This is the story of a National Geographic team on a harrowing journey to the summit of Burma’s Hkakabo Razi to determine if it is actually Southeast Asia’s highest point. Along the way they learn that their greatest obstacle isn’t their dwindling rations, or the grueling jungle hikes, or the life-threatening hypothermia—it’s the force of conflicting personalities that threatens to unravel the entire endeavor. Expedition leader Hilaree Nelson recounts the tough decisions she made to keep the team together, accompanied by photographer Cory Richards’ dramatic stills and clips from Renan Ozturk’s searing documentary Down to Nothing.


Use the resources in this collection to prepare your students for their upcoming National Geographic Live! student matinee experience. Use the “Before the show” ideas to introduce students to Hilaree Nelson and the topics (character education, adventure, geography) that she will discuss during the show. Use the “After the show” ideas to extend the learning after the event has ended.


Before the show:

  • Have students review Hilaree Nelson's biography using the links in the Explore More tab on this page.

  • Download and print the provided maps of Myanmar (Burma) and Asia, or use the MapMaker Interactive, to explore the areas where Hilaree Nelson works.

  • Have students read the Asia: Physical Geography encyclopedic entry. Lead a class discussion about different kinds of physical geographies, and the impact that has on mountaineers. After reading, ask: How are different types of physical geographies connected to one another? How do these physical factors influence the human experience?

  • Engage students in the world of mountaineering with the provided activity, Shaping the Tallest Peak on Earth. Reflect on the questions asked during the previous discussion of the physical geography maps. In addition, show students the provided photo of the climbing gear needed to summit great peaks.

  • Read the provided article Myanmar Climb: Reflections on Enduring the Anti-Everest to provide context for the speaker’s own mountaineering experience. Discuss with students and ask: Why is failure important? What can we learn by trying something and not succeeding?  

  • Provide each student with a KWL Chart. Introduce the program they will attend and, who the speaker is, and offer a brief description of what the speaker’s topic(s) will be. Have students fill out the What I Know and What I Want to Know columns of the KWL Chart. Have them fill out the What I Learned column after the show.

  • Use the graphic organizer collection to select a graphic organizer to help your students organize their questions and new knowledge before, during, and after the program. For example:

    • Download and print the T Chart. Have students label the left column with Questions I Have and the right column with Answers, and then conduct research about the speaker and speaker topic ahead of the program. Have students record answers to their questions during or after the program. Have students conduct research to complete any unanswered questions for homework. Have each student share a question and answer with the class.

    • Download and print the provided Five Ws Chart. Have each student bring their copy to the matinee program and take notes. Have students share and discuss their notes after the show.

After the Show

  • Use the Explorer Comparisons worksheet and have a class discussion to help students make connections between themselves and Hilaree Nelson. Distribute the worksheet to students before the presentation and review the directions with them. Review any terms with which that they are unfamiliar with. After the presentation, have students share the notes that they took during the show. Have a class discussion about attitudes and skills and how students demonstrate them in their everyday lives. Have students record their personal examples on the worksheet.

  • Review the continents, countries, or areas that the speaker presented. Ask: What continents, countries, or areas does the speaker work in? Have younger students imagine that these places were characters in the stories that Hilaree Nelson shared. Ask: What role did place play in Hilaree Nelson's story? Why was location important to the story? How did the characteristics of the place influence the story? Note: You may need to introduce the concept of place for your students, before they can answer and discuss these questions.

  • Discuss and define any unfamiliar terminology that the speaker used. Ask: What vocabulary words did Hilaree Nelson use that were new to you? Invite volunteers to write the words on the board, and have the class define them as a group using information they learned from the speaker or through research. If desired, have students record unfamiliar terminology during the show on one half of a T Chart. Then, have them write the definitions on the other side following this class discussion.

  • Have a class discussion about the attitudes National Geographic explorers embody. Ask: What attitudes did Hilaree Nelson talk about today? In what ways does Hilaree Nelson demonstrate curiosity, responsibility, empowerment, and persistence in her work? Why do you think these attitudes are important for explorers? Students can use their Five Ws Chart for reference and a graphic organizer to organize their ideas.

  • Have a whole-class brainstorm on how students can make changes or support the speakers’ work. Ask: What, if any, call to action did the speakers make? How can you implement any changes in your day-to-day life? What can we work on together as a group?


to ascend or go up.


someone who climbs mountains.


the very top.


highest point of a mountain.