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 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 treatment.

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
Key Bank
23250 Pacific Highway South
Kent, WA 98032

PLEASE WRITE EVEREST NEWS IN THE MEMO SECTION OF THE CHECK.

Thank you,
Chris Randall.

 

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 John’s climb for  Matthew Randall.

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 98.

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, let’s 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 evening.

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 Fran’s 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 Everest.

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] That’s 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 didn’t 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 off route....?

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 was correct.

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 Uzbekistans?

A. [Craig John] I heard they were around, but I don’t 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 know.

A. [Craig John] Someways, I don’t feel this. I don’t 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 isn’t death a real probability on Everest North side?

A. [Craig John] I will say it is a possibility, but not a probability. I think one’s 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 Sherpa’s)... 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 said, OK.

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 suggesting.

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 report?

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 Sergi’s tent from where Fran’s body is...

A. [Craig John] Sergi’s 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 Mark’s 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 altitude sickness.

A. [Craig John] I don’t 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 Sherpa’s boys were on Russell’s team, one or two of them, I’m 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 mountain.

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 Matthew’s 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.

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