Sandy Hill (mountaineer)

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Sandy Hill
Born (1955-04-12) April 12, 1955 (age 63)
Los Gatos, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Fashion editor, mountaineer and author
Known for 1996 Everest disaster, second American woman to ascend the Seven Summits
Spouse(s) Jerry Solomon (1977–1978), Robert W. Pittman (1979–1997), Thomas Dittmer (2001–2011)

Sandra Hill (born April 12, 1955,[1] formerly Sandra Hill Pittman) is a socialite, mountaineer, author, and former fashion editor. She survived the 1996 Mount Everest disaster shortly after becoming the 34th woman to reach the Mt. Everest summit and the second American woman to ascend all of the Seven Summits.[2][3][4]

Personal life[edit]

Sandy Hill grew up in Los Gatos, California.[5] Her father ran a successful business that rented portable toilets to construction sites.[5] She graduated from UCLA[2] before moving to New York for her first job, working as a buyer for the now defunct Bonwit Teller.[5] After meeting an editor at Mademoiselle, she landed her second job as Merchandising Editor of the magazine,[2][5] and then became beauty editor of Brides magazine. Hill then served until 1986 as president of a division of RJR Nabisco called "In Fashion" where she produced television shows about fashion and style. One of those shows was Fashion America, which was the first TV program to feature fashion commentary, videos and runway footage. Hill has also been a contributing editor to Vogue and Condé Nast Traveler, and written feature articles for other publications.

Hill was briefly married to Jerry Solomon, who worked in the sport business and was a graduate student of Columbia at the time; the couple were divorced by the time she was 23.[5] Solomon later went on to marry figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. In July 1979, Hill married MTV co-founder and media executive Robert W. Pittman;[2] they have one son, Robert T. "Bo" Pittman.[6] The couple divorced in 1997, and Hill received a settlement of $20 million from Pittman.[6][7] Hill met snowboarder Stephen Koch while climbing Mt. Everest in April 1996, and they lived together in New York until 1997.[8]

In 1998, Hill attended the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York to study architectural preservation and restoration. She graduated in 2000.

Hill married commodities trader Thomas Dittmer in April 2001, and they purchased a ranch and vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Hill filed for divorce in 2008, and attempted unsuccessfully to legally invalidate the couple's prenuptial agreement.[7]


Hill began mountaineering as a teenager; her first summit at age 13 was Disappointment Peak in the Teton Range. In 1992 she began a quest to become the first American woman to scale the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each continent. She summitted Aconcagua (1992), Denali (1992), Vinson Massif (1993), Mount Elbrus (1993), Mount Kilimanjaro (1993), Mount Kosciuszko (1994), and Puncak Jaya (1995). Hill finally reached the Mount Everest summit in 1996, thus becoming the second American woman to the Seven Summits, following Mary "Dolly" Lefever.

Hill had attempted Everest twice before her successful ascent in 1996. In 1993, she reached 23,500 feet (7,200 m) on a guided expedition following the traditional South Col route. Then in 1994 she raised corporate sponsorship for an attempt climbing the difficult Kangshung Face, personally guided by Alex Lowe, but the expedition was turned back by avalanche danger on the mountain.

1996 Everest disaster[edit]

Hill was one of the survivors of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster.[6][9][10] As part of the Mountain Madness expedition headed by Scott Fischer, during what was her third attempt to climb Mount Everest, she made an agreement with NBC Interactive Media, which streamed the information to schoolchildren in the United States, to do a daily video blog and talk about her team's journey.[11][12] Hill's team was moving through the Southeast Ridge when the storm hit them, making it impossible for her and her teammates, including Tim Madsen and Charlotte Fox, to find their camp (Camp IV). The three climbers were rescued by Anatoli Boukreev.[12]

Controversy surrounding deaths during the 1996 disaster arose in numerous magazine articles and interviews with other survivors. Jon Krakauer, who was sent on the climb to report on the commercialization of Everest and the increasing number of rich clients without expertise,[13] later expanded his September 1996 Outside Magazine article into a book with the same title, Into Thin Air (1997).[2][3][9][14] But Hill and the others were highly experienced climbers.[15] Hill rebutted negative claims in various media outlets, including an interview with Newsweek, wherein she stated, "We behaved like a team at all times."[16] Highly visible in the media before the climb, she believed she was "pigeonholed as a rich New Yorker", which "painted such an easy picture of a villain right there."[17]

In a 2006 interview with Outside, Hill defended Boukreev's decisions on Everest and attacked the media and various authors and journalists who covered the disaster, saying that "most of what was reported in 1996 was prejudiced, sensationalist, and overblown—thrilling fiction at best—but not journalism."[18] Boukreev was given an award for heroism by the Alpine Club, and he recounted his story in the book, The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest (1997), which was at least partly a response to Krakauer's account, in which Krakauer had laid some of the blame for the disaster on Boukreev, Hill, and a few others.

In the August 1997 issue of Vogue, Hill wrote about the whole experience, and went into detail about her long history as a climber and her passion for mountain climbing that developed when she was young.[5] She talked about the difficulties she experienced during her climbs of the Seven Summits and about the real dangers she experienced during her final climb of Everest.[5]

In the TV movie Into Thin Air: Death on Everest (1997), based on Krakauer's book, Pamela Gien portrays Sandy Hill.[19]

David Breashears interviewed Hill in the documentary film Storm Over Everest (2008), which was aired on PBS Frontline on May 13, 2008.[17][15]

In the 2015 feature film Everest, Hill is portrayed by Vanessa Kirby.


Hill is the main author of the book Fandango: Recipes, Parties, and License to Make Magic (2007), which talks about Sandy Hill's lifestyle and includes various recipes co-authored by Stephanie Valentine and advice on how to decorate and host, using 18 parties that Hill designed and hosted as examples.[20] The book received praise from The New York Times and other authors.[citation needed]

Hill's second book, Mountain: Portraits of High Places (2011), is a compilation of photographs and art with rarely seen images from prominent nature photographers, including Galen Rowell, Peter Beard, Ansel Adams, and Frank Smythe.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Statistics of 7 summits climber Hill (Pittman)". Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Haskell, Rob (February 26, 2006). "The Talk; Sandy's Excellent Adventure". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Dowling, Claudia Glenn (May 14, 2001). "After Everest". People. 55 (19). Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "The women Summiters on Everest (1975-2004)". Everest History. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Columbia, David Patrick. "Sandy Hill Pittman". The List. New York Social Diary. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Coleman, Chrisena (22 May 1996). "She's Climbing Back Everest Survivor's Next Stop Is Home". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  7. ^ a b In re Marriage of Hill & Dittmer, 202 Cal. App. 4th 1046 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2011).
  8. ^ Rob Buchanan (May 2003). "Slave to the Quest". Outside Magazine. 
  9. ^ a b Losee, Stephanie (28 March 2008). "Return to Thin Air — Without Jon Krakauer?". Huffington Post by Stephanie Losee. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  10. ^ David Van Biema; John Colmey; Meenakshi Ganguly; Jennifer Mattos; Simon Robinson (May 27, 1996). "Death Storm on Everest". Time Magazine. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Burns, John F. (May 14, 1996). "Everest Takes Worst Toll, Refusing to Become Stylish". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Everest summiter Sandy Hill Pittman". Everest News. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "Into Rarified Air". Outside. 17 September 2017. 
  14. ^ Krakauer, Jon (1999). Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-49478-6. 
  15. ^ a b Jaffe, Matt (May 13, 2008). "New Everest Doc Goes Beyond 'Into Thin Air'". ABC News. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  16. ^ "A Case of Altitude Chicness?". Newsweek. 26 May 1996. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 
  17. ^ a b "Storm Over Everest". PBS. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 
  18. ^ "The 1996 Expedition". PBS. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "Into Thin Air: Death on Everest". IMDb. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Hill, Sandy (2007). Fandango: Recipes, parties, and license to make magic. Artisan. ISBN 978-1-57965-338-5. 
  21. ^ "Mountain: Portraits of High Places". Rizzoliusa. Retrieved 28 September 2011.