DStv, Sherpa, documentary, Discovery Channel, Everest

What inspired the epic Everest doccie?

On Sunday 24 April at 20:00 on Discovery Channel 121, we'll get to witness the epic journey that is Sherpa. This documentary gives us a look at those that climb the mountain for a living, and the dangers they face every day.

To tell us a little bit about the project is Sherpa producer Jennifer Peedom:


How did you come up with the idea to produce the film devoted to the Sherpa?

I had worked as a camera operator and a high altitude director on various expeditions. When I was younger in the Himalayas, I was always surprised at the extent that the Sherpas got left on the cutting room floors of these films and that their story seemed to be overlooked.  Also, having worked with one particular expedition company, I got to know this particular team of Sherpas very well. Some of them told me things like: “They never show the Sherpa faces. Why do they never show the Sherpa faces? Do they try and hide the fact that we do all of this work?” It had been in the back of my mind for a couple of years and it felt like the right time to make a film that just purely focussed on their point of view of an Everest expedition.


How difficult was it to produce the film in such severe conditions? How did you feel personally and did you use any special equipment to produce the film?

It was a very emotional film to make. It’s very difficult to work at altitude and I knew that - having worked at altitude before. So I picked a very experienced team to work with me, some of whom I’d worked with before because not everyone’s bodies work properly at altitude. The day that the avalanche happened was emotional for everyone, especially the Sherpas. I had a Sherpa team on my camera crew as well so we had all sorts of different cameras. We had everything from GoPros and even iPhones that we used to film some of the initial protest meetings, through to red cameras which we shot aerials with. I think we even had an electric camera there. I had two Sherpa cameramen who had their own cameras that we’d trained how to use. I ended up shooting, which I hadn’t intended on doing, and there’s lots of things that you have to do I think to keep the cameras working well at altitude and part of that is just dealing with the cold.


What was the most dangerous situation during the shooting of the documentary?

I think the most dangerous situation was when my Sherpa camera crew went up through the ice fall. They were wearing GoPros and they were also shooting with their cameras that we’d given them. They were shooting on the day that the avalanche happened and I was just incredibly relieved that our entire team was above the avalanche zone - but they were very, very close to it. They were clearly in a very dangerous situation and they were just doing their job.


What do you want viewers to learn from the film that you've produced?

I guess I want to show them a perspective on Everest. I think that we’ve all seen Everest documentaries before. I would hope that people watching the film would have a greater insight into the Sherpa people themselves and their culture but also that anyone thinking about climbing Everest may have a deeper insight into the risk that they’re asking other people to take on their behalf. The message is not about not climbing, it’s not for me to say but hopefully it will open people’s eyes to the risks that the Sherpas have to take on Everest.


How much preparation does the Sherpa have to make before heading to the mountains?

They live at altitude so they don’t need to do much preparation. I think they just learn by going there. Certainly the Sherpas on my team do get some training but I think one of the biggest things you need to prepare for climbing a mountain like Everest is just acclimatisation and the Sherpas have an advantage that they’re already more acclimatised. They still need to acclimatise to a mountain as high as Everest and they also spiritually prepare. They go to the monastery before they go, they do a lot of praying. I think it’s more of a spiritual preparation for them.


Be sure to catch Sherpa on Sunday 24 April at 20:00 on Discovery Channel (121).