Youngest Israeli to climb Everest, whose teammate died on descent, may lose finger

Aviad Sido says he damaged his right hand while ascending world’s tallest peak; describes circumstances surrounding death of Australian team member

Aviad Sido climbs Everest in a video provided to Ynet (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Aviad Sido climbs Everest in a video provided to Ynet (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A man who last month became the youngest Israeli to reach the summit of Mount Everest during an expedition that saw an Australian teammate die during the descent said Monday that he might lose a finger to frostbite.

Aviad Sido, 26, was part of an international team that scaled the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) peak earlier this month.

Sido told the Ynet news site that even before he reached the summit, he realized he had a problem with his right hand.

He said he was forced to descend the mountain using only his left hand, noting that it was already dangerous as “80 percent of accidents happen on the way down because the adrenaline drops.”

The Israeli told of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jason Kennison, 40, who had climbed Everest after learning to walk again following a devastating car crash in 2006 that left him with spinal cord injuries.

“On the way back we were all exhausted,” he said. “Our Australian friend Jason was a little more exhausted than all of us, and at this point we split up and each of us went down with their own guide. At that point my right palm, my weak hand, was not functioning.”

“I arrived first at Camp 4, and we were supposed to rest there and get the strength needed to descend further to a point where there is a doctor or a helicopter that can rescue you,” he said, noting that he had initially assumed he had injured his hand on a rock.

“Jason was my tent partner. Two hours after I arrived at Camp 4, [team members] Zlatko and Marius arrived and they told me that Jason was behind us and that he would arrive in a few hours,” he said.

“There was a snowstorm and a lot of uncertainty about Jason. He didn’t come back all night and we didn’t know what was going on with him. I thought maybe he had continued down [the mountain],” Sido said.

“In the morning we found out that his guide tried to save him but he died on the way back. He was suffering from a lack of oxygen to his brain, and the guides tried to bring him medicine and oxygen, but it didn’t help. He ended up dying there on the mountain,” Sido said.

He said his friend’s body, like many others, remained on the mountain.

In this photograph taken on May 2, 2021, mountaineers trek along the Khumbu glacier near Everest base camp in the Mount Everest region of Solukhumbu district, some 140 kilometers northeast of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP)

Sido said that when he reached a doctor, it was clear that he had extensive damage to his hand.

He quickly flew back to Israel and went to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where he is undergoing treatment in the burns unit.

“I can move them a bit,” he said. “There is concern that one of the fingers might need to be amputated.”

Sido said he took a photo of his mother, who died last year, to the summit of the mountain.

“I’m sure she would have been very proud of me,” he said. “She would have wanted me to go through with this journey.”

In the past seven decades, more than 6,000 climbers have climbed the world’s highest mountain, according to the Himalayan Database.

It remains dangerous, with more than 300 losing their lives in the same period, including 12 this year.

Five more are missing, putting 2023 on course to be a record deadly year.

On average, five climbers die every spring climbing season on Everest. But in 2019, 11 people died, with four of the deaths blamed on overcrowding on the mountain.

This picture taken on May 26, 2023 shows Phurba Tashi Sherpa, head of an expedition operator and guide, in the shadow of Mount Everest, some 140 kilometers (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu (ROBIC UPADHAYAY / AFP)

In 2012, Nadav Ben Yehuda was lauded after he halted his ascent of Mount Everest 300 meters from the peak to save an unconscious Turkish climber.

At the time, Ben Yehuda was 24 years old and would have become the youngest Israeli to summit the world’s highest mountain.

In 2021,  Danielle Wolfson became the first Israeli woman to summit Mount Everest.

On Monday, celebrations were held in Nepal to mark the 70th anniversary of the historic first ascent of Everest.

AFP contributed to this report.

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