Scott Fischer

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Scott Fischer
Fischer on the Annapurna Fang (Varaha Shikhar) in 1984
Fischer on Annapurna Fang in 1984
Born(1955-12-24)December 24, 1955
Muskegon, Michigan, United States
DiedMay 11, 1996(1996-05-11) (aged 40)
Cause of deathExposure, AMS
OccupationMountain guide
Known forFirst American to summit Lhotse
SpouseJeannie Price

Scott Eugene Fischer (December 24, 1955 – May 11, 1996) was an American mountaineer and mountain guide. He was renowned for ascending the world's highest mountains without supplemental oxygen. Fischer and Wally Berg were the first Americans to summit Lhotse (27,940 feet / 8516 m), the world's fourth highest peak.[1] Fischer, Charley Mace, and Ed Viesturs summitted K2 (28,251 feet/ 8611m) without supplemental oxygen.[2] Fischer first climbed Mount Everest (29,032 feet / 8,848.86 m) in 1994 and later died during the 1996 blizzard on Everest while descending from the peak.

Early life[edit]

Fischer was the son of Shirley and Gene Fischer and was of German, Dutch, and Hungarian ancestry. He spent his early life in Michigan and New Jersey.[3] After watching a TV documentary in 1970 in his home in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township, New Jersey, about the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) with his father, he headed to the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming for the summer.[4][5] While attending Ridge High School, from which he graduated in 1973, he spent his summers in the mountains with NOLS, eventually becoming a full-time senior NOLS instructor.[6]


In 1977, Fischer attended an ice climbing seminar by Jeff Lowe in Utah.[7] A group of climbers scaled the frozen Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.[7] During the climb, Fischer began to climb solo on the near-vertical ice formation when his ice axe broke, leaving him stranded.[7] The others managed to get him a new axe, but when he ascended again, the tool popped out, and he fell hundreds of feet.[7] He survived but injured his foot with his ice axe as he fell.[7]

In 1984, Fischer and Wes Krause became the second-ever team to scale the Breach Icicle on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa after Reinhold Messner and Konrad Renzler in 1978.[8]

In 1984, Fischer and two friends, Wes Krause and Michael Allison, founded Mountain Madness, an adventure travel service.[9] He guided clients in climbing major mountain peaks worldwide. In 1992, during the climb on K2 as a part of a Russian-American expedition, Fischer fell into a crevasse and tore the rotator cuff of his right shoulder. Against his doctor's advice, Fischer spent two weeks trying to recover and asked climbing partner Ed Viesturs to tape his shoulder and tether it to his waist so it would not continue to dislocate. He then resumed the climb 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 Chantal Mauduit. Fischer, Viesturs, and Charley Mace reached the summit on their second attempt without supplemental oxygen.[10] During their descent, they met climbers Rob Hall and Gary Ball, who were suffering from altitude sickness at Camp II. Hall's health improved along the descent, but Ball required subsequent help from Fischer and the other climbers to reach the base.[11][12]

Through Mountain Madness, Fischer guided the 1993 Climb for the Cure on Denali (20,320 feet) in Alaska which eight students at Princeton University organized. The expedition raised $280,000 for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.[13][14] In 1994, Fischer and Rob Hess climbed Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.[15] They also formed a part of the expedition that removed 5000 pounds of trash and 150 discarded oxygen bottles from Everest.[16] With the climb, Fischer had climbed the top of the highest peaks on six of the seven continents, except Vinson Massif in Antarctica.[17] The American Alpine Club awarded the David Brower Conservation Award to all expedition members.[18] In January 1996, Fischer and Mountain Madness guided a fundraising ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet / 5,895 m) in Africa.[19]


In May 1996, Fischer guided eight clients in climbing Everest. He was assisted by Neal Beidleman, Anatoli Boukreev, and eight Sherpas, led by Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa. On May 6, the Mountain Madness team left Base Camp (5,364 meters) for their summit climb. At Camp II (6,400 meters), Fischer learned that his friend Dale Kruse was ill and could not make it out of Camp I (6,000 m). Fischer descended from Camp II, met with Kruse, and continued to Base Camp with him. Leaving Kruse at Base Camp, he ascended to rejoin his team at Camp II. He was slow on ascent to Camp III (7,200m) the following day, and on May 9, he left Camp III for Camp IV at the South Col (7,950m). On May 10, Fischer reached the summit after 3:45 PM, much later than the safe turnaround time of 2:00 PM due to the unusually high number of climbers who tried to make it to the summit on the same day. He was exhausted from previous efforts and the ascent and became increasingly ill, possibly suffering from HAPE, HACE, or a combination of both.[20]

His climbing partner, Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa, descended part of the way with him when a blizzard started. Near the Southeast ridge balcony (8,400m), Fischer asked Lopsang to descend without him and send back Boukreev for help. After the storm subsided, on May 11, two Sherpas reached Fischer and "Makalu" Gau Ming-Ho, leader of a Taiwanese expedition. Fischer was unresponsive, and the Sherpas placed an oxygen mask over his face before carrying Gau to Camp IV.[21] After rescuing other people, Boukreev finally reached Fischer, who was already dead. He described Fischer as having exhibited paradoxical undressing, commonly associated with hypothermia. "His oxygen mask is around face, but bottle is empty. He is not wearing mittens; hands completely bare. Down suit is unzipped, pulled off his shoulder, one arm is outside clothing. There is nothing I can do. Scott is dead."[22] Boukreev shrouded Fischer's upper torso and moved his body off the main climbing route.[23] His body remains on the mountain.[24]

Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa died in an avalanche in the autumn of 1996, also on an expedition to Everest, and Boukreev died in December 1997 in an avalanche on an expedition to Annapurna.[25][26] Fischer's climbing firm Mountain Madness was bought in 1997 by Keith and Christine Boskoff.[27]

Personal life[edit]

In 1981, Fischer married Jeannie Price, who was his student on a NOLS Mountaineering Course in 1974. They moved to Seattle in 1982 where they had two children, Andy and Katie Rose Fischer-Price.[28]


This memorial to Fischer sits on an open plateau outside the village of Dughla in the Khumbu Valley, a day's walk from Everest Base Camp.
  • A memorial stupa for 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 it in his honor.[29]
  • The American Alpine Club established the Scott Fischer Memorial Conservation Fund in his memory which helps environmentally proactive expeditions throughout the world.[30]
  • A route up Mount Kilimanjaro is dedicated to Fischer. This route is called the Western-Breach Route. There is a plaque in memorial for Fischer along this route.[31][32]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 207.
  2. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 237.
  3. ^ Birkby, Robert (February 1, 2008). Mountain Madness: Scott Fischer, Mount Everest, and a Life Lived on High, Citadel. Archived at Google Books. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  4. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 20.
  5. ^ Powers, Phil. "Scott Style: Adventure Student Makes Good", The Leader of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Winter 1992, backed up by the Internet Archive as of April 6, 2003. Accessed September 3, 2019. "Fischer's mountaineering background began at the young age of 14 when he took a NOLS Adventure Course. His father was an outdoor enthusiast who called Scott in to watch a television program one night at their home in Basking Ridge, New Jersey."
  6. ^ Stuart, Sandy. "Mount Everest is next goal of former Basking Ridge resident", Bernardsville Bews, October 2, 1986. Accessed September 3, 2019. "After graduating from Ridge High School in 1973, Fischer devoted himself to gaining climbing experience."
  7. ^ a b c d e Mountain Madness: Scott Fischer, Mount Everest & a Life Lived on High By Robert Birkby
  8. ^ "Africa, Kilimanjaro, Breach Icicle" (PDF). American Alpine Journal. 26 (58): 224. 1984. ISSN 0065-6925. OCLC 654858472. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  9. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 110.
  10. ^ Viesturs, Ed (1993). "Russian-American K2 Expedition". American Alpine Journal. 35 (67): 27. ISSN 0065-6925. OCLC 654858472. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  11. ^ Birkby 2008, pp. 230–239.
  12. ^ Potterfield, Peter (1996). In the Zone: Epic Survival Stories from the Mountaineering World. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers. pp. 137–158. ISBN 9781594853579. OCLC 47012008.
  13. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 260.
  14. ^ "An AIDS Summit - HIV/AIDS, Real People Stories". People. 40 (4). July 26, 1993. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  15. ^ Dernocoeur, Kate Boyd (2017). A worthy expedition : the history of NOLS. Guilford, CT: FalconGuides. p. 198. ISBN 9781493026081. OCLC 957157044.
  16. ^ NOLS (November 5, 2015), Steve Goryl: Everest Presentation - 1994 Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition, archived from the original on July 20, 2021, retrieved July 21, 2017
  17. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 275.
  18. ^ "David Brower Conservation Award". Archived from the original on March 21, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  19. ^ Birkby 2008, p. 289.
  20. ^ "Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa's response to Krakauer's article". Archived from the original on September 19, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  21. ^ Birkby 2008, pp. 304–313.
  22. ^ "Ed Viesturs - Everest, 1996 -- National Geographic". March 3, 2013. Archived from the original on May 11, 2017. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  23. ^ Boukreev & DeWalt 1997, p. 204.
  24. ^ Breashears, David. "Epilogue". High Exposure. "Except for Scott's body, still wrapped with a pack and rope the way Anatoli had left him, the summit slopes were mercifully free of the tragedy."
  25. ^ "Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa killed in Everest avalanche, September 27, 1996". September 25, 1996. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
  26. ^ Lene Gammelgaard; Press Seal (June 20, 2000). Climbing High: A Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy. HarperCollins. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-06-095361-4. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  27. ^ Christine Boskoff Making It Happen Jane Courage January 30 2007
  28. ^ Birkby 2008, pp. 44, 102.
  29. ^ Boukreev & DeWalt 1997, p. 253.
  30. ^ "American Alpine Club". Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  31. ^ "Mount Kilimanjaro Shira Route 9 days". Kilimanjaro Trekkers. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  32. ^ "Pepins Conquer Kilimanjaro". Pepin Foundation. July 11, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  33. ^ 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]