TV review: Climbing Everest with a Mountain on My Back: The Sherpa's Story

This year I’m going to climb Mount Everest. Well, I say ‘I’, but actually I’m going to send a team of Sherpas up instead. They can climb it on my behalf and plant a flag in my name. They’re good at that sort of thing.

Sherpas on the ridge of Mount Everest, making sure Westerners get down safely
Sherpas on the ridge of Mount Everest, making sure Westerners get down safely

In fact – and I didn’t know this at 8.59pm last night – because generations of Sherpas have lived at high altitudes near the world’s tallest mountain, they have evolved a different genetic structure to the rest of us. They really are natural born mountaineers.

So, while I might be quite handy on a bike – the result of my genetic structure adapting to save money on petrol – Sherpas are very handy when it comes to Everest.

And although every year 1,000 climbers aim for the summit of The Goddess Mother of the World (as they say in downtown Kathmandu), more than half of them are Sherpas making sure glory-hunting westerners get up and down in one piece.

Not only that, they carry the tents, load up the yaks, maintain the equipment and do the washing up.

Honestly, stay at home and let the Sherpas get on with it. You’d only be slowing them down – some have been to the summit nine times.

And, what’s more, they’re not doing it for the glory. No, they’re doing it for spiritual reasons, for enlightenment, and because they see helping others to reach their goal as a good thing.

Yes, I certainly learned a lot watching The Sherpa’s Story, even though at times it was a bit like one of those ‘Our World’ documentaries they showed in geography lessons – although with much better photography.

The programme was of particular interest because it was bookended by a joint Austrian/German attempt to find the body of Andrew Irvine, who died on Everest with George Mallory in 1924.

Irvine was not long out of Shrewsbury School, and some think he and Mallory made it to the summit years before Sir Edmund Hillary – who took no chances and climbed with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

But the expedition never did locate Irvine’s body – even though the Sherpas appeared to be doing all of the actual searching.

Still, one day I’m sure his lonely resting place will be found. And I bet the Sherpas get none of the credit.

Meanwhile, celebrating a slightly different peak of achievement, ITV2 brought a grateful nation The Big Reunion, a documentary series in which six 90s pop bands – including 5ive,

Liberty X, B*Witched and Atomic Kitten – attempt to get back together, despite most people not noticing they’d split up.

Even by the Poundstretcher standards of ITV2 this was cheap telly, with a voiceover delivered in pure exclamation mark.

Apparently when 5ive split up they split up ‘brutally!’; when someone else – Scott, was it? Blowed if I know – left one of the other bands, he ‘quit spectacularly!’, and when somebody else (sorry, I’ve no idea who) threw a bit of a wobbly, it was ‘emotional trauma!’.

Even Tony Blair was moved to tears when B*Witched jacked it in. (Probably.)

Anyway, now they’re back! Back! Back! And aiming for one more shot at stardom.

Actually, if I were them I’d do the sensible thing – stay at home and send in the Sherpas.

Trust me, 5ive, they’ll do a much better job than you.

Andrew Owen

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