THE FIRST Cypriot set foot on the summit of Mount Everest yesterday at 9am, Cyprus time, flying the flag on the top of the 8848m peak.
Giorgos Andreou, 39, has made the list of climbers – around 3,000 until now – to have succeeded in the treacherous journey to the top of the world’s highest mountain.
“He’s the first Cypriot ever to set foot on the highest peak and we’re very proud,” said Pavlos Georgiades, head of the Cyprus Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation.
He reached 7900m by 9pm Cyprus time yesterday (Friday) and then after 12 hours put his foot on the top, he added.
Andreou, who is also deputy head of the Federation, began the journey almost two months ago, the expedition beginning from Kathmandu with an international team of ten people. he was the second of his team to set foot on the summit.
The first successful ascent to the top of Mount Everest was made by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
“Think of how many times people have tried and haven’t managed,” said Georgiades.
Apparently in 2004 the Cypriot flag was placed on the top by a Greek team, which a Cypriot took part in but he did however not reach the top.
Despite the joy and pride Georgiades feels at having a former student reach the highest point in the world, after two years of preparation, he said that the climb down is usually the more worrying part of the journey. “I feel more uneasy about the return as more accidents happen on the way down,” said Georgiades, explaining that this is the case usually because the climbers are tired and anything could happen, such as bad weather.
They also need to pace themselves so as not to get altitude sickness.
Apart from the return another very dangerous part of the journey is what is described as the ‘death zone’ which is the climb from about 8000m upwards (the last camp before the top). This is the point where temperatures can dip to very low levels, resulting in frostbite on any body part exposed to the outside air. Low oxygen is also a problem so climbers must be equipped with oxygen tanks.
On the Facebook page Cyprus Everest Expedition 2012, Andreou describes Camp 4, death zone, as ‘literally an area covered in debris from 50 years of missions, filled with oxygen tanks, food wrappers and even human remains.’
The effects on climbers in the death zone is so great that it usually takes them around 12 hours to walk 1.72 km. An injured person who cannot walk is in serious trouble as rescue by helicopter is generally impractical and carrying the person off the mountain is very risky. People who die during the climb are typically left behind. about 150 bodies have never been recovered. it is not uncommon to find corpses near the standard climbing routes.
According to Georgiades Andreou would have come down a considerable distance in metres by yesterday evening and should be back in Cyprus in about a week.
In his nine-year climbing career Andreou has already taken on other high altitude mountains such as Mount Viatau in Russia, 3820m, Mount Elbrus at 5642m and Mount Aconcagua at 6967m, the highest mountain in the Americas.