Everest: Beyond the Limit (2006– )
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However, there are a couple of things that really bugged me about the show. I am in Season 2 right now and will watch Season 3, but I felt I had enough background now to write this review.
1. Fact checking. This is by FAR my number 1 peeve! 8 people died on the South Col in "the worst disaster in Everest's history"? By that I assume they mean 1996, when ONE person, not eight, died on the South Col. (The reason I think they are referring to 1996 is because they have mentioned that as the worst disaster several times, interspersed with photos of Scott Fischer and Rob Hall.)
South Col is a "graveyard"? As far as fatalities go it is one of the least deadly areas of the mountain. Hardly a graveyard.
1 out of 3 people who reach the summit die? Maybe 50 years ago. Now it's less than 3% (that statistic is pulled from AdventureStats; other mountaineering sites may have slightly different numbers, but no one comes even close to 1 out of 3 (Note that I do not count various news articles and random Web sites that claim incredibly high fatality rates without citing their sources).
These types of glaring errors make the show very difficult to enjoy.
2. Consistency. I'm in season 2 right now, and in one episode they say pulmonary edema is the worst danger to climbers, and in another they say it's cerebral edema. Which is it?
3. Giving everybody fatal illnesses. It seems that every climber who gets tired is suddenly diagnosed with cerebral edema (HACE) or pulmonary edema (HAPE). Those two illnesses are definitely real dangers at high altitude, but I have trouble believing that every climber who's struggling to breathe trying to reach the upper camps from ABC is on the verge of death.
In season 1 they show someone who is severely affected by cerebral edema. He's very sick, on the verge of death; he's not sitting in the snow saying he's tired and wondering "if it's a cerebral thing." I understand the severity of HAPE and HACE can vary, but at some point the script writers should step back and realize that they literally try to give HAPE or HACE to everyone who plays a central role in the episodes and is going up the mountain.
4. Last, but not least, the spooky narrator voice. Just let the mountain tell its story. You don't have to hype it up. Trust me, it'll sell without the annoying radio commercial style narrating. Yes, a narrator is needed, but no, he does not need to sound like his day job is advertising used cars on my local classic rock station.
Worth watching? Yes (mostly for the helmet cams and seeing the various climbers with disabilities or injuries summit). But if they just let the mountain tell its story without trying to hype it up then it would be a lot, lot better.
The bottom-line of the show is simple. Every year, more and more commercial groups try to climb Everest. These groups consist of Westeners who have paid large sums of money to experienced Himalaya guides to get to the summit. 'Everest: Beyond the Limit' follows the commercial group lead by guide Russell Brice. The group consists of amateur climbers from all over the world, and his job is to get them to the summit. The series revolves around this struggle.
Interesting ingredients to make a stunning documentary, I'd say. Even more when considering this all happens on the steep faces of the highest mountain in the world. So, apart from the struggle to get to summit, I also expected to see impressive images, interesting background information on the mountain and an intriguing views in the lives of the Sherpa climbers who make the ascent possible.
But I can only say that after watching two seasons (I haven't seen the third yet) I am disappointed. Very disappointed. Instead of all the above, this show only focuses only on the Western climbers. The intelligence level of the show can be compared with MTV shows like 'Made' or 'My super sweet 16'. We are forced to watch the ups and downs of an asthmatic Dane and the mood swings of a Hell's Angel biker. We see a totally unprepared L.A.-journalist get pwned by the mountain. We watch them cry, suffer and struggle.
Off course, this has to be part of the show. It's the reality. But in my opinion it's a side-subject and the reason why I watch the show is Everest. I know that human interest can be very interesting, but in this show the center of attention is not the mountain or the way to the summit. The center of attention are the ups and downs of the climbers. The show revolves around it and for because of that it turned the pulp we already have too much of on TV. Really, it's 'The Real World goes Chomolungma'.
The first minutes of every episode are filled with flashbacks from the previous episode. I can understand that this is needed, to show the important things that happened before. But all the flashback focuses on is the human interest. After the flashback, we have to watch five minutes of previews of the coming episode. Off course, all focused on the human emotions. Every commercial break is preluded with a toe- wrenching cliffhanger. So dare not to swap your TV to another channel. In my personal opinion this is the exact opposite of the way the presentation should have been.
But, considering all this, I still rate the show a seven. Because when I look through all the mind-narrowing garbage the makers throw at me I see the most intriguing mountain of the world. I see a highly experienced guide trying to get through to novice stubborn clients. I see strong Sherpa's with interesting traditions (where the show obviously doesn't attends any attention to). But to see this, I have to fast forward through the all the melodrama and crap that fills up 25 minutes of every episode. But when I've done that, I see 20 minutes of high class TV.
The human element is very much in play throughout -- the New Zealand climber trying to summit Everest after losing his legs in another climbing tragedy before, the Hollywood Harley designer climbing against all odds after being pieced together with screws and wires following a horrific motorcycle accident, the French man attempting the climb a mere two weeks after having a cancerous kidney removed. By any of our normal standards, these people living normals lives is a heroic feat. But these are not normal lives: they are on a quest to summit the world's tallest mountain and perhaps one of its most dangerous forbidden zones. A tall order for you or I, but for them, an even taller one -- and a challenge they cannot resist.
They are led by one of the world's great climbers, who nurses, kicks, leads and cajoles them to go forward, or in some cases, turn around while they still are relatively certain to get back down alive. Having lost 80% of his mates to climbing accidents, Russell Brice knows tragedy. As he says to one climber over the radio in one episode "I don't want to have to call your wife and tell her you've died on Everest." You can tell Russell Brice means what he's saying. And that the news he brings, good or bad, is indeed the way things are.
Some make the top and get back down, and others do not, turning around at different points on the climb. All gave it their all, in a place where that statement is literal, not figurative.
In short, if you want to get a great idea of what climbers see on their way up Everest, and also see glimpses of the suffering required to complete such and extreme challenge, then this show is for you.
This 6 episode mini-series is brilliantly edited. Every episode keeps a brisk pace as you follow a team of climbers from base camp up the mountain. All of the episodes were engrossing as you follow the struggles and travails of the climbers ... all leading to the final 2 pulse-pounding episodes.
I really got a great appreciation of how major an undertaking climbing the mountain really is - even if you're in a commercial expedition like this (about $40K per person) and 'think' your life is going to be made a little easier. This show depicts what it's really like and it's tough - should be left to the best climbers.
The visuals are fantastic - you get a precise understanding of the camps locations, routes and topography by use of great 3-d graphics. Most spectacular is the use of cameras attached to various climbers' headgear ... you can see what's happening to the climbers all the time. Also fascinating was listening to the dialog (or lack thereof) with all the climbers via constant radio contact.
One more thing about the visuals - we've got a telescopic view from advanced base camp looking up at them so we can see where they are in relation to various parts of the mountain - how cool is that?
The climbers were also pretty interesting (though this series didn't really need it). They were all more or less amateurs. Among the climbers were a former Hell's Angels motorcycle designer, doctor, legless man (a double-amputee), and an asthmatic (climbing without oxygen supplement). They all come with different backgrounds and goals. It's kind of amazing to watch their mental and physical faculties drop as they get more and more oxygen deprived. This gives one a glimpse of how tough it is up there.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best reality shows I've seen - great intensity and learning involved - highly recommended.
To me it represents a human struggle against severe elements both physiologically and psychologically, intertwined with human emotion and interaction in a competitive environment.
It's also quite a thrill to be able to see such a high quality production....and I applaud Discover Channel for televising it. This is a real reality show; people do and will continue to die up there each year.
It's all about calculated risks. So far we have seen two client climbers abort their attempts because they were listening to their own bodies. That, in my mind, the first line of defense. They are the smart ones in that by saving themselves they avoid putting others at risk higher up on the slopes. Self rescue is the #1 rule of survival in many extreme sports for the same reason. Plan your climb and climb your plan. If you are off plan for reasons within yourself or reasons beyond your control, GO DOWN.
We are getting a unique view of one particular team and I would say what we are seeing (and about to see) is repeated by many other teams up there during climbing season each year.
The cameramen-sherpas have done outstanding job so the viewer is literally on the mountain with the expedition members witnessing their pain and struggle, defeat and victory. Plus the panorama views are almost to die for. This is the rarest scenery I have seen in my life so far! Both seasons are strongly recommended!
However, may be, people who have never been to the mountains themselves will not be able to appreciate in full this excitement, almost awe of the mens' spirit. :(
Overall, for me it's like the final breakthrough of Tim Robbins in "Shawshank Redemtion" only this time there are real people not just movie characters.