A few days ago, I went to see Everest, a gripping film about the 1996 climbing disaster.
Eight climbers died in two days when an unexpected blizzard came in. At the time, the events held me spell bound. I read and watched everything about it. The book at the time was Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, still one of my favorite books of all times.
You don’t have to have remembered the incident to find the movie fascinating. It was the beginning of commercialization of mountain climbing. Companies like those owned by Rob Hall of New Zealand and Scott Fisher of the United States took anyone they saw fit on the mountain. A quick scene shows a guide teaching his clients how to put on crampons. Most hadn’t had climbing experience; they were “treadmill fit.”
The preparations and life at Everest base camp are well depicted. They show the acclimatization (even the word is hard to write and say) climbs, the partying, and the packing of oxygen tanks. The doctor gives a lecture, where she says that people are not meant to climb this high.
Professional reviews stress the beauty of the filming in 3D over the human aspects but they are wrong. Sure, Keira Knightley plays the teary pregnant wife back in New Zealand. But the struggle of the clients and leaders against the mountain are heart-breaking. They made mistakes in an environment that allows for none. And they never used the word “issue” when they had a problem.
But it’s the cold that seemed so visceral to me.
Like many others, inquiries about climbing shot up. Even I looked into what it meant to attempt to reach the top. Hah! Two years later, I completed the Appalachian Trail, a much-more achievable goal.