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Discovery Channel decides to cancel Everest jump

Post Author Take1 / April 28th 2014

The tragic events of April 18 when an ice avalanche on the slopes on Mount Everest killed 16 Sherpa guides (3 are missing but presumed dead) has prompted the Discovery Channel to cancel an upcoming show.

The disaster has been described as the deadliest accident ever on Everest. The avalanche struck when a serac (a huge block of ice) hanging over the route up the south side (Nepalese side) of the mountain collapsed.

Making television history

The Discovery Channel (in association with Peacock Productions) had planned to perform a daring stunt on May 11th. The stunt would have seen high altitude climber Joby Ogwyn make the first ever wing suit flight off the summit of Everest. Ogwyn and the Discovery Channel team were already on-site making preparations to live broadcast the jump.

The stunt had always been scheduled with the caveat ‘weather permitting’ so it’s likely that Discovery already had a number of contingencies in place in case the jump couldn’t go ahead. However Discovery had also planned 5 days of build up, involving live programming beginning on May 5th.

Live and pre-recorded TV shows, live webcams and opportunities for Q&A with Joby Ogwyn would all have made up what would have been a huge event in Discovery’s calendar of programming.

Spotlight on the Sherpa People

The president of Discovery, Eileen O’Neill said (before the avalanche struck) that the coverage “will give viewers a chance see what it’s like to actually be at Everest Base Camp [for] all those who contribute to Everest’s unique culture” (Real Screen). We can speculate that the show would have thrown a spotlight on the Sherpa guides themselves and their families who rely on their income to support them.

Several of the Sherpas killed in the avalanche were assisting Ogwyn to prepare for his stunt. Following the avalanche many Sherpas have quit Everest, apparently for the remainder of the season.

Discovery now plan to release a film about the Sherpas and the recent avalanche. The show will encourage viewers to donate to a relief fund for families of the deceased guides.


Despite the current dangers and the need for sensitivity right now Ogwyn says he is not giving up on his goal to become the first person to make a winged flight off the highest point in the world. While he agrees with the decision to cancel the May 11th jump he says “I fully intend on coming back very soon” (Daily Mail).

As many Sherpas leave the Nepalese base camp in a boycott it looks like climbing is over for this year at least.

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