Monday, December 17, 2007

Thoughts On NBC's K2 Special


Did anyone else catch the K2 Special that was part of the Jeep World of Adventure Sports that aired yesterday on NBC? I recorded it and finally had a chance to watch it last night, and thought that I'd share some thoughts on the show.

First, I'd have to say that NBC did a great job of showing how difficult the climb is. The footage that they captured was astounding at times, with some really amazing views of the mountain and the area surrounding it. I liked that they showed us a glimpse of the long, treacherous drive into the Karakorum, followed by several more days of trekking, just to get to the mountain itself. It helped to convey how truly remote the region is, and what the climbers had to go through before they ever set foot on K2.

I also felt that they did a good job explaining the approach to the climb. The narrator, Al Trautwig, talked about establishing base camp as well as the higher camps on the mountain, while also explaining how the team set down fixed lines and worked the route. For a mainstream audience, tuning into a show on mountaineering for the first time, I thought that they made everything easy to follow and understand.

As I mentioned earlier, the video footage was amazing, especially in HD. Watching the team work their way through the ice falls was breathtaking, and the shots from higher on the mountain were spectacular as well. At some points, when they stopped to interview the climbers about what they were doing, you could often catch glimpses of the Karakorum in the background, which looked jaw droppingly beautiful. The shots of the team breaking trail through fresh snow were also amazing, as they often stood chest deep in the white stuff as they struggled to go up. Shots from the summit were similarly awe inspiring, and watching the Shared Summits team reach their goal was a joy.

While watching the show, it was hard to not compare it to Discovery Channel's Everest: Beyond The Limit. It's not really fair to compare them, but the comparison still seems inevitable considering the subject matter. In this case, I would have liked to have seen more than one hour dedicated to the climb. It seemed like the show moved along very quickly, and while you got a sense of how much time passed, thanks to the onscreen prompts, it was still surprising to see "Day 40" appear. Beyond The Limit has the advantage in this area, having eight episodes to play with, which allows us to get to know the climbers much more fully, something that was missing a bit on the K2 special. On the other hand, NBC didn't bog us down with a lot of rehashed elements nor any drama other than what the mountain had to throw at the team.

In the end, I thought the show was excellent. It really did give us a glimpse of K2, a mountain that is orders of magnitude harder to climb than Everest, and hammered home what type of personality is required to go after a summit like that one. I'd love to see more shows like this one on a mainstream network and hopefully future episodes of Jeep World of Adventure Sports will continue what they've started here. It was great to see something other than Everest for a change, and a regular mountaineering segment would be most appreciated.

11 comments:

wade said...

I missed it. I was actually pumped to see it, but just completely blanked and forgot about it that afternoon as I got mixed up in holiday shopping. :(

Oh well, maybe they'll rerun it.

Adventure Junkie said...

You're best bet to catch a re-run would be on Universal HD if you get that channel. They show the Action Sports and Jeep World of Adventure Sports shows on that channel all the time. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they re-ran this show sometime time this week.

Azzfan said...

I did get a chance to watch this show and I have to say it was great. NBC did an amazing job of showing the climbing footage and I did get a sense of what it'd be like on K2. The shots higher on the mountain drove this idea home when it looked like they were climbing near vertical ice walls. Everyone says K2 is harder than Everest and while I didn't disagree before, I now have a sense of just how hard it is. I guess now I'll have to look for things to watch/read on K2! ;)

Adventure Junkie said...

Yeah, I was struck by those same shots. The climbers on the side of the mountain, an almost vertical wall in front of them, and what looks like thousands of feet of drop off around them, and the Karakorum stretching into the distance.

For some reading, check out K2: The Savage Mountain by Charlie Huston (amongst others) for a great starting point on K2. Also, K2: Triumph and Tragedy by Jim Curren is also quite good. You'll find there isn't nearly as much to read, or watch, on K2 as there is on Everest.

Lawrence Van Garrett said...

I throughly enjoyed the show. It was very interesting to hear how difficult it is to just get to the base of K2 and how the naitives wanted no part beyond stable ground.lol One thing that I truly enjoyed was the actual people on the climb. It seemed from the way that they presented themselves that they are were very humble and very grateful to be a part of trying to summit the most difficult mountain in the world technically. With the Discovery Channel Everest program, it left an impression on me that it was less about the climb and more about th drama in the tents and around camp. And of cours Tim's hybrid leg, which if I hear that commentator one more time talk about and the skematic of his leg one more time....
The shots of the mountains, the shots of those guys climbing through whiteout conditions and the frozen tundra on their faces was just awesome. Of course I wish it would have been a four hour program but maybe NBC will get some really great feedback and do another expedition and have the program longer and or span over several weeks.
Overall, I was impressed by the humbling climbers and their positive and grateful nature and the fact that their team, seemed to be better picked than Brice's who is supposedly a God on the mountain. I would bet money that Chris's team would put the smack down on the Discovery Channel's Everest Team. Of course we all know that there is drama on the mountain for those of us who have been on it with a team we did not hand pick ourselves but it was interesting to hear Chris Warner say that every single person on the team was responsible for making sure that the whole team was safe and needed to take care of one another. He seems to have much better leadership than Brice. Quite the opposite feeling from the Discovery Everest program.
Great Job NBC!

Adventure Junkie said...

Totally agree with your comments Lawrence.

The difference between the teams is night and day, but then again, the climbers on K2 are all highly experienced, professional mountaineers, while the people who are the focus on "Beyond The Limit" are mostly amateurs. We don't see too much of Brice's guides, who would be more akin to the guys on K2.

I enjoyed this show because of the tight focus on the climb and less about the drama in the tents as well. Everyone was very focused on what it was going to take to get to the top, and less about how they were being treated by Brice.

Great stuff. I hope we see more of it. There are 12 other 8000m peaks that need attention. :) (Other than K2 and Everest of course)

Azzfan said...

Hey thanks for the book suggestions. I just finished my finals today so now I'll have a month off to read all I want!

I hadn't really thought about it before, but the comparison between "Beyond the Limit" and this special was interesting. It seems as though Beyond does focus more on the commercialization of climbing with the "clients" where as K2 was focused on the actual mountaineers. Some of my favorite parts of Beyond were those where the guides were shown (this seemed to be more in the first season with Bill Crouse), the drama gets old.

Adventure Junkie said...

Right! The mountain provides enough drama, without injecting more through conflicts and personalities. Beyond the Limit is at it's best when its focused on the climb as well.

Anonymous said...

I watched it on nbcsports.com/k2, but was disappointed they didn't show the epic descent, where a climber from another team had to be rescued, and where Don lost his crampons, and fell on descent, and made his way down on a damaged leg.

Adventure Junkie said...

I was a little disappointed that we didn't see anything of the descent either. I imagine it came down to how much time was available and with only one hour, they had to focus on the ascent first and foremost.

I would have really liked both hours devoted to the climb, but then again, I'm greedy that way. ;)

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