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Because it's there: Climbing Everest
As any schoolchild can tell you, the tallest mountain in the world is Mount Everest*, which is located in the Mahalangur Himalaya mountain range. This film purports to tell the story of two commercial expeditions — Adventure Consultants helmed by Rob Hall (Clarke), and Mountain Madness lead by Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal). Rob’s team includes inexperienced climber Beck Weathers (Brolin), Doug Hansen (Hawkes), Yasuko Namba (Mori), and co-guide Andy “Harold” Harris (Martin Henderson). Both teams plan to embark on what they hope will be a successful and adventurous expedition.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
The opening text of the film informs us that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first two people to successfully climb Mount Everest. Now, with the peak conquered hundreds of others have attempted to make the climb, with not all of them achieving their goal. Since the time of Hillary and Norgay hundreds of professionals, semi-professionals, and even amateurs have attempted to do the same, with one in four dying.
Preparing to climb the mountain
To their credit, prior to beginning their ascent, final ascent the team rendezvous at the base camp of the mountain as a preparation to their final ascent. They are all briefed about the climb and how they will prep over the next six weeks before beginning their final ascent. During this prep time Rob informs his friends that he booked journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) to do an article on them. Rob explains to his team the dangerous altitudes and temperatures of the Death Zone on Everest, which they hope to get past quick enough before things get really dodgy.
Meet the climbers
The Ascent begins
Finally, the teams begin their ascent, but before they make their final climb and 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 elements imaginable, the teams climbing the mountain find that they must endure blistering winds and freezing temperatures in an epic battle to survive against nearly impossible odds. Unfortunately, not all of the climbers are up for the fierce weather they’ve encounter and several of them start to fall prey to the mountain.
Read the book
While the film itself gives us a harrowing example of what it is like to scale Everest. While the film ostensibly is based on the experiences and observations of Krakauer (who wrote a book about his experiences entitled Into Thin Air). Krakauer himself said of the film, “It’s total bull. Anyone who goes to that movie and wants a fact-based account should read Into Thin Air.” Krakauer’s book, of course, is the 1997 bestseller wrote about his experience on Everest, when eight climbers died after getting trapped in an unexpected storm.
Watch the movie
More than one version of the story
According to the producers of Everest, while this film about that fateful day, is not actually based on Krakauer’s book. Krakauer sold the memoir’s rights at the time of publication to Sony Pictures, and that studio went on to make television movie about the tragedy. Krakauer later admitted to regretting his decision to sell off the movie rights. Kormákur, the director of Everest, responded to Krakauer, by stating that not only was Krakauer’s first-person account not used as source material for the film, but that Krakauer’s version conflicted with the actual events of that day.
Reflections of the mountain
Regardless of all the above, the film itself manages to juxtapose those climbers who are professional climbers and have earned the right to scale the mountain, and those thrill-seekers who are seriously far too under-trained to make the ascent. Another thing that the film shows off is that people who die on the mountain, pretty much remain where they died, frozen in place. It is also pretty clear that, even though climbing the mountain has become something of a rich person’s bucket list item, and simply being able to afford the climb, even when combined with the level commerce and support availed to the climbers these days, it is still not nearly enough to assure a safe and/or successful climb.
Top of the world!
*This isn’t exactly true, for while Everest has the highest summit above sea level (at 4,205 meters), Mauna Kea in the Hawaiian Islands, is much lower than Mount Everest. However, as an island, Mauna Kea when measured from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean floor to the peak of the island, then Mauna Kea is actually "taller" than Mount Everest. (tipping in at approximately 10,000 meters).