Friday, July 23, 2021

Americans on Everest

college-era headshot of John BreitenbachDartmouth College has long had a reputation for outdoor sports and recreation. The foundation of the Dartmouth Outing Club by Fred Harris '11 was embraced by many students and became a strong draw for young men who wanted a more active college experience. John Breitenbach '57 was one of those men who were attracted by Dartmouth's emphasis on the outdoors. After he graduated, he opened a skiing and mountaineering equipment shop in Jackson, Wyoming.⁠

In 1963, Breitenbach was a member of the first American expedition to summit Mount Everest, along with two other Dartmouth alums, Barry Corbet '58 and Barry Bishop '53. Tragically, Breitenbach died on Khumbu Glacier at the foot of the mountain when a serac, or massive block of ice, unexpectedly collapsed on top of him.⁠ The leader of the team, Norman Dyhrenfurth, called a meeting of the rest of the members to discuss the loss of Breitenbach, let everyone speak in response to the tragedy, and see if people wanted to continue. The team ultimately decided to continue, resulting in a successful summiting by numerous members of the party. In addition, Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein completed the first traverse of Everest by ascending via the West Ridge instead of the South Col route (which had been used by the 1953 British expedition).

To learn more about John Breitenbach, member of the class of 1957, come to Rauner and ask to see his Alumni File.