True crime and trial opinions from a layman's perspective
Freelance photojournalist Nick van der Leek has been researching and writing about Everest since 2006. In his brand new book, which reads like a psychological thriller, NEVEREST II, finally identifies the missing pieces of the puzzle. This book is a follow-up to the best-selling NEVEREST, a narrative that primarily interrogated the Mountain Madness team. This time, bringing the story of the 1996 tragedy full circle, van der Leek shines a light on the Adventure Consultants.
These two narratives together are arguably the most honest and evocative accounting of why the 1996 tragedy happened and how it unfolded. If you find these books compelling, you will no doubt also enjoy van der Leek’s book K I I: The Deadliest Day. But first… let’s take a look at a small piece of NEVEREST II…
From the chapter Lou vs Rob:
If Chen’s death cast a pall of gloom over the roaring South Col and fifty souls camped there, you couldn’t tell. Doubtless his death figured somewhere in the gloomy circuitry of seriously sleep-deprived climbers. In any event, Kasischke had other issues to take care of than worry about Chen.
First it was Herrod, then it was the maddening sense of “absolute certainty” that Hall wouldn’t possibly head to the summit that evening, would he? Doug was looking very bad, hadn’t slept, hadn’t eaten, but after being denied in ’95 300 feet from the summit, that was what was driving him. He wouldn’t be denied again no matter what. Psychopathy?
I’m not sure why but Kasischke was adamant even if the winds calmed that going for the summit on May 10 wasn’t a good idea. But at that stage of the evening the deafening wind was still hammering at their tents.
His tent mates Weathers and Hansen were equally keen to stay put, and apparently so was Anatoli Boukreev* [and the South Africans for that matter]. At 21:30, less than two hours before Game Time, the wind started to settle a little. At 22:00 Rob let his team know: “It’s on! We’re going!”
This is where we see a clear problem in Kasischke’s psychological fabric. While he’s been happy to defer all major decisions to Hall up until now, now Kasischke’s not comfortable that he wasn’t consulted [or for that matter, Andy Harris]. It’s an interesting reversal – it’s the leader’s fault when he makes a call, it’s also the leader’s fault when he doesn’t make a call [or makes one without consultation, or makes one Kasischke’s not comfortable with]. Kasischke doesn’t like Hall making a major “unilateral decision” for the team, but something like a turnaround time is exactly that.
What did Kasischke expect though; would they climb to Camp IV and then just…do fuck all? My impression was that the blizzard-like conditions unnerved him. He was frightened, wasn’t he?
Putting the shoe on the other foot, what would Kasischke have done if he was Hall? You can’t very well sleep at Camp IV or hang around in the Death Zone for a day, if you’re not going for the summit you’ve got to climb down again probably as far as Camp II, and it was obvious by then that a bunch of clients, including Fishbeck, Hansen and Kasischke [and arguably Weathers] were at the end of their ropes. It was now or never.
The other thing…
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Stay tuned, the mountain narratives will continue…