Nat Geo's Everest Doc Scales Heights

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National Geographic Channel's Surviving Everest
is classic National Geographic. It has everything you have come to expect from the magazine and network: drama, history and breathtaking images.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the British expedition that was the first to surmount Nepal's Mount Everest, the National Geographic Society has gathered Peter Hillary and Jamling Norgay — the sons of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first pair to the summit — and Brent Bishop, son of the first American to successfully make the climb, for a return to the top. (This year also marks the 40th anniversary of that U.S. expedition.)

Nat Geo parallels the current expedition with a thorough history of early attempts to scale the mountain, the first successful expedition and its impact on the area around Everest. There are historical pieces to match each segment of the climb.

Along the way, the documentary delves into the history of the Sherpas — too often Everest's forgotten men — dispelling myths and shedding light on their culture and importance to the climbers who challenge the mountain. It also reveals Everest's religious significance to that people. In the process, the documentary corrects one common mistake: Sherpa is the name of the people, not a job title.

Surviving Everest is also not without its drama and excitement. Bishop and expedition leader Pete Athans attempt to scale the more dangerous West Ridge route, but poor weather ultimately forces them to turn back and join Hillary as he drives for the summit by the traditional track. The team narrowly escapes disaster on the Khumbu Icefall, nearly losing two cameramen. The danger escalates as the climbers approach the top and navigate ridges with sheer drops of up to 2000 feet.

The well-done documentary flawlessly packages history with real-life drama, a combination that should prove riveting to viewers.

Surviving Everest premieres April 27 at 8 p.m. on National Geographic Channel, with encore presentations throughout May.

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