Storm Over Everest

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

everest photos


My name is Lou Kasischke. I was part of the Hall expedition.

I was there. I lived this story. And I have something to say about this film.

Authenticity is the first word I would use. Essence is another. The film captured the essence of the moments, and the essence of the people--with authenticity.

I had not seen the film until Tues night. I was only an interviewee. I was very nervous about seeing it. But at the same time, I felt confident that David Breashears would make a film worthy of the trust I put in him as I opened my heart for the interview. I never sought applause, and only cared about respect and the truth. David honored all of us with both truth and respect--by simply being authentic about it.

What people saw is what we lived, and still live with. As a viewer, all you had to do was look into the eyes of the people. And then, you could see the story. The real story. Even for me, I was taking another step in my 12 year journey to understand my experience.

I didn't sleep Tues night, and haven't very well for 12 years. But maybe now. Maybe now the past can be past--with authenticity attached to it.

David, thank you.

Lou Kasischke
Harbor Springs, Michigan


I was moved by the entire tale of Climbing Mount Everest. But, unless I missed something, I was frustrated and disappointed that the photos and lists of survivors and those lost were not shown at the end of it.

This left me feeling that the entire program was more about the storm than the people, which should have been featured in front of all. Some leaders and some who perished were followed. But the final tally omitted left the program somewhat empty, to me at least.

Rev Dr Charles G Yopst
Mount Prospect, Illinois

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Thank you for your letter. We have posted on this site pictures and remembrances of those who died in the 1996 expedition here.


I am Doug Hansen's daughter. To all you regular Frontline viewer's, you are right this isn't the usual investigative piece. Maybe Frontline wasn't the appropriate forum. For all you critics of climbers... you only saw the tip of the ice burg. I caution you to speak of people's experience and preparation or lack thereof as this piece and most others do not explain. My father had beed climbing for 12 years, had travelled the world climbing, and Everest was the 5th of the 7 summits for him. Climbers have resumes just like any of us.

Are climbers "selfish" people? Yes. Did they choose to put themselves at risk? Yes. But let's look at the flip side for a second... they display characteristics of dedication, determination, discipline, and passion. Not bad character traits to have, huh? Their passion is for something most don't understand or even want to comprehend.

Those that knew my father, knew him as a generous, caring, life-loving, charismatic and ambitious person. The most disappointing part of all this after 12 long years is that every piece of publication, book, film, etc. does not portray that.

To those that do not feel empathy for the event, fine. But consider holding your tongue if you feel the need to defame someone's character who is not here to defend themself. What may not be personal to you is to me. Consider empathy for those directly impacted by this tragedy. We have not been able to grieve on our own terms, but have been slammed again and again by books, movies, etc.

Well done David!

somewhere in, Washington


This was one of the most amazing stories I have ever seen. This Frontline truly captured both the human spirit at its best and tragedy at its worst.

John Preston
Wayne, PA


Breashear's program on Everest was beautifully filmed and poignantly narrated, but lacked the incisive, unflinching analysis we've come to expect of Frontline. Breashear ably explained the who, what, when, and where, but shied from apportioning responsibility and blame. He is uniquely qualified to examine the psychology that drove the tragic miscalculations of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Further, Breashear didn't even mention the ridiculous short-roping of Sandy Hill up to the summit--and then back down again. Didn't mention John Krakauer's collapse at the base of the Hillary Step. Didn't mention Rob Hall urging an enervated Doug Hanson to continue to the summit. Didn't examine guide Anatoli Boukreev's culpability for essentially abandoning his team, per Krakauer's disputed claim. Didn't examine the culpability of some of the Sherpas who returned to their tents early during a raging storm. Those many unanswered questions add up to an uneven Frontline experience. That said, Breashears is clearly a gifted cinematographer.

MM Robb
Washington, DC

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

David Breashears fielded questions like these and others about the making of Storm Over Everest in this live chat on


Of all the movies and stories told about this tragic event Mr. Breashears "Storm Over Everest" is the most compelling and mesmerizing version to date. Hmmm... the silent elephant in the room is Jon Krakauer! The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example. - Benjamin Disraeli Long live the memory of Anatoli Bourkreev true hero who's actions displayed the best of mankind.

Phillip McAbee
Los Angeles, CA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Please read a Q&A with David Breashears in which he talks about why he didn't interview Krakauer.


Outstanding reporting! Gripping, and clarified much about this frightening and often confusing real-life drama. The life lessons spoken by some of the climbers were haunting and compelling. However, I found it disturbing that a gaggle of adventurers, some obviously not in shape to make the mother of all ascents, would be lead by commercial climbers crowding obstacles and staying on the summit far too late in the day. Was safety trumped for delivery of a life experience to customers? Should 500 people be making this climb annually? I understand the camps are full of trash, not to mention a number of bodies along the ascent. A clean-up is in order!

Thanks Frontline for the finest reporting on TV.

John Coker
Bayfield , CO


I could never understand why people take such risks at climbingmountains or other insurmountable risks.. because it is there, and always we want to try it, just like sailing alone around the world for 1,000 days with out stopping in at any port

Everest is there and one just has to get to the top, weather can always be unpredictable and that was what made this story, so good and bad because the loss of life in the process, and also the the ones who made it back down the mountain and be able to tell the true story.You are to be commended for presenting this.

Thank you.

Marleen Spaulding
Dearborn, Michigan


I was very touched by the film. I was on the edge of my seat thru the whole film and I cried throughout most of the film. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. My condolences to those who suffered so many heartrending experiences, it was obvious to me that they all lost close friends.

I must say, I've always enjoyed watching these type of films. I think it's because I know I could never do anything like these very brave people have. I greatly admire all. Good luck to all the adventurers and I hope that their injuries heal quickly.

Debbi Mueller
Chicago, Il


I simply have a question. Is this the expedition that Jon Krakauer was on? He wrote a book, "Into Thin Air" Everybody was reading it? He is not mentioned but the people and circumstances sound familiar.

Patricia Jensen
Denver, CO

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Read the interview with filmmaker David Breshears, on this Web site, on why Krakauer wasn't interviewed for this film


Ever since the airing of "Storm Over Everest," I have had it playing on a continual loop at our house. The only thing as transfixing as the mountain itself is this documentary with its suggestive, haunting, and triumphant score. I have read various accounts of that summer, but I found this telling a welcome relief in that it stuck so faithfully to the survivors' stories while avoiding a judgmental mindset. To my mind, the pure narrative without judgment gives the viewer an opportunity to connect with the spiritual and metaphysical elements of the mountain while drawing his or her own conclusions (with the information available) about what went wrong.

I came away from this film feeling that only on Everest could such tragedy also serve to reveal so much heroism- -I hope that my kids grow up looking up to Rob Hall, Beck Weathers, Neil Beidleman, and Mike Groom just as much as they look up to any other heroes in their lives. It is impossible to package and transmit all the information available on such an event. I think that David Brashears had to make a choice about how to focus his piece, and I appreciate the deference he has shown to nature and the human spirit as subjects worthy of contemplation. He makes it possible to accept the foibles of all the parties involved and to empathize with what they went through- -indeed to see EVERYONE INVOLVED as heroes just for going through it. ...

My only reservation about this portrayal is that in omitting the view of Jon Krakauer, Brashears created a sense that he had passed some kind of judgment against him behind the scenes. How could such a key player as Krakauer be left out unless it is due to some sort of dispute between him and the filmmaker? All the same, Brashears' take transmits an extremely compelling sense of empathy and awe for the survivors of that summer. When the biggest challenge of your day is making that early meeting or selling a client on a new product, it sure does put things in perspective. Thank you to Frontline and Mr. Brashears.

Claire Magaha
Atlanta, GA


To Doug Hansen's daughter,You and your siblings have constructed a very beautiful memorial to your dad, on Little Si, near North Bend, WA. I always read the plaque and shed a tear, reading it, as I climb the little peak. I commend your generosity of spirit to make public your feelings. Each of us makes decisions about risks we take. Your dad made his in the activity he loved. May you continue to love and honor him.

Ollie Royer
Seattle, WA


Dear Frontline,No single film or book can possibly encompass the experiences of all those who were on Everest that fateful season but I was very impressed and moved by your work. I do have one question though. I've been searching through the website trying to find Sandy Hill's side of the story and all I keep reading is that she won't talk about it - what exactly is her side? Until I can find it, it's difficult to change my mind about the portrait of her that's already out there. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Lana Buccieri
Stamford, CT

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Excerpts from the interviews with Sandy Hill and the other climbers can be found in the Survivors' Stories section of the site.


I tuned into this program late Tuesday for the rebroadcast (05/13) after a long flight and drive back home. As tired as I was, I could not stop watching. I found my adrenaline rising as the climbers recounted their story, and as a viewer you are drawn into it almost as if you have had the same experience and you wonder "What would I have done?". By far, the most compelling television I can recall watching. It has left me with a yearning to see and climb mountains, but perhaps not Everest.

John Lyons
Greenville, SC


The film was absolutely amazing and inspiring to us mere mortals, because it portrayed the incredible decency and honor men and women are capable of, and most importantly for portraying the climbers who died while pursuing their dreams or enabling the dreams of others.

I bow to all of them and find it difficult to be critical of the circumstances that brought this tragedy to light.

My special appreciation to the Hansen family members for supporting their loved one to pursue his dream and keeping his memory alive after so many years... we all should be so lucky.

Ana Escalante
Palm Springs, California


First I just want to say that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Breashears, Krakauer, the victims and families of the Everest disaster, and Frontline.

I do however feel that this documentary should have been aired on another show. America, even the world, has so very few investigative shows. There are plenty of networks and avenues for this beautiful documentary. Unfortunately for all of us, there are very VERY important issues that need to be dealt with, issues that are not being dealt with in a straight-forward manner on mainstream television. And so few are doing it on behalf of the people. Frontline is one of the last places where journalism has some real integrity. We the people of this world desperately need someone fighting for us, telling the hard stories. Anybody out there could tell this story. And again I say this with the GREATEST respect for everyone involved.

As a lifetime follower of Frontline I want to tell the staff of Frontline that your show is extremely important. What you do is vital to democracy. Critical in fact. Please tell the hard stories. We, the people of this world, need you to.

There is in fact a story that i would love to see Frontline tackle. And that is corporate media and the retired generals scandal. This is the most important story since the Iraq war began. Someone needs to tell it, and if you don't, no one will.

John McCall
Vancouver, BC, Canada


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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