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.