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David Breashears  







Commentary; David Breashears commentary; Mt. Everest  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
18 Apr 2001

  • Nepal
  • Khumbu region
  • 27.78389   86.74944
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
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  • Stereo=1; Dual-Channel Mono

Show: David Breashears --Everest
Log of DAT #: 6
Engineer: Breashears
Date: April 18, 2001

ng= not good ok= okay g = good vg = very good

2:15 I can see the NE face of Kwangde a mountain a little under 20,000, a little bit away is Omnabalan. And it reminds me of two of my formative experience in the Himalayas which for me is that the journey to the top of Everest was about learning a craft, apprenticeship, and learning self-reliance. And how the value in that summit, the summit of Everest was in the hard work and hard won experience that went into making that climb possible for me. 3:30
My climb in Omnabalan in 1979 showed me that I could climb at high altitudes at least 22,500 ft and I felt I was well suited for that type of activity. My body didn't rebel against me up there, I felt very comfortable the higher I went, but it wasn't a challenging climb technically. Wee fixed ropes, they were always there as a handling and I didn't get to lead, to be as we call it a sharp end of the rope. And leading is what brings the greatest risks and the greatest rewards. So I came back here in the winter of 1982 -1983 to pioneer a new route up the NE face of Kuangde it was a very steep root almost a vertical mile in length with hardly an area to stand on in the entire length. Thankfully, my companion was Jeff Low a very comp experienced and talented mountaineer. The great thrill and challenge to that route was that we did not used fixed ropes or fixed camps and when we started up that big icy, cold, and dark wall, we didn't know what that outcome would be. And not knowing what that outcome would be was what made that challenge more thrilling and more rewarding.

6:37 The route faces to NE so we didn't have any sun for 5 days which made the route very cold and there was no place to erect, no matter how much chopping with our ice axes we did, so we traveled w/o a tent. So we spent nights on the face suspended from it in hammocks. And turning yr shoulder and peering out hammock 4000 feet from ground is expo one never forgets. 7:38 We knew we would not find a ledge large enough to erect a tent, so we didn't bring a tent. Instead, we spent our nights suspended from face from the rock and ice in a hammock and I can tell you that turning your shoulder and looking 400 ft straight down to the ground is an expo one never forgets. When we finally ...
8:29 There was extremely difficult climbing on the route even by today's standards. In fact the route has never been repeated but it was a joy and a privilege to get out of
hammocks every day and tackle a new stretch of rock or ice where no human hand or foot had ever gone before. Every day and some nights before sunset I could look across the Kombu 20 miles to the north and see Everest calling out to me maybe not but there it was the highest point on the world's highest skyline 9:48.

9:55 and when we emerge from the shadows of that face and climbed onto the shadows of Kuangde after having set out I new I was ready for Everest. I was certain I had the physical strength the stamina, the technical skill and most of all the confidence to climb in to that thin unforgiving air in a safe and self-reliant manner. By then I'd been climbing more than ten years, all my climbing mentors and I had followed the path of the apprentice I had done everything I could to learn my craft well and that was the path that was encouraged for me to by all my climbing mentors. The people who taught me climbing felt that one took a series of logical steps to become a good climber. Rock climbing on short routes, rock climbing on longer roots, wall climbing, ice climbing, ice and rock, winter climbing in the extreme cold in high winds. And when you had this body of experience you could graduate to bigger peaks in North America and then eventually maybe to the great peaks of the Himalayas but it was considered almost a disrespect to the idea of mountaineering and mts. to take short cuts. 12:59

13:22 All of my climbing heroes Reinhold Messner, Walter Binotty, Herman Boule, Lionel Teray had embraced the same philosophy and followed the same path. They felt the great risks should be taken only after great prep and that there was tremendous folly in doing it any other way. An overriding part of their philosophy of climbing was the value of the feather in your cap, say the Everest feather in your cap was commensurate with the quality of your craft and the depth of yr exp., that the two go hand in hand. And in that sense the value of your apprenticeship. That philosophy revealed a deeply held belief that learning one's craft and gaining expo was not only a form of self respect but it was also a form of respect for the greatness of mountains and the dangers that they hold for the unwary and inexperienced.

16:21 There's a widely held belief that Mts. kill you, that they are dangerous and that if you go there you are probably going to die, but of course that's not true at all. We know the dangers we will find on those slopes and we prepare for them and we throw the dice but sometimes the numbers don't turn out the way we wanted, but Mts. don't kill people, for the most, part incompetence, ambition, greed, and hubris kill people in the Mts. Of course there can always be that random stone falling 3000 ft hurtling out of the blue that strikes you square on the head or on the chest. But we cannot plan for that and we cannot avoid that we accept that events l\k~ that avalanches rock ice fall is [part of the inherent danger of being in the mountains What I can't accept is that you die in the mountains because of inexperience or incompetence. What's closer to the truth is that, the idea that­-by going into great Mts. and encountering great risks, sometimes by using all your skills and all your expo and having those intense moments where sometimes you're closer to death than you ever thought you would be, those moments make you appreciate life to a greater degree. 19:13

19:20 So I guess you could say you don't go to a great mountain like Everest to feel more alive, to understand your planet more fully, and to better understand your place and your planet. 19:50.

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