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The Summit Review – Stunning, Shocking, Devastating

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“The Summit,” a doc-drama from Image Now Films, Fantastic Films and Passion Pictures, recounts the day eleven climbers were killed on K2 in what has become known as the deadliest day in mountain climbing history.

Directed by Nick Ryan, “The Summit,” reunites through personal interviews members from several international expeditions all who had arrived to climb this majestic, breathtakingly beautiful, brutally harsh, 28,851ft monster situated in the northwestern Himalayan Mountain range.

Reenacting the days leading up to the disaster, “The Summit” stars Christine Barnes, Niall Foley, Stefan Grossniklaus, Christo Mitzkov, Garrett Philipps, Johannes Moser as Rolf Bae and Lochlainn O’Mearain as Ger McDonnell and is written by Mark Monroe.

Original members of the expeditions appear in the film recounting how the day, that was crystal clear, a “one in a million day” could have ended so tragically including Cecilie Skog, Maco Confortola, Pat Falvey, Pasang Lama, Tshering Lama, J.J. McDonnell, Lars Nessa, Damien O’Brien, Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, Pemba Gyalje Sherpa, Annie Starkey, Fredik Strang, Cas Van De Gevel, Wilco van Roojen and Albertp Zerain.

Intertwining the elements necessary for a successful climb filmmakers feature the history of K2, beginning with an Italian expedition who became the first climbers to successfully make it to the summit.

K2 is divided into sections, the base camp, at the foot of Savage Mountain, then at three other intervals until what is known as Base camp IV, which is where the climbers sleep in preparation for the final advance to K2’s summit.

On August 1, 2008, those climbers that had rode out the weather, including a wind storm the night before which picked one of the tents up and flung it off the side of the mountain, saw a window open for a day unlike any other.

The accent began. Climbing K2 is a lot like standing in line. After the initial accent, the climbers using fixed ropes wait, in what is known as the bottleneck, and is every bit what the name envisions. The other extreme danger at the bottleneck stage is the climbers are waiting under an overhang of ice, called a serac.

By nightfall on August 1, 2008, eleven climbers who had initiated the accent including Ger McDonnell, the first Irishman to make it to the Summit, Dren Mandic, from the Serbian team, who unclipped his rope, lost his footing, bumped into Cecilie Skog who was waiting in the bottleneck, and slide down the bottleneck 100meters, striking a rock, to his death and Jehan Baig, from the Pakistani expedition, who died attempting to save Dren.

Rolf Bae, the husband of Cecilie Skog, who had decided not to make the accent to the summit but waited for his wife and fellow Norwegian, Lars Flato Nessa,  to begin the decent was killed as an ice searc fell and sliced the ropes.  He was never found.  The two survivors of the Norwegian team, Skog and Nessa, continued the decent in the dark, free climbing or descending with the use of the fixed ropes which act as guide and protector and made it to Base Camp IV during the night.

Three members of the South Korean expedition, Kyeong-Hyo Park, Hyo-Gyeong Kim, Dong-Jin Hwang as well as both the Serpa’s, guides hired to carry the equipment from Nepal, Jumik Bhote and Pasang Bhote were killed in a second ice searc fall as were Hugues D’Aubarede of France and Karim Meherban of Pakistan.

 “The Summit” is gripping, a traumatic docu-drama. The interviews with the survivors and their families leave you speechless and wondering what type of person would want to take the risks for a single ten minute ‘I’m at the top of the world’ thrill?

K2 is like the ocean, indiscriminate in unleashing its power, it is not the strong, the weak, the most or least experienced, who survive the sudden unexplainable storms. Nor is it will power, strength, intelligence or determination. It is  hope, sheer luck, fate, chance and a prayer that the hand of God is upon you that day and stays the unexpected until the decent is complete.

K2 is the most dangerous of climbs. According to statistics of every four who ascend to the summit, one will die in the decent. The loss of loved ones is deep and irreparably felt by all who loved them or felt the burden of their survival.

Assessing blame is common in tragedies such as these and truthfully, it is an enter at your own risk extreme sport.

Coupled with the oxygen deprivation, which results in the loss of rational decision making, the sudden, unexpected and obviously unplanned ice fall, and poor time management in the beginning of the expedition were all factors, and noted in the documentary, which caused the deaths of the eleven.

The burden didn’t rest on one or the other who survived. Nor did it rest on the shoulders of those who died.

It is what it, unfortunately, is: A senseless tragedy.

Global warming will continue to create extremely hazardous conditions making the probability and likelihood of serac accidents more common.

The loosening of the serac ice, the volume of enthusiasts who want to attempt K2 and the time, which will not change, of being in the cue, waiting in the bottleneck line, will only increase the chance of ice fall accidents.

“The Summit” is genuinely interesting, and tells the stories of those who died, those who survived and those who rescued others. It details the internal power struggle for base camp supremacy as all teams meet, in council like sessions, to determine bottleneck position.

“The Summit” is a must see film.

“The Summit” premiered at the 2013 London Film Festival and was also featured at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Editing Award: World Cinema Documentary. Sundance Selects will release the film theatrically on October 4 in Los Angeles and New York with a nationally after.

 

 

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