Michael Groom, the first Australian to climb Kangchenjunga, world’s third highest mountain and 1996 Everest tragedy survivor
Michael Groom

Born in 1959, Michael Graeme Groom OAM is a well-known Australian mountaineer. Notably, in 1995, he achieved the impressive feat of reaching the summits of the five highest peaks in the world – Makalu, Lhotse, Kangchenjunga, K2, and Everest – without using bottled oxygen. This accomplishment is made even more remarkable by the fact that in 1987, Groom suffered severe frostbite, resulting in the loss of the front third of his feet after descending from the summit of Kangchenjunga. Nevertheless, this setback did not deter Groom, as he went on to summit Mount Everest in both 1993 and 1996. In addition to these achievements, he has also successfully completed the Seven Summits, which are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Groom’s expertise as a mountaineer led him to serve as a guide for Adventure Consultants during the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, an experience he later detailed in his 1997 autobiography. This event was further immortalized in the 2015 film “Everest” where Groom was portrayed by actor Tom Wright. In recognition of his contributions to mountaineering, Groom was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2000 Australia Day Honors.

In 1996, a team of climbers consisting of professionals and paying clients embarked on a mission to conquer the world’s highest mountain, Mt Everest. Tragically, during their ascent, they were caught in a severe blizzard, resulting in the loss of eight members of the expedition. Among these brave souls were two Australians, namely experienced guide Michael Groom and his client, John Taske. Several weeks following this devastating incident, both individuals shared their harrowing experience during the ill-fated climb in an interview with the program “60 Minutes.” Dr. John Taske, seen here in a photograph captured in 1996, stood as the sole surviving Australian from the ill-fated expedition. Additionally, the accompanying image depicts Mr. Groom atop the summit of Cho Oyu, situated in the Himalayas, back in 1990, with the magnificent Mt Everest visible in the backdrop.

In 1996, shortly after the tragic expedition, Mr Groom and another member of the climbing team shared their account of the event. Michael asserts that he feels no guilt after leaving Beck behind on two occasions. Even after twenty years, their words still serve as a testament to the immense power of mountains and the forces of nature. Mr Groom, a former plumber from Brisbane and seasoned climber, had at that time climbed Mt Everest more times than any other Australian. On the other hand, Dr Taske, an anesthesiologist from Brisbane and a former SAS commando, had a vastly different experience on Mt Everest. He made the decision to turn back from the summit when he was only a few hundred meters away, having exhausted his energy and lacking sufficient bottled oxygen to go on.

In the descriptive tone of the text, Mr Groom managed to make his way back to a campsite after alerting fellow climbers about the situation. He found himself on a ridge, bravely climbing the treacherous K2, the second highest mountain in the world, known for its infamous history of climbers losing their lives. Although deeply saddened, Mr Groom’s decision proved to be crucial and potentially life-saving. He expressed his feelings at the time, “It was almost within my reach. Remarkably close. Despite feeling immensely depressed and disappointed, I knew deep down that my decision was the right one.” It was on May 10, 1996, when Mr Groom, acting as one of the three guides leading a group of eight guests, reached the summit of Mt Everest around 2 pm. As the day progressed, a sudden blizzard engulfed the area, bringing fierce winds, drastically reducing visibility to a mere five meters, and causing temperatures to plummet to around negative 40 degrees Celsius. Reflecting on the ordeal, Mr Groom shared that the group got separated, caught unaware by the unexpected circumstances.

Mr Groom and some of the clients eventually abandoned their efforts to locate their camp and instead focused on staying warm. Several hours later, when the weather improved slightly, he left his clients under the supervision of guides from another group and managed to reach the camp to seek assistance. Beck Weathers, an American individual who had paid to be part of the expedition, spoke to the media just a few weeks after the traumatic experience in 1996, still visibly bearing the physical and emotional toll of the journey. In this image, Mr Groom can be seen on Mt Everest in May 1996 with Mt Makalu serving as the backdrop. Mr Taske expressed his astonishment at Groom’s arrival at the camp following the blizzard.

See also: How Beck Weathers cheated death to survive the 1996 Everest catastrophe

He was completely fatigued and incoherent. He was desperately crying out for sherpas to assist. However, he was too exhausted to pursue help. His fellow climbers, recognizing that nothing could be done to save his clients Yasuko Namba and Beck Weathers, who were near death, made the difficult decision to leave them behind. The following day, Mr. Groom had the responsibility of guiding the remaining climbers off the mountain. He expressed, “As the only remaining guide I had to do something.” Remarkably, Mr. Weathers had made his way to the camp during the night, but he was mistakenly seen as deceased and left behind for a second time, covered by a sleeping bag. Mr. Weathers managed to survive the ordeal and was ultimately rescued by another group of climbers.

In the 1996 interview, Mr Groom expressed a sense of peace regarding his actions during the situation. He firmly stated, ‘I am completely content with the knowledge that I did all that could be humanly done during the blizzard and in its aftermath.’ This assuredness in his actions was evident in his earlier endeavor when he successfully reached the peak of K2 in 1994. Here, in a photograph, he can be seen traversing the South Spur of the mountain, making his way towards the mighty summit standing at an astounding height of 8,611 meters. However, he also acknowledged that he must accept the consequences of the choices he made. On the other hand, Dr. Taske had a different experience due to his decision to turn back prior to reaching the summit, thus avoiding the disastrous blizzard. He had prudently taken shelter in a camp, steering clear of the impending storm, and later left the mountain along with Mr. Groom and other survivors. They successfully reached a lower camp and were eventually rescued by helicopter, creating a record for the highest altitude helicopter rescue at that time. Now, twenty years have passed since the tragedy, and the story has been brought to life in a film based on the expedition. Although Mr. Groom expressed no objection to the creation of the movie, he mentioned that he himself would not watch it. In the same interview, he revealed feelings of guilt for the events that took place, acknowledging the role of luck in his survival. As indicated on his website, he has since become a motivational speaker. It seems evident that he still pursues his passion for climbing mountains, just as he pledged to do after the 1996 tragedy. His website displayed plans to conquer Ama Dablam, a majestic peak standing at a height of 6,812 meters in the Himalayas, in the year 2015.

Mountains Climbed by Michael Groom


  1. 1987 – Kangchenjunga (8,586 m)
  2. 1993 and 1996 – Mount Everest (8,848 m)
  3. 1994 – Lhotse (8,516 m)
  4. 1995 – K2 (8,611 m)
  5. 1999 – Makalu (8,463 m)

Seven Summits:

  1. 1983 – Kosciuszko (2,228 m)
  2. 1983 – Kilimanjaro (5,895 m)
  3. 1984 – Mont Blanc (4,810 m)
  4. 1985 – Elbrus (5,642 m)
  5. 1985 – Aconcagua (6,961 m)
  6. 1986 – Denali (6,190 m)
  7. 1990 – Vinson Massif (4,892 m)
  8. 1993 and 1996 – Mount Everest (8,848 m)
  9. 1998 – Puncak Jaya (4,884 m)


  • Sheer Will: The Inspiring Life and Climbs of Michael Groom. An Autobiography (1997), Random House Australia, ISBN 0-09-183623-9


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