"It's a beautiful day, dude -- the view is awesome!" Those were the words of AAPG member Pasquale Scaturro, heard over the radio by people who were miles beneath him, and at that moment he had reason to crow.
The day was May 20, 1998, and the view was from the top of Mount Everest. Scaturro was literally sitting on top of the world.
Scaturro, 45, a Denver-based geophysicist with a passion for bicycling, rafting and mountain climbing, was the climbing leader of last year's Everest Environmental Expedition.
As he took his final step to the summit, Scaturro was fulfilling a dream, that started 10 years earlier, to climb to the top of the world's highest peak.
Scaturro, in fact, was the first Westerner to reach the top of Everest last year. In all, 12 people in his group reached the summit on that cloudless day in May.
At least 14 others turned back that day, due to exhaustion, injuries or, as the U.S.A. Today reported, just bad luck.
Scaturro climbed with a team that started out from Camp 4, the South Col, at 26,000 feet, the night before. The first person to reach the peak that morning was a sherpa.
"I started at midnight," Scaturro said, "and I got to the South Summit at 6 a.m. and waited for full light. "Then I went ahead and went for the summit."
He reached the summit at 8:43 a.m., where he stayed for a remarkable one hour and 45 minutes, taking photographs and videos.
"Upon reaching the summit I took my oxygen mask off," he said. "It was incredible -- you could see the whole world below you."
What he didn't do was remember to turn off the gas, however, so the oxygen continued to run. And when he put the mask back on as he prepared for the descent, he ran out of oxygen.
"I started climbing down the mountain but I got really tired going down," he said. "It was then I realized I had run out of oxygen. My flow indicator read zero.
"It was very, very difficult. Each step has to be excruciatingly well placed. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life -- it would have been very easy to fall."
Obviously, he didn't.
The '98 Everest Environmental Expedition was a non-commercial, self-funded and self-guided group of climbers dedicated to a major cleanup of the southeast ridge route on Mount Everest as well as at Base Camp.
The expedition was totally private -- there were no guides or professional climbers.
"In the four-year period from 1995 to 1998 there were four (spring) climbing seasons on Everest," Scaturro said. "Few realize that this privately led American team led the push to the summit, fixing ropes and kicking steps in the snow, ahead of every other team attempting the mountain."
This was done, he continued, with no outside corporate support, nor book or movie offers.
"In all we managed to carry 255 used oxygen bottles off of the South Col at 26,000 feet," he said. "This was in addition to the 520 batteries, 2,000 pounds of trash and 800 pounds of human waste."
Scaturro is a founder and shareholder in Tricon Geophysics in Denver. He primarily focuses now on international consulting.
He started serious mountain climbing about 13 years ago -- and quickly set a goal to someday scale Mount Everest.
"I first attempted Everest in 1995. I got all the way to the south summit at 28,700 feet. And there we waited for several hours because of high winds and very deep snow," he said.
"We attempted several times to fix ropes for the final 300 feet to the summit, but there was just too much danger from deep snow and avalanche danger," he said. "It's 8,000 feet straight down into Nepal and 10,000 feet into Tibet.
"Having come so far, the decision to turn around was very difficult," he continued. "In the end, we decided that it was simply too dangerous to go for the summit."
On the way down, he and several other climbers stopped just below the South Summit to help a woman who had collapsed in the snow and was virtually unconscious.
"We wrapped her up with some extra clothing to keep her from freezing and, using ropes, lowered her from 28,600 feet down several thousand feet," he said.
"So, I guess turning around ended up being the right decision -- especially after the 1996 climbing season, when 11 climbers died on Everest trying to reach the summit."
The River Wild
Along with mountain climbing, Scaturro is an avid rafter and has explored many of the world's wildest rivers.
"I started rafting 20 years ago in Flagstaff, Ariz.," he said. "I've rafted more than I've climbed."
Over the years, he has rafted rivers in Europe, Africa, South America, North America and Alaska. He even did a movie for ESPN called "Bio Bio" in 1991 about his rafting trip down the Bio Bio River in Chile, considered by many to be the greatest white water river in the world.
"The Chilean government was trying to dam the river," he said, "and we did a movie to try to increase awareness of it. There are very few truly wild and scenic places left in the world, and this was one of them."
Scaturro also participated in the filming of "The Last Wild River Run," a production for Turner Television that focused on the Tekeze Gorge, the third largest tributary of the Nile River. It flows north out of Ethiopia into the Nile and carves the deepest canyon in Africa.
Scaturro worked in Ethiopia from 1992 to 1994, exploring for oil and gas with Maxus Energy and Hunt Oil. It was in Africa that he did the first exploratory scouting of the Tekeze Gorge.
"I was a leader of the three-week expedition in October 1996," he said. The river, which had never been run before, teems with crocodiles, he said.
"It was closed off for 40 years because of the civil war there," he said. "There was a window of opportunity for us (for a rafting trip) because the whole area had been closed off and was full of rebels.
"When the rebels won, it took a lot for us to get a permit."
However, the group succeeded at obtaining the permit, and Scaturro did all the scouting for the expedition, helped set up the logistics and helped lead the rafting trip.
The Right Connections
Because Scaturro's business often takes him to international locations, he is able to combine business with rafting or mountain climbing adventures.
"I try to do two big adventures each year," he said. "In the last 10 years, I've had good (business) partners who allow me climbing time."
One of those partners is Alan Guzowski, president and co-founder of Tricon Geophysics who has known Scaturro since the 1970s.
Guzowksi also is a rafter and has supported his partner's rafting expeditions.
"I helped fund his first international white water river raft trip," Guzowski said, "but he's gone on a lot further with international expeditions."
While Tricon focuses on seismic data processing and has grown into one of the largest businesses of its kind in Denver, Scaturro has moved more into international consulting.
"That's his forte," Guzowski said. "And he has learned to operate in very difficult political and geographic situations."
Guy Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., who served as environmental coordinator for the '98 Everest Environmental Expedition, said Scaturro is a welcome addition to a mountaineering team because of his numerous international connections.
"He's so well-traveled in his work that we always bump into someone he knows," Johnson said.
That can prove extremely useful in their offbeat travels when the team needs a meal and wants to get a restaurant opened after hours or runs into paperwork trouble at a border crossing.
"He can always find someone and smooth it over," Johnson said.
Johnson has climbed with Scaturro on many expeditions over the last 10 years.
"Whenever a rescue situation comes up, he jumps right into it with a level head and a good sense of humor," Johnson said. "He's a great organizer."
Climb Every Mountain
Scaturro has an extensive mountain climbing resume. He has climbed Mount Kilamanjaro and numerous other peaks in Nepal, South and Central America, and Mexico.
He has climbed 26,906-foot Cho Oyu in Tibet, 20,320-foot Denali, and 23,442-foot Pumori in Nepal.
Although Scaturro used oxygen on the final summit day on Everest, he doesn't use oxygen most of the time when he is climbing.
A native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., Scaturro joined the Air Force at the age of 18. While stationed in England, he did his undergraduate geology work. Later, he finished his degree at Northern Arizona University.
In 1980 he joined Amoco's offices in Denver. Six years later he co-founded Seismic Specialists, which did mostly onshore oil and gas geophysical consulting and speculative surveys. The company worked throughout the mid-continent region -- Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, he said.
When the market for offshore specs began to decline in 1991, Scaturro went to Africa to work. He worked for two years in the Ogaden Basin in Somalia and Ethiopia acquiring seismic data for Maxus Energy and Hunt Oil.
In 1995 he helped found Tricon Geophysics, a full-range geophysical service offering 3-D design through 3-D processing. Tricon does business for about 300 companies. With offices in Denver and Anchorage, Alaska, the company has 20 employees.
Scaturro has always been athletic.
"I was a cross-country athlete in high school," he said. "I've always loved climbing and hiking and putting one foot in front of the other for a long time. I love high altitude. It's like a drug. The higher, the better.
"What I'd like to do is climb Everest again," he continued. "I have a proposal out to climb it in 2000 from the north side."
Even though he's scaled the world's highest mountain and rafted rivers that have never been run before, Scaturro said there are still plenty of adventures ahead for him.
This fall Scaturro plans a rafting expedition on the Gojeb River in southern Ethiopia. "It has never been run before," he said. He also plans to do another rafting trip in Tibet.
He also plans to scale other mountains throughout the world.
"I want to climb," he said. "I've got other mountains to climb."