This is a superb presentation by Nova that was directed and produced by award winning filmmaker, David Breashears, and Liesl Clark. Narrated by Jodie Foster, the film explores the high altitude climbing experience and the effects of hypoxia, lack of oxygen, on the brain. In order to do this, scientists will track four climbers, as they tackle Everest, among them David Breashears and Ed Viesters, two of the world's reknowned high altitude climbers. With baseline tests having been conducted stateside, the effects of altitude will be measured, as they climb the highest mountain in the world.
Asides from the filming of the scientific tests conducted to provide information on the effects of altitude, there is spectaculatr footage of Everest and its environs. There are breathtaking views of the Khumbu Ice Fall and the great expanse of the Western Cwm. The viewer also gets to see what a bottleneck on Everest looks like. It is pretty amazing to find crowds and congestion in such a vast and remote place. It is also disconcerting to see the amount of trash that is left behind, creating environmental concerns where, until fairly recently, none had existed.
Along their journey, the climbers come across the grisly remains of a climber who did not make it. They also come to the final resting place of the late expedition leader, Rob Hall, who froze on the mountain, when he refused to leave the side of his friend and client in order to save himself, during the 1996 Everest disaster. The viewer sees just how lonely and remote that final resting place is.
When the climbers summit, the viewer is treated to a spectacular vista from the top of the world with beautiful snow capped peaks peeping through fluffy clouds. With this ascent, Ed Viesters becomes the first non-Sherpa to have reached the summit of Everest five times. Unfortuantely, one of the other climbers, who reached the summit, became quite ill from the effects of altitude. Yet, all descended safely. Later, additional tests would reveal that Ed Viesters, who routinely makes high altitude climbs without the use of oxygen, has had portions of his brain affected. The scientists, who conducted the tests, would like to check back with Ed Viesters over time for a follow up.
All in all, this is a very interesting and informative film, with breathtaking cinematography. As a DVD, it offers chapter search, close captioning, a link to Everest: The Death Zone website, and Dolby Sound. It is pretty much a basic DVD with nothing fancy other than the film itself, which is first rate.