David Breashears

David Breashears

David Breashears is a world-class Filmmaker, adventurer, and mountaineer whose work has taken him to remote locations throughout Tibet, Ckina, Nepal, India, Pakistan, South America, and East Africa. He has worked on such feature films as Seven Years in Tibet and Cliffhanger, as well as the award-winning documentary Red Flag over Tibet. In 1983 he transmitted the first live pictures from the summit of Mount Everest and in 1985 became the first American to twice reach its summit.

He is the recipient of four Emmy awards for achievement in cinematography. In 1996 he codirected, photographed, and coproduced the acclaimed IMAX large-format film Everest and contributed his still photos from that climb to the bestselling book Everest: Mountain Without Mercy. In 1997 he coproduced and photographed "Everest: The Death Zone" for the PBS science series NOVA, marking his fourth ascent of the world's highest mountain. When not climbing, David Breashears calls Boston his home.

Last Climb
The Legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory
(National Geographic Society, 1999)

From renowned Everest mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears and historian Audrey Salkeld, comes the first lavishly illustrated account of Englishman George Mallory's 1920's Everest expeditions, including the ill-fated 1924 attempt with Andrew Irvine to be the first to summit Everest. Included are rare, never-before-published archival photographs, as well as an account of the recent, sensational discovery of Mallory's body, 75 years after his disappearance.

The question of whether George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reached the summit of Everest in June 1924, thirty years before Edmund Hillary remains one of the great mysteries of twentieth century exploration. That mystery was partially solved on May 3, 1999 when the body of George Mallory was found on a rocky ledge about 2,000 feet below the summit. But was he on the way up, or down, when he died in a fall? David Breashears and Audrey Salkeld have culled remarkably evocative archival photography from Mallory's expeditions to Everest and, by virtue of their long familiarity with Everest, bring a uniquely insightful perspective to this dramatic story.

The world's tallest mountain, lying on the border between Tibet and Nepal—though it had been identified since 1856 and its summit was distantly visible as a small bump on the Himalayan horizon from the Indian hill station of Darjeeling—had remained remote because both countries were at the time strictly out of bounds to travelers. Having negotiated permission to enter Tibet, three expeditions in the 1920s (1921, 1922, 1924) succeeded in surveying and mapping territory unknown to outsiders, and climbing to heights above 28,000 feet-and just maybe all the way to the top of Mount Everest. All in all, while it was a magnificent achievement, these first three ventures cost the lives of at least twelve men. These brave explorers brought home the magnificent images of Himalayan mountains and a medieval way of life on the roof of the world, which are dramatically showcased in this book.

High Exposure
(Simon & Schuster 2000)

For generations of resolute adventurers, from George Mallory to Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay to Jon Krakauer, Mount Everest and the world's greatest peaks have provided the ultimate testing ground. As the world's fascination with mountaineering reaches a fever pitch, the question remains: Why climb? In High Exposure, elite mountaineer and acclaimed filmmaker David Breashears answers with an intimate and captivating look at his life. Breashears's passion for climbing began on the cliffs of Boulder, Colorado — and nearly ended on the south side of Everest in 1996.

From childhood, Breashears felt irresistibly drawn to the Himalayas' promise of adventure and unforgiving demands on body, mind, and soul. Readers learn of his turbulent early years and his training on the rock before he was dubbed the Kloberdanz Kid. While most American teens were reveling in the recklessness of the seventies, Breashears indulged in a potent mixture of discipline, passion, and drive to pioneer the improbable Perilous Journey in Colorado, ascend Half Dome in Yosemite, and attempt Everest's unclimbed Kangshung Face in Tibet. Along the way, the intense young man apprenticed on film shoots and gradually took to the camera himself, relishing its physical and artistic demands. He was soon consumed with capturing on film the unsurpassed beauty and profound human experience he witnessed as a climber. That he would someday film at the top of the world with a forty-two-pound camera during the Everest IMAX Filming Expedition surprised no one who knew him: He was always looking to the next challenge, his eyes on the highest horizons.

For David Breashears, climbing has never been a question of bravery: Rather, it is the pursuit of excellence and a quest for self-knowledge. Danger comes, he argues, when ambition blinds reason. The stories this world-class climber and great adventurer tells will surprise you. From discussions of egotism and competitiveness on the heights—despite the brotherhood of the rope—to a frank description of mistakes made during the 1996 Everest tragedy, this personal history goes beyond Mallory's famous quip "Because it's there" to find meaning and hope at the top of the world.

Everest: Mountain without Mercy
By Broughton Coburn, with an Afterword by David Breashears
(National Geographic, 1997) 

When David Breashears agreed to climb Mount Everest with an IMAX camera in order to film from the summit, he had no idea that his little expedition would become embroiled in a tragedy that would make headlines around the world. On May 10, 1996, two expeditions led by experienced Everest guides Rob Hall and Scott Fisher summited the mountain, only to suffer the loss of eight members--including the two leaders--on the way back down. At the time, Breashears and his filmmaking crew were at the base camp preparing for their own climb--originally planned for that same day but postponed after realizing there would already be several other groups on the summit. Instead of making a film, Breashears and company participated in the rescue and only later reached the summit of Everest to successfully complete their film.  

More than 125 full-color photographs, including spectacular IMAX images, and firsthand accounts by survivors chronicle the fateful 1996 expedition to climb Everest, a tragic trek that ended up claiming eight lives, including two of the world's leading mountaineers.

High Exposure

Breashears knows how to convey the passion of mountaineering on film, but on the page he rarely pauses to savor the details or tease out the drama...
-- The New York Times Book Review, Bruce Barcott

From the Foreword by Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air
"My intent is not to nominate David Breashears for sainthood. I have spent enough time in his proximity to know that he is impatient, driven, incredibly tightly wound... But he possesses, in abundance, a quality perhaps best described as 'character'. And I admire this trait even more than I admire what he has achieved in the arenas of film and mountaineering."

From Stephen Ambrose, author of Undaunted Courage
"I've spent a lifetime reading books by or about the famous adventurers...David Breashears's book is the first I've read by an end-of-the-twentieth-century mountain climber that surpasses many of them and is equal to all."

From Booklist , April 15, 1999
Second to the obsession to top Mount Everest is the fixation on reading about it, and Breashears has succumbed to both temptations. The mountain's literature inspired him in boyhood; in adulthood, he is celebrated for his filmmaking, particularly his spectacular Everest IMAX movie released in 1998. Breashears' account of its production against the grim background of the 1996 climbing catastrophe brackets this memoir of other feats of his climbing and working life. Breashears wryly relates his roughnecking period on Wyoming oil wells, which apart from its tough amusement, shows him following the Algerian credo that the trip to the top starts at the bottom. He carried that precept to mountain filmmaking, talking his way into the job of cameraman's assistant for a team filming on Yosemite's El Capitan. His developing camera's eye was grounded in rock-climbing skills honed in the hang-loose scene in 1970s Colorado, whose dedication to an ineffable, ethical purity in mountain climbing he managed to practice between film projects. A poignant instance is his and a friend's ascent up a mile-high face of Kwangde, "my finest alpine experience in the Himalayas." Then came the IMAX project, the deaths and rescue dramatized in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (1997), Breashears' team's resumption of their summit attempt, and the subsequent ascent past frozen-solid corpses. Whatever mystery seduces climbers to risk all on Everest continues to vicariously inveigle readers--and there will be the publisher's full-service publicity campaign to remind them of their obsession. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright© 1999, American Library Association. All rights reserved.


Everest: Mountain Without Mercy

From Booklist , August 19, 1997
This glossy album of photos and text has two high-interest attributes: it is the companion to an IMAX film slated for 1998 release about an expedition to Everest; and the IMAX filmmakers participated in the May_ 1996 disaster-and-rescue drama on the mountain, a chronicle of which (Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer ) rocketed to first place on best-seller lists. Perhaps the latter fact makes National Geo's marketeers hopeful and tips libraries to inevitably strong demand for the title. The text is descriptive of the film team's reactions to the crisis but is a less compelling read than Into Thin Air; its signal asset is the hundred-plus photos of the earth's most titanic vistas. Alone worth the price of admission, the images allow the armchair alpinist to wonder at the sights both cultural and natural from Katmandu to the summit. Scenes of marketplaces, yak trains, Sherpas, and temples are buttressed by author Coburn's information about propitiation rituals and prayers addressed to mountain deities--not a bad idea before taking on a mountain that kills 20 percent of those who reach the top. Sidebars are varied, summing up the active geology of the Himalaya, the story of survivor Beck Weathers, or that of Everest's first summiteer, Tenzing Norgay, whose son figures in this expedition and in a triumphant photo at the summit. The pictures are absolutely awesome and exhilarating, fully imparting the lure and deadliness of an Everest experience. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright© 1997, American Library Association. All rights reserved

In this video produced by SolveClimate.com, Mountaineer David Breashears compares the panoramic photo he took in 2008 of Mount Everest and its surrounding glaciers with one taken in 1921, and explains the enormous scale and rapid speed of the ice loss at the world's "tallest water tower." See the evidence with your own eyes. Read the story accompanying this video.

FRONTLINE: "Storm Over Everest," a David Breashears film shown May 13, 2008 on PBS. As darkness fell on May 10, 1996, a fast moving storm of unimaginable ferocity trapped three climbing teams high on the slopes of Mount Everest. The climbers, exhausted from their summit climb, were soon lost in darkness, in a fierce blizzard, far from the safety of High Camp at 26,000 feet. World-renowned climber and filmmaker David Breashears, who aided the rescue efforts back in 1996, now returns to Everest to tell the fuller story of what really happened on that legendary climb. Through remarkably intimate interviews with the climbers and Sherpas who survived the storm—many who have never spoken before on American television—Breashears sheds new light on the worst climbing tragedy in Mount Everest's history.

David Breashears' presentation is a compelling blend of first person story-telling illustrated by breathtaking and rarely seen images from the 1996 Everest IMAX filming expedition. He has delivered his presentation throughout North America, Canada, Europe and Asia. David's extraordinary real-life leadership experiences, observations, practical knowledge, and expertise in many areas allow him to precisely target and interact with his audience. He speaks on a range of topics including leadership, motivation, teamwork, team building, and safety.

In addition to David's corporate speaking engagements, he conducts quarterly lectures each year on leadership, planning and team building at the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. INSEAD is widely recognized as the most innovative and influential among the world's top-tier business schools. David also speaks six times annually to the nations Admirals and Commanders at the Naval Post-Graduate School's Center for Executive Education in Monterey, California. The subject of his presentation is "Leadership In An Unpredictable World."

For more than a decade, David Breashears has addressed audiences from all over the world as keynote speaker, seminar leader, guest lecturer, and dinner speaker. To enquire about a speaking engagement or for a sample of clients, please contact us at info@davidbreashears.com

Business Office:

David Breashears
Arcturus Motion Pictures
P.O. Box 320130
Boston, MA 02132