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Willie Benegas, the most popular guy in Everest BC!
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May 18, 2005 17: 30 EST
Previously published Apr 21, 2005 11: 32 EST
No one goes to Everest to win a popularity contest. But in case anyone considers organizing one in BC, Mountain Madness guide Willie Benegas would be a solid bet to come in first place.

Everybody likes him

Teams rarely write about other expeditions’ team members, but Willie’s name pops up here and there, always in a good way! Sherpas respect him, ladies love his sense of humor, and the guys quickly consider him a close friend. And the fact that MM’s camp is the only one with a gas oven, providing fresh baked bread daily, is another plus. Even BC Doc Luanne Freer took notice:

“When you truly want to be amused, Willie Benegas, one of my favorite people, will usually take the cake – this time, literally and figuratively, as he demonstrated the new Mountain Madness propane oven. We can’t wait to see what sort of culinary delights he serves up this season…”

First to help

Yet Willie has not made friends just by cracking jokes or giving away steaming slices of bread. If there is a problem, he’s the first to the help. When Ben Webster had the accident in the icefall, Willie jumped to the rescue:

“Upon hearing the news, our old friend Willie Benegas of Mountain Madness dropped what he was doing and headed up the icefall to help,” reported the Canadian team’s BC technician Mike Swarbrick. “It’s great to know that remarkable people like these are around in times of need. These are people who will risk injury to themselves in a place of constant danger without hesitation, to help another.”

In the darkest hours

Over the years, Willie has proven to be a remarkable human being even in the darkest hours, and it runs in the family. In spite of their own Latok expedition coming up, Willie’s brother Damien dropped everything and flew to Kathmandu last year with the daughter of a perished Everest climber to find some answers for the family. When ExWeb asked the guys why they did it, they said that it’s a promise they made between themselves already a long time ago: Helping would go before climbing. The brothers received no money for their help, in fact, the daughter told ExWeb only last week she still owes them for a flight ticket.

In these times when mountain solidarity is too often forgotten amid the clash of egos and packed base camps, it is good to know that there are yet men and women - like Willie and many other anonymous climbers – ready to give a helping hand. (Check the ExWeb/Washington Post special on this story in the links section.)

4 time Everest summiteer

Kanatek member Harold Mah describes Willie after meeting him for the first time:

“Today I met one of the more respected professional guides and climbers, Willie Benegas. Born in Argentina, Willie, 32, lives in Salt Lake City in the US although “lives” is probably the wrong word as he is rarely there! He has had six days off since December during which his sister “made him” be a river guide. He is a professional guide with Mountain Madness and has brought four climbers with him to Everest, which he has already summited 4 times.”

“When he’s climbed Everest for a fifth time he’ll head to Pakistan, for a break, to do some climbing with his twin brother. He and Sean (Kanatek member attempting the summit this spring) got to know each other when they climbed Aconcagua in Argentina in January this year and are good friends. Willie has climbed all over the world and says he will climb anything that takes him closer to nature. What’s nice is that the Sherpas have a great deal of respect for him as a climber and really like him.”

Ice-climbing mates

Jagged Globe guide Kenton Cool - hard-core ice climber, nominated for the Piolet d’Or for a new route on Annapurna III – found no better climbing mate to entertain him during slow days. “Today has been spent at rest again; I went into the icefall with Willie for a morning’s ice climbing,” he reported yesterday. ”This was rather exciting due to the cold temps that make the ice really brittle, but a good morning was had by all.”

Another friend in Karakorum: “Tony the Goat”

After Everest, Willie Benegas will join his brother Damian for a new attempt on Latok 1, Karakorum, where they plan to open a new route in alpine style through the north side of the 7000+ peak. Poor snow and weather conditions prevented the brothers from getting very far on the wall. However, Willie had time to make new friends there as well. None of them was as loyal and devoted as Tony the goat, though (yeah, the picture leaves no room for doubt). Love has its rewards, and Tony ended up living on a farm instead of becoming the main course at dinner during the expedition.

Willie (Guillermo) Benegas has climbed Everest four times, reaching the summit each time.

Damian and Willie (Guillermo) Benegas, born in Argentina and living in the USA, have attracted the attention of the climbing community since they were very young. They began their career by opening routes in their homeland, mostly in Patagonia and Aconcagua (which they have summited about 30 times). Then they extended their efforts to the rest of the Andes, tried extreme rock-climbing on big walls such as El Capitan (Yosemite) and Baffin Island, and soon headed for the Himalayas. They own a guiding company.

In 2003 they were the first to climb the North Pillar of Nuptse. The result, after an alpine style non-stop six day climb, was a new route named “Crystal Snake.” Last summer, they attempted their first climb on the North Ridge of Latok I.

1. Top image of Willie and the brand new oven in Everest BC, courtesy of BC MD.
2. Middle image (sent live over Contact 3.0) of Willie and Tony’s romantic moments in Karakorum last year, courtesy of Willie and Damian Benegas/Patagonian Brothers Expeditions.
3. Bottom image of Willie signaling his fourth success on the summit of Everest in 2004, courtesy of Willie and Damian Benegas/Patagonian Brothers Expeditions .

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