By Brandon Zimmerman, Jackson Hole, Wyo. May 6, 2009
John Griber is well-known for his alpine climbs and daring snowboard descents. Little did the longtime Jackson resident know his closest brush with death would come as a cinematographer.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday when Griber was caught in an ice slide while filming on Mount Everest.
It happened while Griber was descending the Khumbu Icefall. A serac collapsed 3,000 feet above Griber on the west shoulder of Everest and came crashing down toward him.
“I was directly in its path,” Griber wrote in an e-mail to the Jackson Hole News&Guide. “There was no running from it. I jumped behind about a 15-foot serac but I was still clipped to the fixed line and couldn’t get close enough to feel super safe. The slide went over top of me; the force knocked the wind out of me; and snow filled my mouth and I couldn’t breath or see anything for 20 seconds.”
Amazingly, Griber was able to climb out of the slide unharmed, along with several other crew members who were buried. The team’s base camp was slightly dusted but not destroyed.
“It was incredible,” he wrote.
Griber, who has lived in Jackson for more than 30 years, spoke at the Skinny Skis Avalanche Awareness Night at Snow King in December. There, he delivered a moving, 30-minute slide show from his expedition last year to Gasherbrum II, the 13th highest mountain on Earth.
This spring, Griber is working to film footage for Eddie Bauer’s new clothing line, as well as capturing footage for the retail chain’s in-store televisions. Griber is filming climbers Ed Viesturs, Dave Hahn and client Peter Whitaker. Griber said he has been at Base Camp for four weeks. He’s spent nine nights at camp two (21,300 feet) and one night at camp three (23,700).
“At this stage of the game we are acclimatized and waiting for weather to give a shot at our summit attempt,” he wrote. “As it looks now, we are planning on departing [Base Camp] on May 8 direct to camp two, one night of rest then off to camp three. Next day leaving camp three to the [camp four] and that night leaving for the summit ... if all works in our favor, health and weather, we may be on the summit between May 12-14.”
Griber is not mentioned as a team member on Eddie Bauer’s Web site. He suspects it has to do with the fact he is a contracted North Face athlete.
“In a lot of ways,” he wrote, “that’s kind of humorous.”