Soaring 8,848 metres above sea level - equal to the height of 16 CN Towers placed end to end - Everest's summit is the ultimate challenge for climbers around the world. Shot between March and June 2004, Ultimate Survival: Everest chronicles the Everest efforts of Team Discovery, which included two Canadian climbers - producer and experienced adventure guide Ben Webster, and his girlfriend, rookie climber and PhD candidate in Sports Psychology, Shauna Burke - plus Australian Andrew Lock and Hector Ponce de Leon from Mexico, both veterans of Everest and the world's most intimidating peaks. The series also follows the treks of Annabelle Bond, a London socialite; and diabetic American climber Will Cross. The expedition's members, including the team's Nepalese Sherpa guides, were trained to act as the production team, filming the extreme physical demands, physiological changes and emotional hardships that shaped their personal experiences on Everest.
The trek to Base Camp is roughly 42 kilometres, but the real challenge is ascending the additional 2,500 metres to reach the summit. At this altitude, the air is significantly thinner than at sea level and at the peak contains only one third the oxygen of air at sea level. Teams must also battle the bitter cold, with average temperatures of -30 C and hurricane-force winds. These conditions challenge both the mind and the body, pushing climbers to the limits of human endurance.
Ultimate Survival: Everest stretches the boundaries of high altitude production to reveal parts of the mountain that have never before been captured on film, with the majority of the footage shot in High Definition (HD). Technological advances - even in the last five years - have made it possible to take production equipment into areas and to heights previously unattainable, allowing the expedition members featured in the series to reveal what it's really like to risk it all for a shot at the summit. Not that it was easy - the crew anticipated every shot in advance and was conservative with their resources to ensure that the supplies and equipment would last throughout the expedition. Keeping the equipment warm and protected against the elements, and sourcing gloves that allowed climbers to operate the cameras were among the additional challenges that "ordinary" climbers do not encounter on Everest.
Though successful climbers have taken 15 different routes up the mountain, this expedition tackles the Khumbu Icefall and the south face of Everest; the same route pioneered by Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Since then more than 1,200 people have reached the peak - and nearly 200 more have died trying - approximately one for every 30 who attempt, or one for every five who succeed. Ultimate Survival: Everest sees summit victory for some, defeat for others and danger for all of Team Discovery.