I had the chance to sit down and watch Episode 3 of Discovery Channel’s new mini-series Everest: Beyond The Limit last night, and personally I’d have to say that it was the best episode so far. The first two episodes established who the climbers were, introduced the audience to Russell Brice. Those episodes also explained some basics of high altitude mountaineering and the dangers of climbing an 8000m peak. I was critical of those two episodes because I thought that they were, at times, a bit melodramatic and over the top with how much they stressed the dangers of climbing. To the point of ramming it down our throats. Perhaps that was necessary for the genarl audience however, and it just seemed like a no-brainer to me.
Anyway, episode 3 made a nice shift for me. Why? Because the finally got to the stuff I really wanted to see, namely the Climb! After acclimatizing, and hiking to Camp 1 last week, the climbers had returned to Advanced Base Camp, where they were paired off with a Sherpa, and divided into two teams that would go for the summit on back to back days. The strong climbers were in Team 1, including Mogens Jensen the Danish asthmatic climber who is attempting to summit without oxygen, while the slower climbers were put into Team 2. This is common practice on the mountain where the climbers with the best chance of reaching the summit are put together so that the expedtion has a higher chance of success.
Once Team 1 set out from ABC, much of the rest of the episode was focused on them climbing to Camp 1 and eventually Camp 2, while Team 2 set out a day later. We got to follow the teams as the moved up the mountain, watch them struggle, and in the case of Brett Merrell, turn back, giving up on his dream of reaching the summit. After two episodes, you now have a feel for who these guys are, and what their motivations for climbing are, and you start to pull for some of the guys. It’s hard not to root for Mark Inglis, who is attempting a summit on two prosthetic legs or Tim Medvetz, the big burly biker, who probably shouldn’t even be on Everest, but is such a lovable lug, that it’s hard not to root for him.
By the time this episode was finished, I was already looking forward to the next one. Following them on their summit push should prove interesting, and they’ve done a good job of building a little drama on who is going to make it and who isn’t, although if you followed the climbing season from this past Spring, you already know how some of these guys did.
In my previous reviews of episodes I failed to mention how nice the photography is in the show. They have captured some stunning views of Everest and the mountains surrounding it. There have been some amazing shots so far, and I expect we’ll see a lot more as the show progresses. My only complaint is that it isn’t in HD, which would have been truely stunning.
It’s not all rosey with episode 3 though. Listening to Brice give a “motivational” speech to his men before they set off on their summit push was enough to make me want to turn back from the climb, and all I was doing was watching it on TV. In one sense, it’s good that Brice is realistic and honest with the team, but rather than firing up and getting them ready to climb, it seemed like he was sending them off on a death march.
But by far the biggest annoyance from last nights episode was the background whispers we would hear when they would show the mountain on a regular basis. I’m guessing the voice is suppose to be eerie when it says “Ever…ever…ever…rest.rest…rest”, but it for me it just comes across as cheesy and very annoying. It’s been done a few times in previous episodes, but it seemed to occur more frequently this time out, and just seemed silly. There was also some clearly doctored footage of the climbers in what was suppose to be whiteout conditions on the mountain. My guess is that they couldn’t actually get good footage of some of that, so they used other footage and added a snowy special effect to it for dramatic effect.
So, there you have it. My thoughts on episode 3. For me, much better than the first two, as the focus has turned more to the climb, and I’m looking forward to the next few episodes as they appraoch the summit. Of course there is still the looming controversy that has been hanging over the show from the beginning, but for now at least, it felt like a good attempt at showing what an actual climb looks like.
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