Last fall, I was flipping through the usual suspect channels for me – Discovery, History Channel, TLC, etc., when I came across a show in the middle of the first episode that looked pretty interesting.
The show was called “Everest: Beyond the Limit”.
What attracted me initially was that it promoted itself as the first time cameras had been planned to be brought to the summit of Mt. Everest (video cameras).
For those that don’t know what has been going on in recent years, Everest has at once become much more dangerous than in the past, and much more frequently conquered. And the two go hand in hand.
As with so much in this world, money has largely been the culprit. There is a mini industry of expedition leaders, who, for a large sum, will lead a full technological assault on the world’s highest peak. Which, btw, is still getting taller every year.
As a result, there are now many more people on the slopes during the spring climbing season, most of whom are not qualified to climb it.
So, many more die. THe worst year was 1998 during which 11 climbers perished (I believed) including the man who was considered to be the world’s greatest mountaineer.
You see, near the peak of Everest, you are considered to be in the “death zone”. You are so high, that even climbing WITH oxygen masks, your body basically shuts down. You can’t eat or drink, so you start to catabolize your own body, and even with the oxygen, many people suffer altitude sickness.
The truth is that most of the fatalities occur on the descent, as what they call “summit fever” the adrenaline of trying to reach the top, gets you there, but then the fact that it is more difficult to descend kills so many.
Anyway, as I was watching this show last year, I noticed that they were featuring one young guy in particular. He seemed a rather boisterous, happy go lucky sort. And as I watched it, I kept saying to myself “I know that guy!!!”.
Well, by the second episode, I discovered it was an OLD friend of mine, that I had lost touch with 15 years ago. Tim Medvetz is his name.
Now Tim was an interesting sort. Always just skirting the law so to speak. An outlaw with a perfect credit score as I used to call him.
Tim was my lifting partner back in the old days at the Crunch Fitness on Bleeker Street in Greenwhich village where we used to work out next to Henry Rollins every day.
We were both much larger back then, but Tim is an enormous man anyway. 6’5″ and a personality twice that size. As quiet and reserved as I am, he is loud and fun.
One of our other passions was Harley’s. The last time I had seen Tim, I had taken a new job consulting for a chain of health clubs and he was going to ride his Softtail Classic to Rio. Which he did.
Seems that he moved to LA and began designing and building motorcycles.
On Sept. 10/11th, 2001 – yes 9/11 – he had a horrific crash on his Harley. The doctors first gave him little chance to live, and then even less of a chance to walk, let alone fully recover.
But recover he did. He made a promise to himself in his hospital bed that should he recover, he was going to climb Everest.
He now walks around with a steel plate in his head, dozens of titanium screws in his legs and a bizarre almost wire mesh waste basket contraption holding his spine together.
Of course, these items tend to get VERY cold in the subarctic temperatures of Nepal, let alone at the summit of Everest.
In addition, the best climbers tend to be small wiry types.
Tim began training after recovering from his accident, eventually summitting every peak around Everest.
And then, last season he began his quest on an expedition that just happened to be the one that was being filmed.
His trials and tribulations along the way made for extraordinary TV, as did the adventures of the other climbers, which included a double amputee, a South African trying to make it without oxygen and several others.
Well, last season, Tim became the star of this show because, despite everything, he’s just one of those guys you just… like. He seemed to take over the screen.
At the end, however, he didn’t make it. Less than 300 meters from the summit, he was stopped, when one of these less experienced climbers, a woman from another expedition, collapsed with altitude sickness directly in their path.
For several hours they were stuck on slopes of the summit, so close (yet 300 meters to the summit of Everest is 8 hours of hard climbing, to give you an idea of how difficult it is.) yet so far.
Finally, in danger of running out of oxygen, and with his partner beginning to suffer from altitude sickness – showing real signs of loss of cognizance – it’s like being drunk or in a little trance – they had to come back down.
Well Tim went back this spring. And the new season begins tomorrow (Tuesday) night on the Discovery Channel.
I can’t emphasize enough how riveting they make the climb. Even though it does not begin to cover the difficulties of the trek.