The latest commercial venture planned for the world's most
famous peak is reality TV
There are few firsts of note anymore on Everest, not when the
mountain attracts more climbers than the monkey bars at your
local playground. The Outdoor Life Network, however, appears to
have scared one up: Beginning this winter OLN will air a
five-month adventure series titled Global Extremes: Mt. Everest
that will culminate in the first-ever live telecast of an ascent
of the 29,028-foot peak. The six-stage event is a mixture of
competition, cooperation and reality-show-style elimination
across four continents. Ultimately five finalists, their every
move beamed back to the U.S. live via satellite, will try to
reach the roof of the world around the 50th anniversary of the
inaugural Everest ascent, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing
Norgay on May 29, 1953.
"This is by far the biggest event we've created," says E. Roger
Williams, president and CEO of OLN, which reaches approximately
45 million subscribers. "We believe it captures the spirit of the
great explorers, coupled with the adrenaline of today's action
While the series will begin airing in January with taped, weekly
one-hour episodes, the first event actually gets under way in
October with 50 competitors--winnowed from more than 1,000
applicants--participating in a tryout camp in Moab, Utah. There
they will compete in events ranging from mountain biking to
orienteering. The top 24 will then head to Telluride, Colo., for
winter-themed tests that will cut the field in half. The
remaining dozen will head overseas to Africa's Kalahari Desert,
the jungles of Borneo and the Icelandic tundra, where the group
will be gradually pared to the final five (chart, left).
The Everest finale promises to be dramatic, if controversial.
Veteran climbers have long complained that the proliferation of
pay-for-play expedition groups has turned Everest into an
overcommercialized theme park that mocks the dangers of a
mountain that has claimed more than 180 lives. A made-for-TV
event, which will lavish $50,000 on each successful climber, will
only add to these complaints. Williams, however, stresses that
the Everest climb will not be a race. Instead, the competitors
will be paced by veteran guide Russell Brice of New Zealand,
who's led more than 10 Everest expeditions without a fatality.
Brice, not an OLN producer or overeager competitor, will decide
which climbers, if any, are fit for a summit push. (The finalists
who don't make it to the peak receive no prize money.) "Once we
reach Everest, we're striving for a team event," Williams says.
OLN plans to carry several days of live coverage once the weather
allows a summit attempt, which history indicates would likely
occur in late May. The network has contracted several cameramen
who have extensive experience filming on Everest. Microwave relay
stations will be hauled up the mountain by yaks, and commentators
at base camp will be able to speak live with Brice and the
OLN, naturally, has high hopes for its Everest adventure,
planning this as the first of a series of annual Global
Challenges. Says Williams, "We view this as the Eco-Challenge and
the Raid Gauloises rolled into one." --Pete McEntegart
The Road to the Final Five
Fear Factor, meet Mount Everest. Below is a chronology of the
Global Extremes: Mt. Everest elimination events that will
conclude with the live, mid- to late-May telecast of the
remaining five adventurers trying to make history (not to
mention $50,000) on the 29,028-foot peak.
MONTH SITE COMPETITORS
October Moab, Utah 50
Desert trail running, mountain biking, orienteering
December Telluride, Colo. 24
Ice climbing, backcountry skiing and snowboarding
January Kalahari Desert (Botswana) 12
Desert biking, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing
February Borneo 10
Longboat rowing, whitewater kayaking, triathlon
March Iceland 8
Ice climbing, backcountry skiing and snowboarding
May Nepal 5
Climbing Mount Everest
Perhaps the most compelling subplot to the World Mountain Biking
Championships, which begin in Kaprun, Austria, on Sunday and
continue through Sept. 1, involves Canadian rider Michelle
Dumaresq. Several downhillers, including two of the 32-year-old
Dumaresq's Canadian teammates, Sylvie Allen and Cassandra Boon,
have said that she should be banned from the women's competition
because she was a man before undergoing a sex change operation
six years ago. Dumaresq's detractors argue that her Y chromosome
gives her an unfair advantage. "Until
[I started winning this year], nobody said boo," she said.
"I guess they feel a little threatened." One of the more
outlandish suggestions that has been offered is to allow Dumaresq
to compete in a transgender category in future competitions.
Percent increase, according to American Sports Data, in U.S.
skateboarders between 1998 and 2001. Other fast-growing action
sports during that period include wakeboarding (38%) and
snowboarding (25%). Laggards: mountain biking (down 28%) and rock
climbing (off 9%).
For more adventure go to siadventure.com and check out these
--Kayaking the Class V+ rapids of California's Cherry Creek
--Link to transworldmatrix.com: your extreme sports source
--Trail Guide: U.S. National Parks info database indoor Adventure
Stephen Koch (above) had to postpone a snowboarding descent of
Mount Everest planned for this month because of a torn MCL he
sustained while climbing Nepal's Nuptse. The descent, which Koch,
33, hopes to pull off in August 2003, would have completed his
bid to board the Seven Summits.... John Griber, one of the two
survivors of the April snowboarding tragedy on Alaska's Mount St.
Elias that left two dead (SI, April 29), will depart on Saturday
for Nepal's Cho Oyu, where he will attempt to complete the first
snowboard descent of the 26,906-foot peak by a North American.
"People wonder how I can go through with something this dangerous
so soon [after Alaska]," says Griber, who has not been on a major
excursion since the St. Elias expedition. "But this is what I do.
I just feel like it's time." ... These pages have been littered
with tales of history-chasing globetrotters, from Triple Crown
hiker Brian Robinson (SI, July 23, 2001) to around-the-world
runner Robert Garside (SI, July 1, 2002). Now comes word of Bud
and Patricia Kenny and their mule Della, who hit the road 14
months (and 1,200 miles) ago not in pursuit of a record but
simply in search of a good walk unspoiled. Relying on odd jobs
and Bud's monthly $200 check from the Social Security
Administration, the couple, both 54, cover up to 12 miles a day
and hope to complete their odyssey--which tentatively carves a
path from their home in Hot Springs, Ark., to the East Coast, to
the West Coast and back to Hot Springs--in the next 15 to 20
In a breathless performance Tanya Streeter reached deep down to
set yet another free diving record
On the morning of Aug. 17, Tanya Streeter (SI, June 18, 2001)
dived into the Caribbean waters off the Turks and Caicos and,
clinging to a weighted sled, traced a downward path along a metal
cable, ultimately reaching a depth of 525 feet before inflating a
lift bag that launched her upward. When she resurfaced, three
minutes and 26 seconds after drawing her previous breath, she had
smashed by 20 feet the world record for the longest free dive in
the no limits category, in which divers may use aids like the
sled and air bag. (Streeter, who lives in Austin, also holds the
women's world record for the longest unassisted free dive, at 230
feet.) Though such depths typically cause one's lungs to contract
to less than 15% of their normal capacity, the 28-year-old
Streeter betrayed no fear as she approached her target depth. "At
the bottom," she says, "I blew a kiss to the ocean for the gifts
it has given me."
COLOR PHOTO: JIM WILLIAMS/E3 99 EXPEDITION/AP HIGH DRAMA The Everest finale will not be a race but a group expedition led by a veteran guide.
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER GASP! Streeter (here in 2001) can go 3 1/2 minutes on a single breath.
COLOR PHOTO: BO BRIDGES Wipeout BIG ERR Trevor Vines made a filthy landing during the freestyle motocross competition at the Gravity Games earlier this month in Cleveland.