Everest 96 - SA Expedition

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Everest 96 - SA Expedition

Post by JamesD » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:33 pm

I was on a work conference in Austria last week where the guest speaker was Cathy O'Dowd. Her presentation was about the South African expedition to Everest in '96 and focussed on team work and why their team fell apart, etc. She was extremely critical of the climbers that left the team and blamed them for everything that went wrong. She never mentioned them by name, since the names wouldn't have meant anything to the poeple in the audience. As a relative newcomer to climbing everything I have heard or read suggest that guys like Andy De Klerk and Ed February are the most respected climbers/mountaineers in South Africa - as well as world wide. I just wondered what other people's opinions on this subject were?


Post by Gareth » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:33 pm

Oh, God, here we go again!


Post by JamesD » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:34 pm

Sorry I realise this has probably been debated to death before - I was just curious as to the other side of the story.


Post by Stu » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:34 pm

Gareth, and anyone else, some of us were not climbing then and if you have some inside knowledge or info on the situation, I'm sure it would be apprecited if you shared it with the rest of us who don't know. Did Andy and Ed have something to say or was it only Cathy and that author (I forget his name) who voiced their views.


Post by guy » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:34 pm

The climbers that left the expedition were Andy De Klerk, Ed February and Andy Hackland, a Sunday Times journalist, Ken Vernon, was kicked off if I remember correctly. Ken subsequently wrote a book called 'Ascent and Dissent' which gives a really good idea of what was going on and what really caused the break up of the team. Jon Krakauer (not sure about that spelling) was also very critical of the SA team in his book 'Into Thin Air'


Post by Stu » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:42 pm

So is Ken's book a good description of the events? Because Cathy and Co. also wrote a book, where does the truth lie?

Derek Marshall

Post by Derek Marshall » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:42 pm

I found Cathys's book very intresting. Could not get into the others. I could imagine that some of the SA 'big shots' would be more than a bit arrogant. Especialy to those who are not in their group of 'big shots'.

Douglas Ward

Post by Douglas Ward » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:42 pm

Firstly, for the information of JamesD, the 'big shots', as the climbers from the other side have been referred to, are not even vaguely arrogant people. Remember that Cathy O'Dowd has a vested commercial interest in propagating her righteousness in this situation - she sells books and slide shows, and collects money for further expeditions. The other climbers have no further interest in the events of May 1996, which is why their opinion is never heard first hand. They have never done nay public shouting for themselves, and I think that says it all.

Derek Marshall

Post by Derek Marshall » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:43 pm

Well it would seem that they would have less to \"shout\" about, as it was not posible for them to reach the top. Although getting as far as they did is also a fine achievment. Cathy did go on to summit Everest on atleast one other occasion and has managed to make a living out of it. That is a fair achievment and some thing to talk about.


Post by Stu » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:43 pm

It seems to me they left the party because they felt things were not being run properly(ie.the leader was not capable - and someone did die), not because of fear or not being capabable, as Everest is not the hardest to summit these days. While making money of such a tragic event is one thing, trashing the other well respected climbers (who's achievements far outweigh hers) while doing it is another.


Post by Rastaman » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:43 pm

You should read Joe Simpson's book called \"Dark Shadows Falling\". Very good read about the current direction that climbing is headed. Climbers that refuse to help other dying climbers because it puts there own life in danger and may jeopardise their summit opportunity. Everst has become a circus.

Derek Marshall

Post by Derek Marshall » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:43 pm

Cathy is still an achiever at the end of the day. And should be given some respect for what she has achieved.

Rachel Colenso

Post by Rachel Colenso » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:44 pm

Unfortunately, if we do not right this situation we will have many more Derek Marshall's, making ignorant remarks from hearsay evidence about people they don't know. Suggest you do your homework Derek, and wind your neck in before you mouth off about South African 'bigshots' that you have probably never spoken to, or about a mountain that now receives over 350 ascents per anum. Perhaps you should find out more about climbing, and what these people have achieved before you begin congratulating them on reaching basecamp, (which I have seen frequented by old age pensioners, from the Tibetan side.) Having climbed alot more than the six north faces, do you not think the person you have congratulated on their basecamp efforts might find this remark a touch insulting, and perhaps arrogant in itself? Most climbers have integrity and would not stoop to publically disrespecting to their team members for commercial gain, even if things did break down. I find it most surprising and disturbing to hear that people suggest Cathy puts the blame on certain individuals. It does not sound like the Cathy I remember, and if unfound, is also quite vindictive. I also find it most unsurprising that Ed and Andy do not wish to get involved. May I suggest the MCSA journals could be a good place to start reading about the positive contributions that South African climbing pioneers have made?...And they are actually very interesting!... If you like climbing

Derek Marshall

Post by Derek Marshall » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:44 pm

Wow... Quite right I don't know Cathy O'Dowd at all, but where she is dissed by a lot of climbers in SA, I feel that she diserves respect for what she has achieved. Thats my main point. Rachel - not quite sure what your point is...except attacking me in a person is obviously a bit fun.


Post by Stu » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:44 pm

Rachel Colenso, check out the first guys post that started this thread he mentions that she puts the blame on eveyone but herself and the expedition leader. While I'm sure no one would deny her the right to make money from her experiences, the way she goes about it is another. That's what brought me into this thread - you don't piss (unjustifiably so)on other climbers reputations just to make a quick buck.


Post by JuzH » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:45 pm

While you have to respect cathys achievements i will always look up to andy and ed. They are the godfathers of soul

Derek Marshall

Post by Derek Marshall » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:45 pm

Just re-reading some of Cathy's book. Its very intresting. Rachel you need to re-read the whole thread and take your head out of your ass.


Post by Jeff » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:45 pm

Rachel Colenso - I too, am not quite sure what point you're making with your mail??? And I've read it a few times to try figure it out?

Derek Marshall

Post by Derek Marshall » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:46 pm

Hey Jeff, I think Rachel's main point is to be recognised as some one who knows Cathy, Edmund and Andy. Possibly quite well. Thats what I read...but the question is: should she be given respect for this achievment?


Post by Shaun » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:46 pm

Hello everyone, I am a South African ex-pat based in London. I am actively involved in rock and Alpine climbing in Europe. I often find myself involved in discussions with climbers over here about the damage done to South African climber’s reputations by the Everest '96 fiasco. Unfortunately, only a few people are aware of the fact that almost all the problems that arose from the South African team stemmed from the leader of the Expedition, Ian Woodall. I am amazed that his name has not been mentioned in this thread because almost all accounts of the ’96 Everest disaster single him out as the root of all the problems regarding the South Africans involvement (or lack thereof) in the storm. The tragedy of this whole situation is that those few months on Everest in 1996 have left a legacy of misrepresented facts and a tarnished image that South African climbers will be shouldering for a long time yet. I praise the climbers that left the expedition so early, that must have been a huge sacrifice for them, and with no disrespect to those that stayed on, these guys had foresight and made highly respectable decisions by removing themselves from the situation. In 2002, Ian Woodall had to flee the UK after having assaulted an employee at his company and built up unpaid debts of over 1 million rand. He also lied about being of South African nationality prior to and during the 1996 expedition. Rachel Colenso pointed out that “most climbers have integrity”, this is a broad statement, the climbing community represents society, some people have integrity and some do not. Ian Woodall does not. Cathy O’Dowd criticized the climbers that left the Everest 1996 expedition; she would have done better to direct the criticism at her own husband, Ian Woodall. I have never heard another negative account of a South African climber, on the whole South Africans have achieved marvelously in mountaineering, especially when considering South Africa’s proximity to the European Alps and the Greater ranges. I am proud to be a South African climber and do not consider Ian Woodall or the people that associate themselves with him in any way to represent South African climbing and I will continue to denounce these people at every opportunity. Shaun Baird


Post by gareth » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:46 pm

Thank you, Shaun, finally a comprehensive response to JamesD's question. I think Shaun's comment accurately reflects the feelings of most SA climbers, at least at the time of the incident. Out of respect for Cathy's achievements (well justified), I think many people are reluctant to criticise Woodall, but it seems that guy did none of us any favours. (He certainly came across on the TV as an arrogant prick).

Douglas Ward

Post by Douglas Ward » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:47 pm

Oiyoiyoi. Thanks for the strong answer, Shaun. But everybody keeps congratulating Cathy on her \"achievements\". Isn't it about time somebody stuck their neck out and actually said it? It is my opinion, that as fortunate as it has been for Cathy that she reached the summit of Everest in May 1996, it has actually been a disaster for South African mountaineering. South African mountaineers are not that - by \"that\" I mean peak tourists stopping at nothing to get to the summit: which is, I think, the basic criticism that comes up. But Cathy's success has given her an international platform on which to propagate her side of the story, whilst the real heros get to eat a humble and very bitter pie, because any speaking against Cathy could only be sour-grapes. Hell - what real mountaineer cares about being the first to summit Everest by two different routes? Tourist routes, for Pete's sake!! Real mountaineers didn't do it because they were already on the next level, like Cerro Torre, the Eigerwand, or the South Face of Aconcagua - yes, South Africans have climbed all those things - just a bit of perspective to add to the word \"achievement\".

Steve Bradshaw (jnr)

Post by Steve Bradshaw (jnr) » Wed Aug 24, 2005 6:31 pm

I have to agree fully with Shaun. Andy, Ed, and Andy Hackland are the ones who deserve respect - not Ian and Cathy.

I find it incredible that Cathy and Ian can continue to make a living out of climbing with such tarnished records


Post by analyst » Mon Sep 05, 2005 10:34 pm

Whereas I absolutely agree that people like Adk and Ed are heros for what they have achieved, I must say that I have never read about their exploits on large (climbing) teams. Which makes me wonder whether some people are more suited to small group (alpine) type ascents and others are more suited to large (big money) type ascents. And whether one can draw any analysis to people's achievements in corporate and non-corporate worlds.

If I were a motivational speaker for a corporate I would probably deliver a very similar speech to what Cathy seems to deliver. One would have to take a team event and analyse the various actions of players within that team and critically evaluate the various aspects. And one might find or argue that individual reputation and excellence are not necessarily the ingredients of a successful corporate team.

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Post by Chalk » Tue Sep 06, 2005 10:45 am

My two cents for what its worth…. I guess like many climbers out there I watched this horror in public relations unfold on mass media around the world and have made an effort to read all I can on it –from both the climbing faction’s point of view, from other famous climbers like David Breashear, Jon Krakauer, the sherpas etc and I still have this feeling that maybe I missed something because the climbing world says one thing and two people say the opposite.

I know that you can fight like hell at altitude about the silliest things but when you build your temple of fame on other peoples graves I personally would be cautious of who I believe (or climb with).

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Post by dassie » Wed Nov 02, 2005 2:48 pm

I agree with chalk.
Above every thing that has been said and done, no matter what country you are from, summiting Everast has got to be good. If you make money from other peoples deaths , you are like a scavenging hyena with nothing on your mind but yourself. Can we not just accept that *%$# hit the fan and they were lucky it was only one who sadly went to the afterlife(God rest his soul).
Besides, how many times do those shurpers go up that hill? Once ,twice? No, many more times than we can even emagine. And do they get thier names emortalised?

Mike K
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Cathy high and mighty

Post by Mike K » Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:28 pm

Put it this way I wouldn't trust her to belay me!!!


Post by Mk? » Sun Nov 06, 2005 1:26 pm

I'm told that she Cathy climbed up to 29 on sport whilst in GHT. She & Mike Louw did various climbing trips to the Alps toegether.

There is a good chance that she has way more climbing experiance under her belt than she is given credit for. She did not actuly kill anyone. Lots of people died on E that year. Thats what big mountains are about. Climbing is risky. The bigger the climb the bigger the risk.

MK...chances are she is not looking to delay you. She's not your average belay bunny

Post by » Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:56 pm

This must be cathy herself, you seem really angry let it go.


Post by » Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:16 am

Funny thing that hey – people who have never died before are suddenly dieing. I hope this is not one of those crazes sweeping the earth…



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