An argument has begun which threatens the very nature of guiding on the highest peaks.
Mountaineering guide Garrett Madison and tech CEO Zachary Bookman were supposed to summit Mount Everest together in September 2019.
The summit attempt did not take place after Seattle-based Madison Mountaineering canceled the attempt due to what they claimed were too hazardous conditions to continue the ascent.
The dispute over the terms of the deal has has dragged on for over a year now and has resulted in two separate lawsuits.
Bookman argues that the $69,500 trip he signed up for amounted to a scam, that he was essentially charged for a five-day walk to Everest Base Camp.
He claims that Madison promised to pay back $50,000 of his costs, which has not been honoured.
He told GeekWire in an interview:
“I’m not an unreasonable person, it’s just … wow, you’re going to take $69,500 from somebody for a five-day walk to Everest Base Camp? It doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
“I honestly never imagined when I started my own business six and a half years ago that this was something I might have to deal with. It’s been a complete surprise.”
According to Outside Magazine, Bookman filed an initial lawsuit on March 27, 2020, alleging that Madison canceled their September 2019 Everest attempt, not because of dangerous conditions, but because one of Madison’s expedition members was out of shape.
This, it is claimed, made Madison not want to take his other clients to the summit.
He accused the expedition Sherpas of being “clearly lazy and inefficient”, which in his opinion contributed to the cancellation.
He sued Madison for $100,000 citing breach of contract and fraud.
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We made it to Lobuche (4960)where we are staying tonight and the worlds highest bakery! The brownies are outstanding 🙌🙌 So good 😜👌🙌 This is our last night sleeping in a accommodation then it’s Base Camp and tents ⛺️ Happy Birthday @sabllebrook 😜🙌🕺 #highestbakeryintheworld #5000m @mhweverest2019 @mountainhardwear . . . . #himalaya #birthday #bakery #labouche #basecamptrek #goodtimes #climbing #mountaineering #everest @scarpa_uk @petzl_official @joe_vernachio @devo_seth @zacharybookman @lbatcheck @mattburbach @garrettmadison1 @rmetcalf @gopro
Madison filed a countersuit in August.
He claimed that the expedition was actually called off because of a well-documented and very hazardous ice block was overhanging the route.
On Sept. 25, 2019, Madison shared an image of himself with Bookman and Bennett on the hike to Pumori Base Camp.
— MadisonMtng (@MadisonMtng) September 25, 2019
By Oct. 3, Madison was still waiting for a dangerous serac to fall and clear the way for a summit attempt.
Located high above the Khumbu Icefall, the ice wall was midway between Base Camp and Camp 1 and estimated to weigh some 27,000 tons by another team that was there at the time.
— MadisonMtng (@MadisonMtng) October 3, 2019
Madison said the trip was over unless the serac came down.
According to GeekWire, Brookman argued:
“There’s hundreds of seracs on the western wall of Everest. It’s like walking through a forest, pick a tree and say, ‘The tree needs to fall.’ Literally eight days after Kristin and I wired [Madison] a large sum of money for high-altitude mountaineering, the trip’s over. We didn’t spend a single night out of Base Camp.”
The countersuit states that expeditions through Madison Mountaineering are not guaranteed.
It advises that Bookman isn’t entitled to a refund or damages because he signed a standard waiver acknowledging that unpredictable conditions could force them to turn back at any time.
Such lawsuits are rare, and the case could set an alarming precedent for the mountaineering community.
The potential damages of $100,000 sought by the plaintiff would likely bankrupt Madison, as it would most mountain guides.
The fear of financial repercussions by guides on expeditions could lead to poor decision-making in dangerous terrain when summiting Mount Everest, hence the case is at a standstill.
A PDF of Bookman’s lawsuit is below.
…it’s an interesting read!