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Berkeley Woman Climber Was On Mt. Everest As Tragedy Struck Twice On World's Highest Peak

BERKELEY (KPIX) - After a tragic week on Mount Everest, a Berkeley mountain climber who set her sights on reaching the top has arrived home, safe and sound.

Climber Roxanne Vogel says she understands why this year is so deadly.
"The side I went from was over here on the north, so this is China and Tibet, and this side is Nepal. This is the south. This is the more common side," she said, looking at a map of the mountain.

She was standing at the top of Mt. Everest only three days ago - the same day Robin Haynes Fisher and Kevin Hynes died after getting in a human traffic jam on the south side of the mountain, right near the summit.

"The part where people were lining up was this last little bit here," says Vogel.

That area above 25,000 feet is known as the "death zone" because the air is so thin.

"When you get up there and you're stuck in those lines, you only have a limited time of oxygen so you carry an oxygen canister with you, and if it runs out, if you're waiting in line, and you run out of oxygen, it's game over," says Vogel.

Experienced climbers say this has been a particularly busy year because weather conditions only allowed 5 days where the skies were clear enough to make it to the top. That's why the south side saw the rush of climbers first thing in the morning.

Roxanne made it to the top later in the day from the north side, so she had no idea what happened until she got back to base camp two days later.

"I had a hard time believing it, because that was totally the opposite of my experience," says Vogel.

Roxanne was on a lightning fast ascent with a goal of making it from Berkeley to the top of the world's tallest mountain and back home in only two weeks.

"I think it can be done, so why not me? I'll try it," said Vogel.

It's a trip that takes a month or two for even the most experienced climbers because they have to stop as they go up to adjust to the altitude, but Roxanne found a way to acclimate at home.

"This can simulate altitudes up to 21,000 feet," she said as she pointed to a hypobaric chamber around her bed.

She spent up to 12 hours a day for three months inside the reduced oxygen chamber. It was part of the training that allowed her to make it from base camp to the summit in only 10 days.

"It was really surreal. It was like, I don't think I'm on the right mountain. It was almost like a dream," says Vogel.

Roxanne did make her two week goal. She got back to Berkeley just before midnight Friday night, an incredible accomplishment for any climber.

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