When we ended the third episode, Betsy Huelskamp had just been told by expedition leader Russell Brice that she wouldn’t be allowed to go up the mountain, and this episode opened with Betsy saying that she’s never given up at anything, and that perhaps it’s a good thing that the decision was taken out of her hands. Rather interesting and quite telling in my opinion considering what she wrote in her blog upon her return. We also get a quick update on David Tait, who is already at the top of the North Col as he begins his attempt at the Double Traverse. Mr. Overly Dramatic Narrator fills us in on the attempt, mostly replaying what we saw last week.
Next, Russell separates the climbers into two teams, one fast, one slow. The fast one includes Rod Baber, who we’ve seen a few times already, and Tim Medvetz, who we’ve seen far too much. There are two other men on the fast team as well, but we haven’t seen them at all, and I couldn’t help but wonder “Who are these guys”? The fast team sets out to make their summit bid, and the slow team will follow one day behind. Of course, Tim lags behind again, giving Discovery the opportunity to show us the animation of his rebuilt body once more.
This episode sees the climb begin in ernest, with the focus shifting on the climbers starting to their ascent. David is well out in front, being the strongest of them all and going for the double traverse. But we get to see the main teams making their preparations and working their way up to ABC to get into position to begin their assault on Everest in a traditional siege style climb.
The camera work tends to be top notch as usual, and the use of helmet cams allows for some very interesting shots as well Some of the great footage that has already been shown includes Phurba changing David’s oxygen bottle just a few hundred feet below the summit, and then later both men standing on the summit itself and weighing their options for going down the South Side, which at that point didn’t even have fixed robes in place yet. Watching David and Phurba together can give you a true appreciation for high altitude mountaineering and watching the intricacies of the climb, such as switching out the bottles, is excellent stuff.
The show is most compelling when it gets to the action of the climb itself and skips most of the other drama. Everest is compelling enough, without any kind of soap opera at Advanced Base Camp, and it seems that at this point of the show, they’ve realized that. I suspect the rest of the shows will be more tightly focused on the ascent, and will be more interesting to watch.
While at times this season, the show feels a lot like a retread of last year, with similar stories and repeated animations. However one of the bright spots for me this year has been the inclusion of Monica Piris Chavarri, the team doctor for this attempt on Everest. She’s witty, candid, and intelligent, and her personality shows through in each episode. She’s a welcome addition to the show, and Discovery would do well to highlight her more regularly.
The show ends with David and Phurba beginning their descent on the South Side. The two will have to rope themselves together and rely on their climbing skills to get down, since conditions on the South Face are not anything like the North, to the point of not even having any ropes in place yet. Meanwhile, in ABC, the “fast” team prepares to being their assault. We’ll have to tune in next week to see how things go.
As a side note, there was a lot of speculation and accusations as to what went on in Base Camp between Betsy and Russell earlier this year. There was also speculation as to how much Discovery would show. In tonight’s episode, Betsy was barely to be seen, just appearing at the beginning of the show, and there was no controversial elements shown in the episode. Which leads one to believe that it either didn’t happen or Discovery decided to edit the show in a way that would keep the alleged actions by Brice out of the public eye. I’ll let you decide which might be the case.
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