In 1985 two young mountaineers - Joe Simpson and Simon Yates decided to climb the so far unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande, a remote peak of 21,000 ft. in the Peruvian Andes. So remote is this mountain that it could only be approached on horseback and then by walking the rest of the way that is unpassable to horses or donkeys...
Using "the Alpine technique" of literally just packing everything into a rucksack and doing the climb in one hit, instead, of the more conventional method of doing the climb in stages and using various camps along the way, they make it to the top of the previously unclimbed Siula Grande.
On the way down, tragedy strikes when Joe falls and horribly smashes his lower leg through his knee cap. Simon then tries to lower the injured Joe down from the mountain. However, when Joe is left hanging over a ravine and dragging Simon inexorably towards a 300ft drop, Simon makes the decision to cut the rope and Joe falls 150ft into a ravine. Simon believing Joe to be dead then makes his way back down the mountain.
Miraculously, Joe survived the fall and despite his shattered leg, slowly and painfully crawled back down the mountain becoming ever weaker and going into delirium. Against all the odds he made it down to be found by Joe at the bottom and rescued.
Both returned to the UK and Simon faced considerable hostility from many within the UK climbing community including leading climbers for cutting the rope on his climbing partner.
Joe however backed Simon's decision and both climbers maintain to this day that they would have both died, if that rope had not been cut....
This is a superb reconstruction of that fateful climb and is shot on location at Siula Grande which is one of the most beautiful, desolate, and terrifying places on Earth.
The climb is incredible in its reconstruction and the Andean scenery is simply stunning. Throughout the re-enactment, the real Joe and Simon tell their stories via interviews.
Watching this film is excruciating at times because of its harrowing subject. Joe's descent into delirium is underlined by the sound in his head of the Boney M song "Brown Girl In The Ring" which replays over and over for hours, all the time making him more determined not to die to the music of Boney M!
This is an HD DVD film but because much of the mountain footage was presumably shot on small climbing helmet mounted cameras, the resolution on these scenes is very grainy and in sharp contrast to the pristine real time interviews with Joe and Simon. To overcome this, I lowered the resolution on my HD DVD player to 720p and this worked very well, almost completely obliterating the graininess from the mountain shots that was too prominent in both 1080p and 1080i.
Sound is DTS-HD and is absolutely superb. All channels are beautifully balanced and clear on a home cinema set up, particularly if your receiver can decode DTS-HD.
- Return to Siula Grande
- What happened next
There is also an HDi trailer at the start of the disc that gives the old speakers a pretty robust workout.
Summing up, this film is a must have and I recommend it unreservedly.