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A tribute to a perished Everest climber: "I'm going to live my life just like you"
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Jun 15, 2004 21: 20 EST
Jun 13, 2004 17: 47 EST

At 10am on Tuesday May 18th Dr. Nils Antezana became the second oldest person as well as the second Bolivian to reach the summit of Everest.

"He always had an adventurous spirit," said his daughter, "but i think it really blossomed a bit later in his life". Nils got his flying license about 10 years ago fulfilling his childhood wish to be a pilot. Less than a week later, he was spending the better part of his time flying along the East Coast in his single engine plane. But it did not stop there.

He was also an avid scuba diver, and enjoyed handgliding and windsurfing whenever he got the chance. Exercising his young spirit and keeping in close touch with nature went hand-in-hand and soon became a priority in his last years.

Nils end came at the peak of his love of adventure. On his descent from Everest summit, Nils sat down above the Balcony, and died.

Antezana was born in Bolivia, where he attended medical school before coming to Washington to complete his residency in 1963. After a couple of years at a military hospital in Delaware, he returned to Washington, where he joined the staff of Jefferson Memorial Hospital, and raised a daughter and a son with his wife, Gladys. Yesterday Washington Post paid a tribute to Nils in an article:

"Nils Antezana furnished the study inside his Northwest Washington home, and the room provides a telling glimpse of a man who was determined to see the world from as many angles as possible. In the right-hand corner of the bookshelves sit medical texts, which is natural for a past chief of pathology at the former Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Alexandria. But on the more accessible center shelves sit books about mountain climbing, hiking, deep-sea diving and aircraft flying. And on the opposite wall hangs a poster of wide-eyed owls with the legend: "Who can sleep with so much to learn?" writes the Post.
"He always kept himself in incredible shape -- he maintained the same weight from the day he was married to the day he died," his daughter said to the paper.

The article also reveals that the circumstances surrounding Nils death are still unclear:

"The family learned May 20 that Antezana hadn't made it back to base camp. Shortly after, Fabiola and her husband traveled to Katmandu to try to learn what happened. They talked to numerous people involved in mountain climbing there, but the precise circumstances of his death remain unknown."

It is clear however, that his guide and two sherpas returned to South Col without him. In an interview with the Washington Post, Tom Sjogren from ExplorersWeb said that the cause could have been lack of supplementary oxygen on descent. The gear can malfunction and the bottle can empty without the climber being aware of it. That could explain Nils sudden exhaustion at a section of the mountain where the climbing is relatively easy, and considering that Nils previously had made a good time to the summit.

As a father of two, Nils would say to his children “Things are much more simple than people make them out to be. We seem to be experts at complicating things.”

"The simplicity of his approach to life's challenges," said Fabiola to ExplorersWeb, "has been the driving force to achieving his dreams; from a splendid father to a fierce educator, from an excellent professional to an enthusiastic climber and a companion in life."

Antezana's death was a shock to family and friends, who said he had passed his sense of adventure along to them, writes Washington Post.

"I had dinner with him two weeks before he left on this trip and I told him, 'I'm going to live my life just like you,' " Okonsky said.

Note: Tom Sjogren from team ExWeb asked to clarify that he has done four Everest expeditions and summited once (not four times as written in the WP article).

Image of Nils with his wife Gladys and daughter Fabiola, courtesy of Fabiola Antezana.

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