We Begin To Trek The Summit

We Begin To Trek The Summit

14 everyday Aussies descend on a remote valley at the foot of New Zealand’s spectacular Southern Alps. They are total strangers, from all walks of life, but they share a common goal: to climb a mountain and claim their share of a million bucks. They’re greeted by Jai Courtney, who lays out the rules of the game.

The hikers will carry an equal share of the money (that’s over $71K literally stuffed in each person’s pack) and if they make it to The Summit in 14 days, the cash on their backs will become the final prize pool. If anyone drops out or can’t continue the hike, their cash also leaves the game. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to get as many people (and as much money) to The Summit as possible. The complication is: the hikers must travel as a group. They’ll only be as fast as their slowest member, and if they miss the 14 day deadline they’ll all go home with nothing. How long will the faster, fitter members of the team tolerate those in the group who might jeopardise their chances of reaching The Summit in 14 days? If the group chooses to leave someone behind, they’ll sacrifice the cash in that person’s bag… a high price, but worth paying if it means reaching The Summit before the deadline. Jai sends them off with a cryptic warning saying, “There’s something else out there too. You can think of it as The Mountain’s Keeper.”

As the group set off on their 200km trek, it quickly becomes clear who’s physically equipped to get to The Summit and who is not. On the strong side there’s strength and conditioning coach Sam, super-fit personal chef Jans, personal trainer Gemma, sports fisher Indi, and uber-determined 50 year old event planner Jacqui.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Brisbane dad Stephen, Dubbo musician Isaac and outback nurse Kitty. This 60 year old remote area nurse is very clearly not cut out for such an arduous physical challenge, and it’s not long before she’s struggling to breathe and being physically pushed up even the gentlest of foothills. It’s obvious that carrying Kitty will seriously threaten the group’s ultimate goal of getting to The Summit in 14 days, and just hours into the hike some are openly wondering if they should leave her behind.

The gap between the strong and weak becomes even clearer when they reach their first obstacle: a dizzying rope crossing high above a 40 ft gorge. This is just the first of many high-octane obstacles the group will face on their journey to The Summit, and not only do they have to swallow their nerves to get themselves across, they must also safely transport a million dollars cash across the gorge on a single rope, and any cash lost is lost for good. After Kitty’s display in the foothills, it’s obvious that this group will not tolerate any show of weakness so everyone is doing their best to act like they’re not afraid of heights and get to the other side without falling off the rope. Jacqui makes it across in record time and lets the audience in on her secret: she’s actually five time Winter Olympian Jacqui Cooper, aerial skiing world champ many times over. She’s going to keep these details to herself for now because she doesn’t want the rest of the group seeing her as a threat. Though her identity is a secret, Jacqui cannot conceal her cut-throat competitive drive, and she finds a kindred spirit in Jans. Neither is prepared to let anyone stand in their way of getting to The Summit, and they’re both worried about how slowly they’re moving, so they conspire to steal the map from the bumbling, self-appointed “map man” Stephen.

Jans decides he’s going to be “super honest” and a little bit “cut throat” with the group, and takes the map off Stephen while he’s at it.  While sitting around a campfire he says: “I’m a little bit disappointed, and we need to move a little bit faster. We do have a time limit of 14 days and at this rate we won’t get there in 14 days.  “We can’t be stopping every five minutes. If we keep moving at this rate no one is going home with any cash. “Be fair on the rest of the group, if you don’t believe you can make it to the top, make a call.”

While other trekkers like personal trainer Sam and Olympian Jacqui nod along in agreeance, Jans straight speaking ways certainly ruffles a few feathers – including 60-year-old Kitty who is looking more than just a little distressed.

With the moral support of her teammates, Gemma does her best to “block out” the distraction of the noise and movement created by the helicopter’s spinning blades.  And she proves the mind over matter theory by making it to the other side of the bridge.  But the trekkers notice that the sinister black helicopter is sticking around. 

“The helicopter is stalling, it’s kind of looking at us, I’m not sure what’s going on,” Jacqui says

What the trekkers don’t know just yet is that inside the black chopper is the Mountain’s Keeper. It knows exactly what it takes to get to the top of the mountain and will be watching the trekkers’ every move.

And to make things even more complicated, the Mountain’s Keeper drops a yellow package that is sure to stir up the game.

The trekkers who have climbed the bridge run over to see what is inside the package, while the rest of the group watch from a distance, clueless of what was going on.

“I am the Mountain’s Keeper and I’ve been tracking you. If you thought getting to the summit was going to be easy think again,” Brooke begins reading a note from the Mountain’s Keeper.

“Decide as a group who will be the last to cross the bridge. Then use the axe to cut the support rope. The bridge will break leaving that person and their cash behind.

“You will move forward with one less person but ultimately more on track to reaching the summit. Keep this information from those yet to cross.”

The trekkers hold their breath as they realise the Mountain’s Keeper is about to change the outcome of the entire climb. 

Following the Mountain’s Keeper’s brutal message, half of the trekkers deliberate which member of the group will be the last to cross the bridge and therefore be left behind with their cash.   Still left to cross the bridge is Sam, Josh, Phillip, Stephen, Indy, Jans and Alex.

While they all agree the group needed the physically stronger alpha-males like Jans and Sam to get them up the mountain, Annikki thinks it would be a “smart game strategy to get rid of someone like Sam”.

Other trekkers like Olympian Jacqui think it would be in the group’s best interest to cut loose some of the weaker teammates like Stephen, who are slowing the group down. 

“It’s pretty clear cut for me, we have so much more to achieve and what we need to do is start cutting the slow movers,” she says. 

“The idea here is to get to the summit on time, in 14 days and Stephen is not physically prepared.” 

Gemma and Indy agree with Jacqui, but Isaac is pushing to leave alpha-male Sam behind in order to save some of the physically weaker trekkers from being eliminated later down the track. 

They put the decision down to a majority rules vote, but the trekkers yet to cross the bridge are growing suspicious.

But the trekkers who have been instructed by the Mountain’s Keeper are on a mission to move the rest of the group across the bridge fast and in a very particular order.

They tell a little white lie to the rest of the group – that they only have 40 minutes to cross the bridge or Mountain’s Keeper will take the climber’s supplies. 

Jans, Alex, Indy, Josh and Phillip move across the bridge, leaving Sam and Stephen as the last two on the wrong side of the bridge. 

Suspense builds as Brooke reveals which trekker will be left behind. “Sam, you’re up!” she yells.

It meant that unbeknownst to him, Stephen will be sacrificed. 

Stephen begins crossing the bridge but in his heart feels “something untoward was happening”. And he’s right to think so. 

Halfway through his bridge cross, Isaac reaches for the axe and cuts Stephen’s support rope. just like that the bridge collapses and Stephen is left stranded in the middle of the valley.


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