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High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places

1 rating: 5.0
A book by David Breashears

The author, a noted mountaineer and cinematographer, describes a lifetime of conquering the world's mountain peaks and discusses his 1996 expedition to Mount Everest to create his IMAX film "Everest."

Author: David Breashears
Genre: Sports & Recreation, Biography & Autobiography
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: May 17, 2000
1 review about High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest...

High Exposure ~ the frozen graveyard

  • Oct 18, 2000


In 1953 Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to summit the alluring siren known as Mt. Everest.

In 1968 David Breashears, at the age of 12, saw the picture of Norgay standing triumphantly on the top of the world and fell in love with a dream.

In 1975 David, while making one of his most celebrated, yet unpublished prior to this writing, climbs in Colorado met up with an equally brash and enthusiastic climber, Jon Krakauer.

In 1977 David, at the age of 20, encountered his first hands-on experience with a camera atop a mountain, albeit a small one compared to others he would meet later, the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Hired as a ‘gofer' because of his climbing abilities, the cinematographer Tom Frost, on a whim, handed him the camera and gave him the next love of his life - photography. Strangely enough, the site of this shooting would later be the focal point of a major motion picture Cliffhanger with Sylvestor Stallone.

In 1977 David was afforded his first glimpse of the mighty Himalayas when he offered his services, free of charge, to join a film crew on Ama Dablam, one of the baby mountains at a mere 22,494 feet, nestled at the foot of the Queen, Everest. As David says in his book ... "Walking through the cool air toward the Sherpas, I could just hear their murmuring. I turned away from them and gazed at the mountains. I felt as if I were about to meet old friends"...(page 109). After eight years of holding his dream he was now gazing at the face of the Gods, Mt. Everest.

Through his remarkable prowess on this shoot, he finally was given the opportunity to obtain his goal in 1981, when, at the age of 23, David Breashears and his tantalizing goddess, Mt. Everest, became one for the first time.

In 1981 he met with a group of American climbers to pursue a film for ABC's American Sportsman about the perils and merits of an expedition on Everest. Remarkably the group also consisted of Sir Edmund Hillary, now in his sixties, and Tenzing Norgay! Imagine, after years of holding a dream so powerful in your heart, to have it realized threefold! As he states in the book...."I really didn't know what to do. I stood, dumbfounded, between Tenzing and Hillary, to have my photograph taken." ... (page 126), there, at the base of the very mountain that had become his life goal.

His Everest summit was thwarted that year by bad weather but he returned in 1983 and says...."I felt a certain peace, the kind you feel when you've come home after a long absence"...(page 152), as he gazed from the top of the world on the peak........"It had been sixteen years since I'd first seen that image of Tenzing Norgay, and now I was about to be baptized in the snows of Everest"....(page 152).

The date was May 11, 1983, this date would again come into play for David.

In 1990 David was approached by the BBC to pursue the story of George Mallory who attempted Everest in the 20's and never returned. Despite all efforts, Mallorys camp, equipment or his remains were never discovered. Again, Breashears summit attempt was halted by weather.

In 1992, now a renowned photographer and climber, he joined the filming team for Cliffhanger which was done in the Dolomites, Italy. His reputation was so enhanced by his performance in this shooting he was soon to gain even more responsibilities.

In 1996 David Breashears again looked at the beauty of his mountain through the lens of the IMAX camera, a monster in its' own right. Through fate, coincidence, God, or whatever, David met up with his sometimes friend/sometimes foe Jon Krakauer, who was there with another team. He also met with two other powerful climbers Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, whom he had befriended in previous climbs.

On May 11, 1996, David Breashears and Jon Krakauer stood on Everest and said a prayer over the bodies of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Also for Doug Hansen, Andy Harris and Yasuko Namba. The mountain had claimed its' toll. Included in this group, Beck Weathers, walked away from the team, got lost in the blizzard, fell to the ground, and froze. The next day his body was found along side Yasuko Namba's, and he was left for dead although both he and Namba were still alive but failing. You do not have the strength to help the weak on the mountain.

Beck Weathers remarkably struggled into camp the next day, frozen and half dead, and was put in a tent to be revived. While other members of the camp continued to search for survivors, Weathers was left alone. During this time the winds blew his tent door open and pulled the sleeping bags from his body. Once again, Beck Weathers was exposed and frozen, and presumed dead. Beck Weathers actually traversed down the side of this killing field on his own, with guiding help from David Breashears. He, did, however suffer horrific physical damage.

I had the honor of meeting Beck Weathers a few months ago when he was in for a speaking engagement. His is an inspiring story of survival and the love and dedication he maintained for his family that got him down the side of the mountain.

David Breashears made the heavy decision to continue and complete the IMAX film EVEREST!, on May 23, 1996, where once again he looked at deaths door. Climbing to the summit, David stopped for a few moments each to say goodbye to the bodies of Scott and Rob, where they remain to this day.

Scott was in full view of his camp, only one hour away, but he never made it back. Rob was burrowed in at the top of the Hillary Step, too weak and confused to continue his descent.

Later David discovered that Bruce Herrod, another friend and fellow climber, completed his summit on May 23, but never returned to his camp.

In 1997 David Breashears made his final assault on the mountain, both as a filming mission for PBS's NOVA and as a catharsis for his soul. He again passed Scott Fischer's body and Rob Hall's body, frozen in time. He found Bruce Herrod's body and said a prayer over it. The others have never been found. David's final ascent was made with Jamling Tenzing Norgay, the son of the man that inspired him, years ago.

While I have presented this review in a chronological diary sort of thing, the book is so much more. It is the belief in a dream and the fulfillment of a dream. It is a book that delves into the heart and psychology of the lure of climbing. Many times it leaves you with a feeling of pain and bewilderment and many times with the encompassing awe and glory of the climb. Inside you will find some of the most glorious photographs of this mountain and the people that worship her you will ever see.

By my count, David Breashears has lost 13 friends to the frozen graveyard. Even with this burden, his compassionate telling of his life and training and his peace with his mountain will perhaps stir your life as it has mine. This is my fourth visit to Everest since my introduction to the mountain by Jon Krakauer with his book Into Thin Air. No longer are these merely names on paper to me, suddenly I feel I have lost old friends as well. It appears the mountain lures even those of us that nuzzle at her feet.

......"At last, I was ready to descend the mountain and go home....." (page 305)


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