In the fall of 2016, two friends and I embarked on an ambitious adventure in the Himalayas and attempted to climb two unclimbed peaks named after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay – the first two men to summit Mt. Everest.

Meet the Team

Elia Saikaly

Ottawa, Canada

After his mentor’s tragic passing on Mt. Everest, Elia, who had never climbed a mountain or even slept in a tent, decided to retrace his footsteps up the world’s tallest mountain. It was a decision that changed Elia forever. He is now an award-winning, high-altitude filmmaker, philanthropist, inspirational speaker and global adventurer. Elia has been to the top of Mt. Everest twice, participated in eight Himalayan climbs, and has scaled five of the world’s seven summits.

Pasang Kaji Sherpa

Kathmandu, Nepal

Pasang-Kaji isn’t your typical Sherpa. He’s a businessman, entrepreneur, expert climber, and father. When not climbing as a high-altitude Sherpa, he is running his climbing shop, and restaurant.

Pasang was recently in Syria helping civilians who were caught in the war. Risking his own life and his safety to help others seems to be a common occurrence for him. He is the ultimate Sherpa.

Gabriel Filippi

Montreal, Canada

With over twenty Himalayan expeditions under his belt, including five on Mt. Everest, Gabriel is the only Quebecer and second Canadian to summit Everest from both the North and South side. He’s climbed six of the seven summits, led a heart transplant recipient to the top of Mt. Blanc and climbed numerous technical peaks in South America.

When not leading expeditions to the world’s tallest peaks, Gabriel shares his stories as an inspirational speaker to help others find success.

Travis Wood

Toronto, Canada

Travis Wood – ie: Master of all trades storytelling and video production. Travis wore all hats on Unclimbed from director to producer to editor and director of photography. He shaped the promos, constructed the storylines in the edit suite and lead the charge in the field with his trusted crew and team from Bell Media and his sidekick and partner Graham Garside.

Graham Garside

Toronto, Canada

Graham Garside is the other technical/creative half of Unclimbed – Reaching the Summit. Whether flying the gimbal, shooting camera, cutting French web-episodes or the 1 hr French broadcast on RDS, he had his talented hands in it all. Graham (also known as GG) typically works on all aspects of content creation, as producer, creative director, director and editor.

Watch the Trailer
Preparation & Challenges
Watch the 8 part Discovery Channel documentary series which introduces the team and chronicles our preparation for the climbs. Along the way you will learn about the unexpected obstacles we had to overcome.
Follow Our Journey
When our team leader Gabriel suffered a climbing accident just days into the expedition our mission shifted from exploration to rescue. After Gabriel was evacuated to safety, Pk and I returned to attempt the impossible.
Expedition Timeline
Media Gallery
Expedition Timeline

Inbound

Amazing treatment from Qatar Airways who sponsored our flights and graciously put us and the film crew up in business class with our 400+kg of climbing and film equipment. There will be plenty of suffering later, for now the comfort is incredibly well received and very much appreciated.

Testing gear on the roof of the Dalail La Hotel in Kathmandu - This is the gear that will keep us connected throughout the expedition. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Testing Gear

Testing gear on the roof of the Dalail La Hotel in Kathmandu - This is the gear that will keep us connected throughout the expedition.

Streets of Thamel

The traditional densely populated streets of Thamel are much quieter than usual as the upcoming climbing season is still a few weeks away. We've been taking unnecessary rickshaw rides to help put a few dollars in the pockets of the local drivers who claim that business hasn't been the same since the 2015 Earthquake.

The Mountain Keeper

We shared the morning with Miss Elizabeth Hawley, also known as the 'Mountain Keeper' and creator of the Himalayan Database, the best-known chronicle of Himalayan expeditions for over four decades.

Puja Ceremony

For me, the Puja ceremony is the most beautiful part of Himalayan expeditions. We honour and respect the cultural beliefs and embrace the blessings and requests for safe passing in the mountains. The Puja marks the official beginning of our expedition.

Lukla to Phakding

Yesterday we landed in Lukla and were thrilled to see that our 1000+kg’s of gear arrived safely. The reality of this expedition is quickly setting in. There could be no better scenario to live out a dream with two of your closest friends.

Approaching the Mountain

Hard working, resilient, cheerful and always happy. Sharing the approach with these amazing human beings is one of my favorite parts of mountaineering expeditions.

Solu Khumbu

Moody landscapes in the Solu Khumbu.

Double suspension bridge on the way to Namche - Gabriel Filippi, Pasang Kaji Sherpa and Elia Saikaly - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Bridge to Namche

In approx 10 days we are truly going to be living and surviving on our own little planet with no one around for almost 50 days. This is PK Gab and I crossing the highest suspension bridge in the Khumbu Valley.

White Out

Yesterday morning it looked like this, which is outstanding. This morning we are departing in a complete white out. We've got 10 hours or so ahead of us before reaching the next destination.

Keeping things light on the approach - @GabrielFilippi @PasangKajiSherpa @EliaSaikaly - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Dreams becoming

I've learned that any dream worth dreaming is the dream with the uncertain outcome.

A Team of Three

No, he's not our climbing Sherpa. No, he's not here to carry loads or my camera gear. No, we did not receive a discount on his fees because he's Sherpa. He's on our team. One of three. Equal contributor in planning this every step of the way. We're all in this together.

Stunning morning views in Machermo with our new friend Lobsang - owner of the lodge we stayed in. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Machermo

Stunning morning views in Machermo with our new friend Lobsang - owner of the lodge we stayed in

My Favourite

These guys, my absolute favourite part of Nepal and the Himalayas.

In my element

Me in my element, gearing up for what’s to come.

Sonam Sherpa

This morning Sonam and I hiked up to the top of Gokyo-Ri at 430am at 5300m, to capture some sunrise imagery of the surrounding peaks. To my surprise after asking him a few questions about his life, he shared a very sad story of both of his parents dying far too young. One by 'disease', the other a construction accident. He and his older sister take care of their younger sisters who are still in school. Working as a porter is his main source of income. The sad truth: he only does it for the money. To provide for his sisters. Imagine that responsibility at 19 years old.

Everything We Need to Survive

Alright my friends, this is it. From here on out it's Gab, PK and I, 1000kg's of everything we need to survive, a herd of yaks, a team of porters, a few great Sherpas and one hell of an unknown adventure for the next 60 days.

Unchartered Territory

We've officially entered Unchartered territory and established Hillary Basecamp just over 5200m above sea level.

Recon

Recon has begun as we attempt to unlock the route to the upper part of the mountain.

Opening the route to access the upper part of the mountain #Unclimbed - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Unlocking the route

Gabriel Opening up the route to unlock the upper part of the mountain

Immense Challenges

Today, we are challenged immensely by circumstances beyond our control. The outcome is uncertain and danger lies at every turn. The unknown route is humbling and damn right intimidating. In the face of hardship and adversity, we revert back to our core: to dare to dream and risk to venture for the love of exploration with the high risk of failure and potential for a monumental shared experience between soul brothers born worlds apart. We wanted a challenge, well here it is. An opportunity to soar or crumble. This is the field of all possibility. And I honestly have no idea which way this is all going to work out.

A team of two

And then there were two… Two weeks ago I watched in sheer horror as my best friend and climbing partner Gabriel flew off the cliff he was scaling, upside-down and backwards to what I was certain would be paralysis or death. He bounced uncontrollably like a rag doll, over 60ft, from cliff to cliff, before eventually coming to a stop just feet next to where PK was belaying him. In total shock, I ran down to his aid praying for the best, terrified of the worst possible outcome.

Our Puja at Hillary and Tenzing basecamp #Unclimbed #FindingLife - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Puja in 360

Our Puja at Hillary and Tenzing basecamp

Heading back to basecamp alone to meet Pasang Kaji Sherpa - Photo in Phakding - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Return to basecamp

Heading back to basecamp alone to meet Pasang Kaji Sherpa - Photo in Phakding

Pasang Kaji Sherpa at Gokyo lake - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Gokyo Ri

Pasang Kaji taking a little hike and solo’ing Gokyo Ri

Heroes of the Himalayas

17 days ago these incredible men built a helicopter landing pad with their bare hands so Gabriel could be evacuated to safety down below. At 5200m, this is an incredible display of care, love and strength. Today we return to where it all happened and commence the journey. We carry on with the dream that was halted and almost came to an end.

Best lodge in Gokyo - Meet Kami the owner and Kusang PK's nephew #Unclimbed #FindingLife - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Kami’s Lodge

Best lodge in Gokyo - Meet Kami the owner and Kusang PK's nephew

Scouting the lines outside of basecamp #unclimbed - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Scouting the lines

Scouting the lines just outside of Hillary Basecamp

The Puja

Pasang Kaji raised the prayer flags as Dangima, one of our porters, led the ceremony in prayer. We had our gear and personal belongings blessed which included photographs of our loved ones. The weather Gods were very kind to us and graced us with crystal clear skies.

The South Face

The south face of Cho Oyu lit up by the rising moon with an appearance by the glorious Milky Way.

Ice Wall

At 4am, we rise and begin our journey around the deadly icefall in search of a new route. After 6 hrs of breaking trail and forging a path up to 5900m, we were met with this giant ice wall.

Passing the torch

There is a fire in Pasang Kaji’s eyes that I’ve never seen before. He’s truly stepped up and today I graciously passed on the expedition leader torch and placed it in his hands. We work as equals, but should we succeed, it’s important to me that he be recognized officially as having stood in the forefront.

Our story

I’m sitting here in a yellow North Face tent at Hillary and Tenzing basecamp at 5200m in the Himalayas typing this blog up on my Macbook Pro.

Together we climb

A few weeks back I watched in sheer horror as my best friend and climbing partner Gabriel Filippi flew off the cliff he was scaling, upside-down and backwards to what I was certain would be paralysis or death.

Up the couloir

As we made our way up the couloir, to the point where Gab had his accident, I couldn’t help but feel anxious and wonder: will the same thing happen to one of us? "Are you nervous?" I asked PK “Nope” he replied. “I’m excited to climb”. We forged a path to the left and found ourselves buried in snow up to our waists for the next 7 hours. Every vertical step was three times the effort it should have been as we’d penetrate the top layer of snow and repeatedly sink. At altitude, this is no small task.

Unlocking the route

It’s 3am. We emerge from our tents in the frigid sub-zero temperatures of the Himalayan night and make our way to the dining tent where hot coffee and porridge awaits. We slip on our harnesses and climbing boots, load up our back packs and head directly for the Puja, the altar the Sherpas build to pay respect to the mountains.

The Mountain

Alone, connected to the mountain, in tune with nature, lost in flow and nowhere to be but immersed deep in the present moment.

Living on the edge

It’s 8:30pm and we’ve been chopping ice with our ice axes for the past 30 minutes. The cold seems irrelevant at this point as we’re likely going to freeze to death if we don’t get this ledge built and tent installed in the next few hours.

High altitude critical thinking

As we descend to basecamp the first thing we do is visit the puja altar, scoop a small handful of rice in our left hands, place our right hands on our heart and toss the rice in the air as an offering to the mountain Gods. According to the Sherpas, this is a gesture of respect and gratitude.

Our expedition is over

There is really no easy way to say this: Our expedition is over. After very careful analysis of the risk vs. rewards scenario, we decided as a team that it is best to end our efforts and surrender due to the unstable terrain and the extreme high level of risk.

The Unsung Heroes of Unclimbed

One of the main themes that we have been trying to bring attention to with our expedition are the climbing Sherpas who work behind the scenes, often in the shadows, who are the unsung heroes of the Himalayas.
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