The Spirit of Adventure
16:38 p.m. EDT May 13, 2003
Yesterday the first part of the Everest Global Extreme’s reality show finale aired on OLN. Reality shows have gained much interest in recent years. The concept was first founded by a British producer who struggled for ten years to convince networks to buy in. Eventually the Swedish National Television decided to pioneer, "Robinson" - or "Survivor" as it later became known. The show got a brutal start. The network pioneers’ worst nightmare took place almost instantly, in one of the very first episodes: One of the contestants killed himself after being voted off the island. The viewers and the entire country were horror-struck at the "Lord of the Flies" mentality of the concept and demanded the show to be taken off the air. But, the network stood its ground and the series became a mega success, locally and internationally, with countless spin-offs of the original concept.
Leadership by example
Today you can marry a millionaire, have a high school reunion, be tempted by seduction on a tropical island whilst your mate is watching, or climb Mount Everest. Live, right before a close-up camera. And people love to watch. They study your insecurities, your decisions, and your interactions with others. They check how you handle your fear, your greed, your temptation and the politics involved between people - unscripted by producers and writers, because life has always been the greatest poet. And then people compare actions and strategies with their own, thus attending in a huge psychological education on how to live their lives, with leadership by example as the powerful tool.
The reality of a dream
The question is if Global Extremes ambitious pioneer’s work really hit the target with their Everest climbers’ reality show? Even though yesterdays production was in parts interesting; there were virtual routes, Hillary and Tenzing videos, and footage of the recent big storm - the reality show didn't differ much from a regular documentary. The reality part was simply missing. For two reasons: One was that there was no live footage at all from the mountain. In fact, the reality has been selectively scripted and surrounded by much hush-hush up until now.
The second reason is if it really is an Everest climbers’ reality we get to see. Where is the frustrating hunt for sponsors? Where are the years of preparations? Where is the reality of betting house and career on a dream? Where are the climbing decision dilemmas? The struggle to motivate sherpas? The battle to make any sense of weather forecasts, the planning of high camp logistics and trying to figure out other expeditions’ next moves? And the fear, the horrible fear of stepping out into the unknown without any safety nets, risking ones life for the sheer purpose of reaching a dream?
A spiritual journey
The reality we get to see on the Everest reality show is the reality of an athlete who has successfully completed various athletic legs to finish off with the Everest leg. It is an athletic performance, with the arena cleared by staff and pit stops along the way. It is a reality about setting goals, pushing ones physical limits and outsmarting competition. Those are admirable deeds but they are not Everest’s reality. Everest is about problem solving under extreme pressure. It’s more about daring a dream then setting a goal. And above all, it is about a spiritual journey along the slopes of Sagarmatha - a very special private audience with the Mother Goddess of this earth.
The mountain decides
And thus, as Everest climbers - we don't feel any connection with the TV show. We don't recognize our mountain and we don't recognize our struggles. We watch the show out of curiosity for an interesting topic, but we don't feel our battle or our thoughts. The show does have a value and the crew are through much to make it happen. But it is clear that as long as the camera doesn't follow the climbers from the very beginning’s financial struggles - thereafter peeking into their tents capturing their loneliness, their doubts, the fear in their eyes and their decision to help (or not help) another climber in an extreme storm, and their desire to survive in impossible conditions - as long as the camera doesn't cover all that and unscripted, there will be no Everest reality show. And perhaps that's just the way Sagarmatha wants it.
Image courtesy of WhiteMountain.nu