the climbers

High Ambitions in the Himalaya follows the personal journeys of five “client” climbers on Cho Oyu, the world's sixth highest mountain. One climber is a survivor of Rob Hall's ill-fated Everest ’96 expedition, which was documented in Jon Krakauer's best-selling book Into Thin Air and depicted in the movie Everest. Further context and color is provided by three additional team members, including a professional expedition leader and two sherpas.

“Client” Climbers

John Taske, 61, is a medical doctor and anesthesiologist from Brisbane, Australia. During the 1996 Mount Everest event, John was one of the few who turned away from his summit attempt in time to avoid the storm that killed nine others. In High Ambitions in the Himalaya, John has returned to the Himalayas with a feeling of unfinished business. Bringing medical expertise and the experience of past disaster, John speaks articulately about the risks of climbing and the effects of high altitude. During the Cho Oyu expedition, he re-assesses his own life and mountaineering priorities.

Hall Wendel, 58, is former chairman of Polaris Industries, a manufacturer of snowmobiles and recreation vehicles, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hall is the most experienced member of the Cho Oyu client team, having completed the highest summits on all seven continents and several major Himalayan peaks. Hall had been on Mount Everest twice, summiting once. On Cho Oyu, he experiences a physical problem that forever redirects his mountaineering career.

Dietmar Voss, 49, is a Project Director for Bechtel in Perth, Australia. A former marathon runner, Dietmar had to this point only been mountaineering in New Zealand. He is inadequately prepared for Cho Oyu, but he believes he can persevere through shear will. He soon learns that persistence alone is insufficient for an 8000-meter mountain.

Raymond Behm, 48, is a Money Manager for a major bank in Luxembourg. Raymond has been a life-long athlete with experience competing in marathons, bicycle racing in the Alps, and completing the Ironman Triathalon in Hawaii. He came to Cho Oyu with only one year of mountaineering experience. Raymond wants to take on mountaineering as his next competitive sport. He finds that Cho Oyu doesn’t fit his competitive model.

Curt Dowdy, 44, is a filmmaker from Los Gatos, California. Curt’s previous mountaineering experience included several serious climbs in the United States and one previous trip to a 20,000 foot Himalayan mountain. He performed the primary photography and is also interviewed on-camera by the other team members. As one of two clients remaining on the final summit attempt, Curt finds that the smallest of problems can mushroom out of proportion in the high altitude environment.

Expedition Leader & Guide

Dean Staples, 37, is a heli-ski and mountaineering guide from Queenstown, New Zealand. He had previously led a successful Cho Oyu expedition as well as several other expeditions around the world. He provides context to events on the mountain.


Ang Tsering Sherpa, 47, is the expedition camp manager, from Khumjung, Nepal. Ang Tsering came to Cho Oyu with over 25 years experience in Himalayan expeditions. He had been Rob Hall’s camp manager during the disastrous 1996 Everest expedition. Ang Tsering’s wisdom guides this Cho Oyu team, and as a Buddhist holy man, he provides a spiritual perspective.

Ang Dorjee (Chhuldim) Sherpa, 28, is a climbing sherpa from Pangboche, Nepal. The most accomplished member of the expedition, Ang Dorje had previously stood on both Everst and Cho Oyu’s summits seven times and had summited four other 8000-meter peaks as well. Ang Dorje was the lead climber on Rob Hall’s 1996 Everest expedition documented in the book Into Thin Air.



© 2006 BeLegato Productions