The Craig John/Matthew Randall Story
( our interview with Craig follows.)
Hi, This is Chris Randall. I have a son who has cancer and Craig
John is taking a flag with my son's picture on it to the top of Mt. Everest. Craig John is
a climber on David Hahn's American North side Expedition team and sounds like is doing
well. He is currently climbing the North Face.
Matthew was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor (kidney cancer) when he was
one year old. He had surgery on his birthday to remove a grapefruit size tumor from his
abdomen. Matthew began six months of outpatient Chemotherapy. After six months, he was
declared "in remission", and had tests every three months to make sure the
cancer had not returned.
After being off treatment for a year, in June of 1997 the doctors discovered a small tumor
behind his lung. Matthew had surgery again to remove the small tumor removed.
Unfortunately it turned out to be a return of the cancer. Matthew's original diagnosis gave
him a 95% cure rate. He now fell into the 5% of kids who relapse. The doctors had told us
Matthew would be undergoing a years worth of inpatient Chemotherapy treatment. The drugs
would be much more aggressive than the last treatment. He currently has 4 more treatments
to go and should be done this fall. Matthew has had a great attitude throughout his battle
with cancer. We are amazed at how well he has done with treatment. Unfortunately the
chemotherapy has taken it's toll on his body and he has a hard time recovering after each
A friend and co-worker, Xavier Favellet was planning to climb Mt Rainier in September of
last year. I asked him if he would be willing to make the climb into a fundraiser for my
son. We made a canvas flag for him to take to the summit and raised about $2000. Another
climber on the Rainier climb, Rick Heartman, offered to take the flag to the top of Mt
Whitney in California. He knew of another climber who was going to Mt. Aconcagua in
January. Kenny Pokora made the summit within a 1000 feet. All the climbers signed the back
of the flag and hope to come to Seattle after Matthew is done with treatment. Rick
suggested we try to contact Craig John, a Mt. Rainier veteran who has climbed the mountain
over 100 times. Craig was planning to climb Everest in May this year. We gave him
information on Matthew and he agreed to take the flag with him. We had to create a smaller
flag for him to take to the summit. The original flag weighs 1.5 pounds and we plan to sew
the smaller flag on to the back of it.
Any donations would be appreciated:
Matthew A. Randall Donation Fund c/o
23250 Pacific Highway South
Kent, WA 98032
PLEASE WRITE EVEREST NEWS IN THE MEMO SECTION OF THE CHECK.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM
AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Craig John reached the summit of Everest from the North side this
year on 5/25/98 as part of the American expedition to Everest this year. Craig was
carrying a flag for Matthew Randall the little boy with cancer. Craig is a part time guide
on Mt. Rainier. This is part of the continuing story of Craig Johns climb for
We are posting this raw. Because we want you to read it as we
discussed the climb and the events surrounding these deaths with Craig. Therefore, this
interview is not "cleaned up" (as you will see). A few items has been held back,
the "willy" story, and some details about Fran and some private conversations.
This is our webmaster and Craig talking as two people do (all over the place), so follow
along. We think you will learn much of what happened. This was a very personal interview
between two people that have an extensive knowledge of Everest and the events of Everest
We will say Craig John is one Great guy and One great Climber. And
he DID IT !!!!!!!
Q. [EverestNews.com] Have you seen Matthew since you got back?
A. [Craig John] Yes, I meet with his mother, her parents and Matthew. He is
really a nice kid. He seems to be doing better. But I am still worried about him,
lets hope all works out. I gave them the flag I carried to the summit for Matthew.
It was a nice time.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Tell us about your earlier Everest experience?
A. [Craig John] Yes this was my second attempt on the North side.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Tell us about summit day.
A. [Craig John] It was a great summit day! Alex was with us until about 27,600 to
27,800 .. the yellow band... We had really good weather. I climbed in 7 hours and 15
minutes spend 15 minutes on top, and then it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to get (down)
to 27,000 feet. I then descended to ABC at 21,000 feet that day. I got to ABC at 6:45 that
Q. [EverestNews.com] How far did you get on you first attempt in 94?
A. [Craig John] 28,000 feet, the 1st step.
Q. [EverestNews.com] We have heard from some climbers, that seeing Frans body
sitting there made them quite sad and that it affected their ability to go on.
A. [Craig John] I heard about it (her death) the day before. We lost someone in
94....I not immunized, but it did not shock me. I have been climbing for 20 years. People
die when people make mistakes and people die when people dont make mistakes. On
summit day, I was going to the top....a dead body was not going to stop me...
Q. [EverestNews.com] Tell us about your use of oxygen.
A. [Craig John] I used oxygen from the North Col.....I was very sick as you
know...I was not acclimatized well....
Q. [EverestNews.com] Who did you use for Sherpa support?
A. [Craig John] We used Great Escape...great cooks...we have been using them for
a long time on all these expeditions.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Any more plans to go to Everest?
A. [Craig John] Not at this point, I have other plans for other mountains, that I
would like to go. Eric has a permit for 2000, but I not sure if he is going next year, I
dont think he has a permit. You know Eric got to 30 feet below the summit again. But
he did summit once, but close many times. I am sure glad he made it once.
Q. [EverestNews.com] What about the South side?
A. [Craig John] Given the opportunity, I would like to do the south side of
Q. [EverestNews.com] What do you know about Hahn and company turning around?
A. [Craig John] He saw clouds and strong winds. He needed to make a good decision
because he had a client with him.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Have you guided much?
A. [Craig John] Yes, mainly at Rainier, but on Everest in 94 and other places also.
Both clients this year did not summit.
Q. [EverestNews.com] We are working with the Russians to answer and ask some questions
from them during our interviews.
A. [Craig John] Sure I understand.
Q. [EverestNews.com] We would like to know the exact place where Fran is situated. It
has been reported to us that she is right under the first step.
A. [Craig John] Thats right. She is right at the huge rope, under the first
step, right on the route. She is sitting by a rock.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Did you see Sergi's ice axe and rope.
A. [Craig John] No, but I really didnt look.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Oxygen bottles?
A. [Craig John] No, but I really did not look.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Did you check Fran.
A. [Craig John] No
Q. [EverestNews.com] What aid was done by the South Africans. We heard she (Fran) was
A. [Craig John] Yes, they told us she (Fran) was off route and below the first
step, they pulled her up to the first step.
Q. [EverestNews.com] You mean they pulled her up the mountain not down?
A. [Craig John] Yes they told us they pulled her up to put her back on the route.
Q. [EverestNews.com] So that confirms she was off the route and their movement of her
A. [Craig John] Yes.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Do you know of any witness to Fran death?
A. [Craig John] No
Q. [EverestNews.com] What about the
A. [Craig John] I heard they were around, but I dont know much. We know the
South Africans tried to help her and of course her husband.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Why risk it all? The question every armchair climber wants to
A. [Craig John] Someways, I dont feel this. I dont feel like I am
doing that, the sites and views are incredible. It is an incredible experience to summit
Everest. It is worth it. What an experience !
Q. [EverestNews.com] But isnt death a real probability on Everest North side?
A. [Craig John] I will say it is a possibility, but not a probability. I think
ones years of experience help minimize the risk of the possibility. I have been
climbing for 20 years, that experience helps minimize the possibility. For those that are
not experienced climbers, sure it is a real probability on Everest.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Mark Jennings, you know we know and we were asked by Russell
(Brice) to wait and we did wait for 17 days or so, we actually reported last night.
A. [Craig John] If Russell says you should wait, you should wait. I understand
and that was good of you to wait when asked. Mark was a nice guy.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Let s talk about Mark.
A. [Craig John] He was the first person to leave camp that day, but seemed to be
having problems, a real hard time. Mark was about 1 1/2 hours behind me on reaching the
summit... He was having a real hard time, his breathing, his Sherpa keep telling him to
turn around...He was very slow on the way up...His Sherpa gave him all of his oxygen (the
Sherpas)... I met him, when I was coming back from the summit... I told him to make
a smart decision, He asked me How far to the summit? I told him it is a ways. I told him
you need to make a smart decision, make a good decision Mark. I did not tell him directly
to turn around. I told him to make a smart climbing decision. The Sherpa told him to turn
around and kept telling him to turn around. He made it back down to high camp and actually
went to our tents.... One member of our team told him, No your tent is down there, He
Q. [EverestNews.com] Did the Sherpa stay with him?
A. [Craig John] Yes, all the way back, but the Sherpa keep going back (down) to
get more oxygen for him. He kept going back to the tents to bring more oxygen over and
over, what he (the Sherpa) did was incredible. The Sherpa did this several times !!... The
Sherpa spent the night with him at the high camp in the tents. Mark got up said he felt
pretty good, walked a few feet and sat down and died and that was it.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Was there bodies brought down from Everest, as some are
A. [Craig John] No, it is too high up to bring bodies down.
Some private conservation here .. Very sad about Fran and how she
died, we plan on a summary report on Fran and will probably report some of this
information here. We both agreed VERY VERY sad news about Fran, and frankly Everest News
is having a hard time deciding how far we want to report her death. To report or not to
Q. [EverestNews.com] Tell us about the light snow cover this year.
A. [Craig John] Very light, no snow in some places, a lot of rock. However, in
one spot there was a lot of snow and the route had to be changed there. There were a few
bodies visible but not like everywhere but there were several.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Was the light snow cover a major factor in success this year? You
know we are reporting what must be a record number of summits this year.
A. [Craig John] No I really did not know there was that many summits this year
... about other teams.. But I think the number of people this year was the main reason.
There has never been this many people before...experienced people.....there was 18
expeditions, now some were one man expeditions and the route was very good this year, that
was a major factor.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Did you learn that the India, Russians and these other team
supported by Asian trekking put up what has to be record numbers this year.
A. [Craig John] No, not really, we were away from them most of the time.
Q. [EverestNews.com] How does it feel?
A. [Craig John] You know Matthew is a nice kid with a nice family. I felt good
doing this for him.
Q. [EverestNews.com] How far was Sergis tent from where Frans body is...
A. [Craig John] Sergis tents were at 27,000 feet ... so there is about
1,000 feet difference.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Who else reached the summit the same day as yourself?
A. [Craig John] There were ten of us: Danuru Sherpa and Lhakapa Rita Sherpa,
Sumiyo Tsuzuki, Russell Brice, his Sherpa, and Mark Jennings and his Sherpa, and two
Uzbekistan climbers. (he did not say himself, but it was understood.)
Q. [EverestNews.com] Do you know Marks Sherpa name?
A. [Craig John] No, Mark and I talked a lot. A lot about the use of oxygen. He
was a nice guy.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Did you have any contact with Roger Buick?
A. [Craig John] No I had no contact
with him on summit day, he went up the next day. I talked a lot with him before that
day...on the 26th.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Yes that is what we were told, he would have started his climb
after you came to ABC because you went all the way down in one day.
A. [Craig John] Yes, that is correct.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Was there a rescue attempt?
A. [Craig John] No rescue attempt.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Humm (Pause, not intentional, just thinking).
A. [Craig John] About 10 people told him to stop and turn around. He disagreed
with them and kept going. He did not seem to know what was going on.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Joao Garcia, has reported to us that he was suffering from High
A. [Craig John] I dont know, you would assume, I did not see him.
Q. [EverestNews.com] So how does it feel to be over? It must be great.
A. [Craig John] Oh, Yea! This was years in the works, I did Cho Oyu in 95, but
this definitely is the BIG ONE! (change in his voice tone, excited.) This was my 6th
Himalayan trip. Some has not been successful for one reason or another on some of these
trips. I am 2 for 6.
Q. [EverestNews.com] What else would you like to tell us?
A. [Craig John] Well Ang Rita Sherpas boys were on Russells team, one
or two of them, Im not sure.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Any news on Ang Rita Sherpa this year ?
A. [Craig John] No he was not on the North side. He must have went to a different
Q. [EverestNews.com] What else?
A. [Craig John] The number of expeditions, when I was here in 94, there was only
8 expeditions, it was bizarre to see so many.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Why were the Americans so late in getting to the summit, we heard
you and others were sick.
A. [Craig John] We got a later start. We needed to get acclimatized. We also put
up a new fixed line up to the North Col. And I was sick.
Q. [EverestNews.com] Well we hope to see you carry Matthews flag again.
A. [Craig John] Any thing I can do to help Matthew and the family I will. I would
ask others to help in any way that might be right for them to help Matthew.