Storm Over Everest

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What are your thoughts on this remarkable story of life, death and survival?

everest photos

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was fixated to my screen during the entire program. It made me wonder how would I have responded in those dire circumstances. Great documentary!

Trevor Fallis
Vancouver, British Columbia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched "Storm Over Everest" with such intensity and interest. It provoked many thoughts and emotions that I am still sorting through. But I wanted to share my initial thoughts and feelings. Once again we are reminded of human endurance and survival instincts, but most importantly, the selflessness of individuals. I was really moved by Rob's story - his dedication to help others such as Doug realize his dream at the ultimate cost (of his life) and his determination. I would like to learn more about Rob - what he was made of and how he became the person that he was.

One of the men who found himself alone in the storm said he asked why he was alone and had wished for a chance to just see another human being.

Yet another said he chose to climb Everest because prior to going, he was depressed but the challenges of climbing to the peak prevented him from thinking which was a good thing. - Very well done. I am going to purchase the DVD and share it.

Fatima Aliu
Chicago, Ill

Dear FRONTLINE,

A certain feeling exists in those of us. who have never attempted to accomplish a feat of courage or daring adventure of this magnitude, that has no place in this discussion. We cannot know how we would respond in the same circumstances so we can only watch and learn from those who have done so. I was thrilled and amazed to see humanity presented with bare and raw emotions from those survivors. My own solo climb of 13,750 ft Mt. Rosalie in Colorado was rough from my perspective. I saw one lone timber wolf and a herd of about 100 female elk and their young on a saddle below me. The wolf vanished in seconds and the elk caused me to look up and wonder if a god was setting a scene for me even though I'm an athiest. I lived all I wanted of these climbers in a simple and relatively easy ascent of a rounded mound in the Rockies. These people are to be admired for their perseverance regarding what they endured.

RICHARD LORD
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for beautiful documentary "Storm Over Everest". It was really interesting to see David Breashears excellent story about personal experience of other climbers without trying to impose judgment about the guilt and who was responsible for that tragedy. There were enough articles, round tables, discussions and books that have tried to explain what had happened and to put blame on someone.

What I don't understand are the many comments criticizing people who wanted to climb Everest.

Why say we shouldn't be sorry for those who died, or that we should care about mountaineers. Nobody has ever asked us (public) to understand the climbers. Nobody has ever asked for our sorrow. Those who went on the Everest in 1996 did that with their own money, which some of them have worked two jobs for. They didn't take our money or government funds. They have every right to spend their money as they want. Those climbers didn't leave us and our families; no they have talked that with their own families. And why complain about people willing to push their boundaries. If there were no adventures people in human kind history we will be living in the caves still, hunting animals with rocks.

If you don't like these type of adventures than don't look, switch the channel and watch some gossip stories of rich and famous. There are us, out there who are interested in different things even if we never personally did (or wanted to) something similar.

And for those of you who miss Jon Krakauer, read his book. We already know his opinion (don't get me wrong I like his book).

Comments that I do agree with are comments about garbage and equipment left behind the expeditions. Something should be definitely done about that.Best regards,

Sasa Gombac
Toronto, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

This film was the closest I'll come to experiencing Everest. Raising my 4 kids has been the most thrilling thing I'll ever accomplish, thank God!

Maybe anyone who wants to climb the mountain should be required to sit in a meat locker for 8 hours watching the storm scenes.

Margaret Buchanan
Gig Harbor, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

More intriguing to me than the physical struggle and risk of climbing a mountain is the psychology of people who do it. I'd like to see some qualified researcher probe the lives of these mountaineers to see what motivates them. One might imagine them to be folks who achieve a great deal in all areas, but I'm not aware of any accomplished climbers who are particularly notable for anything else.

Of course, I have the bias that comes with being unable to imagine an endeavor more unproductive than days and nights spent shinnying up a mountain wearing a mound of clothing and an oxygen bottle. (I probably can dream up equally unproductive enterprises, but none that would exceed it. Pole-sitting comes to mind, for instance.) And if you really want to get to 29,000 feet, or 60,000 feet, above sea level, you can charter a plane and make the trip a lot quicker and cheaper, with less likelihood of losing body parts.

I don't really decry that the many tour groups on Everest nowadays leave the landscape littered with old oxygen bottles and the occasional tour member who falls into a crevasse. The Everest terrain is vast, and about the only people to encounter the litter are more of the people responsible for it. If they don't like it, they can pitch a few bottles down ahead of them as they descend.

Keith Nichols
Dallas, TX

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

See the "SURVIVORS' STORIES section of this Web site and click on "Why I Climb" which offers a glimpse of their motivations.

Dear FRONTLINE,

David Breashears is my newest hero. I have read and seen almost everything available on the market about the 1996 tradegy. Mr. Breashears appears to be a humble guy who, in his films, leaves out the part about his helping and heroism. Fortunately, we learn of him and his heroics through others.

kathy koch
columbus, ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

The film contained some of the best shots of the Everest region of the Himalayas I've seen. Wonderful. However, David Breashers opening comment that this climb revises how we look at climbs in the future...did not materalize in the program. The film would have conformed more to Frontline's investigative mode if it had addressed some of the issues like inexperienced climbers, commercialized climbing, overcrowded peaks...as the discussion on your web site has done.

Tom Arens
Santa Rosa, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

This continued vilification of Sandy Hill makes me so very discouraged about the ability of men and women to meet as equals on the mountains, or anywhere.

Sandy, I am so sorry for what you have been through. You were as well prepared, perhaps even better, than several other clients, to climb Everest. You have been victimized, and continue to be victimized by the misogyny and journalist cynicism of writers like Krauker who instead of looking for truth go to the easy, kneejerk cultural stereotype. Last night as soon as I finished watching Frontline, I got my copy of Into Thin Air and threw it into the trash. I so wish I had never purchased it.

As to the "short roping" I would like to point out that after all Sandy and the others were clients; it was up to the guides to decide on taking such measures. there is no evidence that this short roping made any difference in any outcome. The climbers were slowed down by the general crush, not by any one climber.

Later Sandy was overcome by mountain sickess, a condition that can happen to anyone at any time. Even those who have climbed the very highest peaks consistently have been known to come down with this. I happens suddenly and unpredictably.

At any rate she was far from being the sickest, or less well prepared person on the mountain that awful day.

Lee Hill
Pasadena, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was the worst Frontline program I have ever seen, probably because it was taken whole cloth from one of these idiot guides who take these brain dead people into harm's way for the right price. Not a word about that or about these ill-prepared danger junkies dumping their trash all over what should be a pristine environment. In addition, I assume the video footage was either reenactment or stock footage that was being passed off as actual footage of the events being talked about. Hey, how about guided trips through Sadr City or some other hot spot? I think the Sherpas who took off and didn't go back up were the smartest people in the whole story.

Richard Neitzel
St. Louis, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

What a waste of human life! These people do not sacrifice anything, they do exactly what they want without any consideration for others. The people making the sacrifces are their families, born and unborn! If you're going to do this sort of thing, do it on your own. Don't get into a relationship, don't have children and don't expect someone to risk their own life by rescuing you. At least that way you can reduce the number of people who have to mourn you when you die.

victoria, bc

Dear FRONTLINE,

Having seen the exquisite movie late last night, and now having read the chat room responses, I felt emboldened to add my words of gratitude to David Breshears for an astonishing experience.

His lack of taking sides, offering opinion of judgement or mentioning the conflict of reporting which had occurred at the time, created a philosophical exploration of this extreme mountainneering. I had just finished reading Seven Summits, and loved the connection to Snow Bird and Dick Bass. Thank you for the exemplary journey of courage and thought.

Cloquet, Minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

I certainly agree that Krakauer is the "elephant in the room" in this. I can see why Breshears wanted the survivor's stories to tell the tale in their own words and without the controversial scrim of Into Thin Air. But the problem is that a lot of the survivor's stories and memories became internalized around the their reaction to the portrayals of themselves and their colleagues in ITA. So by totally leaving out the controversy we are deprived of important context in interpreting people's recollections.

ITA was written through Krakauer's own scrim. His observations are colored by his own life experiences and prejudices. It would be a mistake for a reader not to understand this when interpreting the book. People were offended that they were portrayed as flawed, but I thought the retrospective interviews in Storm over Everest revealed the extent to which many of the players eventually came to understand their own flaws.

I was distrubed by the vague finger pointing about "character" that Breshears allowed in with no real context or perspective. What was this about? I can hardly think they meant climbers who had been caught in that storm and who were now hypoxic for many hours (most of whom had no training or experience at that altitude), mortally exhausted, cold, and dehydrated and probably couldn't have saved themselves without help, much less save someone else. Were there "fresh" climbers (not caught in the storm) who still had the mental and physical capacity to do more who didn't help?

Susan Arnold
Rochester, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline - Wow, what happened to the Frontline I know and love? This was a beautiful film, but more suitable for entertainment viewing in the IMAX theater. For 20 years I've watched Frontline ask the hard questions - there were none to be found here. I doubt those interviewed would have been allowed to portray this as an adventure story of survival and loss if the usual Frontline reporters were on the other side of the table. At a minimum, your online roundtable discussion should have been included as a live discussion at the end of the broadcast. There are compelling moral questions that beg to be asked, not as an indictment of decisions made at high altitude but rather as an examination of those made on the ground. That's a documentary I'd love to watch - the kind I'm used to seeing on Frontline. Guess I'll have to read "Into Thin Air" instead.

Julia Pezza
Norfolk, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for this compelling film. I knew the basic story of the 1996 Everest tragedy but this really shed light on the people and the details of the survivors' experiences. I was on the edge of my seat. It seems the countries who share Everest should agree on strict regulation regarding those who climb. They should be experiences mountaineers with experienced and proven guides who have passed government scrutiny. I know it's a major source of revenue but the pollution on Everest, the number of amateurs climbing, and the inherent dangers of the climb seem reason enough to enforce strict standards. That being said, those mountaineers who undertake this grueling, dangerous and exhilerating adventure will always impress and mystify me.

Christine F
Washington, DC

more


home . introduction . interactive map . the survivors' stories . join the discussion . a talk with filmmaker david breashears
blog: everest summit attempt . producer's notebook . readings & links . live chat with producer david breashears . roundtable: the ethics of climbing
site map . dvd & transcript . press reaction . credits . privacy policy . journalistic guidelines . FRONTLINE series home . wgbh . pbs

posted may 13, 2008

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