'Lost on Everest' Offers 'a Really Honest Look' at Climbing the Mountain (VIDEO)

Lost on Everest National Geographic Preview
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National Geographic/Matt Irving

It's one of the greatest mysteries in exploration: Were revered British mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine actually the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest? In 1924, the pair were last seen on the Northeast Ridge, just 800 vertical feet from the top of the world. Mallory's body was discovered in 1999; Irvine's has never been found.

This thrilling one-hour special follows a 2019 expedition led by expert climber and writer Mark Synnott that retraced the duo's footsteps in the hope of locating Irvine and, with him, their camera. It could prove they made history before succumbing to injuries or the elements on descent. 

The search is highlighted by filmmaker Renan Ozturk's numb-thumbed operation of a high-altitude drone, as well as an off-rope risk taken by the driven Synnott that he admits a father of four shouldn't have even considered. But their mission was twofold: "A big part of this film was trying to give the world a really honest look at what [climbing] Everest is, because it's become such a polarized thing," Ozturk says. Last year was dubbed "the year that Everest broke" after a photo of bottlenecked adventurers going for the summit on the first ideal weather day in May made headlines.

To avoid spending extra exhausting hours in the so-called "death zone," the experienced team waited until those crowds cleared to make their push. "We were the only team on the mountain on either side," Ozturk says. "It was almost like you're looking at it as if it was a museum exhibit frozen in time, walking past the tents frozen in place and the bodies frozen in place, reflecting on [our] climbing industry and how we've interacted with these cultures over time."

Watch an exclusive sneak peek of the the old camps:

For him, and the scientists featured in the climate special Expedition Everest that debuts afterward (10/9c), the dangers of 100 mph winds and low oxygen levels were worth it. "I will take more risk when it's a story I believe in," Ozturk says. "With Lost on Everest, I hope people can see that it is incredibly challenging. You can feel that connection to those early explorers in how difficult it still is, even with all the modern gear. The mystery just feeds the wonder and allure of the mountain."

Lost on Everest, Tuesday, June 30, 9/8c, National Geographic