American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Scott Fischer, 1956-1996

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997



AAC member Scott Fischer was among the eight climbers who died on Mount Everest on May 10, 1996. Scott, two other guides, Lobsang Sherpa, and all eight clients reached the summit on his commercial expedition. While everyone else from his team returned safely, Scott fell behind during the descent and never made it back to the South Col. The next morning a rescue party found Scott bivouacked with a climber from another team, Makalu Gau. They revived Gau, who made it back to the South Col. They were unable to revive Scott. His fellow climber and guide on the trip, Anatoli Boukreev, reached Scott the next day and confirmed he was dead.

It has been said, “Greater love knows no man, than he who lays down his life for his friends.” Scott Fischer loved people. As he demonstrated many times, he would gladly have done whatever he felt was required to help another climber, even if it meant risking his own life. There could be no truer friend than Scott Fischer.

Co-owner of Mountain Madness, a Seattle-based adventure travel company, Scott started climbing in the late 1960s. He reached the summits of Broad Peak in 1995 and Everest in 1994. His 1993 climb of K2 was featured in a Reader’s Digest cover story in 1994, and, along with other epics, earned him the nickname “Mr. Rescue.” He became the first American to climb Lhotse in 1990. His strength, good humor, and natural leadership style were legendary. Among my favorite of Scott’s many sayings was, “Life is life—you can go through it cruisin’ or you can go through it bummin’. It’s your choice.”

Scott was active in our Conservation Committee, focusing on issues in Nepal. He received the David Brower Award for his leadership of the 1994 Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition. That expedition was credited with bringing 250 oxygen bottles off the South Col after initiating a “buy-back” program under which high-altitude porters were paid a bonus for each oxygen bottle they brought down.

Scott was 40 years old when he died. He joins others on the slopes of Mount Everest to serve as a perpetual reminder of the deadly seriousness of our sport. His spirit, however, will soar free in the mountains he so dearly loved.

The American Alpine Club Board of Directors established the Scott Fischer Memorial Expedition Fund in September, 1996. Donations to the Fund will create a perpetual memorial to Scott. Income and up to five percent of the corpus will be available each year for awards to expeditions with a conservation ethic. Recipients will be selected by the Conservation Committee. Gentle Expeditions: A Guide to Ethical Mountain Adventure is dedicated to Scott. Ten percent of all proceeds from its sales will go the Fund.

Robert McConnell

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