Explorer: The Last Tepui (2022) - full transcript

Follows elite climber Alex Honnold and a world-class climbing team on a grueling mission deep in the Amazon jungle.

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MICHAEL: This morning,
Free Solo's Alex Honnold,

climbing in an unexplored rock formation
deep in the Amazon known as "tepui."

And... and I worked with the team on this,

and have followed their journey.
They brought along scientist Bruce Means,

who believes these tepuis
are teeming with biodiversity.

He likened it to a hidden Galapagos,
full of undiscovered species,

and wants to see them protected.

BRUCE: All these tepuis, almost every one,
has sometimes up to 1000-foot-tall

fringing summit cliffs.

And none of those have been
explored for new species.


MARK: I think most people
are pretty surprised when they find out

that there are crazy towers
out in the jungle.

It's like this mythical place, you know,

where there's stuff that's wilder
than anything that you could make up,

and it really exists.

ALEX: Doing first ascents, I mean,
it really is modern exploration,

because you are going onto, you know,

in this case, a piece of rock
that no human has ever touched.

And so, you really don't know
what you're gonna find.


You have to rein in the fear,
rein in the uncertainty,

and then just remain calm
as you literally step into the unknown.


BRUCE: We're on an expedition

into the glorious heart of South America,
the tepuis.

MARK: I've been here with Bruce before.

The last time I was here was...
was 2006. So, it's been 15 years,

and I've been trying
to get back ever since.


MARK: When Bruce and I
did our first expedition here,

I witnessed this passion
that he had for science.

I know on one of the trips,
I think he found nine new species.

And I was like, "Oh. Holy..."
Like this... this... what he's doing,

he's basically on a one-man mission
to save this entire area...

by finding and cataloging
enough new species to prove to the world

that it's this unrivaled
biodiversity hotspot

that must be protected.

But he's nearly 80 years old now.

And there's one final place
he has never been able to get to

to complete his work.

High on the cliff walls themselves.


-So, I called Alex Honnold.

MARK: Alex is one of the boldest,

if not the single boldest climber
in the world.

I told him what we were gonna try to do.
And Alex loved the idea

of getting Bruce up the cliff,
and Alex is a can-do kind of guy.

(CHUCKLES) And he wants to make it happen.


ALEX: A trip like this
with a renowned biologist,

with a great team, with a cool objective.

I mean, it's not the kind of thing
that comes along all the time.

It's something that I've always wanted
to do in my life.

My role on the trip is to make sure
that we successfully climb the wall.

And I think that, you know,
particularly with an 80-year-old man,

I mean... (CHUCKLING)
...we're gonna be pretty careful about it.

But I think it'll be really scary.

-MARK: Four thousand feet,

I had us veering off down at 3,750,
which is the closest to the wall, or...

ALEX: But that's, like, 2,000 feet
of vertical, huh?

-Bruce, is that adequate for you?
-BRUCE: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

I should be able to get specimens.

They have to be in museums
to document that you found them,

and I need to get a little DNA from them.

And then don't you think,
they have to deal also with a small area?

-FUCO: Small.

-If we can just get you to the top...
-BRUCE: Yeah. Then we'll know.

...and, uh, you can do the full survey.

The very best-case scenario
would be that the wall is steep enough

that the rope basically
hangs freely down in a plumb line.

And then we basically haul him
the way that you would haul a bag, like...

he would basically just be sitting
on a little chair,

just slowly levitating up the wall,
enjoying the view, looking for species.

Okay, but what if...
what if it's not overhanging?

Then we'll have to do some improvising.

Thankfully, you brought a climber
with you, and we'll sort it out,

-you know? (CHUCKLES)
-Yeah, well, I have Honnold to take.

But the problem is that Honnold,

even though he's all gung ho,
he can't haul Bruce himself.

-No, no, but that's why we have a team.
-He's gonna need some help.

-Yeah, that's probably true. (CHUCKLES)

MARK: Our climbing objective
is deep in the Amazon jungle.


This is what the view looks like ahead.

Thirty-five miles of jungle trekking.

Well done, Bruce, cruising.

Being with Bruce in the jungle
is an incredible way to appreciate

the diversity of life around.

I mean, he just knows
the backstory of everything.

Oh. Look! Right there. Isn't that cool?

It's like going to a party
with someone who knows everyone.

He's like, "That guy used to date
that girl, and then they hung out,

"and then that person..."
You know, he knows all the relationships.

And I think that as you appreciate
the complex web of relationships

in the jungle more,
it makes it much more engaging.

BRUCE: Oh! Oh! Oh! Something good, y'all.

Spiders are predacious,
and they usually eat each other,

so they're usually solitary.

But there are some that are colonial.
And this is one of them.

That is cool. Wow.

His passion for nature
is so inspiring to me.

Inspiring... not only as a biologist,

but as a person. And I'm honored
to be in an expedition with him.

BRUCE: This expedition
is, uh, sort of the culmination

of all my work in South America.

This all started, you know, as a child
when I began to appreciate nature

and wonder
about the meaning of everything.

And I soon became fascinated
by nine or ten years old with evolution.

So, I caught lizards, and snakes,
and tarantulas, and scorpions.

Kept them in jars.

Oh. This is cool.
You see the little yellow tail tip?

He's coming up.

And ultimately, it led me
to this wonderful region...

-No, no, don't jump.
-...and then fell in love with tepuis.

Don't jump off. There we go.


BRUCE: Tepuis are sort
of islands in the sky.

They were probably eroded
into the sandstone from Africa

when South America
and Africa were connected

millions and millions of years ago.

This expedition's the first expedition
to attempt to look at the walls of tepuis

to see whether there are unique flora
and fauna growing on those walls.

Hopefully, by assessing
the species' richness

of this particular area,
may compel government leaders

and the people of Guyana

to want to conserve
this fabulous, beautiful place.

MARK: This is his dream come true.

This... this trip, you know,
could be kind of his magnum opus.

BRUCE: That is cool. (CHUCKLING) Wow.

MARK: He's been on, uh,

33 tepui expeditions.
He's never been on the cliff.

And so, that's what we're here to do,
is to take Bruce on a journey

up to the top of the tepui itself
to look for new species,

and to catalog, you know,
what exists in this really, you know,

unique place in the world
that scientists haven't really explored.


BRUCE: Hey, Troy, how's the weather today?

-BRUCE: It's uh, we...
-Yeah. Yeah.

-BRUCE: No problem?

ALEX: Hiking through the jungle
to approach the tepuis

is sort of an interesting experience,
'cause you start in the rainforest,

which is technical hiking, you know,
stepping over roots, crossing streams.

And then each day
gets progressively harder and harder

as you get closer to the tepuis,
closer to the, uh, actual big walls,

because the terrain gets steeper
and more vegetating.

You know, it just steadily builds on you
the whole way.

You're like,
"Oh. It just keeps getting worse."

"It keeps getting worse!" (CHUCKLES)

MARK: It's a war of attrition
against the mud and saturation

when you're in these forests.
So, it's hard.

Getting a little tiring now.

I think I've been doing this today...

...almost six hours. (SIGHS)

FUCO: I'm a little concerned about Bruce.

Because the terrain is getting steeper
and more complicated.


Bruce is, you know, just moving
more slowly than we all anticipated.

With more difficulty.
I think even he's, like, surprised

at how hard he's getting his butt kicked.


-Okay there, Bruce?

-I'm all right. (CHUCKLES)
-You okay?



It's hard, you know, not to worry

whether we're gonna be able
to pull this off.

Keep on trucking!

-Only four more days to Double Drop.
-BRUCE: Yeah.

MARK: Then we get to the gnarly part.



Careful, take it slow.

Oh. This is gonna be so treacherous
for Bruce.

He just got to the steepest part.
So he's putting on a harness,

and Mark is gonna maybe put him on belay.

It's like, in a way, it's kind of easy,

but in a way, it's... if you fell,
you would possibly die, so...

MARK: The Akawaios
built this rickety ladder.

BRUCE: Going one at a time.

MARK: Yeah, they're big steps.

BRUCE: Yeah, I see that.


That's a problem for me,
is, uh... is bending my knees.

Yes, I can see what I'm doing. (GRUNTS)

Let's see here. (GRUNTS)

MARK: Awesome, Bruce.

We're almost there.

You're a trooper.


Dude, that was an...
that was an incredible effort.

-Now, you just gotta slip and slide...
-We made it.

...through the mud
for about ten more minutes.

Oh, mud I can do.

MARK: There's a bit of misery
and there's some suffering,

but the payout, it's stuff that completely
blows your mind.

-Oh. I love it!

(SNIFFS) I can't wait
to get in that water.

-ALEX: Welcome to Double Drop!
-Hot dog.

MARK: That was a...
a really big moment for Bruce.

I know it's one of his favorite places
on Earth.

And I know it was part of his dream
just to get there.

BRUCE: This is my Shangri-la!


the most wild, pristine...

remote, beautiful place
I've been on the planet.

I can't believe I was able to return...

one last time.

MARK: It was an awesome moment,
but at the same time,

we were getting deeper and deeper
into the middle of nowhere,

and getting, you know,
committed to a scary degree.

I was looking
at the approach and thinking,

"How in the world are we gonna get
Bruce through this terrain?"

Oh, my God.

ALEX: Mark, what have we got?

MARK: There's Wei-Assipu.

ALEX: That looks... gnarly.

-Like, climbing that is not gonna be easy.

Especially not bringing
an 80-year-old up it.


All the porters are helping Bruce

to get all the frogs,
lizards, snakes, spiders.

-Uh. It's madness in camp. (CHUCKLES)

BRUCE: Oh. You got a big tarantula.

The goliath spider, the largest spider
in the world.

In this particular part of the world,

the original inventory of the animals
and plants here has not been completed.

-This snake eats snails.

And now, we're starting to find
that as we discover more and more species,

it's becoming a more and more important
biodiversity hotspot.

The final piece of the puzzle

is discovering what lives
up on the tepui walls.

It's such an extreme place to get to.

Scientists have simply
not been able to explore it.

ALEX: So, I've been promising Bruce
that he's gonna get up the wall,

but I don't really know
how it's going to happen yet.

I mean, it's probably gonna involve

some hybrid combination of techniques
and strategies. But at this point,

the challenge is trekking
through the jungle as an 80-year-old.


After we saw how bad Bruce got beaten up,
Alex, Fuco, and I

were already like, "Wow."

-MARK: And it became apparent

that it was going to take him
a lot longer than we had anticipated

to get to the base of the wall.

What we're going to do, I think
is we're going to halve the distance

that we were going
to be covering each day.

So, that does mean that the approach
is gonna take twice as long.

But, no, it means that Bruce
can do half the distance,

but maybe we still do full distance
for some of it

to make sure that the weight
of the wall...

I mean,
we can divide and conquer a little bit.

Yeah, we have to... we have to...

That's what we should talk
about at dinner.

-Yes, I guess. Yeah.
-'Cause there's definitely a world

in which the gear and the climbing team
sticks to the same schedule.

Bruce takes whatever pace he needs,
and it all works out fine.

My biggest fear would be that my age
and my physical ability might deter

or might somehow slow up the expedition.
That bothers me, worries me a lot.


The one thing that we could do is,
we move forward

with the porters, you know,
with the line cutters.

And we blaze the trail

to the base of the cliff
while Bruce stays and does his stuff

-at Double Drop.
-BRUCE: Hmm.

Then the trail is in,
and then either we double back,

maybe to spend some time with him,

-or we just start working on the climb.
-BRUCE: But...

-And he's catching up.
-FEMALE CREW MEMBER: It makes sense.

I think half-camps make sense, at least
for, you know, the majority of the team.

Um, you know,
'cause safety I think is the...

-BRUCE: For sure.
-...really has to be a priority.

BRUCE: I'm for whatever you guys
wanna do. I'm not pushing for anything.

I mean, I'm okay
with doing a little, single thing,

'cause I like to be out a little,
out in the woods all alone,

and I've done that for years and years.
But I'm 80, almost 80, you know?

Yesterday, I had several
potential bone-breaking falls.

-And... (LAUGHS)
-We need to reduce that down to nil.

-BRUCE: (CHUCKLES) Yeah. Yeah.
-And that's...

It seems like we all agree
that we're gonna split legs,

you're gonna pace yourself.
It's gonna be great.

-MARK: That's it.
-ALEX: So, we have a plan

for the next couple of days.

-ALEX: Cool. Let's go to bed.
-BRUCE: Sure.

-You gotta get to sleep.

We have another big day tomorrow.

-Let's wrap it up.

BRUCE: The kind of research I do,
you could call it alpha level science.

I'm going out in nature, and I'm looking
to see what I can find there.

It'll be a real delightful surprise

if we were to find something
new to science on a cliff.

I mean, I couldn't ask for better
than Mark and Alex Honnold

to try to get me up that wall.

-See you, boys.

-BRUCE: All right.
-All right, we'll see you up there.

-MALE CREW MEMBER: Oh, yeah. Here we go.
-MARK: Today's the day

when we are hopefully
getting to the wall, at long last.

Total unknown.
No one has ever been up there.

Today's a really big, important day
for the expedition.

The Amerindians
are specialists of the jungle.

ALEX: They're just good at moving through
the terrain.

And then at the other end of the spectrum,
you have our whole team,

and we don't even know
how to hike through the jungle.

I can't orienteer in the jungle at all.
I don't know where we're going.


They've got a plan and let's
just let them, uh, execute their vision.

You guys see that orange wall right there?


-On the left.
-On the left.

-MARK: That's where we're trying to get.

TROY: Okay.

-You guys wanna see the ridge?

-MARK: Look at that thing go!
-ALEX: Goodbye, drone.

FUCO: We saw the wall from the trail,

and we started planning
where we could climb.

Think I can go lower, too.


Yeah, this is...
this is the ridge wood turning around.

-MARK: Mm-hmm.
-And it's over this side,

to the right side,
it's straight down and over the side.


ALEX: Better to cut down
and cut more in front of Bruce.

MARK: It's fricking tall, dude.

Well, look at all the veg
along to the right of the orange face.

-You see that with the sun now?
-NARK: Well, see... that's the shelf

that we were talking about.
Maybe there's a traverse.

-You could just sort of see it.
-ALEX: Yeah.

FUCO: When we saw the features
that we were trying to recognize,

we pretty much knew where to go.


ALEX: You look out to the distance
and it's like a whole little island,

but getting to the wall
is actually incredibly complicated.


ALEX: It's like if you imagine just
the thickest, like, deep, deep,

like, peat moss or something.

MARK: Watch out for holes.

You're balancing
on this skinny little log,

and if you slip on this, you're falling
down into this deep crevasse.

(GROANS) I don't know
how we're gonna get Bruce up through this.

ALEX: It's pretty crazy right there.

-MARK: Just simply the most treacherous...

...stuff that I've ever had
to move through.


-FUCO: So, this will require more...

more than a chainsaw for making it
easy for Bruce. (GRUNTS)

-Or a helicopter.
-MARK: Yeah.



MARK: All of a sudden,
the jungle opens up,

and this wall of rock appears.




-Dude, this is so sick!
-MARK: (CHUCKLING)This is insane.

ALEX: It was crazy. It was crazy,

but, uh, here we are, deep in the jungle,
so, I guess,

at this point, I guess,
we're actually gonna climb the wall.


After what we just went through today,
it's kind of impossible for me to...

to picture Bruce coming up that. (GRUNTS)

That was beyond anything
that I've ever done.

So, yeah. So, that's a problem.



Oh, my gosh! (GRUNTS)


Well, this definitely,
today... (SNIFFS) was, uh...

(EXHALES) ...right up there
with the most strenuous day

because I was going uphill all day.

Yeah. I'm worried, Bruce.
It's my gut feeling that...

if we push on, we're risking your life.

Oh, boy.

Can we wait to see what Mark says?

Absolutely, you know, I think
this will need to be a team decision.

-But my opinion is that...
-(SIGHS) Well, yours is...

-That this is...
-...you're the medical one.

...not worth risking your life for.

-And that we're really...

...going into a territory that...

has hazards that we can't mitigate.

BRUCE: Mark, Mark.

Hey, Bruce, great to hear your voice, man.
How you doing? You sound a little beat.

BRUCE: I need to hear from you, but,

let's see what your point of view is
about me coming up there. Over.

Yeah, so, the terrain, um,
in between us and you

is... is just way too,
too serious, and, um...

...too dangerous really, I think...

for... for us to feel good
about you moving up through it.

We're just worried, you know,
that... that... that you get hurt.

There'd be no real way
for us to evacuate you. Over.

BRUCE: I understand.
I'm not happy about it,

but the, uh, success of the expedition

depends on me and everybody else
not getting terribly injured.

You guys can continue
the elevational transect.

So, anything you guys obtain,
and Fuco especially,

who knows the herpetofauna pretty well,
if you can grab it and bag it for me.

And when you get back down here,

we will have completed
the entire transect.

I will send a drawing
of a species of Stefania up there

that is new to science,
and you're very likely to get.

So, anything and everything
that you guys do

while you're on the wall and on the summit

will benefit our expedition greatly,
even if I'm not up there myself.

Okay, Bruce. I'm gonna do my best
to try to find the... the lucky Stefania.

BRUCE: Fantastic, Fuco.
I know if anybody can do it, it'll be you.

Over and out.

I've already found several new species
of frogs in the genus Stefania

at the base of the tepui.

My theory is that we should discover
a new species of Stefania

that evolved on the top of the tepui.

I... (SIGHS)
...felt like I was letting the team down.

Because I wanted to do it myself,
but I respected their...

their advice.

Hopefully, to the likelihood
of me getting home alive. (CHUCKLES)

Oh, my God. Holy...

The clouds just lifted out
for the first time in forever.

Rainbow! Rainbow!

-Rainbow! (CHUCKLING) Rainbow!

God, this kinda makes it all worthwhile.


-MARK: You pumped to see some blue?
-Best view so far.

MARK: Rainbows!

This is absolutely breathtaking.

The most dramatic scene I... I think
I've ever witnessed in the mountains.

Packing for the wall.
We're finally launching.

-Fuco, that just came up with the porters.
-Let me take a look.

Is that... Oh, that's the sketch
for the frog we're looking for?


-Oh, wow.
-MARK: Wow, that's so cool.

This is the frog that Bruce wants us
to look for up on the wall.

-FUCO: Mm-hmm.
-MARK: New species of Stefania...

-Sounds like a...
-...from the summit of Wei-Assipu.

I do have some degree of expertise
in... in the field of biology.

So, I feel the responsibility...
to be an eye for Bruce on the wall.

We're gonna start the route. (EXHALES)

Time to don the helmet.

Harness on.
Get racked up. Yeah, it's awesome.

FUCO: Okay. Climbing.

MARK: On the way.

ALEX: This cliff has never been climbed.

So, the plan is to work our way
up the rock, and find the route as we go.

After about 800 feet, there's a ledge
where we can hopefully set up camp.

From there, we'll traverse the ledge
all the way to the summit plateau,

searching for frogs and other creatures
all along the way.

MARK: A little bit higher up,
there's a nice horizontal crack

where you might just get a bomber pin.

Let me know if you've come across
anything sketchy.

FUCO: Yep. (EXHALES) This is actually
a little sketchy. (CHUCKLES)

-MARK: Okay.

-This is all loose here.
-MARK: Yeah. It seems like it.

ALEX: Yeah. It's crazy, like,
how the rock is both, like,

so bad and so good in some ways.

FUCO: You have to be careful.

MARK: On a... on a first ascent,
there's going to be loose rocks.

ALEX: A lot of stuff like that going on,
you know?

MARK: That's probably the biggest hazard
that you face when you're, you know,

pioneering a new route.

I mean, we're talking things
that can be huge,

like pieces of rock
the size of a school bus.

You know, something like that comes off

when you're climbing
could definitely kill you.

Just don't know what you can trust.

-Watch me good, Fuco.
-FUCO: Yep, got you.

(GRUNTS) Bunch of loose... (GRUNTS)



-(GRUNTS) Yeah!

-(PANTS) That's hard.
-FUCO: It was.

First patch. ...So cold. Whoo!

Nice job! (PANTS)

BRUCE: Wow. So, did they say
where they're going up?

Right... right up the middle there,
I guess.

I've seen this scene
from the air in satellite photos.

But to actually be here

is more breathtaking
than any aerial shot could ever be.

It's really exciting to me
that the cliff itself has ledges,

and other places, cracks, and fissures

where vegetation grows.
And those are very likely spots

where some of the animals
I'm interested in could live.

And if Fuco, and Mark, and Alex
are able to find any animals on the cliff,

like frogs or lizards,
it'll be a really great discovery.

Nobody's ever... ever done any work
on the cliff, as you can see why. (LAUGHS)


MARK: As disappointed as I am

that I won't be able to personally
continue the transect

to the summit of Wei-Assipu,
I'm very happy

that colleagues are doing that for me.

And, uh, I'm going to be able
to spend a week in this paradise

right here by myself,

looking at all those amazing organisms
that occur in this site.

And here I am situated for maybe a week
to be able to go out at night and look at,

and study, and photograph,
uh, creatures I love.

Our search zone extends
from my jungle camp

to the top of the tepui.

This entire area
is full of undiscovered species.

And that little frog, right there,
I've never seen anything like it.

So, here we got another new species.

MALE CAMERAMAN: It's so cool.

-BRUCE: Yeah.

BRUCE: This will help add

to the biodiversity inventory
we're making of the area,

and, uh, could aid
in its conservation ultimately.

Pretty cool. A field biologist's dream.

-MARK: How does it look?
-ALEX: Pretty wild!


ALEX: One of the most challenging things
in climbing, in general,

is fear of the unknown.

And basically,
keeping your mind under control

as you encounter difficulties.

And first ascents are basically
an amplified version of that experience,

because when you're doing a first ascent,
you really don't know what's there,

could be anything above you.
It's like, who knows what's gonna happen?


We are up here,
belaying Mark on what might wind up

being one of the cruxes of this route.
He uh... he's leading this big roof.

MARK: A roof is an overhang
that juts out from the cliff face.

This one is about 200 feet up the route,
and there's really no easy way around it.

-Watch me.
-FUCO: Watching you.

MARK: The roof is really, uh,
not looking good.

It's... it's... it's kind of extreme.

I'm trying to think what you would do
if you were here.

But I'm not really sure.

Okay, well, you gotta do
what you think is best, but...

Well, the main thing is where you think
you can penetrate the roof, you know?

MARK: There's a crack going out the roof,
but it's wicked thin,

kind of like barely there,
and that's where we want to be,

is over there. You should probably come up
and have a look.

ALEX: Okay.
I mean, yeah, that's fine with me.

MARK: Alex took the rope.

And then the next thing we know,
he's, like, just hanging... (CHUCKLES)

...like a sloth.

And he just... We're like,
"Oh! I guess, he's going for it."

ALEX: All right, Mark. Here we go.
This is the crux.

MARK: Okay, I got ya!


-MARK: Nice, Alex!
-ALEX: Yeah!


MARK: He just totally

did one of the most impressive
pieces of climbing

that I've ever seen actually
just on-site, first ascent,

dangling out a roof
at a really high degree of difficulty.

And it ended up being

really, the key to the whole route,
getting out this giant roof,

and, um, put us in the perfect position,
you know, to continue on from there.

Yeah, dude. Nice work!

Now, where the... do I go? (CHUCKLES)

ALEX: Just because you have a rope
and equipment

doesn't mean that you're actually safe.
You know, you are way out there,

you are on a remote wall
in the far corners of Guyana.

If you injure yourself, you know,

there's no real way that you're going
to be rescued or helped.

How is it down there, Fuco?

FUCO: (PANTS) ...Whoa!


-ALEX: Did something rip?

ALEX: Did you pull gear out
or you just fall off?

-FUCO: Just fell off.
-ALEX: Oh, yeah. Cool.

FUCO: Feels slippery. (CHUCKLES, PANTS)

ALEX: You have to make sure
that things are totally safe.

This is a, you know,
a scary position to be climbing in.

And you feel like it's a scene
from Cliffhanger or something.


-ALEX: Yeah, Fuco!

-ALEX: Campeador.

-MARK: Wow, look at what Alex did.

MARK: Can't believe
how overhanging this... is.

-MARK: You're like...
-Quite overhanging.

...30 to 40 feet out from the wall.

ALEX: From here,
it's still another 600 feet of sheer rock

to reach a ledge
where we can set up camp for the night.


This expedition, unfortunately...
this is probably my last...

trip involving...

you know, jungle hiking.

I like to walk along...

slowly... uh, looking at the moss,

looking... I'll find an insect, I'll see
an animal I wouldn't have seen

if I was cruising along fast.

And sure enough, just a minute ago,
this little guy hopped up.

It's a toad.
Toads are frogs, not all frogs are toads.

(GRUNTS) What's not to love?

This is as pristine as it gets.

Uh, only our feet have been here
that I'm aware of. It's wild, and remote,

and beautiful can... as can be.

wanna be quiet and love it.

Let it sink in.

I'll be leaving the planet...

(SIGHS) ...sometime.

And I'll miss it.



I'm about to head into the unknown here.
We're a bit in a cloud,

so everything's a little wet,
which is unfortunate,

and makes it obviously a little harder
for climbing,

because all the holds are wet.

But, um, we're just gonna keep going,
and see how things play out.

That was, like, the hardest crimp today.

MARK: Nice, Alex!

ALEX: Yep. Wanna make sure that it feels
like a pleasure cruise up here.

-Fuco and I at the belay here.

Fuco's belaying Mark, who... let's see.
Can we see him below here?

Oh, yeah, there he is.

He's still climbing up
out of the crazy clouds.

I guess, this is why they call it
a cloud forest.

The wall above us looks...

Well, we'll just see.
It looks very interesting.


MARK: Oh, my God.
It's full-on, literally Jenga.




-It's a little scary, Fuco.
-FUCO: Yeah, I know.

There was this lip that I had to turn
to get up to the ledge,

and almost every single hold
was removable.

And the thing that was so challenging
and scary for me

was that I had to remove it all
without falling off.

Okay, Fuco, I'm questing on.


Whoo! ...Yeah!

This is the exit to my pitch. (PANTS)

-ALEX: What's up?
-MARK: That was scary.

All right. We... did it.
We're on the ledge.

One, two, three! Pull.

ALEX: Okay, underneath that.


MALE CREW MEMBER: It's getting dark on us,
and we're still hauling giant bags.

-It's so much stuff.
-One, two, three! (GRUNTS)

Now, it's going to get interesting
from the biology perspective

because I'm be...
I'm gonna be looking for frogs.


ALEX: We're erecting our wall camp.

Basically, we're just trying to settle
into our new home,

up toward the top of the cliff.

So, the plan for tomorrow,
we're gonna quest off in this traverse,

across this thing,
and try to get to the summit,

and it's... I guarantee
that it's gonna be a... a wild adventure.

Ex... exploration,
that's what it's gonna be tomorrow.

Exploration in the name of science.
On behalf of Dr. Bruce Means,

we've gotta try to find the frog.
It's not gonna be easy.


ALEX: We've been checking in
from the expedition with Michael Strahan

from Good Morning America.

Giving updates via satphone

of the progress of the expedition
and what we're doing.

It's pretty cool to be able
to share this experience

with the world as it happens.

MICHAEL: Hey, Alex. How you doing, man?
How is it going out there?

Hey, it's going great. We've successfully
climbed a portion of this giant tepui.

We've made this large ledge system
which will connect to the actual summit.

And so, things are going great.

MICHAEL: I heard
the unfortunate news about Bruce.

So, what happened?
And most of all, is he okay?

He has remained in one of the mid camps
on the approach to the wall.

We do have radio communications
with the camp that he's in.

BRUCE: Roger. I'm here.

I'm as good as can... good can be.

We're finding all kinds of wonderful,
exciting, and exotic new species...

...that adds to the world's biodiversity

but also brings attention to this area

as being
a significant biodiversity hotspot.

So, it's a team effort.
Uh, it's not over yet. (CHUCKLING)

The search continues,
and I am ecstatic. Over.

All of this sounds absolutely incredible.

But, you guys, you stay safe
on the final push to the top, okay?

We are... we're rooting for you guys.

BRUCE: At the elevations
where the vegetation occurs,

it's very wet,

and prime habitat for all kinds
of frogs and other animals.

To find a vertebrate animal
that's endemic to the cliffs themselves

would be outstanding,
would be a wonderful find.

ALEX: This looks dangerous.

...I'm gonna go up through
this little tunnel here. Get along.

I think the key is gonna be to stay near
the base of the cliff.

Holy creepy crawly.

Tarantula city. (GRUNTS)

There was spots where it was just
impenetrable thickets like this,

where you're just, like,
tearing your way through.

Then eventually, we popped out
onto the Wei-Assipu summit plateau.

ALEX: Oh, my God.

MARK: This is freaking crazy-looking.

Look at that tree right there,
that's like full-on Dr. Seuss.

Because Bruce couldn't make it up,
it was our job on the summit

to help him complete his life's work
by searching for new species of frogs.

We're up on the plateau.
We're not on the highest point,

but we've basically made it to the top.

Keep your eyes out.

We're definitely, like, in froggy terrain.

This is where now we really need
the weather to be good,

because now we have no shelter,

and we're out in the open,
and, of course...

the clouds just come up
over the side of the tepui.

And then we're back into the fog.

We can't see anything,
and it starts raining.


MARK: Are you cold?
Come sit right here, Fuco.

FUCO: I was almost hypothermic.
I had to crawl with Mark

inside a poncho, beneath the rock.

ALEX: Got two guys
under one poncho in this space.

Wanna get...
trying to stay warm on the summit here.

MARK: Yeah, this isn't exactly
the summit glory we were hoping for.

And we haven't been able to find the frog,
and I'm soaked to the bone.

-Looking for frogs.

Sort of like finding
a needle in a haystack.

Bruce seems to find them, no problem,
but... (SCOFFING) ...it's not that easy.


Sounds like it's in the trees up here.

-FUCO: Yeah.

I had an idea that we... we should look
mostly on the bromeliads,

which is the perfect environment
for a frog to... to hide.

But I couldn't find it.

-MARK: Oh! I... Holy...
-ALEX: What's that?

MARK: Creatures!

-ALEX: What kind?
-MARK: Tadpoles!

-FUCO: Oh, you got one.
-MARK: I got one.

Oh, my God. I found a tadpole.

I mean, obviously, that's a sure sign
that there's frogs around here.

-MARK: Hey, Bruce. It's Mark. Do you copy?

Hey, Mark. Where art thou?
Have you made it? Over.

MARK: We are indeed up on the top.
We're on the plateau.

We found a puddle that was just
absolutely filled with tadpoles.


I could not be more excited.
It'll be interesting to see what you got.

If you can grab it and bag it for me
and when you get back down here,

we will have
completed the entire transect.

Be safe. Over and out.

MARK: Okay, sounds good.

We'll check back in with you soon.
Okay? Over and out.

The goal was to get Bruce
up to the top of the cliff.

It didn't go, you know,
perfectly according to plan.

Um. But we did the climb.

A first ascent up a tepui
that has never been climbed before.


MARK: We got to the top,
we completed the elevational transect,

and we found the tadpoles to bring down
to Bruce which might be a new species.

That's what we came here for.

And that's really important to me,

because I have seen what happens
in other places out here,

the logging and the mining.

And I think if people know
about this place and how magical it is,

they'll protect it.

-Hey, guys. Hey.
-BRUCE: Hey!

-Hey. (LAUGHS)
-Hey! (LAUGHS)

-Good to see you. High five.
-How you doing, bud?

-Oh. Don't get too dirty. I'm so wet.

MARK: (CHUCKLING) Hey, dude.

-There you are.
-How are you, bud?

-BRUCE: Oh, my God.
-MARK: I'm pretty famished, so...

You look like you've lost about 20 pounds.

-Hey, Bruce! (CHUCKLES)

-I think we captured it. (CHUCKLES)

-Wow. Let's see what you got.
-So good to see you, man.

BRUCE: Likewise.

This expedition's elevational transect
has been hugely successful.

We have the entire transect now,
and this part of it that, from the summit,

all the way down to Double Drop,
is the part we needed to establish.

And, boy, did we do that in spades.
So, I wish I'd been up there with you.

That was something I had deep in my heart.

However, you did it,
and you did it for us.

ALEX: Bruce has an infectious passion
for biology.

I feel like we did something that matters.

To collect new species,
to study them, to take DNA samples,

and to basically see something
that no one has ever seen before.

You know, I mean, science has brought us
a long ways, but, I mean,

we're still barely scratching the surface
of what we understand in this world.

BRUCE: The tepuis are special places
on the planet.

And they're part of my life,
my love, my career.

And so, this trip
is one of the great gifts to me.

And I'd love to do more.

But if I don't get to do it,
this will be a highlight of my life.