The 1996 Everest disaster continues to intrigue people to this day. It may be because of the sensationalizing of the tragedy or because it’s a prime example of what can go wrong. 2023 was even worse and the climbers remain tight-lipped and quiet about what may have caused so many deaths. It seems that there was more transparency in 1996 than there is in recent years.
I have compiled a list of the books about the 1996 Everest disaster. If I have missed any please let me know in the comments below. There were many different perspectives on what happened in 1996. Eight climbers died during the 1996 disaster and a total of twelve during the spring season, with an additional three deaths during the fall season. All of the books on this list are about the 1996 Spring climbing season, including the death of Bruce Harrod.
After this book list, I have added 2 videos that I thought were of interest, the television interview documentary “Mountain Without Mercy” and a recent interview with Sandy Hill (formerly Hill-Pittman) from Harvest Series. Please let me know your reaction to both of these in the comments below if you watch them.
Books About the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster
This is the most popular and well-known book about the 1996 Everest season, though it only covers the May 10-11 1996 deaths and the story of the Adventure Cnsultants team. Krakauer was part of The Adventure Consultants team led by Rob Hall. This account is very critical of the decisions made on the mountain, with blame given to multiple people. I think having Krakauer on as a high-profile client may have influenced some of the decisions that were made.
Anatoli Boukreev was made out to be a villain by so many after the 1996 Everest disaster. Though many have criticized him (for possibly refusing to use O2), he helped to save several individuals. Without him, the fatality rates would have been much higher. This is his version of what happened during that disaster.
3. “A Day to Die For – 1996 Everest’s Worst Disaster – One Survivor’s Personal Journey to Uncover the Truth” by Graham Ratcliffe
Graham Tacliffe’s book is often overlooked because he was not part of the Adventure Consultants or the Mountain Madness teams. So his story is often overlooked. Yet he was also there on the mountain during those tragic two days. His perspective is refreshing, especially because he was on a different team than those with fatalities. I also learned a lot from this book and have even more questions because it is so well researched. Ratliffe was the first British person to summit Mt. Everest twice.
Whenever you google for images of the 1996 Everest disaster, it’s guaranteed that images of Beck Weather’s frostbitten face will pop up. He was left for dead not once, but twice. His story is extremely miraculous and I often wonder why he survived when others did not. Though he made it off the mountain alive in a never-done-before helicopter rescue, his years of recovery were not easy.
Spoiler alert: Lou turned around and did not summit Everest in 1996. After the storm came in and some of the poor decisions that were made, he chose to turn around due to his love for his wife. This book isn’t just about that season or what went wrong. It’s a book about faith and healing as well. Lou Kasischke was a member of the Adventure Consultant’s team.
As far as I know, this is the only book about the 1996 tragedy that was written by a woman. Lene Gammalgaard is a Danish mountaineer and motivational speaker. She started her Everest journey in 1995 when Scott Fisher asked if she wanted to join him in 1996 for Everest. Her book goes in-depth into her training, her journey to Everest, her climb up, and the horrible tragedy that occurred. Gammalgaard was part of the Mountain Madness team. She also speaks highly of Boukreev in her book.
Michael Trueman helped save lives in 1996 by coordinating the rescue efforts from Base Camp. With Trueman, the amount of casualties could have been higher. He was part of Mal Duff’s team. Though only a portion of this book is about the disaster, it goes into detail about the skills Trueman learned 17 years earlier from another disaster that would help him coordinate rescue efforts. Trueman was on Everst in 1996, 1997 and 1999. 1999 was the year Michael Matthews perished on Everest and is the topic of the documentary “Finding Michael”.
Jamling Norgay is the son of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first people to reach the summit of Everest. Jamling had big boots to fill. He was part of the IMAX team in 1996 led by David Breshears. Jamling Norgay’s book weaves together his own Everest journey, the 1996 Everest disaster, and his father’s life to create a beautiful story. This is the only book about the 1996 Everest disaster written by a Sherpa.
Scott Fischer was the only one from his team to die in 1996 on Mt. Everest. He lived his life his way and was a big personality. This biography of Scott Fischer better helped me understand who he was as a climber and why he made the decisions he made during the 1996 season. Of those I have interviewed for the podcast who knew Scott personally, they have only said wonderful things about him.
Van Der Leek was not on Mt. Everest during that fateful season. He has never summitted or even attempted to summit Mt. Everest. He is a photojournalist and an amateur mountaineer. All I can say about these books is that they are written by someone who wasn’t there and has little mountaineering experience. However, it is worth reading, if only for a completely different perspective.
- NEVEREST New Insights: Inside Scott Fischer’s Mountain Madness Expedition (Mountain Mania Book 1)
- NEVEREST II New Insights: Inside Rob Hall’s Adventure Consultants Expedition (Mountain Mania Book 2)
- NEVEREST III New Insights: Beidleman vs Groom (Mountain Mania Book 3).
- NEVEREST IV: The Sherpas (Mountain Mania Book 4)
I stumbled across this book while I was doing my complete Everest book list. Though I was familiar with the 1996 Everest disaster, I was not familiar with Bruce Herrod’s story and the controversy of the 1996 SOuth African team. Herrod’s death could have been prevented. This is one of the main reasons that there should be better regulations on the Nepali side.
12. “Everest: Free to Decide – The Story of the First South Africans to Reach the Highest Point on Earth” by Cathy O’Dowd and Ian Woodall
This book is no longer in print, but you can still find 2nd hand copies. This book was the rebuttal by Cathy O’Dowd and Ian Woodall to Ken Vernon’s book. It’s the complete opposite of what Vernon portrays. I do not think anyone can really say what the true story is at this point, though I think glory came before basic human decency.
I forgot this book when I did this list and now I am updating it. David Brasheras is a wonderful mountaineer and filmmaker. In fact, he is considered one of the GOATs of Everest climbing. In 1996 he was part of the IMAX expedition team and was part of the rescue efforts made in rescuing those involved in the 1996 Everest disaster.
Besides these 13 books, here are the two YouTube videos I mentioned that I believe are worth watching in my podcast eopisode. The 1996 disaster will always be part of the conversation when it comes to talking about Mt. Everest.
Is there any particular book that you have read from this list that you love the most? Your feedback is greatly appreciated and you can leave it in the comments. I do read every comment that is left.