Climber Pete Takeda has surmounted a brittle ice face at 19,000 feet, but he says nothing can match the harrowing feeling of seeing an avalanche thundering toward you. "It's like standing in the face of a freight train," says Takeda, whose first attempt to climb the Himalayan peak Meru in 1998 ended when an avalanche buried his temporary camp. In May, Takeda and partner Dave Sheldon again attempted the treacherous 21,600-foot peak, nicknamed the Sharksfin, which has never been conquered and has claimed at least two lives. Their quest is documented on climbmeru.com.
The site, operated by Texture/Media, presents the journey through an interactive documentary, using some of the Web's latest technologies. (Flash 5 and Real Player 8 or Quicktime 4 are required.) The story is being told in seven installments, with a new segment posted every two to three weeks beginning on May 31. The viewer can go from the preparations and training climbs in Bozeman, Mont., in Episode 1 to the team's arrival in New Delhi in Episode 3 to the climb in Episode 6, which will be on the site for the first time this week. In each installment, the viewer chooses from a series of two-to three-minute videos, like the test climb in Episode 4 in which Takeda and Sheldon dealt with the effects of altitude sickness. A link to a map allows the viewer to zoom in on selected sites, giving one the feeling of parachuting into Nepal from high above the earth. Three-hundred-sixty-degree photos offer stunning shots; an image taken at the group's base camp can be "spun around" to impart a sense of Meru's daunting presence.
Takeda has been participating in a daily chat reel since returning, building suspense over the trip's outcome. We know that Takeda and Sheldon survived their climb, but did they make history? Says Takeda, "You can expect to see some of the more dramatic climbing footage ever captured."