3 Filipinas reach Everest peak

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FORMER national dragonboat rower Noelle Wenceslao became the first Filipina to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain when she and two other teammates completed their final push early yesterday morning.

With the winds blowing at a southwesterly direction (25 knots), the weather down to -25 degree centigrade and the sky partly cloudy, Wenceslao also became the first woman from Southeast Asia to reach Earth’s highest peak, measured at around 29,035 feet above sea level.

Wenceslao reached the peak at 6:10 a.m. Nepal time (8:10 a.m. in Manila), followed by Bukidnon wall-climber Carina Dayondon, who arrived 10 minutes later.

The two confirmed their ascent through radio communications to their support groups at the Chinese Base Camp at the north side of Tibet and to the south side crew which now waits for them at the Nepal side.

According to reports, the two stayed at the summit for some 20 minutes, taking photos of themselves while admiring the view before continuing their descent to the Nepal side.

“Naiwagayway muli ang bandilang Pilipino,” said Wenceslao through her two-way radio as she waited for Dayondon to join her.

Later, former Transportation Undersecretary Art Valdez relayed the good news to 2006 summiter Romeo Garduce through a satellite phone patch.

Because of a big crowd of climbers from various expeditions, which were also making their way to the top, former varsity tennis player Janet Belarmino got caught in a big traffic jam of mountaineers, and arrived at the summit at 9 a.m.

Belarmino later told Studio 23 news director Vince Rodriguez, who was monitoring the action from the Chinese Base Camp, that she had to fall in line at the fixed ropes with other climbers ahead of her.

Belarmino, who gave birth to a baby girl six months ago, was actually slowed down by a big bottleneck of climbers, which started their climb around midnight at the 28,215.223-foot- high Second Step.

After the satellite weather forecast indicated clear weather this week, more than 150 climbers made their push to the peak. The Web site www.mounteverest. net reported that over 50 summits have been reported at the north side and a similar number were making their bids from the south.

The Web site confirmed that British climber David Tait and Phurba Sherpa were the first to almost complete this year’s climb into Nepal, some 24 hours ahead of the three Filipinas. The two are now at Camp 2 at the Nepal side.

According to the site, many were forced to turn back because of the jam, including disabled Norwegian climber Cato Zahl Pedersen and his Unarmed Everest team.