Educating From Everest

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 25, 2000 — Two members of the IMG/Mountain Link Expedition to Mount Everest, filmmaker Michael Brown and Quokka correspondent Dave Hahn, succeeded in reaching the summit on the morning of Monday, May 22, after climbing through the night. One member of their party wasn’t so lucky.

Brown was the first to reach the summit; it was his first time climbing Mount Everest and the first time he had climbed higher than 8,000 meters. Brown is filming a television documentary of the 12-week expedition that will be broadcast as an interactive WebTV Networks program on NBC in December 2000. The adventure sports broadcast will be combined with interactive elements to create an interactive, educational TV experience for WebTV Network Plus service subscribers.

Dave Hahn, a writer and professional guide, has now stood on the summit of Mount Everest three times. He was part of the Eric Simonson expedition that made headline news when they discovered George Leigh Mallory’s well-preserved body on the mountain’s North Face.

Kim Gattone, a 38-year-old elementary school teacher, did not join Brown and Hahn on the summit bid. Gattone, whose climb was sponsored by Microsoft WebTV, contracted a mild case of snowblindness, a painful condition similar to sunburn on the cornea that impairs vision, making climbing nearly impossible. She remained at Camp IV, at 26,000 feet, anxiously awaiting the return of her team and her vision. Gattone is now in good condition, and she is out of danger.

At 26,000 feet, the day before he reached the summit, Brown said,
“This was one of the hardest days I’ve ever had. We were carrying very heavy packs with the oxygen bottles in them from 23,500 feet up to 26,000 feet, and it was very, very hard work.”
He also said that he was surprised to learn that at 26,000 feet they didn’t have to breathe supplementary oxygen all the time, only when they had heavy loads or while they were sleeping. At that altitude, Brown was able to see Tibet, Makalu and Kanchenjunga.

Over the past month, the team’s efforts had been a game of will and patience, with unsafe weather and 50-mph winds causing delay after delay.
“Our circumstances allowed us the opportunity to acquire a new level of patience, and real patience requires discipline,”
said Gattone in a radio dispatch, fighting to overcome her frustration with the injury that kept her from reaching the summit.
“Frankly, in all of this, I’m pretty roused up.”

Gattone’s sixth-grade class and other students around the country have also been “roused up,” following the expedition’s progress on and WebTV while studying about Everest and the surrounding Himalayan region from lesson plans that Gattone prepared before her departure. Students in her classroom had the opportunity to interact directly with their teacher and other team members — reading daily dispatches, sending email, viewing video and photos, and participating in live chats with Gattone while she was on the mountain.

Viewing the day-to-day activity of the thin-air adventure was made possible via a WebTV set-top box donated to Gattone’s class by Microsoft WebTV. The expedition is WebTV’s first foray into extreme sports, allowing television viewers and Web users to experience the rigors and wonders of the world’s highest peak in the comfort of their living rooms and classrooms.

Joe Poletto, vice president of Microsoft’s Web TV Network Media Group, said that sponsoring Gattone presented an opportunity to deliver a virtual adventure experience for TV viewers, and for WebTV to get involved with local and national schools.
“We are very proud of Kim. She is a very committed teacher, who is trying to impress upon her students that you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish,”
Poletto said.

“Everest 2000 is all about teamwork, inspiration, experiencing life and hard work,”
Gattone said.
“All these elements are key to making dreams happen. The encouragement and support that was provided to us through the students and other people emailing us was huge. I have absolutely no regrets. It was a thrilling, positive experience — an amazing triumph.”

The team will rest at base camp for a few days before beginning the descent to Kathmandu and the trip back to the United States.

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