Last night I was taken to see the new film Everest in Inverness by two lovely lassies from the Moray Mountaineering Club. I had been invited a few days ago to join in a BBC radio Scotland programme live about Risk Taking in the mountains. I felt duty bound to watch the film, unfortunately the few Mountaineering films watched by Mountaineers even of my standard are pretty poorly received. Is this elitist as many of my non mountaineering pals enjoyed them, even Cliff Hanger was loved by many? We had a great discussion on the drive to Inverness and talked a bit about the dangers of Mountaineering and other risky sports. We all agreed driving and horse riding are far more dangerous than mountaineering.
Everest the film – a bit of back ground it is based on a true story.
On the morning of May 10, 1996, climbers (Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin) from two expeditions start their final ascent toward the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. With little warning, a violent storm strikes the mountain, engulfing the adventurers in one of the fiercest blizzards ever encountered by man. Challenged by the harshest conditions imaginable, the teams must endure blistering winds and freezing temperatures in an epic battle to survive against nearly impossible odds. It is a tale of tragedy which results in some harrowing stories and one where the star who is dying on the mountain speaks to his wife who is pregnant by a patched phone.
Anyone who goes to that movie and wants a fact-based account should read ‘Into Thin Air,’ ” the author, who’s played by Michael Kelly in the Universal film, says.
Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer, who wrote about the 1996 blizzard on Mt. Everest that left eight climbers dead, is fine with audiences not flocking to see Everest, the new disaster film that tells the same story, in which he is a character.
“It’s total bull,” Krakauer told the Los Angeles Times. “Anyone who goes to that movie and wants a fact-based account should read Into Thin Air.”
House of Cards’ star Michael Kelly portrays the now 61-year-old Krakauer in the film. Krakauer saw Everest last weekend, according to theTimes. He wasn’t pleased.
“People told me, ‘Movies never get made. Take the money. What do you have to lose?’ ” Krakauer told the Times. “I curse myself for selling it at all. What I learned from the TV movie was that dramatic films take dramatic license, and when you sign a document, you can do whatever you want with me. It wasn’t worth the money I got”
I sat through the film and I had read much before it as there are many books telling what happens. I was well aware what to expect when we went to Everest in 2001 we went via Tibet a safer route when I was the Base Camp Manager. We were a small unguided expedition of 12 good friends who were all part of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team. We had a great team of 6 Sherpas and were great group. We got 2 to the summit but other expeditions lost 3 climbers and we were involved in a Rescue high up of one of our own team. At Base Camp it was tricky times as there is little you can do when it all goes wrong so I had as on other expeditions an insight into this film. I was there with the American Team with of the some of the World finest Mountaineers when they explained that Rescue was impossible at the pinnacles on the North Ridge and though they tried to Rescue the exhausted climber it was not possible. They gave up there summit attempt and brought another Russian off the hill alive. I was very friendly with both groups and it was a tragic part of the trip.
The film was very interesting there was the usual noisy wind and snow scenes and some strange things but some of the familiar filming shots of this incredible place were superb. The story was portrayed by “Holywood characters” and much was lost in this portrayal especially of Scott Fischer who dies high on the mountain. In essence some of the scenes especially on the South Col were harrowing and to me very life like as I have seen in the mountains in Scotland. A hero to many the climber Anatoli Boukreev went out many times and rescued many from certain death, he is portrayed fleetingly and much more could be made of this man mountain who was awarded the Alpine Club highest Award in May 1996. He died in an avalanche in 1997 on Annapurna.
His story which was rarely read is an incredible read and must be aware that English is not his first language.
The Climb – In May 1996 a number of expeditions attempted to climb Mount Everest on the Southeast Ridge route. Crowded conditions slowed their progress and late in the day 23 men and women, including the expedition leaders, were caught in a ferocious blizzard. Disorientated and out of oxygen, climbers struggled to find their way to safety. Alone and climbing blind, Anatoli Boukreev rescued a number of climbers from certain death. This honest and gripping account includes the transcript of the Mountain Madness debriefing, recorded five days after the tragedy, as well as G. Weston de Walt’s response to Jon Krakauer.
‘Powerful . . . a breath of brisk, sometimes bitter clarity . . . Boukreev did the one thing that denies the void. He took action. He chose danger, and he saved lives.’ New York Times Book Review
The star of the Film is Rob Hall who is portrayed as a caring excellent guide who gets caught up in this High Altitude Cash Game of getting clients to the summit when they should have turned round. He then tries to get an exhausted client off and then tragic phone call as he is dying high on the mountain to his wife in New Zealand after an attempt to rescue him. This part is harrowing and I could hear people sobbing during this scene. Scott Fishers the other guide of a rival Guiding Company wife has written strongly about his portrayal in the film and we must not forget this is not Holywood these are real people with families. Her article is on my twitter account and is well worth a read. The pain she is going through is easy to see and yet she has no come back on this portrayal?
The scenes on The South Col are as I said harrowing and this shows at high altitude in the death Zone you are on your own. Only a couple of Sherpas and Anatoli Boukree can help, what a feat going up to try to help. Yet on survivor left for dead Beck Weathers crawls to the tents and survives a night out with horrendous injuries and then begins an incredible feat of getting him down and an epic helicopter ride from camp 1 above the ice fall. So many heroes in the tale yet few are mentioned.
Beck Weathers – Anyone who has read Jon Krakauer’s famous account of the 1996 Everest disaster, INTO THIN AIR, will remember the story of Beck Weathers: the gregarious Texan climber who went snow-blind in the Death Zone below the summit and who spent a night out in the open during a blizzard that took the lives of a dozen colleagues and friends.
Even as he staggered back into Camp 4 the next morning, Beck’s condition was such that the other survivors assumed he would not make it back down the mountain. He was effectively left for dead, but drawing upon reserves of determination and courage he didn’t know he had – as well as the extraordinary selflessness and bravery of a Nepalese helicopter pilot he’d never met – he finally made it to safety. Only then could a new battle begin: to rebuild his life with a family he’d taken for granted for too long.
Heartstoppingly exciting and ultimately very moving, LEFT FOR DEAD is a terrific read.
What a film , yes many will say it was Hollywood and so many mistakes highlighted by mountaineers and historians but the general public will be interested in this insight into the Everest Circus. Looking at why would you want to go and climb this mountain this way it is not an advert for high altitude mountaineering? There are many other great places to go to in the Himalayas away from the crowds and after the last disaster on Everest what will happen on this side of Everest in the future.
I was lucky I have seen this great mountain. wandered round to the huge North Face on my own and been up to the North Col when everyone apart from my Sherpas were clearing the mountain. No other group was there everyone had gone home after a big storm the season was over. The mountain was silent as the Sherpas took and extra day and cleared all the high camps of unwanted gear. It was a spiritual experience for me and the long walk back to Base Camp in bad weather was tasking. I saw the huge face for the last time as the weather changed, what a place what an experience it will live with me forever.
We must not forget that this was a true story and 8 people lost their lives it was a real tragedy for the families involved. I met one of the survivors on my trip to Everest she told me of the efforts of Anatolli and the awful experience of getting lost on the South Col and nearly dying. It was some story and one I will never forget.
I cannot say I enjoyed the film, it was too near to some of my experiences in many ways on the mountains, but worth going to? I would say yes but who am I to comment?
Judge for yourself and let me know your thoughts. Thanks to the girls for a lovely night out xx
When I left for my first trip to the Himalayas my step daughter and stepson were very young and very worried. For me it was lifetime ambition and to go away for two months was big loss to them. I was already away most weekends with the Mountain Rescue add in call -outs and it was hard for them and Vicky. I foolishly said this would be the last meal together before I left. I left early next day wearing all our gear as we had already gone over our allowance on the aircraft. I was wearing plastic Double boots with inners which I took off in the aircraft. There was something in my boot when we sat down and I found a note fro Yvette with a picture of us all and a note to be safe and not die! That was a huge reminder to be careful on the big hills where any error could be costly! The effect of your life on your family as we chase our dreams can be hard for them. But would we be the same person if we did not try?
Natacha – Definitely in the right company to watch this film last night, Heavy. Of course, it was not the best mountaineering film ever, but it was not the worst made either. From the comfort of eden court theatre seats, and despite reading Into Thin Air and other accounts published on these events, there is simply no knowing how bad it must have been for all involved. Visually, the movie is quite magnificent (just don’t go and check the ‘behind the scenes everest’ video on YouTube). Every person on the mountain that day will have experienced it differently. I thought Ingvaar Eggert was a very convincing Anatoli Boukreev. Now, as to why people do this, which is the recurrent question, in the books, in the movie, to whoever you talk everyday who knows that you do this kind of thing and simply cannot relate to it, cannot conceive why you willingly put yourself through such physical discomfort, there is possibly no need for an answer. I would never be in a position to finance such a trip and I have never felt compelled to stand at the top of the world. Not like this, not passing dead bodies on the way up, not as part of the littering crowd at base camp, not with the aim of the ultimate tick on my to do list. I would love to go to Nepal but as you say, it would have to be further away from the madding crowd. But then, the commercialisation of high risk mountaineering is an endless debate.
Paul Millen –
“Hi Heavy, Into Thin Air is a fantastic book about the disaster on Everest. There’s been many articles written and documentaries broadcast about it over the years. I remember seeing Dans lecture about the MR Everest trip when I was on my winter course almost 15 yrs ago. I’ve been fascinated by Everest ever since. I fear that you’ve hit the nail on the head with your Everest Circus comment. When you read reports or see the seemingly endless programmes about paying clients with little or no mountaineeeing experience but who just want to get to the top, I can’t help but feel that successful summits are being devalued. But, I’ve never been and nor am I likely to go. There’ll certainly never be another MR trip that’s for sure! As for risk taking, TV and film rarely does the mountaineers image any real favours. Risk takers is exactly what we’re not. We’re at the complete opposite of that spectrum. We use all of the tools we have to reduce that risk to an absolute minimum….then we go and have unforgettable (and safe) days in the hills.I’m not an awesome, gnarly, radical adrenaline junky that’s for sure!!!! But then they’re not buying tickets or Bear Grylls water proofs to see that are they. Always great to read your stuff. Paul