National Geographic continues legacy exploration by venturing to top of Everest with two bold originals

National Geographic continues legacy exploration by venturing to top of Everest with two bold originals

Editor’s note: Six Climate Change Institute explorers participated in the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition featured in the “Expedition Everest” special scheduled to air at 10 p.m. EST June 30 on National Geographic. CCI director Paul Mayewski was the expedition leader and lead scientist. He guided the biological, geological, glaciological, meteorological, mapping and multimedia enterprise from Base Camp, where doctoral student Heather Clifford conducted research. Doctoral candidate Mariusz Potocki, a member of the climbing team, collected the highest ice core on the planet (at 8,020 meters on South Col). Earth and climate sciences assistant professor Aaron Putnam led a geology team that documented the Khumbu Glacier’s chronological history from the last ice age to the present. Peter Strand, a Ph.D. candidate, and Laura Mattas, a Quaternary and climate studies master’s student, were members of Putnam’s team. “High Achievers” is a UMaine Today story about the CCI scientists’ experiences.


National Geographic has a long, deep-rooted history of traveling to one of Earth’s most extreme environments atop the highest peak in the world — Mount Everest — to investigate, observe and deliver powerful, groundbreaking stories, despite its risks.

Since 1933, when the magazine published a story about flying over the mountain for the first time, to Society’s first grant in the region in 1948, to National Geographic’s first television broadcast in 1965, which featured footage shot from Everest for the first time, our yellow border in exploring the mountain has been unmatched.

Continuing its rich legacy of Everest exploration with unparalleled access from renowned explorers, scientists, photographers and filmmakers, National Geographic once again ventures to the peak Tuesday, June 30, to combine high-altitude alpinism with cinematic storytelling for two original premieres: “Lost on Everest” and “Expedition Everest.”

Both specials will air globally in 172 countries and 43 languages on National Geographic. For more information, visit or follow on Twitter — @NatGeoPR.

Beginning at 9 p.m. EST, “Lost on Everest” investigates one of exploration’s most perplexing mysteries: What happened to the great explorers Andrew “Sandy” Irvine and George Leigh Mallory, who disappeared June 8, 1924, while attempting the first summit of Everest? The clues to solving this mystery lie frozen somewhere near the top of the world’s tallest mountain.

The one-hour special, presented commercial-free, is led by journalist, climber and adventurer Mark Synnott, along with National Geographic photographer, climber and mountaineer Renan Ozturk. They are joined by a world-renowned team of professional climbers with more than 100 combined years of experience on the mountain.

Together, they set out to find the body of Everest pioneer Irvine; solve the mystery behind his disappearance; and conclusively determine who successfully conquered the world’s tallest mountain — a feat that would rewrite mountaineering history.

While the main goal was to locate Irvine’s body and camera — Mallory’s body was located in 1999 — the expedition team members unwittingly found themselves also fighting for their lives while on assignment and faced harrowing obstacles, including:

  • Extreme weather: Team members were caught in hurricane-force winds of more than 100 mph, which blew tents into the air and threw climbers off their feet — inches away from the side of the mountain.
  • Overcrowding: With high winds and freezing temperatures limiting the window for climbing to a few critical days, the summit became overcrowded with more than 250 climbers — a condition leading to one of the deadliest climbing seasons in history.
  • High-altitude threats: Extreme cold mixed with high altitude caused near deadly complications for two members of the team. A cameraman developed blood clots in his lungs, while another climber suffered a minor stroke, forcing both off the mountain for emergency medical help.

“Lost on Everest” features never-before-seen breathtaking images captured from high-altitude drones and new research from preeminent Everest historian Tom Holzel, who utilizes state-of-the-art computer software to uncover photographic details. As part of the expedition, Ozturk captured a rare and breathtaking 360-degree panorama photograph of Mount Everest, which was featured in National Geographic magazine in 2019. More details can be found here.

“Lost on Everest” is executive produced for National Geographic by Taylor Reesand Renan Ozturk, who also directs, with Drew Pulley producing. Serving as executive producers for National Geographic are Bengt Anderson and Alan Eyres, senior vice president of production and development.

At 10 p.m. EST, “Expedition Everest” follows a team of international scientists, climbers and storytellers to the top of the world’s highest peak to conduct the most comprehensive, single scientific expedition in Mount Everest history.

The one-hour special, narrated by actor Tate Donovan (“MacGyver,” “The Man in the High Castle”) captures trailblazing climate research that is critical to understanding changes facing the mountain and its glaciers, and shines a light on the threats these changes pose to the communities that live downstream.

The groundbreaking mission captures drama that the dedicated, elite expedition team faced and reveals the high stakes and motivations of those who risk their lives to discover the secrets of Everest.

Follow the team, with members from eight countries and half of whom were from Nepal, as they trek higher up the mountain, conducting valuable research along the way:

  • In the valleys that surround Everest, geologists faced icy waters to collect sediment samples from the bottom of a lake created by the Himalayas’ melting glaciers.
  • In the areas surrounding Everest Base Camp, biologists conducted comprehensive biodiversity surveys at multiple elevations to reveal how plants, animals and insects are adapting to warming temperatures.
  • Surveying the famed and notoriously treacherous Khumbu Icefall from above, a team of geographers captured ultra-high-resolution imagery of the entire Khumbu glacier that stretches from base camp all the way up the southern face of the mountain.
  • At Everest’s South Col, home to some of the mountain’s strongest winds and bitter cold, climate scientists sought out thousands-of-years-old ice, retrieving the highest ice core ever collected to give them brand-new insight into how the glacier has evolved.
  • In the “death zone,” above 26,000 feet, the team braved not only extreme conditions but also dangerous crowding to install the world’s highest weather station, providing near-real-time data on conditions at the roof of the world.

“Expedition Everest” gives a behind-the-scenes look at the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest expedition, part of a partnership between National Geographic and Rolex to shine a light — through science, exploration and storytelling — on the challenges facing the Earth’s critical life-support systems.

By combining National Geographic and Rolex’s shared history of exploration with science-based storytelling, the partnership illuminates the impacts of climate change on our planet and helps to equip communities with tools to bolster their resilience.

To learn more about the expedition and the vital role mountain systems like Everest play in providing water resources to nearly a quarter of the world’s population, visit

“Expedition Everest” is produced by National Geographic Studios, with Christine Weber serving as executive producer, Katie Bauer Murdock as producer and Katherine Chivers as associate producer.

In addition to the two National Geographic Everest specials, National Geographic magazine has released its special, single-topic issue spotlighting Mount Everest.

The July issue, which includes stunning photography, weaves together the unique history of exploration and discovery on Mount Everest with new, cutting-edge science and storytelling.

The issue investigates the quest to solve one of the mountain’s biggest mysteries: Who really summited Everest first?

It also explores how climate change is altering the world’s highest peak; delves into new conservation efforts for snow leopards; and provides an exclusive look inside the expedition that built the world’s highest weather station. The special issue is available online June 15 and on newsstands June 30.

About National Geographic Partners
National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 132 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27% of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit or, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

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