Home NEWS Mount Everest Filmmaker David Breashears Dies at 68

Mount Everest Filmmaker David Breashears Dies at 68

by thesummiters.com

David Breashears a well known figure in the world of mountaineering environmental activism and filmmaking passed away at the age of 68 in his Massachusetts home. This sad news was confirmed by close friends and members of the climbing community Ed Viesturs Kathy Harvard and Jed Williamson who shared a deep connection with Breashears and his family. Additionally his family released a statement acknowledging his passing.

Mount Everest Filmmaker David Breashears Dies at 68
Mount Everest Filmmaker David Breashears Dies at 68

Throughout his life David was deeply passionate about adventure exploration and preserving the planet. He achieved remarkable feats including summiting Mt. Everest five times notably carrying an IMAX camera during one ascent in 1996. His unique combination of climbing courage and photography skills made him a respected figure in adventure filmmaking.

However beyond his personal achievements David’s most significant contribution situate in his creation of GlacierWorks in 2007. This non-profit organization focused to raise awareness about the difficulty of Himalayan glaciers due to climate change. Through GlacierWorks David exploited his expertise in climbing and photography to document the dramatic effects of global warming on these iconic natural formations.

The family of David Breashears deeply appreciates the exodus of support and affection from the community but kindly requests privacy as they come to terms with their loss.

Breashears held a significant position in the realm of Himalayan mountaineering for Americans. His rise to fame occurred in the 1980s, where he excelled as both a climber and a documentarian, capturing footage on Mount Everest. In a groundbreaking achievement in 1983, Breashears transmitted the very first live television images from the summit of Everest. Just two years later, he achieved another remarkable feat by reaching Everest’s peak once more, becoming the inaugural American climber to accomplish this feat twice.

Reflecting on his experience during a 2008 interview with the Frontline broadcast network, Breashears recounted being the 135th person to summit Everest. He described the expedition of 1983 as a unique and almost intimate endeavor, where they had the mountain mostly to themselves. Breashears emphasized feeling deeply connected to the mountain during that time, appreciating the camaraderie and preparation of his fellow climbers.

Over the next decade Breashears played a pivotal role in educating millions about Mount Everest through his
enchanting films and broadcasts. In 1997 he achieved a significant milestone by crafting the initial live audio broadcast from Everest’s summit for the NOVA documentary series titled “Everest: The Death Zone.” The following year saw the release of his groundbreaking feature film “Everest,” shot in IMAX format, making it the first-ever movie captured from the peak. This cinematic masterpiece, chronicling his 1996 expedition alongside guide Ed Viesturs, not only delved into the rigorous training of mountaineers but also highlighted the perils they encounter on their journey to the top.

“Everest” swiftly became a sensation, boasting record-breaking sales in the high-resolution format and generating a staggering revenue exceeding $120 million. This immense success catapulted Breashears into the spotlight, earning him widespread acclaim within the outdoor community. In a noteworthy accolade, journalist Karen Heyman likened his prowess in the realm of IMAX filmmaking to that of acclaimed director James Cameron.

In a conversation dating back to 1997, Breashears opened up about his fascination with extreme altitudes and their profound influence on both the physical and mental facets of human beings. He expressed his aspiration to probe into the ramifications of hypoxia, the deprivation of oxygen, on individuals’ decision-making abilities, particularly in his cinematic works. Breashears underscored the significant issue wherein climbers, amidst scaling lofty heights, might not readily discern the impairment in their cognitive faculties. He stressed the absence of conspicuous warning signs, like an internal voice alerting them to their compromised mental clarity.

During the 1996’s climbing season, Breashears pictured the documentary “Everest” and saw a unfortunate hurricane that alleged the lives of eight climbers. This heartbreaking incident was later recounted by Jon Krakauer in his widely-read book “Into Thin Air.” Following the blizzard Breashears actively participated in the rescue and recovery efforts

Motivated by his firsthand experience Breashears embarked on another film project titled “Storm Over Everest” in 2008. This documentary featured interviews with survivors actual footage from the 1996 expedition and vivid
execute of the storm and rescue missions.

Explaining his decision to create the film, Breashears emphasized to Frontline the importance of conveying the story through visual means. He believed that seeing and hearing from survivors directly, observing their emotions and listening to their accounts, was far more impactful than merely reading about their experiences.

He had an active career in filmmaking working as a cinematographer cameraman and producer on almost twenty films including notable Hollywood hits like “Cliffhanger” and “Seven Years in Tibet.”

Breashears remained dedicated to sharing the story of the 1996 disaster. In 2015 he took on the role of a co-producer and consultant for the Hollywood movie “Everest” featuring stars such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin. Simultaneously Breashears was filming a documentary on Everest. Tragically during this time a powerful earthquake struck causing devastation at Base Camp and claiming the lives of 19 individuals.

In recent years Breashears shifted his focus towards understanding the profound impacts of climate change on the Himalayan region. To address this pressing issue he founded GlacierWorks an advocacy group dedicated to documenting the alarming retreat of glaciers across the area through both still photography and video.

Breashears passionately shared his findings by exhibiting his charismatic images in galleries worldwide aiming to visually demonstrate the rapid transformation occurring in the region due to climate change. In addition to these exhibitions he actively traveled across the globe delivering lectures and talks to educate distinct audiences about the urgent need for action in combating the warming climate.

In a impressive 2014 interview Breashears emphasized the importance of not just raising awareness but also translating that awareness into tangible impact. He highlighted the significance of actively engaging with scientific communities and organizations like NASA, underscoring the crucial role of sharing his imagery to drive meaningful change and foster collaborative efforts towards environmental preservation.

Breashears grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where he honed his skills as a rock and ice climber, making a name for himself in the climbing community, especially in Eldorado Canyon. In a Climbing magazine article from 2022, it’s recounted how Breashears quickly gained recognition as the “Kloeberdanz Kid” after impressively scaling the challenging Kloeberdanz route, graded 5.11c R, in Eldorado Canyon at the young age of 18. His daring ascents of the demanding routes Krystal Klyr and Perilous Journey, both rated 5.11b X (with the X indicating high risk), have become legendary tales in climbing circles.


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