Mother and daughter wave Israeli flag on trek to the top of Everest

The first mother-daughter team to reach the summit of Mount Everest waved an Israeli flag on their way to the top.

Cheryl Bart and her daughter Nikki of Sydney arrived atop the world’s highest mountain in the wee hours of May 24, Nepal time.

“I am at the top of the world,” Cheryl Bart radioed back to her colleagues at Everest Base Camp.

On Tuesday, a day after descending to the base camp, Cheryl Bart said by satellite phone, “It hasn’t really sunk in.”

She said the view from the summit — — was awe-inspiring.

“Stepping up onto the roof of the world, my feeling was one of awe, silence and awe, that I was there,” Bart said. “It was a full moon, so when you lifted your head up you could see the reflection of the mountain. It was quite spectacular. The sun just started to rise over in Tibet, so the pink clouds and pink tops of these mighty mountains were awesome.”

Mother and daughter both are graduates of Moriah College, Australia’s largest Jewish school. Cheryl is a non-executive director of several companies in Australia as well as an ambassador of the Australian chapter of the Peres Center for Peace.

Nikki Bart, in her final year of medical school, is co-chair of the Medical Students’ Aid Project, which donates medical equipment and pharmaceuticals to Third World hospitals.

They are also the first mother-daughter duo to scale the peaks of the so-called seven summits — the highest mountains on each continent.

With a small flag of Israel in their backpack, the pair arrived in Nepal at the end of March, taking weeks to acclimate to the high altitude and bitter cold in preparation for temperatures that plunged to minus 30 degrees Celsius. They also had to overcome several setbacks during their ascent: the weather, nearby avalanches and high security when the Olympic torch was carried up the mountain.

On Tuesday, Cheryl Bart said she was looking forward to going home to Australia and new challenges beyond.

“We have to go home and we can’t wait to see family and friends, have more showers and eat ice cream,” she said. “But having reached the highest point on earth, we should probably go to the Dead Sea.”

Mom and daughter climb ev’ry mountain

For Cheryl and Nikki Bart, ain’t no mountain high enough.

Seven years after their first adventure in Nepal, the Barts are heading back to Katmandu this week in an attempt to become the first mother-daughter team to conquer Everest.

If they manage to reach the roof of the world, the Sydney pair also would be the first mother and daughter to have scaled the so-called seven summits — the highest peaks on each of the Earth’s continents.

“My husband likes to quip that it’s a record that may go unbroken for generations,” Cheryl says with a laugh. “The first Jewish mother-daughter team to climb Everest and the seven summits!”

Cheryl and Nikki Bart are both graduates of Moriah College, Australia’s largest Jewish school. Cheryl is a nonexecutive director of several companies and is an ambassador of the Australian chapter of the Peres Center for Peace.

Nikki, 23, is in her sixth and final year of studying medicine.

Their addiction to altitude was forged two decades ago when they visited Israel. While Cheryl’s husband and son took the cable car to the summit of Masada, Cheryl and Nikki, then 5, climbed up in sweltering heat.

Nikki doesn’t recall the climb, but she remembers visiting Israel.

“That was probably my first greatest adventure,” she says. “I remember absolutely loving it and already loving traveling with Mum. That’s probably when my travel bug began.”

Since 2001, Cheryl and Nikki have climbed the highest peaks on each continent: Mount Elbrus in Europe, 18,510 feet; McKinley-Denali in North America, 20,320 feet; Kilimanjaro in Africa, 19,340 feet; Aconcagua in South America, 22,834 feet; Vinson Massif in Antarctica, 16,066 feet, and Kosciuszko in Australia, 7,310 feet.

Their final frontier is Everest, at 29,035 feet, which has claimed the lives of more than 200 climbers since the first attempts were made in the 1920s — long before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made history on May 29, 1953.

The Barts know the risks. In 2006, while heading up McKinley-Denali in Alaska, they were trapped at an altitude of about 16,500 feet for six days in a severe snowstorm.

“It was just so scary,” Cheryl recalls. “Our bodies were slowly atrophying, and it took a lot of effort to stay sane.”

It was even worse for Nikki, who suffered frostbite on her fingers.

“With extremely sore hands, I then had to walk for 12 hours on what is called the ‘death march’ before catching the plane out,” she says. “It was a terrifying injury.”

This time, however, they will be climbing in the “death zone” — an altitude of more than 26,000 feet. At that point, according to Cheryl, “your body actually starts dying on you because it’s just too high and everything starts to shut down.”

The Barts hope to leave base camp at the beginning of April and reach the summit in May. On April 19 — the first seder night of Passover — they probably will be near the highest point on Earth.

“We will definitely be taking some matzah along,” Nikki says. “But due to the high-carb diet we need to maintain for energy, keeping Pesach may be difficult.”

Tale of heroics, terror from the top of the world

It was a beautiful morning in May on the world’s highest mountain, and Dan Mazur was feeling good. He had been hiking throughout the night in below-freezing temperatures, and now he and his team — a sherpa and two other climbers — had only two hours to go until reaching the summit of Mount Everest.

Mazur had reached the top before, 15 years earlier. But this time, the mountain climber and guide was leading two clients who were paying more than $20,000 each for the chance to accomplish the goal of a lifetime. Their objective was so close they could almost reach out and touch it.

Suddenly, Mazur saw something unexpected — some yellow fabric in the distance. At first it looked like a tent, but then it became clear that it was a person, a man sitting cross-legged on a narrow ridge with an 8,000-foot drop to one side and a 6,000-foot drop to the other.

At 28,000 feet — a part of the mountain dubbed the “death zone,” because the weather is so cold and oxygen is so scarce — the man wore no gloves, no hat and had unzipped his down suit to his waist.

“I imagine you’re surprised to see me here,” the man said.

What happened next would cost Mazur his summit and save the man’s life. Now, more than six months later, Mazur, a 46-year-old who lives in Olympia, Wash., will talk about the adventure and dramatic rescue at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue on Wednesday evening, Dec. 6.

As it turned out, the man on the ledge was Lincoln Hall, one of Australia’s best-known climbers. Hall had attempted to summit Everest 22 years earlier but never made it. This time, at age 50, Hall had made it to the top.

But on the way down the day before, Hall had started having trouble.

Experiencing the classic symptoms of altitude sickness — fatigue and hallucinations — Hall had refused to continue down the mountain and ended up passing out. The two sherpas with him concluded, after poking Hall in the eye and getting no response, that Hall was dead. Suffering from lack of oxygen themselves, they hurried down the mountain.

A friend had already broken the news to Hall’s wife and teenage sons: Hall was dead — or so they thought. In fact, he was struggling but alive. He ended up lasting through the night alone.

Atop the mountain, at around 7:30 a.m., Mazur and his team persuaded a resistant Hall to put on his gloves and hat. They gave him oxygen, tea and a Snickers bar and tethered him to their rope. They radioed down to Hall’s expedition group, which dispatched a rescue team.

It would take more than three hours for the rescuers to arrive. But Mazur and his climbers waited with Hall, while their chances of summiting slipped away.
In the end, Hall suffered frostbite; he lost some fingertips. But he made it down the mountain.

Mazur’s rescue caught the attention of national media, which had reported only days earlier the demise of another Everest climber, David Sharp, who died after an estimated 40 climbers passed him without offering any help.

“I was always taught that when you see someone who needs help, you’ve got to help him right away,” Mazur said, speaking on the phone from Washington State.

If he had the day to do over, he said, “I would do it again exactly the same.”
Mazur, who grew up with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, said he is more spiritual than religious. But that day, high on the mountain, Mazur prayed. He prayed that God would help Hall.

“I believe that Lincoln Hall survived because he was very lucky; the weather was not too bad; he was in good shape,” Mazur said. “And I believe there was a higher power that was looking after him.”

Dan Mazur will speak on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway. Admission is free.
For more information, call (310) 456-2178