This is FRONTLINE's old website. The content here may be outdated or no longer functioning.

Browse over 300 documentaries
on our current website.

Watch Now
Storm Over Everest

those who died


1996 Adventure Consultants Everest expedition

Yasuko Namba

A businesswoman from Japan, Namba summited Everest in 1996 to become the second Japanese woman to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents.

photo of Namba

John Taske: She was a little lady; I've never met a girl more determined. About 100 pounds in weight, no more, but as far as determination goes, she was twice that weight in determination. However, nature being what it is, hypothermia, body mass -- she had a small body mass; she would have gotten desperately cold much more quickly than an average person twice her weight. And there was very little chance of her surviving in those sorts of conditions.

Beck Weathers: Yasuko was diminutive, and some of her choice of gear reflected that. She had a variety of titanium things, because she could not carry quite the same weight physically. She just didn't have the body power.

She was reserved; she was a very quiet individual. She was very proper, and she was an enjoyable individual to be around. She was very much contained within herself, but once you got her going, she was just absolutely focused on continuing to move, and to achieve what she came to achieve -- probably more maybe than anybody else on our team, in terms of just sheer focus and drive, and dedication on a goal, as opposed to just being there. And I don't know that at the time, when we were in camp early on, that we realized just how mentally focused and how tough she was.

Rob Hall

The owner of Adventure Consultants, Hall had made a name for himself in mountaineering when, in 1990, he and Gary Ball summited the seven highest mountains in the world in seven months.

photo of hall

Guy Cotter: Rob had a very dry, laconic sense of humor. You first meet him and you think, "This guy's all business." And Rob would have everything organized; he'd be sort of making sure everything was going well. He wasn't the sort of character who would stand up and just order everybody around; he always gave a lot back. There was always a lot of fun, a lot of smiles, a lot of subtle, wry jokes that you had to know him for a little while before you'd get the hang of it.

Some people found his character and his methodical approach a little too serious in some ways until they got to know him a bit better and then they realized that, yeah sure, Rob was all business when it came to organizing things, but he liked to let loose when all was done, everything was completed the way it should have been. He loved to have a laugh and a couple of beers with the crew like anybody else.

Beck Weathers: So many of my images of Rob have to do with the humor of the man. He would have an absolutely plastic face, and he could tell jokes. And he laughed harder than anybody; not because the way he told a joke, he just loved a story, the camaraderie of it. We had evening after evening of tall tales, and swapping lies, and everything else, and Rob could hold his own with the best of them. I remember one of the very first things when I got there, he wanted to make certain that none of us were going to be a bunch of down, whiny kind of folks. And he almost looked like Popeye, when he'd go and say, "You're not going to be one of them moaners, are ya?" [Laughter] And I was saying, "Nope, not me! Nope, not me, not one moan. Not me, not here."

Andy Harris

A guide for Adventure Consultants and helicopter skiing guide in the winter, Harris was making his first Everest summit attempt with the 1996 expedition.

photo of harris

Guy Cotter: Andy Harris was a fun-loving, strong guy. I knew him from working at Mount Cook here in New Zealand, in the mountains. He was a guide who had a great love of life. He was a strong, lovable, slap-on-the-back sort of guy, who you could have a good laugh with. Andy was the sort of guy who would make everybody around him feel that they were in good hands. He was the sort of guy that you ended up developing a good fondness for.

And whilst I wasn't on the expedition, this expedition in '96, I could tell from the little time that I spent with him prior to them going that Andy definitely was one of the team and that he was starting to really perform well as a high-altitude guide and that he had the affection and respect of the other members of the team.

Beck Weathers: Andy may have lacked Himalayan experience, but he did have a lot of experience in New Zealand. And so, he certainly had the skill set that was required. He also was really strong; he was a guy who was willing. He was an optimistic, enjoyable, upbeat fellow. Andy ultimately proved that he had the kind of character, and what it took, to be a superb guide. And he ultimately, in a truly heroic effort on his part, will give his life to try to save Doug's. That says pretty much everything you need to know about what kind of guy he was. And he was caught up in it. He really went back and just kept cranking, trying to save him.

Doug Hansen

A postal worker from Washington state who had been climbing for 12 years, Hansen turned back just short of Everest's summit in 1995.

photo of hansen

Lou Kasischke: Doug was a very likeable, easygoing person. Doug was very thoughtful, as well, deferential. He was always sort of looking around, making sure you had a place to sit or whatever. He was always somebody who, I thought, was thinking about the other person.

He was fit; he was tall; he was lean. We used to like to talk about different things that we would do to stay fit. He loved to run steps and so did I. It was just one of the things we had in common for part of our fitness routine. He liked to talk about climbing, and he made it clear that he was there, very determined guy, because he had been there the prior year. He was very concerned about cold. Apparently he had some frostbite in '95 and he thought he had a system all worked out for batteries for his boots that was going to keep his feet warm. I argued with him on the point; I did say I didn't think it would work. [Laughter] But nevertheless, it was just something we talked about.

Doug was the kind of guy who, if there were people sitting around in the mess tent and you walked in, he'd be one of the first people you would go sit by; easy to get along with. I think Doug was supportive; he was encouraging; he just did everything that you would want. No big egos, no problem in that regard. He was just a good, solid member to undertake this challenge with.

Beck Weathers: Doug was one of those guys that you kind of instantly like. He's easygoing; there's not a lot of pretense about Doug. He clearly loved being there, I mean, not just a little bit. He just was in his element in terms of, this was more his life as he'd see it, as the best parts of his being out there.

And he clearly, early on, looked to be one of the favored to get there. He's younger by some than the rest of this ancient crowd. He had the experience of the mountain the year before; he'd gotten within 300 feet of the summit. He came back; he looked like he was in good shape, and he clearly was determined. And it was easy to get along with Doug. I never heard him have anything unpleasant to say about anybody. It's clear that he and Jon Krakauer formed a bit of a duo; I think that they thought that they had more in common with each other than they had maybe with the rest of us. But you know, Doug was a guy, especially early on, that you would have put at the top of your probable "succeed" list.


scott fischer

Mountain Madness team leader Scott Fischer

Scott Fischer

The owner and leader of Mountain Madness, Fischer was guiding Everest for the first time on the 1996 expedition. He was one of a small number of climbers to summit the two highest peaks on earth: K2 and Everest.

Neal Beidleman: Scott was an incredibly magnetic personality. People just gravitated to him. He was very good-looking, rugged-looking, clearly right out of the mountains. Just authentic. If you can picture or imagine anything that you might ascribe to a high-altitude mountaineer or big climber, Scott was that. And his look was just -- he had a lot of compassion in him, but he had a devilish look. If you caught his eye, there was something about him that made you really want to know who this guy was. And once you did know him and you were in his circle of friends, there was always a good time to be had. He could make the worst situation seem funny -- just sarcastic humor like you can't imagine. But very thoughtful and just a really warm, warm guy.

Lene Gammelgaard: There's the expression "larger-than-life" personalities, and until you meet one of those larger-than-life personalities, you won't have a clue. But if you're very fortunate in your life, then you meet some of these people.

Scott was a larger-than-life personality in the sense that meeting him really did transform my life. It has a very huge impact on who I am today, meeting him. And those people are, I think, very important to humanity actually, because they do change people by the way they conduct themselves in the world, by the way they give to the world, by the way they invite people into growing, to become bigger through daring, through, in Scott's case, adventure. And that's kind of the thing that I know that I've lost, and that's part of the true grief that has taken part, is that those people are so rare. They do make us grow; they do make us transcend ourselves and the ordinariness of existence.

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

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
top photograph © kynan bazley / hedgehog house
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation