Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Anyone who tries to climb Mount Everest is, by definition, an idiot. (Except for Sherpas. For them, it’s a living.) I mean, once Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made it to the top and back, what is the fucking point? Every conquest after that is just another fucking idiot on the top. Human beings were not designed to live at 29,000 feet. The things that can go wrong, short of death, include irreparable brain damage. (I assume these people do have brains, though I see no real evidence of it.) You have about a 5% chance of dying. What fun! What a hoot for your loved ones, if you die and your body is never recovered or brought down, as many are not. (Google “Everest deaths images” to see some of the gruesome landmarks you will pass on the way up.) Or you could return missing both hands, parts of both feet, and your nose, as happens to Dr. Beck Weathers, one of the idiots portrayed in this movie. He paid $65,000 to mutilate himself. Another one who died, Doug Hansen, was a mailman. School children raised money to help finance his trip with the Adventure Consultants company! Well, boys and girls, he died of exposure, which basically means he froze to death. Isn’t that nice?

Oh, yes, it is “based on real events,” namely the 1996 Everest Disaster, where eight people died. It was the worst disaster on the mountain up to that time. These were not the only deaths that year. Another seven people died on different days in separate instances. Since then the one-day death toll has been exceeded twice. In 2014 sixteen Sherpas were killed in an avalanche at Base Camp, and the next year nineteen died (mostly Sherpas) in another Base Camp avalanche triggered by the Nepal earthquake.

You can go ahead and call me callous, if you want, but I have to tell you that my sympathy for the suffering shown here is strictly limited. I kept thinking, “You asked for this, dummy! You could have been safe with your loved ones, but here you are dying in agony and you have accomplished nothing!” I have a great deal of sympathy for the loved ones, and we see some of their suffering here.

Damn it, I can see the attraction of climbing a mountain … of around 14,000 feet or so, though I would never do it in a million years. But the only possible reason I can see for venturing into the Death Zone (anything above 26,000 feet, though people have died from oxygen starvation at lower altitudes than that) is to prove to the world, and possibly to yourself, that you have enormous balls. And I include the women in that. One woman died in this disaster, Yasuko Namba, who was attempting the last of the “Seven Summits,” that is climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. She made it! Hurrah! But she died on the way down.

What really pisses me off is that so many people still regard these people as brave, as heroes. You want bravery? I’ll show you bravery. At the end of the movie two Nepali Army pilots risked their lives taking a helicopter higher than one had ever gone, higher than it was designed to go, to bring the worthless, damaged hide of Dr. Weathers down off the mountain. That’s heroism, to me. Every year people put their lives in peril, and sometimes die, trying to rescue people who are only in danger because they tried some damn fool stunt, like climbing Everest. If someone needs rescuing because of some natural disaster, or awful accident, I say spare no expense, take any risk. But rescuing morons? Let ‘em freeze, I say.

Okay, I just had to get that off my chest. Now, what about the movie? As a film, it’s pretty damn good. There is an all-star cast, including Josh Brolin as Weathers, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, and Emily Watson. They did some actual shooting at Base Camp on Everest, and were there when the earthquake struck. The effects are terrific. You would think these guys really were on the mountain, and the views are spectacular. Most of it was actually shot in a large studio that was chilled down to 28˚ F. This meant considerable hardship for the actors, what with having to lie still in all the ice and snow with a hard wind blowing around them. Nothing like the real thing, of course, but still. It’s worth seeing.