Sunday, May 12, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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8 Lost On Everest -- Scott Fischer Had Headed Team; Renton Man Is Also Feared Dead

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Seattle mountain guide Scott Fischer, who led an expedition to the top of Mount Everest on Friday, was presumed dead yesterday after he and five members of another mountain-climbing team remained stranded in darkness and blizzard-like conditions while descending the 29,028-foot summit.

"We assume that he's dead," said David McGovern, a guide at Mountain Madness in West Seattle, an outdoor adventure company co-owned by the 40-year-old Fischer. "There's not a whole lot of hope."

Among the other missing mountain climbers was Douglas Hansen, 44, of Renton, who was part of a different expedition that scaled the Himalayan mountain on Friday.

No one is sure what exactly happened to Fischer after he and his Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition reached the summit at 1:30 a.m. PDT and began their descent. Other members of Fischer's group were all accounted for.

A spokesman for the Nepalese Tourism Ministry in Katmandu said Fischer and members of the New Zealand-based team got caught in a blizzard as nightfall approached and were unable to reach the base camps at 26,000 feet.

The Bellevue-based Outside Online, a climbing magazine published on the World Wide Web, said it received reports from the mountain yesterday that Fischer may have turned back to help someone on his team or in the New Zealand group, led by Rob Hall, also reported stranded near the summit with a radio. Hall was suffering from severe frostbite and was unable to climb down as of last night.

Karen Dickinson, Fischer's business partner at Mountain Madness, said a rescue party found Fischer but had to leave him on the mountain. Fischer was with Makalu Gao, of Japan, expedition leader of a Taiwanese group. The pair, clipped to the same fixed rope, were both unconscious and barely alive when found somewhere above the 27,000-foot mark about 3 p.m., or 4 a.m. PDT, yesterday.

The rescuers, believing that Fischer would not survive, bundled him up and left him with an oxygen bottle, Dickinson said. The rescuers, who could only bring down one man at a time, descended with Gao to the lower campsite.

In addition to Hall, four other members of the New Zealand team were still missing yesterday, including Hansen, a postal clerk in Kent; Seaborn Weathers, of Dallas; Yasuko Namba, of Japan; and Andrew Harris, of New Zealand.

Dickinson said she has received conflicting stories about how the incident began - either Fischer got to the campsite and went back out to aid someone, or he never reached it.

It's likely that Fischer went back to rescue stranded climbers, something he has frequently done in the past, Jeff Herr, managing editor of Outside Online, said yesterday.

Progress reports from the Himalayan mountain, the world's highest, earlier had been hampered by glitches in laptop computer transmissions. Fischer's associates in Seattle had been communicating with the expedition headquarters on the mountain by telephone, runner and helicopter.

Fischer's wife, Jean Price, declined to comment on her missing husband yesterday, but her sister, Veda Price, said the family was waiting for more details before drawing any conclusions.

"Right now, we're really operating in the dark," Price said.

McGovern said Fischer, a climbing instructor for the past 25 years, was one of the most experienced mountaineers he has known.

The Seattle native had climbed to the top of six of the world's seven continents. When he climbed Everest for the first time in 1994, his team removed 2.5 tons of garbage from the main route to the summit.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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