Mountain Men is a Documentary programme.

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Mountain Men

Imagine a world where hobnailed boots and tweed were the order of the day, when the Swiss Alps seemed as remote as the Himalayas and the Himalayas as rernote as the moon.

Using rare archive material, eye-witness testimony and dazzling landscape photography, "Mountain Men", a major new series, looks at people's peculiar obsession with mountaineering and tells the stirring tales of the men for whom risk and hardship were a small price to pay to get their names into the history books.

In programme one, entitled "The Misfit of the Matterhorn", British Everest climber Stephen Venables follows in the footsteps of Edward Whymper, who led seven men to the summit of the Matterhorn, the last unclimbed peak in the Alps.

His party reached the summit on 13 July 1865 after a fiercely-contested race against other British and Italian climbers. However, triumph turned to disaster when four of his companions fell to their deaths on the way down.

The risks were clear for everyone to see, and the questions raised then are just as relevant today. Was mountaineering just thrill-seeking for the sake of it? Was it morally right to put oneself in mortal danger for the sporting pleasure of getting to the top of a mountain?

"The Matterhorn was defeated at last with an ease that none could have anticipated, but like a relentless enemy it took terrible vengeance," reflected Whymper after his triumphant quest turned to tragedy.

In "Mystery of McKinley" Mountain Men journeys to Alaska to shed new light on the great mystery surrounding Mount McKinley, the highest and most controversial mountain in North America.

With rare archive material, eye-witness testimony and dazzling landscape photography, the programme tells the stirring tales of men have who pitted themselves against one of the world's most daunting peaks.

To this day, climbers disagree over who first conquered the summit. The contenders include: Dr Frederick Cook, the polar explorer exposed as a "fraud" in an affidavit signed by his climbing partner; the "Sourdoughs", a group of miners from Fairbanks, who, fuelled by coffee and bags of doughnuts, decided to try their luck in response to a bet from the local saloon-keeper; and Hudson Stuck, an English missionary, whose ghost is said to make the occasional appearances on the mountain.

Part detective story, part farce, this is one of the most fascinating tales in the history of mountaineering.

Using rare archive material, eye-witness testimony and stunning photography, the final episode of Mountain Men tells the tale of the men who tried to conquer the last jewel in the Himalayan Crown - K2, the edition is called "The Ghost of K2".

In 1909, the Italian Duke of Abruzzi took a huge team to conquer the giant mountain but he left defeated, reflecting that the only way to the summit was in an aeroplane.

Undeterred, the grimly Fritz Wiessner led an American expedition the following year. It proved to be one of the most notorious in mountaineering history, culminating in the tragic and sordid death of his climbing partner, Dudley Woolf, alone in a tent close to the summit.

The war put an end to climbing in the Himalayas but, in the early Fifties, the siege began once more, and this time the mountains began to fall. In 1954, American Charles Houston arrived at K2 with a new party, determined to conquer what by now had become known as "the Savage Mountain".

Houston's team was the model of good spirits and cooperation and he had the best American climbers of the day. But tragedy struck after one of the team developed severe altitude sickness. The consequences were catastrophic.

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 50 minutes (approx)

When is Mountain Men next on TV?

It's next showing on Blaze Tonight, 9:00pm and on Blaze June 24th, 11:00pm. See more...