Outside Online: Kilimanjaro Climb for Care

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Remembering Scott Fischer
Scott Fischer

When I first met Scott Fischer, I didn't think I'd like him. Sporting shoulder-length hair, an earring and looks good enough to threaten even Brad Pitt, the 40-year-old professional mountaineer looked not a little like a Viking.

He just had to be cocky.

He wasn't. Within an hour, Fischer's boyish enthusiasm and disarming honesty had won me over. He had a way of making anybody believe they were capable of doing anything. Though he'd literally been to the tops of the world--Mount Everest and K2--he never made the group of us climbing Mount Kilimanjaro feel like the novices we were. Fischer put on no airs; it was clear from the start he was one of the guys.

Often, during long, difficult days, he'd let his assistant guides lead our hypermotivated frontrunners. Hanging at the back, sometimes by a half-mile, he'd encourage those having a tougher time of it that they, too, could climb Africa's highest mountain.

Perhaps that was his charm: rooting for the underdog. Looking at him, you knew he was always quarterback of the football team, most likely to succeed--whatever. Nonetheless, he identified with the less fortunate of the world, those to whom things didn't come easy.

So it was a horrifying surprise that on May 10, after he guided his team of amateur climbers up 29,028-foot Mount Everest, a storm closed in and claimed Fischer and seven others. None of those seven was from Fischer's expedition; he was the only one. The disaster--the worst in Everest's history--made the cover of Newsweek and was featured on "60 Minutes," and raises questions about whether amateurs can really be guided on mountains as high as Everest, a full two vertical miles higher than Kilimanjaro.

When I first heard the news, I thought about his wife, Jeannie, and their two children: Andy, 9, and Katie Rose, 5. A fund had been set up earlier in case anything happened--that I knew--but I never imagined they would need it.

They do. Donations can be made to Fischer-Price Children's Fund, Seafirst Bank, 4001 SW Alaska, Seattle, Washington 98116.

Donations can also be made to a special program that will help teach kids about the outdoors: Scott Fischer Memorial Scholarship Fund, National Outdoor Leadership School, 288 Main Street, Lander, Wyoming 82520.

We'll miss you, Scott. But we won't forget you.


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