1996’s Everest Disaster! (Reliving the Mountain’s Greatest Tragedy)

Time Magazine's Cover

Time Magazine’s Cover

Mount Everest first opened for commercial expeditions in 1986, which was followed by the huge influx of private companies and former mountaineers bringing in rich clients from around the world to Nepal to climb the highest ever mountain.

On the same league were the mountaineers who took an expedition to Mount Everest in 1996. Over 35 climbers went to the summit in the hay day of the mid Spring, however, only handful returned back safe.


1996 Everest Expedition

In the Spring of 1996, 5 of the expedition teams, including; Adventure Consultants, Mountain Madness, Taiwanese Expedition, IMAX Team and National Geographic, climbed Mount Everest, where 2 teams were carrying clients. The weather was clear and the Spring window was in full bloom.

Rob Hall (Expedition Leader of Adventure Consultants) decided to reach summit on May 10. The same day Scott Fisher decided to summit, followed by the Taiwanese team of 13 climbers. National Geographic Team (Explorers Club) including of Dr. Kenneth Kamler and the IMAX Team of Ed Viesturs were waiting for another summit day.


  • (Leader) Rob Hall, Mike Groom and Andy Harris (Client) Frank FischbeckDoug Hansen, Stuart Hutchison, Lou Kasischke, Jon Krakauer, Yasuko Namba, John Taske, Beck Weathers (Sherpa) Sirdar Ang Dorje Sherpa, Arita Sherpa, Chuldum Sherpa, Lhakpa Chhiri Sherpa, Kami Sherpa, Ngawang Norbu Sherpa, Tenzing Sherpa
The Rob Hall Team

The Rob Hall Team


  • (Leader) Scott Fischer, Neal Beidleman, Anatoli Boukreev (Client) Martin Adams, Charlotte Fox, Lene Gammelgaard, Dale Kruse, Tim Madsen, Sandy Hill Pittman, Klev Schoening, Pete Schoening (Sherpa) Sirdar Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa, “Big” Pemba Sherpa, Ngawang Dorje Sherpa, Ngawang Sya Kya Sherpa, Ngawang Tendi Sherpa, Ngawang Topche Sherpa, Tashi Tshering Sherpa, Tendi Sherpa

Few Climbers who were Present in the Everest


~May 10~

Shortly after midnight, the climbers from Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness, including leaders; Rob Hall and Scott Fisher, start climbing from Camp IV for the summit. Due to severe delay in installing fixed ropes at the Balcony 8,350 m (27,395 ft) and Hillary Step 8,760 m (28,740 ft), the expedition comes to a halt for 2 hours causing huge delay for the standard summit time.

The halt invites a massive traffic jam at the Hillary Step. Some 33 climbers are attempting the summit the same day.

1:07 PM -Boukreev with the Mountain Madness team was the first to reach the summit. Many climbers were still behind and didn’t summit till 2:00 pm, the last safe time to turn around for Camp IV before midnight.

2:30 PM – Rob Hall, Krakauer, Harris, Beidleman, Martin Adams and Klev Schoening reach the summit.

3:00 PM -Hall and his Sirdar Ang Dorjee Sherpa start descending after incessantly waiting for other climbers. At Hillary Step, Ang Dorje finds Doug Hansen and orders him to descend, but he doesn’t respond. Hall comes down to Doug and orders Ang Dorje to gown down and assist other climbers while he sits along with Doug to help him.

Hillary Step

Hillary Step

3:45 PM -Scott Fisher finally summits, by which time he starts complaining of his illness, possibly from HAPE or HACE. Makalu Gau (Taiwanese Team Leader) reaches the summit even later.

5:00 PM -The weather starts deteriorating, while many climbers are still stuck above 8,000 m. The blizzard and storm covers the entire trail leaving many climbers to abandon the trail.

5:30 PM -Hall radios the base camp for help. By this time, Doug’s rendered unconscious but is still alive. Expedition guide Andy Harris starts climbing the South Summit alone with supplementary oxygen and water for Hall and Doug.

Several climbers became lost on the South Col. Mountain Madness members Beidleman, Klev Schoening, Fox, Madsen, Pittman, and Gammelgaard, along with Adventure Consultants’ Mike Groom, Beck Weathers, and Yasuko Namba, wandered in the blizzard until midnight. When they could no longer walk, they huddled some 20 m from a drop-off of the Kangshung Face.

Ed Viestrus from the IMAX Team at Camp II stays with Rob the entire time in the radio urging him to get down. Both Ed and Guy Cotter (On a different expedition), friends of Hall, urge him to leave Doug and descend to South summit for supplement oxygen, however, he doesn’t budge and helps Doug descend the entire night.

~May 11~

4:43 AM -Hall radios the base camp still at the height of 8,749 m (28,700 ft) and informs that Doug is gone, possibly dead, and Andy Harris is missing as well. “I’m all Fucked,” says Hall in his despairing radio call. By this time, the expedition members below were campaigning to send rescue team including of Sherpas to help get the remaining climbers down. Guides Ang Dorje and Lakpa Chhiri are sent up to rescue Rob.

 Everest Camp map

Everest Camp Map

6:00 PM -Mountain madness Sirdar Lobsang finds Scott struggling at 27,600 feet (8,413 meters). Lobsang tries getting Scott down, but, it’s too difficult to manage him in such weather and they crash just 300 ft below.

At one point of time, Scott Fisher decides to jump off to Tibet, a 3,687 m (12,000 ft) fall with no point of returning back. Sirdar Lobsang ties him along with a rope and gets him down.

It was reported that the rescue team reverted from the South Summit due to worsening weather conditions. Rob was still alive despite being at the height for 36 hours.

6:20 PM -Hall radios the base to patch a call to his with Jan Arnold in New Zealand. Jan is 7 months pregnant. They share their last farewell. Shortly thereafter he dies.

8:00 PM -Makalu Gau, along with his two Sherpas, show up where Scott has crashed. Lobsang spend vigil with both of them before descending down to help send Sherpas and Anatoli Boukreev up for the rescue. Gau is later rescued and evacuated.

~May 12~

In the early morning, two Sherpas climb up to help rescue Scott and Makalu, however, the deteriorating condition of Scott doesn’t allow him to get down. The Sherpas help Makalu down the ridge instead.

5:00 PM -Boukreev sets himself for the rescue of Scott. By the time he reached, almost 2.5 hrs later, it’s too late, and Scott has died of his worsening condition.

Another climber, Weathers is dramatically saved and helicoptered out of the region, however, he loses his nose, right hand and all the fingers of the left hand to frostbite.

The Everest Tragedy of 1996 is one of the most devastating stories of mountaineering fraternity. The disaster took 8 innocent lives and left many wounded.

Radio-time with Rob Hall

The IMAX Team in the radio with Rob HallAround 2 p.m. (the standard turnaround time on summit day on Everest)—we could make out climbers scattered along the high ridge through the telescope—they appeared just as little specks of red and yellow, lined up, waiting their turns to climb the Hillary Step. It was alarming how much of the time those specks were standing still, not moving. The traffic jam had indeed started to work its mischief. ~Ed Viesturs (source)

Radio Broadcast of Ed Vesturs & Rob Hall

(May 11, 5 am) “I’m all f—ed up. I’m on the South Summit. I sat out all night. Doug is gone. I’m stuck here, my hands are fucked. When is somebody coming up to help me?” ~Rob Hall to Base Camp

“Rob, crawl if you have to. get to the south Summit. if you can start moving part of the way down, the Sherpas will meet you somewhere below. You can shorten their day getting to you. When this is over, we’ll go to Thailand, and I’ll get to see your skinny white legs on the beach for the first time.” ~Ed Vesturs

“Thanks for that” ~Hall

“We’ll get you off the hill, but Rob, you’ve gotta move! Rob, come on, man! You can’t just sit there!” ~Ed

“Rob, you think about that little baby of yours. You’re going to see its face in a couple of months, so keep on going.” ~Helen (Base Camp) to Hall

“Don’t talk much. Just get ready, start moving….Rob, how’s it going?” ~Ed

“I haven’t moved.” ~Hall

“Rob, I’m leaving now. I’m heading up the hill. I’ll see you tomorrow. We’ll talk again as soon as we can.” ~Ed

Radio-time between Hall & Jan Arnold

(May 11, 6:20 pm) “Hi, my sweetheart. I hope you’re tucked in a nice warm bed. How are you doing?” ~Hall to Jan

Rob Hall with Jan Arnold

Rob Hall with Jan Arnold

“I can’t tell you how much I’m thinking about you! You sound so much better than I expected…Are you warm, my darling?” ~Jan

“I’m reasonably comfortable.” ~Hall

“How are your feet?” ~Jan

“I haven’t taken my boots off to check, but I think I may have a bit of frostbite.” ~Hall

“I’m looking forward to making you completely better when you come home. I just know that you’e going to be rescued. don’t feel that you’re alone. I’m sending all my positive energy your way!” ~Jan

“I love you. Sleep well, my sweetheart. Please don’t worry too much.” ~Hall

Dr. Ken Kamler’s Story

Everest (2015) Movie

Everest (Movie Cover)

Everest (Movie Cover)

Filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur took the challenging job of making the event into a feature length movie, starring; Jake Gyllenhall, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Kiera Knightly.

Slated to be released in 3D and IMAX worldwide on September 18, the movie will focus on what occurred on May 10 and 11 in the Everest.


6 thoughts on “1996’s Everest Disaster! (Reliving the Mountain’s Greatest Tragedy)

  1. Pingback: 1996's Everest Disaster! (Reliving the Mountain...

  2. The book, “into thin air” is a horrible read as its so poorly constructed that one has to keep up with the author going backwards, sideways, upside down, and then forward again. Its tedious attempting to keep up with the fragmented thought process of the author. Other accounts online are far better written.

  3. Pingback: Top of The World – dimitri609

  4. As a born & raised Kiwi I remember this being reported on the news. I was a teenager at the time & didn’t realize the magnitude of this tragic event until I saw the movie. I remember Sir Edmund Hillary talking to my entire school (Auckland Grammar) & saying how unforgiving Everest really is. Rob did his best but in the end Everest wouldn’t let him go home very sad.

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