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 27th Post -- Expedition Ends in Kathmandu
By Doug Pierson on June 11, 2008 9:59 AM | Comments (1)
Woke up at 3:15 AM to a knock-knock-knock on the door, and we were out of bed like a shot with the goal being Lukla in time for a morning flight back to Kathmandu.  Given the sketchy weather over the last few afternoons, we didn't want to leave anything to chance.  We packed, I threw half a roll of athletic tape onto my feet and after a quick team breakfast, off we went.  dsc02820.jpgThe entire team headed off together from Namche with the streets quiet and completely dark, shrouded only in gentle glow of the occasional street lamp. 

After no time, we were at the outskirts of town, headed down to the valley floor.  Close to 1,000 feet separates Namche from the Dudh Kosi River, so we took our time, walking carefully on the gravelly and rocky path that became slippery with dew after a little while.  Finally, the team made the river as dawn was breaking and encountered our first river crossing of the day.

Over the next several hours, the trail crossed over the Dudh Kosi River at least five times and meandered through villages as life again began to slowly emerge from the closed up shops and sleeping roosters that we passed.

dsc02838.jpgFinally, after close to three hours we arrived back at the site of our very first night on the trip -- Phakding.  Looking much different now from when we first stayed here, the hotel was awash in green leaves, blooming flowers and open patios overflowing with lawn chairs and umbrellas.  How different it looks now, and how glad we are to finally be back, passing through on our way home.  

dsc02847.jpgThe final leg was finally upon us, and we all knew it.  And to drive that point home, we passed a last sign as we were about to leave town:  "Way to Lukla."  Almost there.

Within 30 minutes, we started to see signs of how close we actually were -- finer, more complex houses made with finer supplies, actual cinder blocks, and store upon store selling various sundries.

Unfortunately for us though, the last portion of the out trek -- the trail leading from Phakding to Lukla -- is largely uphill and steep at several points.  How wonderful.  I thought of this last particular leg leading to Lukla to be one last little insult before wrapping up.  Great.  dsc02851.jpg80 kilometers of out trek, descending from 17,500 feet and then the last several kilometers have to be uphill. Give me a break -- how frustrating.  Up, up, up we wind.  From the river floor, it must have been close to another 500 or 600 vertical feet back up to Lukla, and along the way we then began to see the flights taking off as the morning flights began to arrive and depart.  Man, we better not miss our plane out.

Within one kilometer of the city limits, we also began to pass trekkers from the planes that had just arrived.  How nice they smell!  How clean they are!  How funny the expressions that they give us -- almost as if we were homeless guys on a street corner.  Then again, we probably look like a homeless guy on a street corner, so fair enough.  They would zip by in the opposite direction, all new trekking gear, clothes that look like they just pulled the sales tag off, with an uncomfortable glance thrown our direction.  Oh well, we are on our way HOME!  Assuming we are just a bunch of ratty trekkers, I chuckle and keep on moving since they have no idea of the adventure we have just been on.

And then we are there -- Lukla.  Finally!  We drag ourselves to the airport departures area and relax for a few minutes.  Our plane -- the last one of the day -- is about to arrive and take us to Kathmandu.  Only Willie, myself and Bridey have made it on time to make the flight -- the rest of the team is spread too far along the trail and well back from Lukla, so when the plane does arrive and boarding kicks off, they aren't even in the city yet.  Their flight, they will learn, will come tomorrow.  

dsc02857.jpgWhile at the airport, we had two amusing experiences and thought that at least it was comical that we couldn't get out of town without more stories.  One was that despite the helicopter ride to Lukla, Francisco and Lhakpa weren't able to get a flight out yesterday thanks to crappy weather.  So they had departed Lukla earlier that morning, meaning that the helicopter ride had actually only saved them about three hours.  Then, as we were about to head into the departures terminal for our flight, I remembered that I still had a knife attached to my pack.  Asking one of the representatives at the airport about it, he said "give it to me" and then ten minutes later, after security and inside the secured part of the airport he reappeared and gave me my knife back.  I quickly threw it in my pocket but thought for a second about how that was the very first time I had ever been given a knife right before boarding a plane.  

Off we shot down the runway.  The plane took about five seconds to gain speed thanks to light weight and a downhill angled runway and before we knew it, buildings, the river, trees, and farms were all below us.  The plane was loaded to the gills with Sherpa, climbing gear and the three of us, so our flight attendant must have been going out of her mind about the smell.

After 45 minutes of flying between ridges, valleys and then in what can only be compared to a combat landing, we were wheels down at Kathmandu International Airport.  We were home!  We taxied, and then finally stopped.  When the propellers feathered down and a desperate flight attendant quickly opened the rear door for fresh air, we all gave a whoop and clapped.  We were back, in almost the same parking spot as the one that we were in at the beginning of our odyssey.

dsc02859.jpgNow safe, we grabbed our bags, gave an enormous smile to each other, and once again began to move forward.  Because while one adventure had just completed, another one was about to begin.  It's all about looking ahead, understanding that while the past makes you who you are, the future is what defines an individual through challenge and optimism.




Thank you for entertaining my family with your awesome adventures over the past months. Your blogging style made even the mundane events something we laughed about over breakfast each morning. Travel home safely and best wishes on your next challenge.

Leave a comment