Dec 29, 2011 at 6:31 am #1283461
Anyone want to discuss? I recently finished Into Thin Air and about to finish The Climb (on page 210 of about 250). This whole thing is fascinating to me, the climbers, the iron wills, the mountain. Very interesting topic.
My take so far is that yes, Boukreev did save his clients but that was only because they were able to get back within 400 meters of camp IV. It does not seem to me like he would have had the strength nor would the storm have allowed him to actually go back up for anybody had those people not made it back to 400 yards from Camp IV. The reason why I say that is because he was not able to go back and drag Beck Weathers or Yasuko Namba back to Camp IV much less go up and drag somebody down.
Krakauer was unable to do anything when he got back to camp IV but he was a client so he got himself back to camp and that was what he was there to do.
It seems to me that Boukreev was not really a guide on summit day. He packed light, no oxygen, went up and tagged the peak then scooted back down. The idea that he did that so that he would be ready and waiting in Camp IV to go BACK UP if need be is an after thought. It seems to me that making a second attempt on Everest in the same day, without oxygen would be so far out of the realm of something anyone would consider that it leads me to believe it was a complete after thought. Boukreev was definitely one of the strongest, best climbers up there by such a margin that he was able to go out several more times in the near vicinity of Camp IV when everyone else was passed out, but that does not make his actions earlier in the day right.
I think you have to put the most blame on Rob Hall and Scott Fischer though, as expedition leaders they should have had an agreed upon turn around time and stuck to it.Dec 29, 2011 at 6:53 am #1816996
I agree, great book, Krakauer is great story teller.
Check out other books like "Into the Wild".
Yeah, they should have insisted on turn-around time.
But, the same client had turned around just before summit on a previous attempt so they fudged on the rule.
Breashears made a great film just after, and wrote a book about the accident. Other people have written about accident. Tragic story…Dec 29, 2011 at 8:21 am #1817015
I also just read "Into the Wild" (I had seen the movie). That was a good book. When I started it I thought it was going to be a re-telling of the movie but the way it is written, back and forth from Chris to Krakauer and other experiences, made it really interesting to read.
I have seen the Imax movie, is that the Breashears movie?
It is just so interesting in a morbid kind of way to read about these people that feel the need to go up these huge mountains. Their motivations, what drives them, what drives their good or bad decisions. It is just fascinating. I keep trying to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes but it's so far from my reality and day-to-day life it's hard to imagine. 70mph winds, -40 degrees, snow, pitch black, freight train sound, 20 meters from a 10,000 foot cliff, 14% oxygen. It's just crazy to imagine!!!!!!!!Dec 29, 2011 at 8:25 am #1817019
Yes, Imax movie is by Breashears
I don't have desire to climb Everest. Very unpleasant experience in so many ways. Kind of cool to be able to say you were at the top of Everest though.Dec 29, 2011 at 8:46 am #1817026
Buck NelsonBPL Member
I think Krakauer is a great author and his success is well earned. However, I believe that some of his criticism of Boukreev is unwarranted.
Obviously there were many mistakes made on Everest in '96. Regardless, climbing Everest is inherently dangerous and the judgment of intelligent people is often clouded by the drive for the summit and thin air.
I think most people agree that the main error of the '96 Everest disaster was pushing too late in the day. It was predictably pushing the safety envelope.
I have to say that the way Krakauer has criticized Boukreev makes me angry. He said: "[Boukreev]cut and ran … when it mattered most"
Krakauer has also said:
Anatoli performed heroically in the pre-dawn hours of May 11, and helped save the lives of Sandy Pittman and Charlotte Fox; I admire him immensely for going out alone in the storm, when the rest of us were lying helpless in our tents Note that he doesn't even credit Boukreev for saving Madsen, too.
The American Alpine Club awarded him [Boukreev] the David Sowles Award, its highest award for courage, for his efforts in bringing Sandy Hill Pittman, Charlotte Fox and Tim Madsen back from a stormy South Col to Camp IV alive.
Suddenly, out the of the darkness appeared the tall, gaunt form of Boukreev. He gave an oxygen canister to Pittman and then took hold of Fox. Arm in arm, they stumbled through the biting wind as the Russian led her to the tents of Camp IV. He then returned to lead Pittman and Madsen back. It was a magnificent show of courage and strength on the Russians part. He had insured that all his charges reached safety. Everest: the Mountaineering History, Walt Unsworth
He "cut and ran?" Mr. Krakauer?
Did Boukreev make mistakes? He probably did, as did Krakauer, Hall, Fischer and many others. But for Krakauer to essentially call Boukreev a coward is profoundly unfair in my opinion.Dec 29, 2011 at 9:55 am #1817058
I didn't get the impression Krakauer was accusing Boukreev of being a coward. I got the impression Krakauer was saying that if he had stuck with his clients maybe they wouldn't have needed rescuing.
There is no denying the fact that Boukreev went up and back alone. If it was so important for him to be staged in camp IV why not just stay in camp IV? Why even burn the energy to go up to the summit and back?
The question becomes, would that group even have been stuck on the South Col had Boukreev hung with them? I don't know, I don't think anybody can know for sure but I would think they would have been much less likely to have been lost on the South Col had they had Boukreev with them, especially if he had been on O's. No doubt he was the strongest climber by a large margin.Dec 29, 2011 at 9:58 am #1817059
"I don't have desire to climb Everest. Very unpleasant experience in so many ways. Kind of cool to be able to say you were at the top of Everest though."
I think about that when I'm reading about this stuff too. Would I even want to do something like that if I had the time and money (which I don't)? I think I would like to say I had climbed Everest but I don't think I have the drive. I think to accomplish stuff like you know it, you wouldn't have to think about it. It would just be constantly burning inside of you to save, train, and eventually go.Dec 29, 2011 at 10:45 am #1817092
Buck NelsonBPL Member
Krakauer is a writer. I think he knows what the phrase means. Cut and run is a pejorative phrase used in the context of a war or battle meaning cowardly retreat
All of Boukreev's climbers survived. If results are what counts, it seems he did pretty well compared to some of the other guides that day.
I think it's only responsible to carefully consider what happened and what might have been done better, but I think Krakauer's choice of words was unfair and irresponsible.Dec 29, 2011 at 11:18 am #1817105
I see your point about "cut and run". I don't even think that term applies. If anything I see Boukreevs actions as self serving until he got back to Camp IV. I don't really see where he did any guiding on Summit Day other than setting some ropes. My impression after everything I have read and seen is that Boukreev used the guiding gig as a way to finance the bagging of the summit. That is understandable, there are a lot of ways to make easier money than climbing mountains but when you sign on as a guide it seems that you should put your tagging the summit behind the safety of your clients and in this instance my impression is that Boukreev put his tagging of the summit ahead of the clients.
You are right, there is no denying that all of Boukreev's clients survived. At the same time, it seems like if they had not made it to within 400 meters of the tents, Boukreev wouldn't have been able to save them. If he had been with them would they have gotten lost on the South Col? If he hadn't found them could they have held out for a break in the storm? For daylight? For other rescuers?
I think due to the actions of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, the situation was messed up in several different dimensions. Lack of radios/communication, no established turn around time, no established buddy system, apparently some shortage of oxygen tanks all add up to a very off balance situation so it's hard to say how exactly a person should respond in such a messed up, multi dimensional situation.
Ultimately I think Boukreev should have used oxygen on summit day and he should have stayed with his clients until they were down. As far as what he did once he got back to Camp IV, I think he basically performed flawlessly but I believe a lot of that was due to guilt of being back in camp when the better part of his expedition was wandering around the mountain. I think he is darn lucky the rest of his expedition got down to the South Col to within 400 meters of camp otherwise I think he would have been identifying bodies on May 12th instead of rescuing people on May 11th.Dec 29, 2011 at 11:23 am #1817108
Let's answer this question…because I think it says a lot and I am not sure what the answer is because I am fuzzy on how much "guiding" Boukreev did on summit day.
The question is, would Boukreev have been more useful and effective had he not even attempted the summit and stayed at Camp IV as a 'rescuer in waiting'?
I think the answer is yes. He seems to justify all his actions that day on the premise that he had to hurry to get back to Camp IV and stage as a rescuer ready to come back up the mountain with hot tea and oxygen. If that is the case, why go to the summit? I think that collapses his argument and further I think that 'argument' shows it's true colors as a lie.Dec 29, 2011 at 11:31 am #1817114
ed visterius made i believe the best comment
he said that he would have used oxygen when guiding clients … as the responsibility when guiding is always for the client who is much less experienced and not for some personal more selfish goal
i think he is probably more qualified to comment that most people as he has done all 8000m peaks without supplemental oxygen
i always think of someone "guiding" new climbers on long climbs who refuses to wear a helmet because he doesnt feel like it …. you can be as strong as an ox, and a darn good climber, but if you do something that puts clients or new climbers at risk because of your "confidence" or "balls"… i tend to avoid those peopleDec 29, 2011 at 11:46 am #1817125
I think that is a good point about what Ed Visterius said, his comments seem to be very reserved and along the lines of agreeing with Krakauer.
I go back and forth between the Krakauer arguments but it is tempting to say 'well look at the results, all Boukreev's clients survived'. I just can't help to think that most of that was due to their willpower and the luck of the draw that they were close enough to be rescued.Dec 29, 2011 at 11:58 am #1817129
you can survive by doing all the wrong things and still be lucky enough to get out of it …
there is some term for it … but when one does something stupid, and gets away with it … many tend to think they can get away with it over and over again … until they find out otherwise
there is a certain type of personality in climbing in the "badass strong climber" complex … they tend to do risky stuff over and over again and ignore basic safety measures even when theres no reason to do so … examples are not wearing helmet on long climbs, not clipping in on rappel stations, running it out at ones limit when a fall would mean obvious death or serious injury and yr partner (who often does not know how to rescue) will have to do a rescue, not considering the consequences of their actions on climbing partners, putting newer climbers at serious risk of injury … these people tend to be fairly "ballsy" climbers and brag about it so they think they can get away with it and they may for awhile …
i refuse to climb with such people … its up to a person if they want to put themselves at risk … but you NEVER put someone else at risk unless they are experienced enough to agree and never when yr in charge of a group
i personally find that these people also try to deny that they are "unsafe" since nothing yet has happened to them … and so that they can keep on climbing with people who dont know any betterDec 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm #1817131
At least get the man's name spelled correctly. It is Ed Viesturs.
I attended a talk that he did a couple of years after 1996. He's a pretty impressive guy.
I agree with Krakauer's method for getting up Everest. Be the first one out of camp early in the morning.
–B.G.–Dec 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm #1817146
Nobody can fault Boukreev
Anyone that climbs Everest knows they have to get back under their own power. Expecting Boukreev to save them is ridiculous.
Krakauer said if Boukreev did something different, things might have turned out differently – whatever – he's just telling a storyDec 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm #1817147
Woops, Viesturs sorry. I am going to read his book next, I have it on reserve at the library.Dec 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm #1817152
"Anyone that climbs Everest knows they have to get back under their own power. Expecting Boukreev to save them is ridiculous."
Good point. It seems that above 8,000 meters the rule is there is no rescue and everyone goes in knowing that. However to play devil's advocate is it too much to expect your guide stay with you to guide you down? Seems the clients got down on their own they just needed a guide to guide them the last little bit.
On a separate note, I think one of the most tragic parts of the story that day is Beck Weathers. It seems like several people on their way down could have helped him down since he could walk early in the day he just couldn't see. What a shame that he sat there and ended up suffering so much loss for lack of a 4 second radio communication. All it would have taken is 'Hey Rob, Beck is here, he's pretty cold I don't want him to wait for you anymore, I'm gonna help him down okay?' And then him being left for dead in the tent that next night! Man. Just crazy! I need to put his book on my list.Dec 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm #1817159
Members of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, whether offering professional
services, fulfilling their professional duties, representing themselves as ACMG members
or otherwise engaging in activities directly associated with the ACMG, shall:
1. Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of their clients and, in so doing,
shall manage foreseeable risks to the fullest extent possible commensurate with
their training and experience.Dec 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm #1817167
Regardless of all of the human errors, there is one thing that could have helped a lot of those climbers…GPS.
Honest. You get a position fix when you are in high camp, and then you let it store your track all the way up while you have a good route to follow. Then, when the weather closes in and visibility goes to zero, the little GPS receiver display can show you the way to go. It works especially good when you are up at extremely high elevation with no trees in the way. The problem is that it still takes a bit of remaining brain power to push some buttons or read a display, and that is one thing lacking when you are up between 26,000 and 29,000 feet.
–B.G.–Dec 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm #1817177
First time I have heard of GPS suggested but darn good idea. That and radios on every team member.Dec 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm #1817196
Radios can be helpful, but they can also become a distraction. Handheld radios are a problem when you use an oxygen mask unless the microphone is built into the mask like on a fighter jet. On Everest, a few people were using radios, but they had to take off the mask to talk.
GPS is very effective. Even back then in 1996 they worked pretty good, although Selective Availability was still in effect, and that introduced some extra error, but it would have been good enough to steer through a storm and not walk off a cliff.
I used GPS successfully on a big peak earlier that year. The only problem was that GPS receivers were rather larger, maybe three times the size they are now. But still, that can be a lifesaver.
There are some models of radio that have combined the GPS function with the radio, and on your map display you can see the position of the person you are talking to. That could be handy if you are searching for somebody.
The interesting thing about the Everest South Col route to the summit is that it isn't very wide. You have your Western Cwm on your left, and you have the Kangshung Face on your right. It is only near the bottom, near the South Col camp where it gets wide enough to get lost. Of course, when the wind is blowing up there, you are lucky to just stand up. Plus, as soon as the wind blows hard, all previous foot tracks are wiped out. It isn't any walk around the park.
–B.G.–Dec 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm #1817222
Yeah I saw the radio with GPS in action on a recent elk hunt, some of the other's had it and it looked outstanding.
I have gathered that the South Col isn't very wide and that the fixed ropes start pretty close to Camp IV so I guess the theory was/is that as you come down off the fixed ropes there will be camp right there. That was the theory anyway I guess.
Bob have you been on Everest?Dec 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm #1817225
"Bob have you been on Everest?"
I've been to the bottom of it a couple of times.
Actually, the South Col is a pretty wide area, and very rocky and windy. There is no definition of where the fixed ropes ought to be on the way up the Southeast Ridge. It takes a lot of Sherpa manpower to fix ropes up there, so the average expedition leader can save a lot of money by letting the clients walk up to the Balcony on their own. From there on, it gets into a knife edge and stays that way until the last 100 meters vertically to the summit.
At the South Col, you can crawl out 25 feet from your tent, and then the wind will whip you around so badly that you can't crawl back.
In 1983, there was an American expedition going up the West Ridge. That was kind of interesting since it was more rock than ice. So, instead of recruiting ice climbers, they recruited rock climbers who could also do ice. They got a team up to around 27,000 feet, but the wind kept ripping their tents away. Hardly some ultralightweight tarp, these were custom-built tents made for 140mph wind, and the wind ripped away 15 out of 18 tents. I was down at the bottom trying to peer through a telescope to see the progress. [Couldn't see much of anything.] Hey, you want to talk about tent testing!
–B.G.–Dec 30, 2011 at 6:36 am #1817405
I finished the Boukreev book last night. I think it was very telling that the next year when he organized that expedition he used oxygen, he had all his guides and sherpas use oxygen, and he had the guides and the clients stick together. Actions speak louder than words and that was the next time he went up Everest.
At the same time I am not so sure he lied about coming back down fast so he could go back up if needed. I think that was possibly part of his and Scott Fischers plan in 96 I just don't think it was a good plan and I think he realized that certainly by 97. I think he should have probably admitted 'that was the plan, maybe it would have been better to use oxygen and stay with the clients, I can't be sure but maybe'. I think that's what ticked Krakauer off so bad, that Boukreev could never just say yeah maybe I should have done something different.
None of that changes what happened though and I think everyone up there did the most they were physically capable of in the circumstances before them. Boukreev deserves credit for his extraordinary performance under messed up circumstances.Dec 30, 2011 at 7:20 am #1817411
Jake DBPL Member
Ed Viesturs "no shortcuts to the top" is also a good one. about him doing all of the big summits. The guy is a physical machine in an unassuming package (met him at the IMAX in boston)
I find Ed's stuff a bit more useful since he was in a position to observe, on O2 because of Imax and doesn't have a position to defend.
He says in there
"Anatoli's discision to clmb without supplemental oxygen may itself dictated his rapid ascent and descent. without gas you simply get too cold to sit around and wait for others"
he also says that he has always used O2 while guiding on Everest.
And he says
"Anatoli says Scott asked him to go down to the South Col to prepare tea and gather up O2 bottles to carry up to those who were in trouble above. This may be true, but to me it doesn't make sense. you stay with the group to prevent a disaster, you don't leave the group to prepare for a disaster"
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