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Bringing the Mountain to Manhattan

An Everest-simulation sleepover.

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Luis Benitez knows how to make an entrance. Come this weekend, the mountain climber plans to rappel from the 90-foot-high skylight of the Rubin Museum of Art to open “A Peak Experience,” the Himalayan-art center’s first sleepover for kids. Although staffers are a bit leery about Benitez’s choice of approach, they say they’re completely confident that he’ll pull off a creative simulation of a Mount Everest climb. After all, the 33-year-old’s dossier includes multiple Everest summits and various other high-altitude treks. Last week, Benitez phoned us—we’re not making this up—from a tent at 22,000 feet, on his way down from the top of Everest, to talk about the overnight event in Chelsea. He and a team of actual Sherpas will start the evening in the village of Lukla, formerly the museum’s lower level. Kids will load expedition gear into backpacks and sit down to an authentic meal of barley gruel and yak-butter tea. From there, they’ll climb to the next level, where they’ll pitch tents, learn how to cross the dangerous crevasses of Khumbu, use oxygen tanks, and tie safety knots with mittens on. Not to ignore the news of two ill climbers left on Everest last month—one died, one was rescued—Benitez plans to conduct an ethics check among the group. In the middle of the night, Benitez says, he’ll wake up the kids with an emergency, announcing, “It’s a sick climber. Who’s going to sacrifice their summit to help this person?” As the young trekkers figure out what to do, Benitez will explain the credo that led him to turn back on one of his Everest attempts. “It’s your duty to help if you can,” he says. “It’s so much more about the journey than the destination.”

Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St., nr. Seventh Ave. (212-620-5000 ext. 344); $108 includes dinner, snacks, and breakfast.


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