron Erel became the first Israeli to conquer Everest. A former member of the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit, he was in his early 30s at the time.

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.

A similar crowd of 208 climbers headed to the summit last week, and four died Saturday in one of the deadliest days ever on the mountain.

Ha Wenyi of China, Eberhard Schaaf of Germany, Nepal-born Canadian Shriya Shah and South Korean Song Won-bin died Saturday on their way down from the summit. They are believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, Shrestha said Tuesday.

The latest deaths have raised concerns about overcrowding above the highest camp on the mountain. The area is nicknamed the “death zone” because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

“There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m., which is quite dangerous,” Shrestha said. Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m.

Shrestha said climbers “had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent.”

With a similarly large number of climbers expected to head up the same trail under similar conditions this weekend, Nepalese authorities acknowledged safety concerns but said they can’t turn any of them away.

“The climbers have received the permits to climb within specific dates. We cannot say who gets to get to the summit on which dates because of the unpredictable weather. When weather clears up they all want to benefit,” said Nepal’s Tourism Ministry spokesman Bal Krishna Ghimire.

But he added that it is up to the climbers and their teams to access the conditions and safety.

“We have officials at the base camp but beyond that it is mostly up to the climbers,” Ghimire said.

Ghimire said that eventually, the government plans to set up a seasonal office at the base camp manned by doctors, weather experts and security personnel. Ghimire said they also have plans to give each climber a tracking device.

More than 3,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to do it in 1953. Some 225 climbers have died attempting it.

The deadliest day was May 10, 1996, when eight people were killed. The main reason was said to be that climbers who started their ascent late in the day were caught in a snowstorm in the afternoon and lost their way.

The climbing season normally runs from late March to the first week in June, but this year the season’s first clear conditions were on Friday and Saturday. That window closed by Saturday afternoon with a windstorm at higher altitudes.


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