"To the Top of the World: Assault on Mount Everest," CBS chronicle of last year's successful attempt by an American team headed by State Deparment lawyer Philip Trimble, is as exciting a program as we are likely to see on television for some time.
The ingredients of high drama were implicit in this story, which airs tonight at 8 on Channel 9, from the beginning: Mount Everest as the setting plus an expedition of nine men and two women which experts put down as too inexperienced to succeed.
Setting off from Katmandu last Aug. 3 with 550 porters carrying 33,000 pounds of supplies, the expedition walked 190 miles before setting up base camp at the foot of Mount Everest.
Trimble, who tore the ligaments in an ankle during the march, originally wanted to have separate parties attempt the summit. But weather conditions made this impossible. So he finally gave the assignment to Dr. Chris Chandler, a speciali* st in emergency medicine, Bob Cormack, a glider pilot, and Sherpa Ang Perba.
Ang Perba was forced back because his oxygen equipment froze. Chandler and Cormack finally made it to the top at 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 8. They had to get back down to Camp V - 1,500 feet below the summit - before darkness.
The two men are seen beginning their descent. By nightfall, the other members of the expedition feared that Chandler and Cormack would never get back down to Camp V - 1,500 feet ried about their having to bivouac on the mountain, exposed to winds and temperatures 40 degrees below zero.
There was a growing feeling the next morning that they had not survived the night. The two climbers were finally sighted coming down the mountain, and we learn that they made their way back to Camp V in the dark. By then, the film has become very exciting.
Trimble, who was present yesterday along with Chandler and Cormack at a reception held in their honor at the Rayburn Building by Rep. John Murphy (D-N.Y.), said that the reality of what actually happened was quite different from the reality portrayed in the CBS Sports Spectacular.
"The first thing that is unfortunate about the film," he said, " is that it excludes half the expedition members. More than anything else, an expedition is a group effort."
Trimble said that it is "probably inevitable" that the film does not reflect the reality of the expedition. "The reality of an expedition is 90 per cent of the time quite boring, and would not be of the slightest interest to the American public.
"In order to pull off an expedition like this, you have to spend hours and hours on logistics and calculations. You spend days establishing camps - we established six camps above the base camp. You have to carry supplies, carry oxygen. Day after day you go through boring periods of drudgery."
He was asked if the film captured the excitement of the last few days before Chandler and Cormack began their final assault on the summit. "I don't think there's any way," Trimble said, " that you can capture the kind of internal emotion that is generated in that kind of a situation.
"It's also hard for me to see the film as an outsider would see it, because whenever I see a scene, I immediately put myself into the situation. I'm not sure whether the situation conveys as much drama as I think it does. I think the film does create drama and that drama was certainly there."
Trimble, despite his differences with what the film projects and what he and the other members of the expedition experienced, is right on the fact that the film does create drama.
If television sees the successful attempt to climb Mount Everest in a different way then Trimble and his companions did, it should be of small moment to the audience. This is an excellent program, and CBS Sports deserves praise and credit for helping to finance the expedition and filming it so well.