Tonight is the night, for an Everest Survival Summit
16:33 p.m. EDT May 22, 2003
Global Extremes will go for their summit push tonight, hopefully broadcasting the climb to televisions all over the USA.
Yesterday a Chinese team reached the summit and the world was hit by the news of, “The world’s first live video telecast from Everest summit.” Not true. Already back in 1988, a joint Chinese/Japanese/Nepali expedition made a true live video broadcast (telecast) to an estimated 280 million viewers. Climbers from the team summited from both the Nepali and Tibetan side, met at the top, and transmitted live video. The expedition had over 220 members.
More summit telecasts to come
Global Extremes too hopes for a summit transmission as a Grand finale of their Survivor style competition for Everest that has been going on since this past autumn. The series became so popular with the contestants than one of them, who was eliminated early on, refused to take a no for an answer and tried to rejoin the team by climbing the steep and avalanche prone Lho La pass between Everest’s North and South Side base camps earlier this month – with one ice axe and no ropes. His illegal boarder-crossing attempt ended with his passport being confiscated by the Nepali Liaison officers.
Today at 1530 hrs Eastern Standard time, OLN TV in the US will go live from Everest. The show will continue all afternoon and into midnight broadcasting the final summit push live, direct from the slopes of Everest. Two of the climbers will be equipped with point-of-view cameras and microphones. There will also be two cameramen racing up ahead of the team shooting video of the push.
ExplorersWeb has interviewed the team’s film director and head cameraman, Mike Brown. Should he summit tonight; Mike will be three for three. So far he has made Everest, his first 8000er and his first foray over 7000 meters on both of his past attempts from the South Side. This year is his first go at the North Side. On every Everest expedition Mike has been the head cameraman and director. Most notably in 2001 he became the first to summit with a High Definition Video Camera, and got the first HD shots of the first blind climber ever to summit Everest. Should he make it again this year, it will be his third consecutive success. Other American consecutive ascents include Peter Athans 90, 91, and 92; and Gheorghe Dijmarescu - 99, 00, 01, 02.
Read MountEverest.net's earlier story and interview with Mike:
Michael grew up in a family of filmmakers and was often taken along on shoots as free help. He credits his older brother Gordon with pushing him to get more involved, "He would put a camera in my hands even though I was intimidated by it." Though initially uncertain how proficient he was, Michael's talent was affirmed after seeing his footage in a National Geographic special.
Not soon after, Michael and Gordon started their own company and made television commercials. Michael soon found himself sitting out the open door of a helicopter with his feet resting on one of the skids below. Eventually he relocated to California where he once again forfeited a paycheck for experience and cut his teeth editing on an Avid system working for a PR firm. When the full-time editor unexpectedly left, Michael was ready to step up. Though the work was not as exciting as he would have wanted, he did have the opportunity to do some on-location work behind the scenes for a big Vegas show. No, rest assured, he was not involved in any way with the box office flop, “Showgirls.”
Back in Colorado
The call of the wild overtook Michael and he left sunny California for the snowy slopes of his home state, Colorado. The next five years of his life were spent working with an adventure film company in Aspen, traveling to the farthest reaches of the earth, coming home with amazing footage, and winning awards. Despite occasional harassment from friends, Michael keeps them all prominently displayed on a shelf next to his video editing station in his house.
A college professor of Michael's gave him a definition of adventure that he has always liked, “Adventure is some thing you hate while it’s happening and only when you look back on it, do you remember that it was great.” Of all the adventures during his tenure in Aspen, one that truly defines the word adventure was a traverse in the remote region of Ayacara, Chile.
The professor would have been proud
The plan was to go up a river, cross some mountains, go down another river, and end up in the ocean. Seems pretty straightforward? They thought so too initially. Michael took along with him a world-class mountaineer, a rock climber, and two river guides. When a huge storm came the second night, it rendering the river too much for the team to handle they were forced to ferry loads through a jungle so thick they averaged a grueling one mile per day progress rate. After almost three weeks their rations were down to half a bowl of oatmeal and thumb size portion of peanut butter per day.
They had each lost over 15 pounds and their faces began to look gaunt with their eyes sunk back into their heads. By this point their long underwear, which used to fit skin-tight now drooped from their emaciated bodies. A small dot on the map gave them hope of a farm not too far from the river. To the team’s awe, an older couple that did not hesitate to open up their home and cupboards to the weary group greeted them. There was not a dry eye in site – Michael has footage to prove it.
“I hated it when we were there . . . but afterwards it really felt like an accomplishment . . .it had meaning. Guys from that expedition who have been all around the world called me up almost a year later and told me how much of an impact that trip had on them,” said Michael. Though he swore he would not set foot there again, this past year he found himself on another adventure in an area near by. Knowing what to expect this time, it was not quite as grueling as the first.
Once is enough
Michael also swore off another Everest climb after his first summit in 2000. This was his first independent production and his first 8000-meter peak. Some would debate which of those tasks is actually more difficult. Michael’s previous high-altitude experiences were limited to failed attempts on two Himalayan peaks, Pumori and Shishapangma. He had also done some ski mountaineering in the Tien Shan, and had an ascent of Aconcagua. Everest was to be was his first time above 7,000-meters on any peak. Of the team, only he, three sherpas, and a Himalayan veteran Dave Hahn managed to summit - not bad for a rookie. The film aired several months later on network television.
Discovery of a high altitude aptitude
On expeditions, Michael has been known to bring a device that measures a person’s blood-oxygen content with him. At sea level, readings are usually in the 90’s. As a person climbs higher, especially past 17,000 feet, the number drops into the 80’s. Mike is said to have read in the low 90’s at the South Col, a true sign of well-acclimatized person to say the least.
Well, maybe twice
Despite vowing never to return again, Michael found himself in Base Camp the following spring filming for Blind climber Erik Weihenmeyer’s NFB expedition. “It was so much fun being there, everyone got along great and it was such a good group,” said Michael of his second Everest climb. Several members of the team, including Erik, reside predominantly in Colorado, which makes it easy for them to get together nowadays for some climbing, skiing, and mountain biking.
Mike got back together with the team and also shot footage recently on Mt Elbrus in Russia as Erik continued on his quest for the seven summits. He only has a couple left, and Mike will more than likely be involved in covering those events as well.
As for Everest again, that remains to be seen. Throughout the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002 Michael was asked repeatedly to go back and film. The interested parties never even got as far as making him an offer, the money just did not matter to him, “You lose a lot of weight, and it is also very frightening . . .people die up there regularly. “ Despite his proven ability to climb well at altitude, the risks are just too much sometimes, “every time you cross a dangerous place, it’s like your rolling the dice.”
Is there still a chance for three?
However, from time to time Michael has been known to talk about experiencing Everest from another route or another side. When watching a video or looking at a map, there is still a spark there for him, “At first when you get off of Everest, you never want to go back – you couldn’t wait to get out of there by the end of the trip, but as the months pass and the season comes back around, the bad memories start to fade and the idea of Everest becomes more alluring.” Guess he heard the North Side calling this year!