Scott Fischer

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For other people named Scott Fischer, see Scott Fischer (disambiguation).
Scott Fischer
Born (1955-12-24)December 24, 1955
Michigan, United States
Died May 11, 1996(1996-05-11) (aged 40)
Mount Everest, Nepal
Cause of death Exposure, AMS
Nationality American
Occupation Mountain guide
Known for First American to summit Lhotse
Spouse(s) Jeannie Price
Children Andy Fischer-Price
Katie Rose Fischer-Price

Scott E. Fischer (December 24, 1955 – May 11, 1996) was an American mountaineer and mountain guide. He was renowned for his ascents of the world's highest mountains made without the use of supplemental oxygen. Fischer and Wally Berg were the first Americans to summit Lhotse, the world's fourth largest mountain (27,940 feet / 8516 m), located next to Mount Everest.[1] He and Ed Viesturs were the first Americans to summit K2, (28,251 feet/ 8611m) in the Karakoram of Pakistan without supplemental oxygen.[2] Fischer first summitted Mount Everest (29,029 feet / 8,848 m) in 1994, and died during the 1996 blizzard on Everest while descending from his second summit.

Early climbing career[edit]

Fischer spent his early life in Michigan and New Jersey. After watching a TV documentary in 1970 about the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) with his father, he headed to the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming for the summer.[3] While in high school, he spent his summers in the mountains with NOLS, eventually becoming a full-time senior NOLS instructor.

In 1984, climbing partner Wes Krause and Fischer scaled the Breach Icicle (Breach Wall Direct) on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. As the only other climb was by Reinhold Messner and Konrad Renzler in 1978, this was a significant and notable achievement.[4]

Seattle and Mountain Madness[edit]

In 1981, Fischer married Jeannie Price, who he met as his student on a NOLS Mountaineering Course in 1974. They moved to Seattle in 1982 where they raised two children, Andy and Katie Rose Fischer-Price.[5]

In 1984, Fischer and two friends founded Mountain Madness, an adventure travel service.[6] He guided clients around the world, summiting Mount McKinley, Broad Peak, Baruntse, Mera Peak, Ama Dablam, Aconcagua, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Peak Communism, Mount Elbrus, Mount Blanc, the Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses, and others.[citation needed]


On the 1992 Russian-American K2 Expedition, Fischer fell into a crevasse on the ascent and tore the rotator cuff of his right shoulder. Although a Russian doctor told him that the climb was over for him, he refused to leave Base Camp and spent two weeks trying to recover. Fischer then asked climbing partner Ed Viesturs to tape his shoulder and tether it to his waist so it would not continue to dislocate, and then resumed the climb for another month using only his left arm. On their first summit bid, the climbers abandoned their attempt at Camp III to rescue Aleskei Nikiforov, Thor Keiser, and the French woman climber Chantal Mauduit, who were extremely ill from altitude sickness. Mauduit also suffered from snow blindness. After resting at Base Camp, Fischer and Ed Viesturs again began climbing to the summit without supplemental oxygen. At 27,500 feet they were joined by Charley Mace. The three men summited and began their descent in bad weather.[7] At Camp II they met and began to assist New Zealand climbers Rob Hall and Gary Ball who both had altitude sickness. Ball also had high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Hall’s health improved with the descent, but Ball’s worsened. The four men – Fischer with a seriously injured shoulder – were all critical in lowering Ball off the mountain and thus saving his life.[8][9]

Climbing for social causes[edit]

Through Mountain Madness, Fischer guided the 1993 Climb for the Cure on Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley – 20,320 feet) in Alaska. Organized by eight students at Princeton University, this expedition raised $280,000 for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.[10][11]

As the climbing leaders of the 1994 Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition, Fischer and Rob Hess both summited Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen. This expedition removed 5000 pounds of trash and 150 discarded oxygen bottles from Everest, and led to a bottle recovery plan to which every expedition must now follow as per Nepal's government.[12] The expedition not only paid Sherpas to carry gear up the mountain to be cached at higher camps for later use, but they also paid the Sherpas a bounty to carry trash, old climbing and camping gear, and empty oxygen bottles down the mountain. This summit also meant that Fischer had climbed to the top of the highest peaks on six of the seven continents, the exception being Mount Vinson in Antarctica.[13] That same year, the American Alpine Club awarded the David Brower Conservation Award, “an annual award recognizing leadership and commitment to preserving mountain regions worldwide,” to all members of the expedition.[14]

In January 1996, Fischer and Mountain Madness guided a fundraising ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet / 5,895 m) in Africa. Named the Climb for CARE, it celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the international relief organization and raised nearly a million dollars.[15]

1996 Mount Everest disaster[edit]

Six weeks after returning from a charity climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Fischer left Seattle and travelled to the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. On May 6, the Mountain Madness team left Base Camp (17,500 feet) for their summit climb. At Camp II (21,325 feet, the height of Mount McKinley), Fischer learned that his long-time client and friend, Dale Kruse, was ill below him at Camp I (19,898 feet). Determined to be the one to tell Kruse that his Everest dreams were over, Fischer descended from Camp II, met up with Kruse and continued to Base Camp with his client. The next morning he left Base Camp and ascended to rejoin his team at Camp II, tired after the 4,000-foot climb. Having missed the additional rest time that the remainder of his team had had at Camp II, he was slow on ascent to Camp III (24,500 feet) the following day’. Early in the morning on May 9, more than 50 climbers left Camp III for Camp IV at the South Col (25,938 feet). Scott was among the last of them. Just before midnight they all set out for the summit.

Fischer reached the summit after 3:30 pm, much later than he had planned. He radioed Base Camp that he was weary and felt ill. His good friend and long-time climbing partner, Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa, descended part way with him into the blizzard that became known as the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. They met up again just above the Balcony (27,559 feet), where Fischer encouraged Lopsang to descend without him and send back Anatoli Boukreev, one of the Mountain Madness guides, to help. Suffering from hypoxia and probably cerebral edema as well, Fischer sat down and never got up again. After the storm subsided, on May 11, two Sherpas climbing from Camp IV reached Fischer and Makalu Gau Ming-Ho, leader of the Taiwanese National Expedition. Fischer was unresponsive and his breathing was shallow. The Sherpas placed an oxygen mask over his face and rescued Gau, who they carried to Camp IV.[16] After rescuing several other people in the storm, Boukreev finally reached Fischer, but his friend had already died. Boukreev shrouded Fischer’s upper torso and moved his body off the main climbing route.[17] His body remains on the mountain.


  • A memorial chorten for Scott Fischer was built by the Sherpas in 1996 outside the village of Dughla in the Solukhumbu District of Nepal. In 1997, Ingrid Hunt, the doctor who had accompanied the 1996 Mountain Madness Everest Expedition to Base Camp, returned to place a bronze memorial plaque on the chöten in honor of her friend.[18]
  • The American Alpine Club established the Scott Fischer Memorial Conservation Fund in his memory. This donation helps environmentally proactive expeditions throughout the world.[19]
Scott Fischer, Mountain Madness Founder

Scott understood that the discovery and challenge of mountaineering could transform people’s lives. In 1984 Scott founded Mountain Madness. He climbed not only for personal reward, but also to help others.

His absence will forever be felt by those fortunate to share his enthusiasm for the mountains and his zest for life.

Mountain Madness company history[20]

Film portrayals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 207.
  2. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 237.
  3. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 20.
  4. ^ "Africa, Kilimanjaro, Breach Icicle" (PDF). American Alpine Journal 26 (58): 224. 1984. ISSN 0065-6925. OCLC 654858472. Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
  5. ^ Birkby 2008, pp. 44, 102.
  6. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 110.
  7. ^ Viesturs, Ed (1993). "Russian-American K2 Expedition". American Alpine Journal 35 (67): 27. ISSN 0065-6925. OCLC 654858472. Retrieved May 11, 2015. 
  8. ^ Birkby 2008, pp. 230-239.
  9. ^ Potterfield, Peter (1996). In the Zone: Epic Survival Stories from the Mountaineering World. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers. pp. 137–158. ISBN 9781594853579. OCLC 47012008. 
  10. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 260.
  11. ^ "An AIDS Summit - HIV/AIDS, Real People Stories". 40 (4). July 26, 1993. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  12. ^ Goryl, Steve. "Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition". Retrieved May 12, 2015. 
  13. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 275.
  14. ^ "David Brower Conservation Award". Archived from the original on March 21, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  15. ^ Birkby & 2008 289.
  16. ^ Birkby 2008, pp. 304-313.
  17. ^ Boukreev & DeWalt 1997, p. 204.
  18. ^ Boukreev & DeWalt 1997, p. 253.
  19. ^ "American Alpine Club". Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Mountain Madness Founder - Scott Fischer". Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Into Thin Air: Death on Everest (TV Movie 1997) - Full Cast & Crew - IMDb". Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  22. ^ Kit, Borys; Ford, Rebecca (July 17, 2013). "Universal in Talks for 'Everest' With Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal - Hollywood Reporter". Retrieved May 21, 2015. 

External sources[edit]