"If I hadn't taken that NOLS course, I never would have been a climber," David
Breashears laughs. "Not a very good one at least." Today
there is no denying that David is a climber, and, with four Everest expeditions
under his belt and the recent completion of the widely acclaimed Everest
IMAX film, he could certainly be considered one of the world's best.
"I'm just a climber and a filmmaker," he says looking a little embarrassed by all the attention and praise his film has attracted. "It would have been hard to screw up the IMAX film with a mountain like Everest."
David came to NOLS at age 15. In a note addressed to Paul Petzoldt, written in pencil and dated March 3, 1972, David writes, "I really liked the course and learned a lot . . . there is nothing I enjoy more than hiking and climbing in the mountains." Since then, David has worked hard to make a living out of hiking and climbing in the mountains, and he claims that NOLS has played a major role in his career. "It was more than the skills--that's what I went for--but I came away with a philosophy. My instructors taught me not only how to be safe, but also about being respectful and patient."
In 1996 David's IMAX team summitted Everest with the IMAX camera on May 23. The brilliant film they completed is as much about humanity as it is about climbing. Originally, the IMAX team had planned to summit on May 9, but David didn't feel good about the weather and the number of people high on the mountain, and so they waited. The tragedy of May 10 and 11 became the subject matter of the book, "Into Thin Air". "I learned a lot about patience and respect for the mountains on my NOLS course," David says. "It's part of the reason we didn't go for the summit that day. It's a big part of what's kept me alive in the mountains all these years."