Danielle Wolfson’s oxygen tank was nearly empty as she approached the summit of Mount Everest on May 23.
At such an altitude and such a low temperature, she knew she could just sit back and wait for a quick death. She had stepped over the corpses of former climbers who had done just that.
Two things saved this 43-year-old Israeli lawyer: Covid and chutzpah.
âWe Israelis are a little aggressive and very creative,â Wolfson told ISRAEL21c after becoming the first Israeli to reach the top of the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) summit, where she unfurled an Israeli flag.
Wolfson knew that three other expeditions had been forced to turn back due to Covid-19 infections. She also knew that local guides hide oxygen balloons up high, in anticipation of need.
So she looked around and found an oxygen balloon marked for one of the groups that has never gone this far.
Without Wolfson’s quick wit, her 22-year-old son would read the will she prepared before leaving for Nepal rather than celebrating her extraordinary achievement.
âEveryone who climbs Everest must understand that they can die,â says Wolfson.
So what motivated her to become the fifth Israeli to climb the highest mountain in the world?
“I wanted the title”
âTen years ago I had a skiing accident in Bulgaria and broke my right leg,â she says.
âAfter the operation, the doctors told me that I would never walk without help. I was a very motivated young woman. And I thought to myself, I’m going to show everyone. I will climb Everest.
Achieving this goal took 10 years of hard work – and a lot of time and money.
She started out by joining a group of runners led by Daniel Keren, who reached Everest in 2009.
âHe inspired me and introduced me to mountaineering,â says Wolfson. âThe first time I was in Nepal, it was with him.
She got to know many Israeli climbers, but the mountaineers (climbers) were all men. This only strengthened his determination to climb Everest.
âAs I progressed and climbed more, I saw that there was no competition. And of course, I wanted to be the first Israeli to do it. I wanted the title and I wanted to show other women that it is possible, âshe says.
Wolfson learned the ropes from Keren and the four other men who had reached the summit of Everest: Doron Erel (1992), Gedaliah Shtirmer, Dudu Yifrah and Micha Yaniv (2006).
She has climbed mountains including Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa’s highest peak at 19,340 feet; and Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest peak in Europe at 18,510 feet. Each success brought him closer to his dream.
Waving blue and white flag
Wolfson packs an Israeli flag on all of his expeditions and takes great pride in waving it at the end of his climbs.
âNo one asked me to do it. No one is sponsoring my expeditions. I’m just an Israeli citizen and I love my country, âshe explains.
Not having a sponsor means that Wolfson incurs considerable costs.
Course and training costs aside, an expedition to Mount Everest costs $ 65,000. It’s about $ 15,000 just to get a climbing permit from the Nepalese government.
That’s exponentially more than the price of Wolfson’s other climbs. His January expedition to Ojos del Salado in Chile, the world’s tallest volcano, cost only $ 4,000.
âBut it’s worth it,â she said. âThe biggest dream of any climber is Mount Everest. “
“I am happy and proud to be the first Israeli to reach the top,” Wolfson wrote on Facebook following her 45-day expedition with the Seven Summits Club of Russia.
“I didn’t smile”
And yet, Wolfson tells ISRAEL21c that she felt deep sadness at the top.
âI was not happy. I was there for about 20 or 25 minutes, and I didn’t even smile, âshe says.
It was because she had encountered the bodies of so many dead climbers on her way. She knew, of course, that 50 yards from the top, she would be stepping over corpses frozen in their climbing gear. To live that was something else.
âI was sitting on my knees on top of the world, but I was thinking in my head about how to come down without being one more body on this mountain,â she says.
About 300 people died while climbing Mount Everest. The bodies of around 100 mountaineers who have fallen over 8,000 meters cannot be removed. Knowing this, Wolfson stipulated in her will that her son would make no effort to get her body back if she didn’t.
And when her oxygen ran out, she knew she could only rely on her own mind.
âAfter 8,000 meters you are in survivor mode and you don’t care about anyone else. I knew no one would help me and I wouldn’t help anyone either. I had to take care of myself, âshe said. “Even if I had offered a million dollars, no one would have given me oxygen.”
This phenomenon is the reason why Israeli climber Nadav Ben-Yehuda received international recognition in 2012 for abandoning his own quest to save a Turkish climber lying unconscious in the snow just 300 meters from the summit of Everest.
The next hike
After his historic feat, Wolfson spent a week recovering in Kathmandu.
âThe first day I felt very weak. I was just sleeping and eating, âshe said after returning to Israel on June 4. âNow I feel good. I even did my first run on Sunday.
She hasn’t finished climbing. Its next big expedition will take place in December in the Vinson massif in Antarctica (4,892 meters; 16,050 feet), then it will cross the South Pole.
Wolfson says she follows her practice of law as she specializes in regulating online gambling and her clients are located in Malta and Cyprus.
âAll of my work is online. It’s not easy to put it all together, but I can’t just sit in an office all day, âshe says. “I also want to do the things I love.”
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Posted by ynet on Wednesday, May 26, 2021