NOVA Online
Everest
Site Map

Interview with David Breashears
Everest Base Camp
May 15, 1996

NOVA: How did you find out that an emergency was taking place? Where were you and where were the climbers that were in trouble?

BREASHEARS: It happened like this: the IMAX team had gone up to Camp III at 24,000 feet, ahead of everybody. There had been 4 unsuccessful attempts already from our side; not by us but by other teams. Most of the teams had reached the South Summit at 28,700 feet. So we went all the way up but Ed and I didn't like the weather and equally disconcerting was when we looked out our tents that morning, there were 35 people, including Sherpas, guides and clients, heading up from Camp II to III, who would be right behind us as we were going for the summit they would moving to Camp IV. So between the weather and the people, some of whom we felt were unprepared to be climbing high on Everest, we decided to go back to Camp II, and let events unfold.

The next morning at Camp II—which is our Advance Base Camp—at 21,300 feet ... It's our staging area for the upper climbing on the mountain. The next day at about 10:00 a.m. some of our Sherpas were coming down the mountain—I'm going to tell you a little story here—of the first person we recovered a week ago—the Sherpas were passing through Camp III and they found that a Taiwanese climber had fallen 60 feet into a crevasse but apparently the leader of the team thought he was okay and continued on, and left the fellow there to fend for himself. He had begun to deteriorate and so the Sherpas began to evacuate him down the Lhtose Face. We didn't think it was a very serious injury, but at about 4 or 5 o'clock they radioed that he was dead. He died as they were bringing him down, so the Sherpas left him on the ropes—they are extremely frightened and superstitious of dead bodies—and Ed and Robert Schauer and I went out up the ropes in the late afternoon in what became a mini-blizzard and brought him down, got him off the ropes, and lowered him down, and put him in a sleeping bag and then we put him in a place in the ice so he would freeze up so we would be able to carry him down the next day.

The evening of the day we rescued this man, at 10:30 and 11:00, the summit teams who had reached the South Col at 26,000 feet, the high camp at Everest, Rob Hall's team, Scott Fisher's and a Taiwanese, Makalu Gau, began their summit attempt. And we became alarmed the next day—they were making okay progress—we heard radio reports: so and so turned back so and so turned back below the South Summit. But we became alarmed when we saw people—we're well positioned at Advance Base Camp we have a good view of 300 feet below the summit, known as the Hillary Step. Well we saw a line of people there, 6 or 7 people, waiting to climb the Hillary Step at 1:00 in the afternoon. We calculated their climbing rate, their use of oxygen and we thought they were out too late. We became even more alarmed when we heard radio calls from the summit that people had reached the top at 2:30 and 3:00. But the weather was reasonable at that time; it was windy and cold up high, they all had down suits, ski goggles, and in a properly run guided expedition, enough oxygen. It wasn't until later in the evening that we heard, to our absolute astonishment, that Rob Hall was still on the South Summit. That's 27,700 feet. At dark with a client who was in extremis, near death, Doug Hanson. And Rob had elected to stay with him, knowing he couldn't get the man down but also knowing he couldn't leave him there to die alone. Later in the evening, a blizzard blew up between 4 and 6 p.m. higher on the mountain, fierce winds, 60 and 80 mile an hour winds, darkness, blowing snow, 20 foot visibility, and that's when we knew there was a real big problem because between 10 and 16 people had not returned to their tents. In terrible conditions, they would have been out of oxygen, they would have had to take off their dard ski goggles to see in the night, but, at the same time, if they took their goggles off they would have to squint in 60 and 70 mile an hour wind-driven snow particles. They would be disoriented, cold, hungry, out of oxygen, dehydrated, probably partially hypothermic, and all we could do that night was go to bed, late in the evening and hope for the best in the morning.

NOVA: Can you back up for a second and describe for us an ideal summit day? You said they left late in the evening and our understanding is that they would need to leave earlier in the day; why did they leave so late and can you describe the summit day process?

BREASHEARS: Here's what happens on the summit day and here's what makes the whole process of climbing Everest so difficult. The day before you climb from Camp III to Camp IV. You leave Camp III at 8:00 a.m., you're at 24,000 feet, and it's a long, hard day up to the South Col at 26,000 feet. All I can tell you is that climbing at 20,000 feet is twice as hard as climbing at 15,000 feet, climbing at 22,000 feet is twice as hard as climbing at 20,000 feet. It's almost exponential. So here you have a group of people, some of them relatively untrained in terms of a Himalayan veteran mountaineer, who have gone from Camp III to IV, from 24,000 to 26,000 feet in a day. You arrive there between 2 and 5 p.m. In order to make climbing Everest safer, it's standard to leave anywhere between midnight and one a.m., and you wear a headlamp over your wool or polypropylene hat. The reason we leave so early is because we get to the top earlier—between 10 and 12 a.m. the next day. It's about a 12 hour climb, and you get down in generally good weather. It's not unusual in spring to have conductive cloud cover and mini snow storms and snow squalls between 4 and 7 p.m., it's very common.

So, these people had climbed up, probably spent an uncomfortable night at camp 3, then spent between 5 and 8 hours climbing at high altitudes, maybe had a quart of water and a few snacks. They get to the high camp and you don't have much of an appetite. Really what you do is you spend your time there just flat on your back, taking oxygen at one liter a minute, trying to eat something, trying to drink, and drying out your clothes that have become wet from perspiration, especially your double boots and your mittens, and you don't really have a good sleep. No one really sleeps that night or those few hours. Around ten thirty that night you wake up and put ice in a pan and you start to `brew up,' because mostly you want to rehydrate. You figure its going to take two hours to get ready. If you're not already in your sleeping bag in your down suit, then you get out of your sleeping bag and you put on your down suit. You're at 26,000 feet and everything takes ten times longer and ten times more effort than at sea level. You put on your over boots, put an oxygen bottle in your pack, check pressure on both oxygen bottles to make sure they are full, make sure the oxygen regulators are working, slowly, with cold fingers you put on your crampons, maybe have a sip of fluid before you leave, put a quart of hot water in your pack and off you go in the darkness and starlight between 12 and 1:00 a.m.

So you really haven't had sleep or nourishment for 24 hours or much water and you start up the face; by dawn you reach the southeast ridge at 27,500 feet and may be mostly through your first oxygen bottle. You then turn up the southeast ridge toward the south summit, and it's an enormous effort to climb at those elevations even with oxygen. You are moving continuously for almost 12 hours before you reach the south summit.. Now you're only three hundred feet from the top, but you have a treacherous traverse and you have to climb the Hillary Step and the climbing becomes much more exposed. You've finished your first bottle of oxygen and you're on your second. Maybe you've managed to take your water bottle out once or twice and sit some fluid that now has turned mostly to slush and ice in your bottle. Maybe you can nibble on a candy bar. And then, 300 more feet and you're on top. Great! It's 12 hours of effort and you're exhausted. The euphoria of making the summit soon dissipates, hopefully you've been using oxygen at the rate of 2 liters a minute instead of 3—or you're now out of oxygen—where if you're lucky a Sherpa is carrying a third oxygen bottle for you, and now you begin the long, hard descent to the South Col, dehydrated, not having slept now for 40 hours. And you begin your descent.

It's windy, one side of your body—facing the wind—is colder than the other, even with a down suit on. Typically the hand grasping the ice ax becomes cold because of the metal; smart climbers tape foam to the head of the ice ax which is better than gripping steel in -30 degree temperatures and conducting the cold into your hand. You begin to stagger down.

You get down to the Southeast Ridge and you're still a 1,000 or 1,500 feet above camp. You're on fixed ropes, and suddenly it's dark, you're disoriented, you're hypoxic. And then you're at the end of the fixed ropes and you don't know where to go. The South Col is a broad flat place. You take your goggles off because it's dark but you can't look into the wind to look for your tent because 60-70 mile an hour snow particles will be stinging your face and eyes. Many of the people who made it down had minor frostbite on their noses and faces.

You reach the South Col, which is as large as many football fields, its flat, and have no idea of which way to turn. You can hardly communicate with your companion who is 10 feet away. Your feet and hands start to get cold, you're hypothermic—your body starts to shunt the blood away from the extremities and save it for the organs—and for the unfortunate ones you just lay down and die, and freeze to death.

And if you're lucky, there's a gap in the storm. A few hundred feet away you see the tents and stagger into them at 3 in the morning. If you're Beck Weathers you lay down to die; you've wandered in the wrong direction several hundred yards away from the tents you'll never find; you've lost your gloves because you tried to take them off to warm your hands inside your jacket. Incredibly, two people pass you over for dead the next day, but in the afternoon you wake up, decide you want to live, remarkably you've survived this horrible night of cold and snow and howling wind, and stagger into camp. And that's the way it went.

NOVA: How was Beck Weathers found?

BREASHEARS: First of all, if you're Rob Hall, you're stuck out in the dark at 28,700 feet trying to save a client who's too tired and maybe out of oxygen and has collapsed. You're facing a horrible night in the wind with no protection, in a down suit not designed for bivouacking at night, and it's all too terrible for all of us to think about what he went through because he was still alive the next morning and through next day making radio calls, as we tried to encourage him to get moving.

If you're Namsuko the Japanese woman you are too tired. You've reached the Col, you have not one molecule of energy left, and you lay down and freeze to death in this fierce wind alone without anyone to help you.

Beck—as he told the story to me—if you're Beck Weathers, you're lost, there were people with you, suddenly they see tents and they're gone and you were unable to keep up or maybe you lost your way, but suddenly you're alone in a howling wind, and you don't know up from down, left from right, so you lay down maybe on the ice to stay warm, maybe, because you're too tired, maybe you're just collapsed, and lay down to die because there is nothing else left to do. You tried to warm your hands and you've lost your gloves.

At 9:00 a.m. the next morning its clear, the clouds have parted and the snow is gone, but the wind is stronger than ever. A Sherpa walks out and looks at you, and you're lying there on the ground white, ashen-white, frozen-face. You're lying there and you're dead. No one could survive that night. So the Sherpa walks by and they radio down: "Beck Weathers is dead."

Todd Burleson and Pete Athans who were at Camp III, experienced mountaineers, had come up to help at Camp IV. They're pointed out there's a figure 150 yards away, Beck Weathers, who is frozen to death. They go to work and try to help other people on the Col. Remarkably, if you are Todd Burleson, you're climbing out of your tent later that afternoon, and there is an apparition that can't be true: this person who has been pronounced dead by two people has stood up, his arms are askew from frostbite, sticking out like a scarecrow, his eyes are swollen shut, his whole face is swollen, he can't see, but he's staggering towards camp. It's a ghost, it has to be, this person is dead!

But he staggers into camp with a white face and you put him in a tent (Todd Burleson and Pete Athans) sure he's going to die within the next half hour. When you rewarm a hypothermic person they often fibrillate and die. We hear on the radio that there's no way this guy will survive the night, but Weathers has an incredible will to live, he's a pathologist from Dallas, he knows he's lost most of his hands, but he's decided he wants to live, he's a heavy set guy maybe that's what got him through the night.

But in the morning he's starting to drink liquids and he's eating something and you've given him some drugs and he's actually walking. Todd and Pete are astounded. I mean he's our miracle, it's the one great inspirational story in the tragedy. You get him down to Camp III, one step at a time because he can't see very well. And then we meet him at Camp III and he's taken to Camp II and he's telling jokes now and he's in thicker air and knows he's going to live. He's uncomplaining, he says " I know I'm going to lose my hands, I'm happy to be alive. I want to live. I woke up on the Col that afternoon and I said I am going to live."

We get him to Camp 2 where he continues his recovery. His eyes open up a bit, you can talk to him, he can recognize people, and the next day we walk him down to Camp I, where a very courageous and talented Nepalese colonel in the Air Force lands a helicopter at nearly 20,000 feet. The first person we evacuate is Makalu Gau who is not ambulatory, he's in a stretcher on oxygen. He's going to lose his nose, many of his fingers and most of his toes, and then the next flight is for Beck. And Beck has left us all with something to cling to in this tragedy, as well as Makalu, who spent the night out much higher. They were two survivors who spent that entire night out and they will pay a terrible price but they're alive and that's all we have to say about that.

NOVA: Well, from what we hear they are alive thanks to you. We are a little unclear about how he was brought down to the lower camps. We heard from other sources that he literally followed in your footsteps, holding on to you. Can you say more about that?

BREASHEARS: Well, there's two stories here. There's also Makalu Gau. And two very brave Sherpas went up to rescue him from 27,500 and brought him down. Most of Gau's rescue was left to Sherpas—there were 6 Sherpas with him when we passed him at Camp III. Pete and Todd did a heroic job of reviving Beck and getting him from Camp 4 to 3, which quite honestly was all the real work. Robert Schauer from our team and Ed Viesturs went up to the Yellow Band, which is near 25,000 feet, to meet them on the way down. A person would stand behind Beck and hold on to his harness as he slid down the fixed rope, to prevent him from just sliding down hundreds of feet, and a person would be in front of him helping him, guiding his feet because he couldn't see well. We reached Camp III, we sat him down, he wanted black tea with sugar. And you had to feed him, of course, because he couldn't clutch anything because his mittens covered his frozen hands; I was just so thankful I didn't have to see his hands. His face was a mess. Then we started down to Camp II, we wanted to get him out of there as fast as possible. People would took turns holding him from behind on his harness to keep his balance. And whoever went first would help guide his feet and he then would lean with his forearms on that person.

Once we got to the base of the Lhotse face we just walked to Camp II. The guy was just incredible. They put him in a tent there, a little emergency hospital we set up, a field hospital sort of, and undressed him and looked at the frostbite. I think his toes are okay, that's the astonishing thing. But, throughout it all, being a pathologist he knew intimately what had happened to every cell in his body for the last three days. He was not holding out any hope for his hands. And yet it was just astonishing his optimism and his dignity and humor in this situation. So, I don't want to take credit that I don't deserve. Pete and Todd did the bulk of the work. We did alot of the organizing of the rescue, the organizing of the supplies, placement of people to help other people, organized the helicopter pad with a quart of KoolAid from Araceli that she happened to have—red KoolAid—to mark the landing spot. It was a group effort.

We're so thankful he was ambulatory. He's a big heavy guy and we never could have gotten him off the Col, even if he had been alive, if we had to carry him. The terrain's too difficult to move someone that heavy. It's hard enough work to get someone down the lower mountain in the thick air of 19,000 feet; it took twelve people 8 hours to evacuate the dead Taiwanese through the Icefall and there you're talking about warm weather, working without mittens, and pile jackets.

NOVA: I know this is difficult for you to relive... Can you explain for us what hypoxia is and what it feels like?

BREASHEARS: The problems with climbing at high altitude are two things. There's wind and there's lack of oxygen molecules available. Your body turns into a machine to process whatever oxygen molecules it can find in the thin air. People are chronically hypoxic, which means operating at an oxygen deficit. Up higher your skin isn't red and pink, it's always got a bluish cast to it. Your body very cloverly finds what oxygen it can and delivers it to the places that need it—your brain, your heart, your liver. Your skin isn't necessarily a priority. You are always dehydrated. The air is very dry here, you breathe very hard, your respiration rate is high, your pulse rate is high, and maybe there's 1 or 2 percent humidity here so it's a constant struggle to drink enough. On the one hand you know you should, on the other hand you don't have the appetite to just gulp down the 4-6 liters of fluid you need a day. Sometimes it's incredibly hot in the Western Cwm in this great sun reflector and without a breeze, you can hardly move. In a moment's notice the clouds cover the sun and you're freezing and shivering. You don't sleep well at higher elevations, its a very restless sleep; you wake up a lot. If you're drinking enough fluid, to be very matter of fact here, you have to get out and pee two or three times in a night. You don't have much of an appetite sometimes. The food in your tent gets cold quickly. You put food on your plate and before you're half finished it's as cold as the ambient temperature which may be 10 or 20 degrees F. You're always changing clothes during the day. If a wind comes up you have your wind jacket on, the next moment the sun's out and you're too hot. It's very hard to move from camp to camp, it's a struggle to keep your motivation.

Often times I find the hardest part of climbing at the higher camps is this one moment when you go from the horizontal in a warm cozy sleeping bag and you have to get up and get moving. You have to put ice in the pot, light the stove, get out the tea or cocoa or soup, the condensation starts to melt on your tent, everything is wet. You don't want to move because when you shake the tent it all falls off and gets down your neck and in your boots and in your ears and some nights some nights are spent wondering if your tent is going to collapse in a high wind—the flapping and the flexing and the bending of the poles and the fabric. You can't sleep. It's too noisy. You have to be ready to put on your boots and get out if the tent falls apart. lot of discomforts, but huge rewards.

You are always survival oriented. You're very introverted at high altitudes. Did I have enough to drink, have I had enough to eat, is my sleeping bag dry, is my part of the tent level, am I warm enough?

The wind is very demoralizing. It's noisy, incessant, its just annoying. You get so fed up hearing the wind and having it on you and swirling around you, blowing snow in your face one minute, coming from the other direction the next. Your feet get cold your hands get cold . The most debilitating part of climbing on Everest besides the lack of oxygen is probably the wind.

NOVA: How cold can it get on Everest?

BREASHEARS: We have the reports here. It's averaging around -40 on top, the middle camps lower down maybe -10, at Base Camp we're generally eating dinner in 15 to 20 degree temperatures. Just imagine if you spent the next month and a half in a meat locker, and sit down to eat at night in your down parka and hat, no place to put your plate down, before you can finish your food it's cold.

NOVA: David, you talk about introversion on the mountain. Do you typically climb with someone? How far apart are the individuals in a given expedition, for example, on the summit day?

BREASHEARS: You are together but you are not with anyone emotionally. Our team, we always climb together. Through the icefall, in between camps; some of our members fall behind the other members but no one is left on their own. Your pacing at altitude is so personal; you get into a rhythm, whatever you can sustain. And that's it, you get locked into it. If someone's faster or if someone's slower you don't really notice it. Your body finds where it likes to be in terms of the pulse rate, the movement of your legs, your breathing. We're very very committed on the summit day to staying together and people get strung out and everyone has a different pace. Ed will be climbing without oxygen. We have strong Sherpas who can climb twice as fast as us, we have Sherpas who are climbing relatively slow due to the burden of carrying the camera gear. What happened on the day of the tragedy was that people were strung out all along that mountain. Stronger were twice as fast as the slower people, twice as fast to get down, twice as strong and having the reserves to deal.

On summit day, you have your mask and your goggles, and you get into this mantra, you're in a cocoon. Every bit of focus and concentration and drive and ambition one has goes into putting the next foot in front of the other. And you look up and say oh, so and so is 200 feet above me. And you look down and say so and so is 300 feet below me. And you look back and you put the next foot in front of the other. That's all you're thinking about for 12 hours, without food, mostly without water. With 2 oxygen bottles, 15-20 lbs on your pack, camera, spare mittens, spare goggles, those are all the things that we carry. It's very hard to describe. You're just a machine that `s trying to process whatever oxygen there is and just trying to put one foot in front of the other. It's as simple as that.

NOVA: You've mentioned the rewards. What are the rewards? Will this tragedy affect your love for climbing?

BREASHEARS: It's too soon to say. We knew a lot of these people.

There's a couple of rewards. One of course is getting on top. The other is coming down and feeling safe and warm and knowing you don't have to go back up—that's a huge reward. We have a lot more at stake here than some of the other teams, but we're not letting it affect us. Probably the moment you leave Base Camp, we've been camped here on rock and ice for 7 weeks, the day you leave this place and you walk down into the trees and bushes and streams and flowers, and you're away from the cold and the thin air and the cold food and the nagging feeling that you always have to go back up the mountain until you are done—that's my favorite day, that's the day I'm looking forward to.

We've worked 2 or 3 times harder than any team here. This IMAX camera is huge, it's a burden, and we have obligations. When other people are lying in their tents resting, we're out with this monstrous IMAX camera, putting it on a triped, trying to get shots, using energy, precious energy that should be devoted to the summit, and it's all been a bigger burden than we thought, but at least from what we understand we've been doing a good job. But we've had the wind taken out of our sails here. It's not an easy thing to have rescued (a dead climber's body), to be the ones to cover his face and bring him down to his grieving companions. It's been really tough here with all these people here dying and the impact on their loved ones and companions down here.

We feel okay, and we're going to go back. And in the right conditions we'll go up. But it's been a very sobering, few days. It's frightening really.

NOVA: You just said, weather-pending, you'll make a bid for the summit again. Have you received a forecast for the next week and how does the jet stream play into that?

BREASHEARS: The jet stream has been sitting on top of Everest because it's in a southern position. It's just fierce, ferocious winds. No human in any condition could have gone up to save Rob. Those days he was up there, we were up there at Camp II and you could see the clouds just tearing across the mountain at a terrifying speed. The sound is what's extremely unsettling. It's a terrible roar. You think of the people up there fighting for their lives, you think of what it would be like to climb in it yourself. It's impossible. It's the great force of nature that makes Everest the great challenge that it is—people have been misled through several seasons of good weather to think of Everest as a benevolent place. But it can be a place were no one can move, tents are ripped apart. All the special modern down and gortex gear in the world can't save you, you cant move, you can't see, you can't hear. There have been days where as mountaineers we could have climbed Everest in the last two weeks, but as a film team, we need to hold the camera steady and load it virtually barehanded—the only way you can load this big camera and thread this mechanism is barehanded—we need very calm weather. Any three of us could have gone up and down the mountain safely by now only as climbers.

But we're waiting for the right configuration of high and low pressures which precede the onset of the monsoon in this region, which will push the jet stream north. The stream does not move north vertically in elevation it moves north and south, and in the last few years it has been normal for the jet stream to move north, leaving the mountain relatively calm for a ten day period before the monsoon. We expect we'll get it. We hope we'll get it. We're going up expecting to get it, but if we don't we don't. The climbing permit is up June 1 and probably our will to stay here will be up before then. We've been up to Camp III now four times, that's 24,000 feet, and each time we had to come back down... well.... for whatever reason.

NOVA: Can you give us a brief look at your communications center? Obviously you have a satellite phone. What are your capabilities?

BREASHEARS: I am sitting here at Base Camp in the dining tent at 17,500 feet. We have a briefcase-sized satellite telephone which at the moment is being powered by a generator, and when our batteries are charged enough we can power the satellite phone by batteries which are charged by solar power and by the generator. We have a fax machine which is 120 volts, so the only way we can receive and transmit is when the generator is running. For communications on the mountain we have hand held 2 watt Motorola radios which are supplemented by a 25 watt bay station, with antenna, which allow us to communicate anywhere on the mountain.

NOVA: There are most likely going to be difficult moments on your way back up the mountain. Is everyone else on the expedition prepared for this added emotional challenge? How will you handle that as expedition leader?

BREASHEARS: My first time on this mountain was 1981, so I've had 15 years of experiences from rescuing people to recovering recently dead bodies to recovering bodies in pieces all over the mountain.. We're not looking forward to and we really don't know yet what we'll do yet if we're up there and we have three or four bodies to pass, people who were our friends and who were alive three or four days ago. They are there, they're on the trail, there's no way we can avoid them. There's Scott, there's Rob, there's Doug. Andy's missing, no one can find his body. And the Japanese woman we probably won't pass by her body, she's a 100 or 200 feet away from the main climbing route.

The only thing I can say, is you go back to how I described climbing on the summit. You don't have a lot of energy emotional or otherwise available to you. You're almost in a trance, in an oxygen-deprived hypoxic state, food deprived, dehydrated, and I don't expect to have the emotional capacity there to be too upset about it. But we do have some debate here as to what to do with the bodies because we don't want them to end up as slide number 21 in the next 50 people to climb Mount Everest's slide shows.

NOVA: It sounds like it's an incredibly trying thing to undertake in the best of conditions and there's no way that you have the best of conditions anymore—given what you've been going through physically and emotionally. What keeps you going?

BREASHEARS: Well, we're professionals. We came here to do a job, we still have the chance to do it. We like climbing. I can't speak for Ed, it'll be his fourth time on top. It's been 11 years since I've been on top of Everest and I'd really like to get on top this time. The thought of doing it again and recording it in IMAX, having some people be able to experience that on the giant screen and maybe really feel it and enjoy it, I guess that's what keeps me going.

NOVA: David, you once described what climbing means to you—in terms of the rhythm and movement of ascending a route. Does that still hold true or is it really just a job for you here, making this film?

BREASHEARS: No, for some strange reason, against everything we've just described, all the difficulties, it's still a joy to be up here. It's still great to get to camp III and look out and see Puo Mori and see clouds building and the Western Cwm. There's still a lot of joy in it, it isn't just work. We would have all gone home by now after this if it were all just work. Plus we have three people here who haven't climbed Everest—Araceli, Jamling, and Sumiyo—and they are really excited about the chance to climb. They'd like to climb Mt Evereest, all 3 of them. I can understand the drive and desire they have. Seeing them and their desire, they're young and enthusiastic, it helps Ed and me.

NOVA: Would you say this has been an extremely atypical year on Everest?

BREASHEARS: Three or four deaths on the North and five here—yes. And the fact that three or four people got by by the skin of their teeth and should have probably frozen to death. All of us, if you could call us veterans, have not seen it remain so windy so late and a wind with such ferocity as the one we saw during the accident. Everest is like this. There will be three or four good years and there'll be 2 bad years when no one has climbed Everest from any side. People have very short memories. In the 80s there was a year and a half when no one got up Everest because of wind. So I think it's unusual in the context of the past 4 or 5 years, it's not unusual in the last 25 years. We have cold winters in New England we have snowy years, we have wet winters and we have dry winters; it's no different. It's just the rhythm of nature in this region. It's to be expected. I'm just damned mad and frustrated that the year I come here to make this film I can't get the weather that allows people to just walk up and down the mountain unscathe. We need a break. And we'll get it.

NOVA: Well, good luck and get back here safely.

BREASHEARS: Well, keep your fingers crossed. All we need is good weather. We're all very fit and very healthy and none of us are afraid to come home without doing it. We feel we've done enough already.


May 27, 1996: Interview with David Breashears
May 24, 1996: They Made It! (Update)
May 20, 1996: They Made It!
May 16, 1996: Emergency on Everest
May 10, 1996: Taiwanese Victim
May 9, 1996
May 5, 1996
May 2, 1996: Team Returns to Base Camp
April 26, 1996
April 25, 1996
April 21, 1996
April 19, 1996



Lost on Everest | High Exposure | Climb | History & Culture | Earth, Wind, & Ice
E-mail | Previous Expeditions | Resources | Site Map | Everest Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site