Krys Benyanmein reached the summit of Mount Everest at 3 a.m on May 15, 2022.
After years of training and four weeks on the climb, he spent 30 minutes on the world’s highest peak.
On July 30, at the Brigley family reunion, in Coronation, a crowd of approximately 180 family members followed Krys’s journey as he shared his experience. His message was simple, for anyone who wants to do something like this….reach for your dreams. Krys is proof that anything is possible.
Since Krys was quite young he has wanted to make the Everest climb. At 21 years of age he travelled to the town of Jiri, where the very first Mount Everest climbers used to start and hiked for 21 days to get to base camp.
The seed was planted and he knew he would one day reach the summit. He accredits his success to God and his wife Paige, daughter of Scott and Linda (Brigley) McLean. Krys also had amazing support from his mother, who accompanied him to base camp, stayed with him for two nights, and then helicoptered out before he began the trek to the summit.
Family was captivated as Krys described this rare and rewarding journey. Many years were spent training and Krys told of climbs in the Andes of Bolivia, South America which helped him prepare.
He underwent scientific measurements of his lactic thresholds to assist with training methods. Time was spent in Cryotherapy (dry ice therapy), where temperatures were down to – 67 degrees Celsius (-100 Fahrenheit), to learn to manage in extreme low temperatures. He completed weekly muscular endurance hikes with weighted packs, up to 40 per cent of his body weight.
He would need to carry 15 – 30 lbs. up Mount Everest in a low temperature and low oxygen altitude. Less than 6500 climbers have reached the highest peak and many do not survive the climb, so intense training was vital to Krys’s success and survival.
The climb from base camp to the summit is a 4-week journey. The human body needs to acclimatize to the high altitudes, so each phase of the climb requires a return to base camp to allow the body to rest, recuperate and allow the creation of more red blood cells needed to carry oxygen at higher elevations.
Krys had a member of the local Nepal ethnic group aide him in his climb. These assistants are called Sherpas. Dawa was with Krys on ascents from Camp I upwards.
The first climb was from base camp to Camp I, where Krys spent two nights before returning to base camp. The next stage was climbing past Camp I and II and stopping at Camp III for a few nights stay in rudimentary tents before returning to base camp.
The final journey that would take him to the summit took six days. It began with a 10-hour hike from base to Camp II, where he spent two nights. Then off to Camp III for a one-night rest and the addition of the supplementary oxygen tanks that would get him to the top.
Krys left Camp III at 5 a.m. and arrived at Camp IV at 10 a.m. This is called the death zone and is where many climbers go no further. After a rest Krys began the final leg to the summit at 7 p.m. Most of this climb was in the dark and Krys peaked the summit at 3 a.m. (29,028 ft). He states that the most rewarding part of his experience was obviously not the view but the process to get there.
Krys was fortunate to have been blessed with perfect weather during his climb. The coldest day was -30 Celsius. There were several other climbers present, some going up while others were coming down. His hard work to prepare paid off when he was able to complete the various legs of this journey well ahead of other climbers in his group, including four hours sooner to the summit.
By this point of Krys’s story the crowd at the Brigley Reunion was in awe and had many questions for him.
How was the food? Not very good. After base camp there were no perishable foods available. So much of his diet was canned Spam, tuna and potatoes.
Was there any wildlife to see? A little higher than base camp there was a type of rabbit that he often would see. Beyond that there were only birds.
Is there much litter? There used to be a lot of litter that had been left behind. Then people were paid to bring litter down so the mountain is much cleaner now.
Is it true that there are bodies left near the top? Yes. Krys saw two bodies on his climb. Those who do not survive the final summit remain there, as the energy needed to carry this weight down the mountain is more than most climbers can spare.
Sherpas used to be paid to recover those who died; however, the government intervened and banned this practise due to the numbers of Sherpas who died trying.
Did you ever have a moment where you just wanted to quit and go home? Those who climb Mount Everest now have wifi access up to Camp I. So, Krys was able to keep in regular contact with his wife and family until the final stretch to the summit.
However, the first time he made the climb to Camp I he took out his phone and was greeted with pictures of his family at Easter. This was the hardest moment for him.
It was also difficult coming down from the summit. Gravity is working with you so you are going faster than you should. Others are coming up while you are going down, so at times you leave the ropes to allow others to go up. It was exhausting. Once you have accomplished your goal your body says, ‘I’m done’.
Did you leave anything behind? No, he didn’t take anything to leave. When at the summit where there were items left by others ‘part of me wished I had’, but this is discouraged to preserve the environment.
He did have a Garmin, so was able to take summit pictures and send a message to his wife, whose birthday was the next day.
Krys also told of the 17 pounds of weight that he lost on his 4-week adventure. He also left all his climbing gear for his Sherpa, Dawa, to use in future climbs.
When asked what his next summit will be Krys indicated it was ‘a baby’. He and Paige had announced the coming of their first child earlier at the reunion.
It isn’t often that someone can say they have met and talked to a climber who has successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest, it was humbling to hear Krys’s story.
Krys and Paige Benyamein live in San Diego, California where Krys is a lawyer by trade, actively working in his family’s real estate business. Paige is in her final two years of surgical residency.
by Brenda Brigley