Larry Nielson: First American To Climb Everest Without Oxygen

If you have ever watched an epic movie called ‘Everest,’ released in 2015, it will be enough to know about mountaineering. But if you dive deep into the mountaineering industry, the more information you will get about it that enlightens you about the secrets of mountains.

And there comes a record-keeping craving amongst the mountaineers. One of the famous mountaineers named Larry Nielson also scaled Mount Everest in 1983 for the same sake. And it was his exceptional expedition on Mount Everest that took him to the peak of fame. He became the first American climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest without oxygen.

Larry Nielson’s life and career leaped from an accomplished mountaineer to a sports athlete within a short period. Besides mountaineering, he became the Western Washington University’s Top Accomplishment of the Century in August 1999. It was an honor awarded by a former Viking athlete.

But let’s go through his Everest Expedition that brought him to the limelight. Larry Nielson climbed Mount Everest on May 7, 1983, which became global news. He set the record for being the first American to climb the tallest peak in the world without oxygen supplements. Climbing Everest needs a great level of preparation, including supplements and other items. However, it was not an option for Nielson – he was determined to climb Everest without any supplement support. And eventually, his dream came true with the help of his focused dedication and hard work.

If you just analyze and imagine climbing Mount Everest, which is 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) above sea level, you can say it’s very challenging. And it is a hard task, but climbing it even without bottled oxygen is an extra level of proficiency and hard work.

Larry Nielson’s Everest Expedition | The First Step of His Limelight

Larry Nielson's Everest Expedition The First Step of His Limelight

Larry Nielson started his Everest Expedition in 1983 with a small group of climbers. He had four American climbers and a Nepalese Sherpa to assist them in the expedition. The team initiated the campaign from the Southeast ridge of Everest, on the border of Nepal and China. It was not easy to challenge the climb without using any oxygen supplements. Nevertheless, the team began their climb in the mid-month of the peak season, Spring. Nielson and his team started climbing Everest from the base camp on May 7.

On the same day, Nielson and his crew members reached the summit of Mount Everest. Nielson had his climbing pal, David Breashears, with him while he walked through the Southeast route. They followed other American climbers, Gerry Roach, Colorado, Peter Jamieson, Colorado, and the Nepalese sherpa Ang Rita.

Regarding Nielson’s attempt to climb Everest without oxygen, Rodney Korich mentioned, ‘He was an act of great courage… Nielson was taking a great risk going to the summit without oxygen, and he knew it.

Larry carried a video camera to take snapshots of the moment of standing on the very peak of Mount Everest. The footage aired on the ABC Show ‘ American Sportsman’ on May 15, 2983.

It was Larry’s second attempt to climb Mount Everest. The first expedition was in 1982 before he made the record. However, it did not go as planned due to harsh conditions. He even lost parts of his two toes and the tip of a thumb – he was rescued from 25,500 feet above sea level. Speaking of his experience, Larry once said, “You climb it three times, five times, a hundred times; you don’t conquer it, you survive it.

Larry Nielson’s Everest Expedition Drawbacks | He Suffered From Several Health Hazards

Larry Nielson’s Everest Expedition Drawbacks He Suffered From Several Health Hazards

Despite conquering the top of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, Larry Nielson did not have a smooth climb. He encountered several natural hazards as well, which resulted in his health issues.

The mountaineers were disgusted to see Larry’s health condition when he returned to the base camp after the successful climb. As per the Nepalese officials, the American climber had several injuries due to foul weather conditions. The Olympia, Washington native returned to the base camp from Everest in the evening during pitch darkness on Saturday. It was a great and proud moment to cherish that he became the first American to achieve such a rare feat.

However, keeping the pride aside, Larry was going through a lot. He still had problems with his toes, which he lost due to frostbite in the previous expedition. As per Rodney Korich, ‘Larry had his toes irritating and not completely healed. But his fingers were alright.’

Despite losing his toes in the previous expedition from the Chinese side, he made an ambitious climb for the second time. And it brought him the taste of a successful climb anyway.

It’s a fact that many climbers suffer from several altitude and temperature-related issues, including hypothermia, frostbite, and snow blindness. It mainly happens due to extreme weather conditions, such as extremely low temperatures and high altitudes. It makes mountaineers challenging to breathe, and some may even experience fluid in their lungs.

Besides losing his toes in 1982, the 1983 expedition also cost him heavily. The 36 years old (at the time of the climb) American teacher has an intestinal parasite after the expedition. Similarly, he lost weight of whopping 35 pounds in just five days. Moreover, he also suffered from a sprain of two ribs, which broke and affected his lungs. In addition, he faced a dangerous pulmonary embolism – it happened just below the summit.

Despite all these sufferings, Larry astonishingly made it up to the top of Mount Everest. And one of the most important things to notice about him is that he had a resting heart rate of 36 to 38 beats per minute. Even though he went through several health hazards, his journey to the top of the world’s highest peak is a summary of bravery and determination.

Larry Nielson Climbed Other Peaks Too

Larry Nielson Climbed Other Peaks Too

Everest is only the peak that came into the limelight, but Larry Nielson climbs several other peaks. He successfully climbed Peak Lenin (24,590 Feet) in the former Soviet Union. It was one of the tallest peaks in the nation. Besides, he climbed Mount La Perouse (10,098 feet) and even became the first person to scale the mountain of a 7000-foot ice wall.

Besides, his other climbing accolades include Mount Lobuche and the northeast face of Kanchenjunga (28,169 feet) in the Nepalese Himalayas. Moreover, he also reached the top of Mount McKinley (20,320 Feet), which is North America’s tallest peak. Also, he climbed Mount Rainier (14,410 Feet) in Washington State.

Larry Nielson’s Other Accolades

s Larry Nielson ’70 recounts his summit of Everest

Larry Nielson is a teacher from Olympia, Washington. He was inducted into the WWU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000, which was one of the best accolades besides climbing. Before that, he had already received the WWU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1984. In addition, he is also a recipient of an Alumni Achievement Award from Washington State University in 2010.

During the academic year, Larry Nielson was a professional athlete. He was a cross country and track and field runner at Western Washington State College. He completed his teaching degree from the college in 1970 and then enrolled at WSU. In 1976, he gained a Master’s degree in psychology.

Larry lived his career life as a teacher in Olympia for 26 years at Washington Middle School. Later in 2000, he enrolled as a teacher, coach, and athletic director at North River High School in Cosmopolis, Washington. Summing up his career as a teacher and coach, he served for around 44 years.

Larry was the key person to help rebuild the physical education program at North River. He also got involved in constructing a new track and a baseball diamond. He retired from teaching in 2010 – later, he retired from coaching in 2013.

Altogether, Larry served as a coach of seven state-champion track athletes at North River. He got honored with the award of Athletic Director of the Year for Southwest Washington B schools in 2007.

Larry Nielson Short Bio And Childhood Background

Larry Nielson is an American mountaineer known as the first US climber to scale up Mount Everest without any oxygen supplements. He was born in 1947 and is 76 years old as of 2023.

Nielson was very passionate about climbing from a young age. He was 12 when he and his older brothers were keen on listening to adventure stories on the peaks. Next year, he dared to climb Mount Olympus at 7,965 feet above sea level on the Olympic Peninsula. It was just a start – after that, he got leaned over mountaineering.

Nielson is an alum of Tumwater High School. He later attended Western in the late 1960s and got into sports, setting up a record in the six-mile run. As a student, he never thought he would set a world record while climbing Everest. He mentioned, ‘I’d read stories of guys who had been to Everest, but from a financial standpoint, I never thought I’d be able to.”

He added, “It was a progressive thing, sort of something that happened. I was fortunate to be at the right place and time.”

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Kishor is an accomplished writer specializing in Technical, Travel, and Affiliate blogging. With a strong foundation in On-Page and Off-Page SEO, he excels in optimizing content for maximum visibility and impact. Furthermore, Kishor is proficient Google Ads and SEM, known for creating audience driving campaigns. His expertise extends to Google Analytics and HubSpot, enabling data-driven decisions and effective content strategies.

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