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24 September 2014
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Planet Earth
Mount Everest

Planet Earth




Humans like to think that once they've climbed a peak, they've somehow conquered it. But they can only ever be visitors to this hostile world.

Planet Earth introduces the 'real' mountaineers and discovers the secrets of their survival on the mightiest peaks of our planet.

Welcome to an extreme landscape of rock, ice and snow; a vertical world as alien to humans as the surface of another planet.

Planet Earth takes you on a tour of its mightiest mountain ranges, starting with the birth of a mountain at one of the lowest places on Earth and ending at the summit of Everest.

Mountains are home to some of the shyest and most secretive animals on the planet, and this programme will show how they rise to the challenge of mountain life.

In Ethiopia, Planet Earth ventures into the heart of a volcano to discover one of earth's rarest phenomena, a lava lake that's been erupting for over 100 years. The same forces built the Simian Mountains, home to troops of gelada baboons nearly a thousand strong.

In the Andes, a family of five puma struggle to survive the most unstable mountain weather on the planet.

Surviving the full force of an avalanche in the Rockies are grizzlies that spend their winters denning inside the dangerous slopes. In summer the bears climb the peaks in search of moths which they devour by the thousand.

From the icy core of a glacier in the Alps to the largest glacier in the world, this realm of giant peaks is home to the highest land predator on the planet - the snow leopard. Astounding images of the snow leopard hunting on the Pakistan peaks are a world first.

The wildlife spectacles continue with the first footage of a wild Giant Panda nursing her week-old baby in a mountain cave in China, and an aerial journey alongside demoiselle cranes as they attempt to cross the largest range of mountains on our planet, the Himalayas.

Producer - Vanessa Berlowitz

A Rapid Descent amongst Mighty Peaks - Mount Everest, Himalayas

4.00am in a Nepalese Air Force Base in Kathmandu. Cameraman Michael Kelem and I found ourselves watching soldiers emptying bombs from an ex-British spy plane.

In just one hour we would be taking off in this same plane to film high altitude aerials of Mount Everest. It was an unconventional start to a shoot, to say the least.

The massive barrier of the Himalayas appeared to stretch into infinity before us. Within minutes we were heading towards China to position ourselves on the Eastern side of Everest, ready for sunrise.

We were cruising at an altitude of 28,000 feet, within a couple of miles of the summit. As the first rays of sun hit the peak I gave the instruction for filming to commence.

At that moment, Michael pointed at the monitor - the image was cloudy, the front lens had frosted over. With the sun about to rise we didn't have long to sort this out.

Without hesitating Michael crawled forward and quickly unscrewed and cleaned the front of the camera. This was quite a feat, working next to an open door at minus 20 degrees C whilst breathing through an oxygen mask is not to be underestimated.

With one shot in the can, we decided to push our luck and try for another. I wanted to fly even closer to the summit.

Just as I called 'Action', I caught sight of the engineer's fingers which were twitching erratically. This is a classic symptom of hypoxia, or altitude sickness.

I looked up at his eyes and saw that they were rolling backwards. I shouted to the co-pilot who immediately jumped out of the cockpit and began to share his oxygen. But nothing was happening - it appeared that the co-pilot's oxygen mask was also jammed.

There was only one thing to do, and the pilot made the split decision to descend to a safe altitude, dropping 3000 metres in 15 seconds.

The engineer came around almost immediately and was soon joking with the pilots as if nothing had happened.

Michael had been in blissful ignorance, focussing throughout on his filming. In fact, he came up to cockpit to find out why we'd dive-bombed halfway through, ruining his shot!

The instant we landed, the soldiers arrived to reload the bombs. I was still in a state of shock but the air crew seemed un-phased. It was quite sobering to think that for these men, such danger is a grim reality of their daily lives.

We all take risks filming wildlife, but I am grateful that such near death experiences are thankfully a rare occurrence.

Vanessa Berlowitz

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