All right, so Discovery aired the final two episodes of “Everest Beyond the Limit” Wednesday night. Weird scheduling aside, there were even more interesting things to glean from these two episodes and the strangest mountaineering scene on earth.
Some things I noticed:
It appears Everest mountaineering is mostly for the well-heeled or well-sponsored. Unlike most mountain scenes, you’re not seeing any of those lovable dirtbag climbers here. Business tycoons, doctors and even a freakin’ prince (Valerio Massimo). At $60,000 for a summit attempt, you certainly know why. Horse racing may be the sport of kings; Everest climbing might now be dubbed the sport of princes. Not that this is anything new. The Duke of Abruzzi, another royal figure from Italy, pioneered the traditional route up K2 decades ago. The ridge he went up is now called the Abruzzi Ridge. I doubt anyone is naming a ridge after me, just like I doubt I’d get a chance to take three months off, snag $60,000 and haul myself up the hill.
Jon Hansen did the right thing by going down. He’s the guy who had trouble on the practice climb and struggled to get up to Camp 2. He wasn’t feeling right, examined his situation and made the logical choice that it was better to have tried and lived than to have tried and died. Maybe next time; the mountain will still be there.
I may be the only one who thought the practice climb would be more worth doing than the actual Everest climb. But here’s how I see it: You get to climb a 20,000-foot peak in the Himalayas, and you don’t have to deal with crowds. Sounds like a great day to me. But I guess no one spends 60 grand to climb anything less than 8,000 meters.
The conga line going up Everest looked kind of familiar. Last summer, I went up two of the more popular beginner mountains in Colorado with my brothers. Summer + easier route = big crowds. There were times in the show where the lines of climbers headed up Everest looked similar in number to the crowds marching their way up Mount Bierstadt, minus all the snow and high altitude gear. With the exception of maybe Cho Oyu, I doubt the other 8,000-meter peaks have anything remotely resembling the zoo that is Everest’s southern route in May.
Little maladies mean a lot up there. A queasy stomach at sea level can be a crisis up high. Same can be said of injuries. Having gone from an annoying cough to full-blown pneumonia at 14,000 feet, I can certainly understand how something like dysentery can become life-threatening at 28,000 feet. Dehydration being one major problem, never mind crapping yourself over and over again. Funny as that sounds, it’s serious business when you’re at altitude and still face hours of grueling climbing ahead.
So what’s your take? Did you like the series? Any other observations? Let’s talk about it.
There are those who look outside, see the snow, and say, “Oh no!” Then there are those who see the snow and are thinking, “Oh yeah!”
If you are among the latter, then obviously you’re thinking of snow as something to ski or ride on. I’m with ya!
From the looks of it, all resorts are open, as are the majority of the lifts. Many places are reporting a sold base, and the bulk of the Rockies are showing powder or packed powder surfaces. Looking good! So without further delay, here’s the weekly ski reports from the central and southern Rockies:
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
Got a lot of feedback from a previous post of Sunday’s triple play of “Everest Beyond the Limit” on Discovery. The show will return Wednesday night for two more episodes.
Again, strange programming in terms of scheduling. Regardless, I’ll be watching and will be writing about it after the shows air.
Some things to look forward to: The next two eps focus on the teams Russell Brice is leading up Mount Everest’s south side. Brice, if you remember, is the main figure in the first two seasons of the program. He’s the owner/operator of Himex, one of the top mountain guide companies that work in the Himalayas.
Tune in tomorrow night, then be prepared to discuss it here afterward.
A few local news and notes from the outdoors…
EAGLE WATCHING AT KAW LAKE
KAW CITY — Kaw Lake’s Ultimate Eagle Watch will be held at two locations around Kaw Lake near Ponca City on Jan. 16.
These locations are: The Kaw City Community Center and the Kaw Nation Tribal Headquarters, both in Kaw City.
Typically, the Eagle Watch features:
- Educational programs on the American bald eagle by experts from the Iowa Tribe’s eagle aviary
- Powerpoint show from raptor rehabilitators Gary and Kathy Siftar
- Biologists Mark Howery from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (Wildlife Diversity Program)
- The appearance of a live eagle from the Sutton Avian Research Center
- Luther Pepper with the Kaw presentation on the significance of eagle to Native Americans
- Guided eagle viewing tours will depart from the Kaw City Community Center and the Kaw Nation Tribal Headquarters at several times throughout the day
- Native American lunch served at Kaw Nation Headquarters
To get to the community center and tribal headquarters, drive north out of Ponca City on U.S. 177 (also 14th Street). Travel east on State Highway 11 for 12 miles. Follow the signs to the community center and tribal headquarters. Those attending the Eagle Watch should dress for the weather and bring binoculars and viewing scopes.
— Green Country Marketing Association
TRAVERTINE NATURE CENTER TO TEMPORARILY CLOSE FOR CLEANING
SULPHUR — Travertine Nature Center at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area will be closed Jan 6-7 to conduct annual cleaning and maintenance on the exhibits and.
The nature center is a popular park site to visit and is intensively used by area school groups for interpretive and educational programs. The nature center contains exhibit dioramas, live reptiles, amphibians and birds of prey, and an interactive learning area for visitors of all ages.
The Travertine Nature Center was built in 1969 during the period of National Park Service environmental education initiatives in the later 1960s and early 1970s. The nature center sits on top of Travertine Creek, offering visitors a relaxing view of the mix of water, stream, and forest.
According to Park Superintendent Bruce Noble, “This two-day closure is necessary to complete work on exhibit displays and to rearrange existing live animal and other exhibits. We apologize for this inconvenience to park visitors, but look forward to their next visit.”
On Jan. 6-7, visitor services will be available at the Visitor Information Station (717 W Broadway), 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The nature center will resume regular winter hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily on Jan. 8.
— Chickasaw National Recreation Area
CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES ON TAP AT DISCOVERY COVE
NORMAN — Several activities are planned Wednesday for the Discovery Cove Nature Center at Lake Thunderbird State Park, if weather permits.
“Winter Bookmarks” for children ages 3 and up is scheduled for 10 a.m. For a 50 cent fee, children can make bookmarks based on nature themes. At 11 a.m., children ages 6 and up are invited to a session on “Aliens Among Us.” Participants will get to see a variety of plants and small animals by using a microscope.
At 1 p.m., children ages 4 and up may participate in a session on “Trees Through the Year,” which focuses on seasonal changes in the lives of trees, especially in the winter.
On Saturday, the nature center will be open and offer an 11 a.m. game session on “Nature, Bug or Reptile Bingo.” Ages 2 and up are invited to participate.
Children can make plaster casts of animal footprints at a 1 p.m. session. Fee is 50 cents to cover the cost of material. Casts require an hour to set.
At 2 p.m., a nature walk will be held. In case of bad weather, children will remain indoors and play animal charades.
For more information or to make sure the events have not been cancelled due to weather, call 321-4633.
The nature center is on Clear Bay Avenue, off State Highway 9, across from the Turkey Pass campground.
— Oklahoman staff reports
So season 3 of “Everest Beyond the Limit” is finally here, and thanks to the Discovery Channel, we got a triple dose of it Sunday night.
I’m a bit confused by this, and am also curious about the lack promotion of the show. But that’s all inside baseball. The three episodes were interesting. There were some changes this season compared to the previous two (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the shows yet).
For starters, we don’t see a lot of Russell Brice. Brice was the central figure in the past two seasons. He’s the owner of Himex, the guide company that featured in earlier seasons. A grizzled veteran of high altitude mountaineering, his bluntness was often the source of drama in past episodes. He makes a couple short appearances in the first episode, but most of the filming in the first three episodes focuses on IMG, a friendly competitor in the mountain guide business.
Another major difference: the location. Same mountain, but from the south side. Previous seasons took us to the north side of Mount Everest, the Tibet side. This is where Brice and a number of other companies did their work. That came to a screeching halt in 2008, as the Chinese government — fearing pro-Tibet demonstrations — effectively shut down the north side of Everest during the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese also wanted the north side to themselves so a team of Chinese climbers would have unhindered access to the summit in a bid to take the Olympic torch to the top.
The south route — the Nepal side — is the most popular, and is the same route used during the mountain’s first ascent half a century ago. It was cool to see filming of this classic route and its many famous places (love the Hillary Step footage).
Now we have that out of the way, I saw some interesting things in the three episodes I saw last night. I won’t break it down by episode. I’ll just stick to the highpoints. Here goes:
Mountain climbing on Everest is far different than mountain climbing anywhere else. No duh, you say. But hang on a minute. Let’s take a look at a few facts. First, look at how no teams ascended the peak until the Sherpas had set fixed ropes and ladders. On just about any other mountain, this doesn’t happen. People set their own protection as they go. Once the ropes were in place, look at the way people climb. They kick-stepped into the snow and ice, but the only other “skill” they were required to have was how to use an ascender device to help them go up while still tethered to the fixed lines. Attached to the backpacks, but conspicuously unused: ice axes. Everyone had one, no one was using it (except during a rescue of a fella who had become too weak and injured to go down under his own power).
Ice axe usage is standard for climbing on snow and ice. The axe helps you ascend and descend, either as a sharp walking aide or, on steeper slopes, as a way to create holds. In the event of a slip or fall, the ice axe will act as a brake, with a climber leaning onto the axe while its sharp prong digs into the snow (called “self arresting”). The ice axe can set a belay that could save your life. But when climbing on fixed ropes, it seemingly becomes an emergency-only tool that is otherwise dead weight strapped to the back of your pack.
Obviously, most mountaineering adventures don’t require supplemental oxygen. Some people turn their noses at the use of oxygen tanks; I don’t judge. But you certainly don’t need gas if you’re ascending Mount Rainier or hiking up Pikes Peak.
I’m sure I could go on endlessly here. But the point is made. Everest has become a place where two things happen — serious mountaineers to do their thing, and then the rest are being led up the hill. By “the rest,” I pretty much mean the bulk of the people on the mountain, people who pony up big bucks to be guided to the top.
Is this really mountaineering? Some will say no. I say yes, but it’s just different from what the rest of us do.
There is an obsession with “firsts” on Everest. This game was easy back in the day. First to summit. First American/Russian/Chinese to summit. First woman. First winter ascent. And so on. But it’s getting a lot more strange these days.
In the show, we had the oldest American (aged 66) to reach the top. OK, nothing too weird about that. But then we had David Tait, a moneyed man who wanted to become the first to ever ascend the mountain with the Sherpas who were setting the fixed ropes. I’m sure this will look good on a bio, but who really cares? Technically speaking, didn’t Edmund Hillary do that in 1953, when he topped the mountain with Sherpa Tensing Norgay? This was Tait’s third trip to the top, and he was looking for a new personal best. My suggestion: Since you’ve done Everest already, pick another peak. Everest, by all accounts, is tough. But from what I’ve heard, there are harder ascents to be had in the Himalayas. Uber-climber Ed Viesturs said K2 is the “holy grail” of mountaineering. I’d rather have that under my belt than some obscure and somewhat dubious “first.”
John Golden should have stayed home. This had the look of an inspiring story: A former football player who suffered a devastating knee injury that threatened to sideline him from anything athletic ever again. He gets his knee rebuilt, then has an idea: Show people that folks with major injuries don’t have to be relegated to the couch, and prove this by climbing Everest.
I like that spirit, something inspiring. But it sure appeared his body wasn’t up to the task.
Perhaps it was the magic of TV editing, but it looked like his knee was giving out constantly. If you’re knee is popping out of joint, should you really be mountaineering?
Later in the episode, he fell and appeared to either break or bruise his ribs. This forced him off the mountain.
If his legs were more sturdy, would this fall and subsequent injury have happened? It just seems as though the weakness of such a critical part of his anatomy should have precluded his summit bid way before he got into the climb. IMG did the right thing by pulling the plug on his bid.
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the program.
I’m glad the Discovery Channel didn’t make a total liar out of me when I’d posted something saying “Everest Beyond the Limit” would resume in December. This weekend (Sunday night) marks the premiere of season 3 of “Everest Beyond the Limit.” It hasn’t been promoted a whole lot, so there’s not a lot of storylines floating around out there like I thought there might. But I will include a link to some of the blog posts made during the filming of the show. Start watching Sunday; I will too. And of course, I’ll discuss here.
Here’s the link: http://blogs.discovery.com/everest_2009/
In the words of the Monty Python crew, “and now for something completely different…”
Saw this awesome video which will make you laugh while also getting you a little bit primed for “Everest Beyond the Limit.” Watch and enjoy, and Merry Christmas, Out There readers!
If a 4-year-old can survive a 40-foot drop, I’m sure the people in this clip can make an attempt to get off and ride down. People jump cliffs bigger than this. I believe the movie is called “Frozen.” Have a look…
Here’s the weekly ski reports. The West got some more snow this week, so hopefully things are shaping up. From what I can see, most places have the majority of their lifts running, and some have all lifts open. Taos is looking particularly good, with fresh powder and all lifts open. Same is true for Red River. All but one ski area in the following states are open; Silverton Mountain in Colorado is scheduled to open this weekend.
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
Consider the debate reopened.
Awhile back, I wrote about the controversy of “Yuppie 911,” the phenomenon where people buy emergency locator beacons and either overuse them when an emergency hasn’t occurred or buy them, then take risks that go beyond their outdoors acumen.
With the tragedy that unfolded on Mount Hood earlier this month, there is talk among some in Oregon that people who choose to climb the mountain should be required to have locator beacons, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Outposts blog.
The Oregon legislature considered a bill which would have required this back in 2007 after a similar climbing accident killed three other climbers that year. The bill didn’t become law.
But the debate has definitely reopened for one reason: Conspicuously missing from the gear that the ’09 climbers had were any locator beacons, according to multiple Associated Press accounts.
The logic behind the renewed clamor for beacon requirements is this: Had the stricken climbers had a beacon, they could have sent an electronic message asking for help; the device would also have helped rescuers pinpoint their location. A focused search might have gotten to the climbers more quickly, and rescuers may have been able to decrease risk to themselves by avoiding tedious, sweeping and time-consuming searches all over the mountain.
Opponents of the idea say that requiring the beacons will give people “artificial courage,” instilling in them a false sense of security when on the mountain. To the extreme, the thinking goes, people who have no business climbing Mount Hood might snap up locator beacons, buy some other mountaineering gear and throw caution to the wind as they attempt to ascend the mountain, knowing that if they get in trouble all they have to do is press the “help” button.
For the most part, I say buy the beacons if you have the cash. They’re useful tools. Would a beacon have saved the climbers on Mount Hood earlier this month? We’ll never know for sure. Will requiring locator beacons for Mount Hood and similar peaks start a rush of novices who are ill-suited for such climbs? I doubt it, mostly because that dilemma is already at hand. Just look at what’s happening on Everest, where rich but unqualified “climbers” attack the peak in droves; you can only imagine what’s going on at Mount Hood, Mount Rainier and some of the other popular but tough peaks in the U.S.
This is a story that came from The Associated Press:
ST. LOUIS — The North Face Apparel Corp. is suing a small suburban St. Louis-area company called The South Butt and the teenager who started it. The lawsuit filed last week in federal court in St. Louis seeks unspecified damages and asks the court to prohibit The South Butt from marketing and selling its parody product line.
The North Face says it does not comment on pending litigation.
The South Butt’s attorney, Albert Watkins, says the company was started by 18-year-old Jimmy Winkelmann to help pay for college. It puts out products with the tag line “Never Stop Relaxing,” a parody of The North Face line, “Never Stop Exploring.”
The parody company sells T-shirts, fleece jackets and sweatshirts on its Web site.
This strikes me as funny. The punchline cracks me up. But there’s a bigger issue here.
If an NBA player walks onto the court amid loud cheers with a couple of boos, that player wisely smiles at the fans and ignores the smattering of haters.
This is a similar deal. The teen involved is having fun and making a little money at the expense of The North Face’s widely known brand name. But The North Face isn’t losing money from Winkelman’s venture.
Truth be told, I’m a walking billboard of outdoor apparel and gear. Patagonia, Black Diamond, and yes, The North Face. I was a late convert to the brand just because I grew tired of non-outdoors people playing poser by buying the company’s more fashion-oriented duds. I resist all things trendy.
But when I needed some decent water-resistant hiking pants, I broke down and bought a pair. I’ve never regretted it. Well-made, confortable and high performing. Later, I bought a day-pack that I took to Thailand and, later on, up the summits of four Colorado peaks. Again, an excellent piece of gear. Later came a beanie which I’ve worn to death.
So I’m sold on the product line. They make good stuff. Several of my friends have likewise sung the praises of all things North Face, from sleeping bags to jackets to tents.
So why the fuss over The South Butt? It’s not like this kid will ever become a rival like Columbia, Patagonia or the many others trying to take a piece of the outdoor gear pie.
My advice to The North Face: Ignore the haters. Play your game and please your fans. Make good stuff. Some of those haters, like I was, will convert and buy your stuff. Suing this kid just makes the company look bad. And that will drive potential converts away.