In early February I got one of those calls that doesn’t often make much sense to others outside the film business. A call to travel to a distant location with relative short notice for 70 days leaving behind family, friends and the creature comforts of daily life that so many are used to and perhaps even take for granted. This particular call, however, was one that can make even those in my closest film circles scratch their heads. But for me, this was the type of call that I am familiar with, even welcome on many levels and have spent years honing my skills for.
After months of on again/off again talks of a return project to Nepal this spring to climb and film on Mount Everest I was told in early January that the job was off and there would be no production on Everest this spring. Then, while I was working in the Philippines in early February where I would be shooting for the month on The Bourne Legacy, I received a call from Eddie Bauer saying that the project was in fact now on and asking if I would I like to return to Mount Everest to climb and serve as the Director/DP on a project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Mount Everest. “Wow, really? But I thought…. Ok…This is cool…” I said to myself. Except now I was going to be in Manila for the next month at sea level filming and when I arrive home in early March I will have just over three weeks to prep, pack & train for a 70 day expedition on Everest!! The decision wasn’t all that easy and after a lot of Skype time with my wife, Amy, it was decided that this was another great opportunity and that I should indeed return to Everest.
So on March 27th I will be heading back to Nepal on another exciting project for Eddie Bauer/First Ascent where I will again be climbing and shooting on the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest(29,035′) and also known to the Tibetans as Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Universe.
This will be my third time climbing and filming on Everest and if our team is blessed with good weather and the right conditions it very well may be be my second time to the summit. I previously climbed and filmed to the summit of Mount Everest in the spring of 2009 on another project for Eddie Bauer topping out on May 23rd. Prior to that expedition I had climbed and filmed on the north (Tibet) side of Everest in 2002 climbing to 23,000′.
This years project will focus on a few storylines the biggest of which is the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Mount Everest that took place in May of 1963. In the spring of that year the American Mount Everest Expedition had two teams climb to the summit of Mount Everest. On May 1st Jim Whittaker and Nawang Gombu summited via the Southeast Ridge and on May 22nd Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld summited via the never before climbed West Ridge. Also on the 22nd Barry Bishop and Lute Jerstad climbed the Southeast ridge with intentions of meeting Hornbein and Unsoeld on the summit.
At that time the Southeast ridge route had been climbed only twice, once by the British in 1953 and another time by the Swiss in 1956. However the west ridge had never before been climbed and was known to be a more difficult and committing route which, when considering the year, was an incredible feat. What many people don’t know is that this expedition as well as many others in the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s & 80′s was outfitted by Eddie Bauer.
This year Bauer will have two teams climbing Everest via the two same routes that were climbed in 1963. The West Ridge team will be comprised of a strong & talented group of climbers including Dave Morton, Charlie Mace, Brent Bishop (son of ’63 south col summiter Barry Bishop) and my very good friend, photographer and partner on many expeditions, Jake Norton. If successful, Jake will be the first person to summit Everest by all three original ridge routes. The Southeast ridge team will be comprised of expedition leader and 13 time Everest summiter Dave Hahn; 3 time Everest summiter Melissa Arnot; Leif Whittaker, son of Jim Whittaker, previously having summitted in the spring of 2010; and myself having now climbed and filmed to the top of six of the famed “Seven Summits” including Everest in May of 2009. Two other stories that I will be focusing on are Dave and Melissa’s respective records on Everest. Dave will be going for his 14th summit, more than any other non Sherpa and Melissa will be going for her 4th summit which would be the most summits for any non Sherpa female climber on Everest.
Our trip will begin with flights from our respective hometowns onto Los Angeles, then Bangkok and then finally Kathmandu. We will spend only a couple of days in Kathmandu taking care of last minute details before flying into the small village of Lukla that sits at the lower reaches of the infamous Khumbu Valley and is the beginning of the 10 day, 39 mile walk just to Everest base camp.