Climbing Mount Everest has long been considered one of humanity’s ultimate challenges. The world celebrated in 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary braved Earth’s highest peak and achieved what many once believed to be impossible. Over the past half century, Everest has become a goal for those seeking to push the boundaries of resilience and perseverance. Approximately 4,000 people have reached the 29,000-foot-high summit, and more than 300 have perished in the attempt.
In recent months, the Mount Everest has become a focal point, with some members of the media criticizing the Nepalese government for being too free with approving climbing permits, causing massive congestion along the mountainside. Lost in that controversy, though, was a most unusual item that made it all the way to the very top: a box of cigars.
On May 24 at approximately 5:30 a.m., local time, Yevgen Staroselskiy concluded a two-month journey across three continents, from Havana to Europe to Tibet, and reached the top of Mount Everest carrying a box of Saint Luis Rey Herfing Exclusivo Medio Oriente cigars. An experienced climber, the 58-year-old Ukrainian-Cypriot citizen is one of the founders and main guides for the 7 Summits Club of Cyprus, a Master of Sports of the USSR in Mountaineering and currently holds the title of “Snow Leopard” for climbing 13 peaks over 7,000 meters tall. To date, he has climbed over 120 different summits and mountain routes in various countries, but this was his first climb up Everest.
Inspired by the tradition of climbers bringing various mementos, icons or their country’s flag to the top, Phoenicia Trading A.A. partnered with Staroselskiy to bring a box of cigars to the top. Staroselskiy carried his delicate cargo (carefully sealed in a bag to keep the cigars from drying out) as he battled his way up the North Col side of the mountain, the more difficult route, against sub-zero temperatures and winds racing at times more than 100 mph.
The most difficult part of climbing Everest, according to Staroselskiy, was entering what is known as “The Death Zone” at 8,000 meters, where the amount of available oxygen is not enough for the human body to breathe properly, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and frostbite, among other things. It is this part of the mountain where congestion has contributed to this year’s 11 fatalities.
After a lifetime of preparation and training, Staroselskiy stood triumphant on the highest mountain on the planet for a total of 10 minutes, enjoying the magnificent panoramic view of the world below before beginning his descent back down the mountain. He said that this breathtaking moment was the most memorable part of his expedition.
But Staroselskiy didn’t smoke the cigars that he carried to such heights. The box he carried on his expedition was number 0008 out of 7,500 boxes produced and had been chosen specifically by Phoenicia Trading for the trip, as the number eight is considered a lucky number in the Chinese culture and also represents the height of Everest (8,848 meters).
The box will be sold at auction on November 8 during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Phoenicia Trading in Beirut, Lebanon, with all proceeds going to charity.