Because It Is There
May 14, 2008 5:58 AM   Subscribe

PBS's Frontline has just released Storm Over Everest, a new report that chronicles the 1996 Everest disaster. The story was most notably told by Jon Krakauer in his award-winning book Into Thin Air, which ignited a flurry of letters (pun definitely intended) about the roles of guides and Sherpas on the mountain.
posted by aheckler (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It should be noted that the Swedish adventurer, Göran Kropp, who had ridden his bicycle and all of his supplies from Stockhom to Everest (just because he could), and who climbed without sherpas and oxygen tanks, and who wanted to summit as much as any one on that mountain, turned around on his first attempt 300 ft from the summit "believing that he would be too tired to descend safely if he went up further."

For that display of self-restraint, Kropp deserved more than a passing reference in Krakauer's book.
posted by three blind mice at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Watch it now. We only have rights to stream it for a month.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:26 AM on May 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I’m not sure what the point of this is. Well, ratings, naturally, I’m sure I’ll watch it. It’ll be interesting to see how some of them are doing ten years later, but do we really need a whole new generation of people who weren’t there and know nothing about climbing to judge these people and decide where they all went wrong?

It’s sad that pretty much everything in the world has been climbed by now so the only thing people are interested in is tragedy. And what do you do when there is a lack of big tragedy in the climbing world? You go back twelve years and re-hash one that has been discussed to death, written about in no less than four books, at least two movies (including an IMAX film), and countless newspaper and magazine articles. Is Breashears out of ideas?

I can't wait until we've colonize Mars and have some new mountains to climb.
posted by bondcliff at 6:34 AM on May 14, 2008

Was going to fire this up on the laptop last night but fell asleep, will fire up ASAP.

Mayor Curley, are there any plans to go through the back catalog of Frontlines on the PBS website and bring them up to snuff technologically with the new releases? I.e., viewable in that really excellent, smooth full screen mode? There's so much awesome stuff on there that I missed the first time around but it's tough watching some of them in tiny little windows or in blurry enlarged windows. I imagine there's something financially or technically prohibitive about doing that?
posted by The Straightener at 6:39 AM on May 14, 2008

I imagine there's something financially or technically prohibitive about doing that?

We have been adding stuff to the more modern versions-- you can see classic stuff like "A Class Divided" in the player. I do all the encoding amongst lots of other stuff, so it's an occasional thing. There will probably be more stuff added this summer when the series isn't in production.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:11 AM on May 14, 2008

For those interested in another perspective on the 1996 disaster, try The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev (RIP) and G. Weston DeWalt.

Boukreev felt Into Thin Air portrayed him negatively and did not have all the facts surrounding his decisions.
posted by bwg at 7:21 AM on May 14, 2008

The Frontline doc (which aired last night, and was pretty great) actually portrays Boukreev as the hero.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:52 AM on May 14, 2008

I thought The Climb was the better book, very much to my surprise. If nothing else, both need to be read to get the fullest sense possible of what happened up there.
posted by docpops at 8:03 AM on May 14, 2008

I’m not sure what the point of this is.

There's a lot out there about the 1996 disaster, much of it great. What distinguished last night's program was the motherfuckin' HD. Amazing.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:09 AM on May 14, 2008

Online chat with filmmaker David Breashears.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:15 AM on May 14, 2008

I read The Climb and Into Thin Air and agree, you need to read both. Differing perspectives regarding the same events help give a fuller understanding of the events as they were unfolding.
I look forward to watching this tonight when I get home.
Thanks for the post.
posted by a3matrix at 1:18 PM on May 14, 2008

So has Brashears used this material in another documentary for the non-US market? Because I've definitely watched something recently on this subject that included all the same interviewees, that Brashears had a filmmaker role in, but that was called something different.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2008

Peter, I don't see anything else unless it's his 1997 NOVA program "Everest: The Death Zone". I haven't seen it recently so I don't recall how similar it would come across to this material.

I’m not sure what the point of this is. Well, ratings

I dunno. That's a bit cynical. It's really well put together and the interviews are pretty good. On the other hand, if you're familiar with the story, there isn't that much new. Breashears doesn't really put any kind of narrative gloss on it, not even a look at how climbing Everest has changed, or any kind of biographical updates on the people. To some extent the material speaks for itself; it's a compelling story and will probably be told again and again.

do we really need a whole new generation of people who weren’t there and know nothing about climbing to judge these people and decide where they all went wrong?

Pretty sensitive about the Krakauer book, are we? As above, there really isn't a whole lot of judging going on in this one. In fact, it could be called quite restrained. Certainly it gives Boukreev his due for getting people back from the huddle. It doesn't go into any speculation about why Hall and Fischer took the risks they did or whether there were alternatives or whether they were even responsible. The issue of the ethics of guided climbing isn't raised, nor any question of specific strategic choices that any of the guides made.

Frankly, the title almost suggested that the point was going to be the controversy, but it didn't even explicitly say there had been any.

Curley: Let me just say that the PBS streaming facility is fantastic, particularly since I have to watch it over Wi-Fi. I wish even NBC's were this good.
posted by dhartung at 12:43 AM on May 15, 2008

Can't watch it all now, but what I've seen so far looks fantastic--much thanks for the find!

As far as Into Thin Air and Jon Krakauer are concerned, I have to say it was that book that destroyed my dream of climbing Mt Everest. It had always been a slightly abstract dream, one of many goals on a life list (or, a 'bucket list' if you prefer), but that didn't mean that in the back of my mind I didn't want to do it.

The descriptions in that book--of rich people being handheld by experienced climbers who wanted to make a fee, of people stumbling up to the summit of Everest in such misery that the whole thing hardly seemed worth it--just kind of cuts away any desire I ever had to fulfill that dream...
posted by librarylis at 1:13 AM on May 15, 2008

Thank you - I'm looking forward to watching this. Coincidentally, I'm home sick at the moment and I reread Into Thin Air yesterday. It made me realise that the hacking cough I have now really isn't all that bad.
posted by andraste at 5:07 AM on May 15, 2008

Sweet! I'll watch this over the weekend... I just saw Ed Viesturs speak at the local book store, and his slide show was crazy. 'Course, he touches on these events in "No Shortcut to the Top," as well... a good read, if you're into adventures and whatnot.
posted by ph00dz at 6:43 AM on May 15, 2008

So... yeah. That was totally great, of course. A perfect thing to watch while hiding from the sun on a hot afternoon. Thanks for doing such a good job on the encoding, MC...
posted by ph00dz at 5:37 AM on May 19, 2008

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