Early in the episode we’re introduced to the team that we’ll be following this season, withs ome familiar faces returning. First and foremost, we have Russell Brice, the expedition leader and owner of HiMex, one of the leading guide services on the North Side. Brice’s Sherpas are generally the first up the mountain, and usually lay down the fixed ropes for all the teams to follow.
Also returning is fan favorite Tim Medvetz, the big biker who fell just short of the summit last season, and Mogens Jensen, the asthmatic climber who attempted a summit last year with out supplemental oxygen, and also was turned back. Seeing both of these men back on the mountain, and knowing what they went through in Season 1, is a bit like seeing old friends. I know I’ll be pulling for both of them to achieve their goals this season.
The other interesting climber that comes with a bit of baggage before the show even beings is Betsy Huelskamp. I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone who doesn’t know her story, but she’ll be a compelling addition to the show. It could be my imagination, but seemed like they were already laying the ground work for events yet to come.
As first episodes go, this was a good one, even though it covered a lot of the same ground as last season. I suppose some of that is for the new viewers, who may be experiencing the show, and Everest itself, for the first time. For instance, we see the climbers trek from Base Camp up to Advanced Base Camp early on, while the Sherpas are already busy laying down the fixed lines. That queues up a familiar graphic explaining the “Death Zone”, which looks pretty much like it’s the same as last year.
One early, compelling scene showed Tim standing amongst the memorials erected for climbers who have died on the mountain. The monument that he is standing next to is clearly labeled with the name of David Sharp, the climber who died last year on the mountain under controversial circumstances. Some people blamed Brice for not helping Sharp, and reportedly as many as 35 or 40 climbers stepped over and around Sharp as he lay dying in the snow. I was personally critical of the show last season for glossing over the controversy and barely touching on it in the shows final episode.
We do see some new scenes from ABC however, as we get a glimpse of the food that is prepared for them, and how the cooks use buckets, buried in the frozen ground, to keep the food preserved. I found scenes like that to be interesting, as it gives us an idea of what it’s like for the climbers who spend upwards of 45 days on Everest.
Eventually we see the Sherpas complete the laying of the fixed lines, reaching the summit at the earliest date ever, breaking their own record from last year. As the Sherpas descend however, two climbers are spotted on their way up. The climbers are Kazakh climbing legends Maxut and Vassily, making a quick, alpine assault on the summit. The pair climbed, as they always do, without oxygen. The show stresses the dangers that they are in by making such an early bid for the summit, and getting caught out in the dark. However, I don’t feel that they properly conveyed what amazing climbers the two Kazahs are, and how they are light years more experienced than anyone on the Himex Team. Even with that experience however, at 3 AM a call comes in for help. The first episode ends with a Sherpa rescue team scrambling up the mountain to attempt a rescue.
My thoughts on the first episode are that it was a good start, but I wasn’t blown away. Much of the episode was spent treading the same ground as last year, although it did start to get interesting near the end. I was also a bit disappointed by the return of the overly dramatic narrator from last season, but so far we haven’t had the any of the strange “Ever-rest” chants that we had last year. Those sounded like they were right of a bad horror film.
One other item of note. The show is in HD this year, and it is much appreciated. The shots of the mountain itself are stunning, and Discovery is well known for it’s amazing picture quality, and Beyond The Limit will do nothing to hurt that reputation. If there is anyway for you to catch it in HD, definitely take that opportunity.
Judging from the previews for next weeks episode, we’ll start to get into the meat of the climb. And as this episode ended, I was ready for more, so I’ll be tuned in once again.
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