I’ve gotten hooked on a series on the Discovery Channel, Everest: Beyond The Limit. You can watch full episodes on the Discovery Channel website, download series 1 (2006) or series (2007) on iTunes, or get the DVD. It’s a great show, full of all the drama and adventure you could every want. Best of all, it’s real.
I am a big fan of mountaineering books and stories, though I have never actually strapped on (or even held) crampons before in my life. I just finished Ed Viestur’s new book, “No Shortcuts To The Top,” detailing his conquest of the world’s 14 highest peaks over 8000 meters, all without bottled oxygen. There’s something about these mountaineering stories, and the extreme effort, patience and long-term planning they require; that are really gripping to read. Even though any expedition has massive logistical and team considerations, there is a huge focus on individual will that just appeals to me in the same way individual pursuits like racing an Ironman or other endurance events have.
I’ve read dozens of accounts of Everest summit attempts, but I never really understood how extreme the effort really was. This show takes you all the way to the top, using helmet cams shots from base camp (using a high powered telescope). What I was also amazed with, was how so many of the adventurers were absolutely clueless about mountaineering, yet expected to summit. Several appeared extremely out of shape, and just plain uncoordinated and unskilled on the mountain.
I can’t imagine how someone could travel to a remote region of the world, spend 3 months and $50K to land on an expedition team….and yet not put in the full effort to at least master the technical skills involved with such a climb. At the same time, the power and strength of the Sherpa people was awe inspiring. They climb ahead of the expedition teams, breaking trail, setting all the fixed ropes (miles and miles worth) up the mountain, and climbing backbreaking loads. In many cases, top Sherpa crew members will summit several times in a single season! They are the real heros of the story.