Israeli tells of Everest rescue
An Israeli who rescued an unconscious climber on Mount Everest instead of pushing onward to the summit, says the man he helped, an American of Turkish origin, is like a brother to him.
Nadav Ben-Yehuda, 24, who was climbing with a Sherpa guide, would have been the youngest Israeli to reach the summit. He came across Aydin Irmak, 46, near the summit last weekend.
Four climbers died on their way down from the summit amid a traffic jam of more than 200 people rushing to reach the world's highest peak as the weather deteriorated.
Mr Irmak left Turkey for New York more than two decades ago, but remains proud of his Turkish heritage. The friendship stands in contrast to the political tension between Turkey and Israel, which were once firm allies.
"Aydin, wake up! Wake up!" Mr Ben-Yehuda recalled saying when he found his friend in the darkness.
He said Mr Irmak had been returning from the summit but collapsed in the extreme conditions, without an oxygen supply, a torch and a rucksack. Mr Ben-Yehuda, who developed a friendship with Mr Irmak before the climb, had delayed his own ascent by a day in hopes of avoiding the bottleneck of climbers heading for the top.
There have been periodic tales of people bypassing stricken climbers as they seek to fulfil a lifelong dream and reach the summit of Everest, but Mr Ben-Yehuda said his decision to abandon his goal of reaching the top and help Mr Irmak was "automatic," even though it took him several minutes to recognise his pale, gaunt friend.
"I just told myself, 'This is crazy.' It just blew my mind," he. "I didn't realise he was up there the whole time. Everybody thought he had already descended."
The Israeli carried Mr Irmak for hours to a camp at lower elevation. Both suffered frostbite and some of their fingers were at risk of amputation.
Mr Irmak told The Jerusalem Post: "I don't know what the hell is going on between the two countries. I don't care about that. I talked to his (Ben-Yehuda's) family today and I told them you have another family in Turkey and America."