Everest Guides Cited for Heroism
Anatoli Boukreev, Pete Athans and Todd Burleson are
for their South Col rescue efforts during the 1996 Everest Tragedy
Friday, December 12, 1997
High altitude guides Pete Athans, Todd Burleson and Anatoli Boukreev were named recipients of the American Alpine Club's highest award
valor at its annual meeting last weekend in Seattle, WA. The David A.
award was granted to each of the three world-renowned guides for
separate incidents in the wake of the May 10, 1996 tragedy on the
slopes of Mount Everest.
A committee chaired by Jim Wickwire, and including Bill Putnam and
Williamson, editor of the popular annual Accidents in North
Mountaineering, determined the actions taken by the three climbers
the club's highest award.
According to American Alpine Club
bylaws, The David A. Sowles award is given only to climbers who have
"distinguished themselves, with unselfish devotion at personal risk
at sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of
climbers." It has been conferred only nine times in the past
years, and was last granted in 1994 to Ed Viesturs and Ed Webster
separate incidents, one on K2 and another in Nepal.
"All three of this year's recipients are professional mountain
said Jim Wickwire, "and as such had to meet an even higher standard
this rare award. And while a number of people acted heroically
the highly publicized Everest tragedy, these three climbers can be
justifiably singled out for recognition. Without their direct and
forceful action, there almost certainly would have been four more
fatalities in that tragedy."
Burleson and Athans received the award for their "willingness to
their own summit attempt," and for their "rapid climb to the South
where they administered life-saving treatment to the exhausted and
horribly frostbitten Beck Weathers." The climbers were further
safeguarding Weathers' descent down the upper Lhotse Face, where
Ed Viesturs and Dave Breashears of the Everest IMAX team took over the
"I appreciate the recognition," Burleson said from his Alpine
International offices in Seattle, "but I don't see our actions as
heroic. We go to climb the mountain, and once we're there, we do
has to be done. If it means turning around to help climbers in
then that's what we do."
Boukreev received the award for his "repeated, extraordinary
searching for, then saving the lives of, three exhausted teammates
trapped by a storm on the South Col of Mount Everest." Boukreev was
further cited for his "valiant attempt, at great personal risk, in
out into the renewed storm in one last-ditch effort to save his
and expedition leader Scott Fischer."
"I am pleased and honored that my efforts to help the others have
recognized," said Boukreev before leaving for a winter attempt on
Annapurna, "and I feel like the American Alpine Club has gone to
effort to understand a man from another culture." [Editor's note: Boukreev was killed a month later on Annapurna. Click for the full story.]
Peter Potterfield, Mountain Zone Staff