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SC Featured goes to amazing heights for story of Nepal’s Sherpas (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part preview of Sunday’s ESPN SportsCenter Featured segment “At the Top of the World.” The second part will run tomorrow on Front Row.

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One of the ESPN Features Unit’s most challenging field productions ever comes to life Sunday with the television debut of “At The Top of the World,” a unique story about last year’s April 18 avalanche tragedy on Mount Everest and the effect of the dangers of climbing on the Sherpa people of Nepal.

The SC Featured story airs on Sunday’s Outside the Lines (ESPN, 9:30 a.m. ET and in the 11 a.m. ET hour of that morning’s SportsCenter, with re-airs in other editions of the program throughout the day. An expanded version of the feature airs in a half-hour SportsCenter Featured next Thursday (ESPN2, 8 p.m.)

Producer Chris Bloxom and a crew of two went to Nepal last fall to capture the story, overcoming challenges that included difficult transportation, lack of available electricity, a language barrier and more.

When he began planning for the shoot, a contact led Bloxom to a company in Nepal that specializes in planning and organizing trips for climbers and tourists in the Himalayas. He quickly learned how difficult the task was going to be.

“There are no roads there,” he said. “There’s some places that have power but some that don’t.

Once you get up into the mountains, everything is climbing and walking and hiking. The places that I wanted to go would be days apart.
– Chris Bloxom, producer of SC Featured’s “At the Top of the World” segment, on navigating Mount Everest

“But really the roads are the issue, because there’s no way to get from place to place,” he said. “Once you get up into the mountains, everything is climbing and walking and hiking. The places that I wanted to go would be days apart.”

Bloxom traveled only with a camera operator and audio technician, and they carried very little equipment.

“We had three Sherpa guides that were assigned to us to act as liaisons,” he said. “And then we had a team of yaks and a yak driver. Every morning we would load the yaks up with gear that we could move from one place to the next.”

Just getting to Nepal is a challenge in itself. The team flew 17 hours from New York to Guanzhong, China, and then another five hours to Kathmandu. Then to get to the mountains, they flew in a small commuter airliner to Lukla, landing at what many consider the world’s most dangerous airport.

In Part 2 tomorrow, Bloxom discusses the language barrier with Sherpas as well as other challenges the team faced.

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