Cameras follow Steve Backshall as he attempts to climb the north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps for the TV series Steve Backshall vs The Vertical Mile.
Cameras follow Steve Backshall as he attempts to climb the north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps for the TV series Steve Backshall vs The Vertical Mile. Leo Houlding

Adventurer takes on deadly Alps challenge

Steve Backshall is scaling the world's deadliest mountains, so you don't have to.

The adventurer and TV presenter, best known for his Deadly 60 series, takes on his toughest climbing challenge yet in Steve Backshall vs The Vertical Mile.

He and his elite team take on one of the most notorious and deadly mountain climbs in the world: the north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps.

"I've been mountaineering since my late teens and I think the Eiger was the first mountain I heard about," he says.

"It has an iconic status in mountaineering. I saw it for the first time on one of my first trips in my early 20s and I thought 'There's no way I'll ever do that'.

"Height and altitude are not everything in mountaineering. Obviously Everest is higher but the technical climbing is much harder on the Eiger. Everest is an expedition which takes six weeks or two months, because you have to acclimatise, whereas we were only out there for three weeks. It's a bit like comparing a 100m sprint and a marathon."

 

Steve Backshall and his team faced sub-zero temperatures, sheer rock faces, storms and avalanches during their climb.
Steve Backshall and his team faced sub-zero temperatures, sheer rock faces, storms and avalanches during their climb. Eoin OShea

 

Backshall used special shoulder-mounted cameras to give viewers the perspective of the climbers.

"The technology really helped to give a proper sense of what it was like," he says.

"There was one point where an avalanche comes down this slope on to my head. The camera is right there as the ice is thundering off my helmet. It was a really scary moment. I was in a position where I couldn't move and I had to stand there and take it."

The two-part series also highlights the effects of climate change on the Alps.

"The Eiger has got more dangerous because of climate change," Backshall says.

"The rock face is far less stable now because the ice is less consolidated.

"It used to be done in the summer, when it was seemingly less threatening. Now you couldn't attempt it in the summer, so the winter means more extreme cold. You are at more risk of frostbite and hypothermia, and the weather tends to be worse in the winter. It's a much more challenging prospect."

Steve Backshall vs The Vertical Mile airs on Foxtel's BBC Knowledge channel on Tuesday, October 2 at 8.30pm.



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