storm over everestA David Breashears Film

Doug Pierson

Doug PiersonAge: 37

Home: Seattle, Wash.

M.B.A. The College of William & Mary
B.A. Ohio Wesleyan University

Career and Hobbies: Previously with IBM Global Business Services
Left in December to train full-time for Everest summit attempt.

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve- Lieutenant Colonel
Two tours in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Deep-water scuba certified Divemaster

Oil painter and photographer

Sigma Chi Fraternity

"Renaissance Man" according to family and friends

Climbing Experience Highlights:
Seattle Mountain Rescue
Mount Whitney (three times)
Mount McKinley/Denali
San Gorgonio
San Jacinto
Mount Rainier (three times per year)
Mount Fuji (two winter ascents)
Mount Olympus (30-hour speed climb)
Mount Baker
Mount Adams (five times)
Mount Saint Helens
Mount Hood (four times)

Mountain Madness LogoDoug is climbing this year with Mountain Madness. Our thanks for their help making this blog possible.

In the lead-up to the May broadcast of Storm Over Everest, FRONTLINE takes you to Nepal to follow climber Doug Pierson on his first attempt to summit Everest. Pierson's journey will take him on the same route climbed by the teams caught in the 1996 storm.

Doug's May 22nd Post -- South Col to Camp Two
By Doug Pierson on June 2, 2008 2:33 PM | Comments (0)

Surreal day on many fronts.  We woke up this morning at 4:30 AM to a crystal clear day — very much like yesterday, so we immediately wish well those pushing for their own summit.  I’m still sucking oxygen like a champ when word trickles in on casualties last night — most as a result of the morning of the 21st. We were all shocked into silence.* I think we all knew something was going to happen and was brewing as far back as when the Chinese pressured the Nepalese into not letting climbers acclimatize until after their blessed torch, but we all know about their interest in human rights so big shocker there. Burden has to be placed on the climbers themselves too though. So this morning, as we prepared to egress Camp Four, Willie tried to assist where possible with the survivors. 

Up at Camp Four, life is rugged and dealing with death takes on a bit of a macabre tone. Placed in a sleeping bag and then tent, the body of someone who manages to be lucky enough to make it to Camp Four before passing is essentially prepared for the massive labor and financially astronomical cost of getting it back down to Base Camp.  Sherpas won’t touch bodies of climbers, so it’s a western effort.  And then there it sits, all wrapped up with climbers then walking in and around the bundle without paying it a second glance after a while.  That’s life at the South Col, where everyone up here knows the score.  Everyone is also here for a reason, so as shitty a deal as it is for those who paid the ultimate price, everyone has an immense amount invested at the point where they arrive at Camp Four and are still going to take their shot.  And in a way, even if it takes a season to get the body down, at least their fate will not be that of Scott Fisher or one of several others who died halfway to the Balcony and who everyone now passes within feet of the trail.

south-col-cook.jpgprepping-to-head-out.jpgAnyway.  The guys prepared breakfast for us, and then we struck camp, ready to head out.

Another team approached Willie about another critically ill team member who had survived the night somehow but still suffered from snow blindness, and needed to get down in elevation for his HAPE (high-altitude pulmonary edema) condition to improve.  Last night, this is one of the climbers who we offered up some of our extra oxygen to in order to try and help his condition, which it clearly had.  Willie treated the climber, wrapped his eyes, and prepared him for the long trip out without the use of his eyes. 

In all seriousness, I can’t think of many places I would rather not be when I lost the use of my eyes.  Getting down from South Col, the Geneva Spur, the Yellow Band and then thousands of feet of the Lhotse Face.  That would be horrible.

dsc02704.jpgSo it was up to Tendi, Danuru, Francisco and I to get ourselves down to Camp Two — so off we went. 

We approached the Geneva Spur, headed down and within a short time were down off the Geneva Spur, and over the Yellow Band. 

dsc02699.jpgdsc02707.jpgdsc02709.jpgFor some reason, the Lhotse Face seemed to take much longer than I remembered it, and to make matters better, it started snowing. We passed team after team on their way up and while we wished them luck, I had to wonder where all these people were coming from.  That, and with the weather deteriorating, would they get their shot?  I hope the answer to that second question is a yes, but the weather around here is so squirrely that it can be tricky when estimates are made.

By the time we were below Camp Three, all of us were flat-out exhausted.  Everyone was carrying heavy loads, Danuru’s crampon kicked out on him, and we were still a bit wiped from yesterday’s summit effort.  The snow kept coming down, even harder than before.  Wind kicked up a little, and then, as I rounded one corner, I saw a familiar face — Super Mila.  This guy is incredible.  Absolutely incredible.  He knows from last year when he summited how tired everyone is, so what does he do?  Most Sherpas and cook staff will wait at the base of the Lhotse Face with drinks for their team.  Super Mila doesn’t do that — he climbs almost 400 vertical feet up the face itself to bring us drinks.  He’s absolutely amazing.  At the time I think I was in love with him.  Francisco, Tendi, and Danuru express the same sentiment — it was that awesome to see him and that awesome a gesture.  What a guy.

*Editor’s Note: When Doug woke up on the morning of the 22nd, there were rumors at the South Col that four climbers had died.  In the end, however, only one climber died, and two others were rescued. The climber who died was a veteran Himalayan climber attempting the summit without supplemental oxygen.  Though he made the summit, he ran into trouble on the descent.  Another climber, presumably suffering from HACE — high-altitude cerebral edema, refused to turn back from the summit and spent the night of the 21st camped above the Balcony.  The morning of the 22nd this climber was rescued.  A third climber, who according to reports was climbing extremely slowly, was left behind on his descent due to his slow progress.  He was also rescued on the morning of the 22nd.  In total, the early reports indicate that 77 climbers reached the summit on May 21.



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