interview with American climber Craig John
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 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. Have you seen Matthew since you got back?
A. 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. Tell us about your earlier Everest experience?
A. Yes this was my second attempt on the North side.
Q. Tell us about summit day.
A. 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. How far did you get on you first attempt in 94?
A. 28,000 feet, the 1st step.
Q. 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. 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. Tell us about your use of oxygen.
A. I used oxygen from the North Col.....I was very sick as you know...I was not
Q. Who did you use for Sherpa support?
A. We used Great Escape...great cooks...we have been using them for a long time on all
Q. Any more plans to go to Everest?
A. 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. What about the South side?
A. Given the opportunity, I would like to do the south side of Everest.
Q. What do you know about Hahn and company turning around?
A. He saw clouds and strong winds. He needed to make a good decision because he had a
client with him.
Q. Have you guided much?
Yes, mainly at Rainier, but on Everest in 94 and other places also. Both clients this
year did not summit.
Q. We are working with the Russians to answer and ask some questions from them during
A. Sure I understand.
Q. 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. Thats right. She is right at the huge rope, under the first step, right on the
route. She is sitting by a rock.
Q. Did you see Sergi's ice axe and rope.
A. No, but I really didnt look.
Q. Oxygen bottles?
A. No, but I really did not look.
Q. Did you check Fran.
Q. What aid was done by the South Africans. We heard she (Fran) was off route....?
A. Yes, they told us she (Fran) was off route and below the first step, they pulled her
up to the first step.
Q. You mean they pulled her up the mountain not down?
A. Yes they told us they pulled her up to put her back on the route.
Q. So that confirms she was off the route and their movement of her was correct.
Q. Do you know of any witness to Fran death?
Q. What about the
A. 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. Why risk it all? The question every armchair climber wants to know.
A. Someway, 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. But isnt death a real probability on Everest North side?
A. 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. 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. 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. Let s talk about Mark.
A. 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 said, OK.
Q. Did the Sherpa stay with him?
A. 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
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. Was there bodies brought down from Everest, as some are suggesting.
A. 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 EverestNews.com is having a hard time
deciding how far we want to report her death. To report or not to report?
Q. Tell us about the light snow cover this year.
A. 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. 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. 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. 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. No, not really, we were away from them most of the time.
Q. How does it feel?
A. You know Matthew is a nice kid with a nice family. I felt good doing this for him.
Q. How far was Sergis tent from where Frans body is...
A. Sergis tents were at 27,000 feet ... so there is about 1,000 feet difference.
Q. Who else reached the summit the same day as yourself?
A. 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. Do you know Marks Sherpa name?
A. No, Mark and I talked a lot. A lot about the use of oxygen. He was a nice guy.
Q. Did you have any contact with Roger Buick? 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. 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. Yes, that is correct.
Q. Was there a rescue attempt?
A. No rescue attempt.
Q. Humm (Pause, not intentional, just thinking).
A. 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. Joao Garcia, has reported to us that he was suffering from High altitude sickness.
A. I dont know, you would assume, I did not see him.
Q. He was climbing under Russells (Brice) permit.
Q. And Mark also.
A. He was climbing under Russells (Brice) permit but had his own Sherpa, and
support at base camp. Roger had no sherpas.
Q. So how does it feel to be over? It must be great.
A. 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. What else would you like to tell us?
A. Well Ang Rita Sherpas boys were on Russells team, one or two of them,
Im not sure.
Q. Any news on Ang Rita Sherpa this year ?
A. No he was not on the North side. He must have went to a different mountain.
Q. What else?
A. The number of expeditions, when I was here in 94, there was only 8 expeditions, it
was bizarre to see so many.
Q. Why were the Americans so late in getting to the summit, we heard you and others
A. 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. Well we hope to see you carry Matthews flag again.
A. 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.
If you have not read the Craig John/Matthew Randall Story please do.