Aired Tuesday May 13th, 2008 at 8:00 pm
In May 1996, world-renowned climber and filmmaker David Breashears was making his third ascent up Mount Everest, leading an IMAX film team, when a swift and ferocious storm unexpectedly hit the mountain, trapping three exhausted climbing teams near the top of the world's highest peak.
In the FRONTLINE special presentation "Storm Over Everest," airing Tuesday, May 13, at 8 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7.1 and simultaneously in HD on KUED 7.2, Breashears returns to summit Everest and to reflect on the fateful storm that resulted in the deaths of five climbers on the south side of the mountain. Combining breathtaking original cinematography with dramatic recreations of the storm conditions of May 1996, the two-hour, high-definition documentary transports viewers to the slopes of Mount Everest. Interviews with climbers who survived the harrowing ordeal record the events - and the decisions that were made - that resulted in seasoned mountaineers losing their lives alongside less experienced climbers drawn to the mystique of Mount Everest.
"The mountain doesn't care whether we're here or not," Breashears says in the film. "Everything it means to us is only what we bring to it. It's what the mountain reveals about us that has any lasting value."
In "Storm Over Everest," survivors recount the progress of
three separate expeditions up the South Col of Mount Everest - and the
near-intoxication some climbers felt as they approached the prized summit on
May 10, 1996.
"You've gone so far up the mountain, you've come so far from home and you spent six months preparing for this goal," climber Charlotte Fox says. "There's no way you're going to turn around unless things are really going south."
Go south they did, and quickly. As victorious climbers celebrated on the summit and waited - perhaps too long - for the rest of their parties, an intense storm roared across Mount Everest, transforming what had been a beautiful day of mountain climbing into the ultimate struggle for survival.
In the end, some climbers would miraculously find their way back to camp. Others would be rescued by the heroic efforts of those who risked their own lives by venturing out in the storm to lead them to safety. Five climbers - two of them expedition leaders - would not return.
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