It’s Episode 7 of Everest: Beyond the Limit and for summit team 1, that means it’s Summit Day. They team starts the episode in Camp 4, located at 27,500 feet, and just 1500 feet below the summit. But those last 1500 feet are toughest of all, and with the temperature at -4 degrees F, it’s going to be a long, cold day.
Team 1 has Tim Medvetz, Rod Baber, Darius Vaiciulis, and Fred Zeal. We’ve seen more of Tim than the other three combined, but it’s good to see some of the other guys finally getting some screen time. Once the climb begins, team leader Russel Brice is given a new toy, as he is able for the first time to monitor the progress of the team live, and in real time, from the Discovery Channel cameras. It’s pretty amazing what technology is now available on the mountain.
Once again, Tim is the focus of the climb, and he gets off to a good start and moving well. Because it’s his second attempt and he’s a left over from last year, we once again get to see the overly recycled video showing the metal in his body. Between this year and last, Discovery has sure gotten their money’s worth out of that animation. Disaster strikes as Tim climbs though, as he slips and falls, and breaks his right hand. Showing a lot of strength, determination, and grit, the big biker continues to climb on though, not wanting to turn back like he did last year.
One of the highlights for this episode for me was watching the team scale the Second Step. It’s dark when they arrive at that point, but the cameras still manage to catch much of the action. Tim struggles with his broken hand on the ladder that the Sherpas have put in place there, and the rest of the team scrambles up with him.
Not long after passing the Second Step, the sun begins to rise and we’re really treated to some great shots. The footage on the mountain remains excellent, and it’s for me it’s the best part of the show, especially as they near the summit. Rod climbs fast and is making good time, nearing the summit well before anyone else. Fred is doing well also, but runs into a traffic jams as another team is coming down. At that point, Tim has fallen behind the others, and is in danger of not making it to the top once again.
Rod is the first to summit, and video footage of the mountains around him looks amazing. But, like many Everest Summitteers, he has a gimmick to his climb. Rod makes a phone call from the summit using his cell phone, claiming the “highest ever cell phone call” of all things. A fairly dubious accomplishment really. After 20 minutes on the summit, he turns back, but while up there, he forgot to wear his googles, and now we’re told by Overly Dramatic Narrator Guy that he now faces snow blindness with a long descent ahead of him.
Next up, Fred Zeal is making his final assault. We’re told that this is third attempt, having turned back on his first attempt due to severe frostbite and on his second attempt he was sent home due to pneumonia. Dr. Fred isn’t denied this time though, and he reaches the summit to the happiness of the entire team. Not long after Fred reaches the summit, Lithuanian climber Darius Vaiciulis joins him, making it three out of the four team members making it to the summit. Only Tim has not topped out.
Rod passes Tim on the way down, and Tim is once again resting, now just 300 feet below the summit. His broken hand is keeping him in a lot of pain, and making it difficult for him to continue his ascent. Brice implores him to get up and keep moving, but the big man is exhausted and suffering. With time running out, the guides and Sherpas push him forward, but when the call from Mogens Jensen comes in from lower on the mountain, Tim gets enough energy to finally reach the top. One of the guides proclaims “The Eagle has landed” as Tim finally stands on top of the World.
But of course, as we all know, getting up is only half the battle, and now the team must get back down. Rod is making good time, but the scary footage of him at the Second Step really accentuates the dangers of coming down. In broad daylight, the drop off from that spot on the mountain looks crazy, and once again the Discovery camera crews catch some amazing footage. After negotiating the Second Step though, Rod makes it back to Camp 4 in a very rapid fashion. Fred and Darius return not long after.
For Time though, the descent is another level of pain. Going up the mountain he was able to hold on to the guide ropes with his left hand, but on the way down he needs to use his right, which he broke in two places when he fell hours before. Unable to grasp the rope properly, he can’t control his descent, and he stumbles all over the place. The guides eventually rig up a system where they can use ropes to help guide him down, but it’s a very slow process. Tim has to negotiate the Second Step as well, and while it was challenging and scary for Rod, it’s a whole different level for Tim, who can’t even use his hand at all at this point. After some tense moments however, the guides are able to assist him on to the ladder and he’s able to slowly make his way down, leaving the most dangerous section of the North Side of Everest behind, but they’re also exhausted from their efforts.
Meanwhile, Rod is arriving back in ABC where he is beginning to experience the effects of snow blindness thanks to his error on the summit in which he forgot to wear his goggles. Dr. Monica, who has been monitoring the climb all day with Russell, gets him fixed up quickly and advises him to rest, stay out of the direct light, and wear his dark glasses at all times.
Finally, Tim, now an Everest Summitteer, makes it back to Camp 4, where Mogens is there to congratulate him on a job well done. The guides deserve a ton of credit for getting him down alive. He is once again lucky to be alive, and while Camp 4 is a landmark, he knows that he has to continue down if he wants to reach ABC and medical attention.
Next week is the final episode, with Team 2 going for the summit. They’ll be hard pressed to match the success of Team 1, which saw all four climbers top out. We’ll also see if Mogens finally achieves his goal to stand on top of Everest as well.
One other quick note. While it’s great to see the climbers, Sherpas and guides climb Everest, we sometimes forget that there is an amazing camera crew along for the ride. Those guys are almost never seen, and they’re going up and down the mountain just like everyone else, although they’re doing it with camera equipment as well. Sure, some of the shots are caught with the use of helmet cams, but not all of them. These cameramen are pretty amazing as well, and deserve some recognition. Especially when you consider how amazing some of the shots are from high up on the mountain.
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