Annually SPORTS ILLUSTRATED receives thousands of requests for money to back this or that sporting endeavor. For the most part we decline such invitations, since our business is reporting sports, not promoting them. But every now and then there comes the chance to participate in a venture so special we find it hard to turn down. Such an occasion arose about three years ago when Garry Valk, my predecessor as publisher of this magazine, was asked if SPORTS ILLUSTRATED would be interested in underwriting the filming of an expedition of amateur mountain climbers into the heights of the Hindu Kush—a little-known and thoroughly awesome range of mountains in northern Afghanistan whose name in translation means Hindu Killer. His answer: we would, indeed.
That decision and the comparatively modest investment involved have paid a rich reward. The first dividend was the story High Above the Land of Light, by Robert Cantwell, that appeared in our issue of July 28, 1969. The second was more than 20 hours of magnificent film footage, an edited hour of which may be seen this Tuesday evening on the NBC-TV network at 7:30 p.m. E.D.T., 6:30 C.D.T. and 7:30 P.D.T.
This television special provides a rare opportunity for SI readers to continue an adventure they have already sampled in the pages of our magazine and to share it with the men who literally carried SI to new heights—the 20,300-foot peak of Koh-i-Tundi.
I urge all of you to put down your current issue just long enough to watch the NBC showing and to scale the heights with the 10 stalwart and determined mountain men who first made the climb: Judge William Dozier and his twin brother Jack, a lawyer and the expedition's leader; Jack's son Jeff, a graduate student; electronics engineer Eli Goldfarb; philosophy professor Charles Groesbeck; movie executive Leslie Buckland; ski patroller Perry Mann; geology student Richard Erb; court reporter Gary Hill; and cinematographer Michael Wadleigh, now famed as the man who photographed the movie Woodstock.
The title of Wadleigh's TV show, Once Before I Die, is simple and evocative in derivation. It comes from expedition leader Jack Dozier's explanation that what drew him and his fellow climbers up the Killer was that mystic goal of every modern mountaineer—to make it above 20,000 feet at least once during a lifetime. We are glad we were around to help.