I was on assignment on Everest when Nick Cienski called me to ask if I could film his ambitious expedition. I remember thinking: ‘this is a crazy idea!’ Sign me up!
Nick began climbing in the Himalayas and Karakorum mountains at age 21 (1987). For well over the next decade, Nick focused on difficult routes operating in small teams in challenging situations with no supplemental oxygen, no high altitude Sherpa support, and minimal equipment. Nick returned to the Himalayas in 2014 after a 21-year hiatus from high altitude climbing and next year will lead the 6 Summits Challenge team.
Elia Saikaly is an award-winning adventure filmmaker whose global adventures inspire others to find their most meaningful life and spark positive change. Never having slept in a tent, Elia’s adventure filmmaking career began on the slopes of Mt. Everest were he set out to honor the life of his fallen mentor. With over 16 expeditions under his belt, Elia has proven time and time again that he has the determination, stamina, skill, resourcefulness, and vision required to meet the greatest of challenges.
Good morning Kathmandu!
It's hard to believe that I'm back! A year ago, I survived a near fatal fall from the sky while paragliding and broke my back. They told me my career was over and that I'd never climb again. And here we are, gearing up to climb Everest. Here we go!
The 6 Summits Challenge
Nick Cienski from Under Armour who is leading the 6 Summits Challenge just outfitted an entire team including Sherpas, guides, cooks and more with some of the most awesome gear I've ever seen.
I've been shooting non stop, mostly video, editing late at night and trying to remember to grab a few quick stills when I get a second. Here is one of my favourite shots from today.
Arrival in Kathmandu
Episode 1 of this real-time web-series: The 6 Summits Challenge is a record-setting expedition focused on attracting a global audience to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking and the fight for fundamental human rights and justice.
Off to the Himalayas
Front seat view from our helicopter and some epic views of Everest and Lhotse
Flight to Lukla
Edited from Namche Bazaar, here’s a little recap of our adventure from the lowlands of Kathmandu to the Village of Namche Bazaar.
KTM to Lukla
Nothing quite like flying from Kathmandu to the Himalayas with gorgeous unexpected views of Everest.
Landed in Lukla
After the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu you exit the chaos of the city and enter the serenity of the valleys leading to Everest basecamp. This is the Lukla airport, considering by many as one of the most dangerous runways on Earth.
We were greeted by this sweet little young girl and her little sister upon arriving in Namche, the Sherpa capital of the Khumbu.
Stupa in Namche Bazaar
Had a blast filming local kids by the Stupa today in Namche Bazaar
Journey to Everest
The backbone of all Himalayan expeditions. Here we see a local porter crossing a suspension bridge below Namche Bazaar.
We spent the evening in Khumjung where Sir Edmund Hillary invested a great deal of his time helping the Sherpas help themselves.
Khumjung and the Sir Edmund Hillary School
Acclimatization day in Khumjung, a very special place where Sir Edmund Hillary invested a great deal of time helping the Sherpas help themselves.
The team continues to support our dream
Another local Nepalese porter carrying some of our gear to Pheriche en route to Everest basecamp. These men and truly incredible and we do our best to compensate them handsomely and take care of them along the way.
My Sherpa team
My Sherpa film crew lead by Pasang Kaji Sherpa for Mission 14 - These guys make what I do possible.
Lobuche peak at night under a full moon on the way to Everest t basecamp. Looking forward to shooting timelapse just beneath the summit.
Meet Nick Cienski
This is the guy I'm trying to keep up with. Nick Cienski from Under Armour. Today the team carried over 800m of rope to camp 1 on Lobuche.. We were rewarded with some outstanding views. Looking forward to sleeping near the summit around 6000m in just a couple of days.
Everest Basecamp – at night
Really should have been sleeping at 3am, but I just couldn't help myself. I love the fact that this is the view from my tent!
First light at Mt. Everest basecamp
My favourite place to wake up! These views are extraordinary.
The team finally arrives to Everest basecamp
Our Sherpa Team are outfitted
Beautiful day meeting all of our high altitude Sherpas at #Everest2015 basecamp. In the middle is Nick Cienski from #UnderArmour who just outfitted 56 high altitude Sherpas. It's rare than an entire expedition gets outfitted like this. Really proud of Nick and his wife Sandi.
Acclimatizing on Lobuche
The view we woke up to this morning... Everest2015 - Wait until you see last night's time lapse series.
A beautiful day at EBC
Under Armour outfits 56 Sherpas! What an incredible day. I’ve seen so many happy faces on the glacier.
Views of Everest
Possibly THE best camp site in the Khumbu. 6000m above sea level on the summit of Mt. Lobuche. 3 Canon DSLR's capturing the magic. The crazy part is that those peaks are almost 2km higher than we are! Chomolungma - Mother Goddess of the Earth.
Pasang Kaji Sherpa
PK Sherpa - the other half of my Everest 2015 two man film team. We gave him a nick name the other day... 'Two Pack Sherpa'. Tried (unsuccessfully) to convey who Tupac was... He carried his own gear and most of my camera gear the day we went up Lobuche earning him the epic nick name. He's one of the smartest, technically savvy, business minded, resilient and resourceful Sherpas I've ever met. He's like a brother and without him, I couldn't do this.
Standing on the summit of Lobuche East, wondering what's coming next...
Milky Way at Everest basecamp
Reach for the stars and climb! The view from my tent last night at Mt. Everest basecamp.
Polaris at EBC
Hello Polaris! 30 minute exposure last night from Everest basecamp. This is my first attempt at long exposure photography, can't wait to try it out above basecamp.
The Icefall at 3am on Mt. Everest
Early morning climbers making their way through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall. The sight of the Milky way at 3am is extraordinary.
An ceremonial departure
At 2am, our Sherpas left camp to climb through the Khumbu Icefall with loads for camp two. I overheard our expedition leader saying: Sending the Sherpas through the Icefall is like sending your boys off to war. You never know if they're going to come back'. To be quite honest, I'm very concerned about this season on Everest. There are major line ups in the deadly Khumbu Icefall which will likely translate into line ups higher up. It's almost May and we haven't even set foot on Everest yet. I have no idea when we're leaving or what's going to happen next.
Tragedy! An avalanche was taken out Mt. Everest basecamp! I’m ok, but many are not. Need to find out just how sever the devastation is. Rescues are fully underway. This is the most terrifying moment of my life.
Evacuation of the critically injured
All morning helicopters evacuated the injured and walking wounded. It's been a horrific 24 hours here at Everest basecamp. So many brave volunteers stepped up to help the wounded.
50+ evacuated this morning from Everest basecamp. Out of respect and due to high stress and emotions on the part of many Westerners and Sherpas, I kept my distance so as to not pour fuel on the fire. A very difficult time to be a filmmaker
The aftermath... Tents obliterated. Equipment lost. Belongings buried. Gear tossed a hundred meters across camp. Many have left. Many struggle to find what's left of of their camps.
Helicopters high above the Khumbu Icefall and Everest 2015. An incredible team of doctors and emergency responders saved dozens of lives. Heroes at every turn. Bravery every step of the way.
Where there is hope, there is life.' Blown away by the bravery of the helicopter pilots who have been evacuating and rescuing the critically injured, wounded and stranded for the past 72 hours. My heart wants out of here... Only time will tell.
Tribute to the Fallen
I did my best under extraordinary circumstances to produce a short piece told through the eyes of our team. No one man filmmaker can accurately portray the heroic acts of bravery on the part of the hundreds who stepped up and helped their fellow climbers. I did the best I could with what I had to tell our little story honestly and with integrity. So many heroes that day from climbers, Sherpas, doctors, heli pilots and guides. A monumental rescue and recovery effort. Please know there were hundreds of stories like ours that day, this is simply our perspective. Many endure much much worse and our hearts are with them. It is with deep respect for the injured and deceased that I share this video. Edited and shot at 17, 500ft. My deepest condolences to all of the families who have lost loved ones.