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DECENT ADVENTURE STORY FOR ARMCHAIR CLIMBERS...
on 9 March 2006
This is essentially a buddy movie clothed in mountaineering garb. It is a story about two climbers: one, a Seattle based attorney, the other, a physics instructor. They are a mismatched pair of friends who are brought together because of their love for climbing. The story line is about the ultimate test that their friendship endures while high on K2, the second highest mountain in the world but the most perilous to climb.
The rock climbing scenes that take place in the first fifteen minutes of the movie are terrific to watch, even though they may not be technically correct. After all, it's a movie, not a documentary. The scenery is spectacular and the cinematography is excellent.
These friends decide to grab an opportunity to climb K2 with an expedition that lost two of its team members to an avalanche on Denali. The attorney has no problem going to K2, but the physics instructor leaves behind his weeping wife and child. Yet his friendship with the attorney and his own desire to climb K2 compel him to leave his distraught family.
There are a number of scenes in the movie that seem to be taken from real life. While on expedition to K2, the porters leave them stranded, refusing to go any further on the mountain, as they have portents of doom. They also want more money. One scene has the attorney burning rupees in defiance of the porters' strike. World class mountaineer Jim Wickwire did the same thing, when he climbed K2, and under similar circumstances.
In another scene, a number of climbers fall into a crevasse only to be saved at the last minute by the physics instructor, as he digs his ice axes in and grips the road. The film also include a scene that shows the expedition leader succumbing to high altitude sickness, necessitating his descent of K2 as soon as possible.
Animosity on the mountain between the climbing leader and the attorney over who will be part of the first summit team is also reminiscent of real life expeditions. It is here that the attorney's friendship with the physics instructor becomes strained, as he lays claim to be on the first summit team and does not include his friend, even though they had been climbing partners for ten years. So much for the brotherhood of the rope.
After the first summit team is finished off by the mountain, the two friends summit, but on the descent the physics instructor falls and is seriously injured, breaking his leg. As you can imagine, this is really bad news, as it is tantamount to a death sentence, especially when you are in the death zone and without oxygen.
Since this is a buddy movie, the attorney comes up with a plan to get his friend down K2. I won't tell you what it is, but I will give you a hint. The plan used is to be found in Joe Simpson's book "Touching the Void".
Interestingly enough, the movie is dedicated to two mountaineers of renown: Seattle attorney, Jim Wickwire, and physicist, Lou Reichardt, both of whom were among the first Americans to summit K2 in 1978. This film seems to be loosely based upon some of their mountaineering exploits. It is a moderately enjoyable film that should appeal to armchair climbing enthusiasts everywhere.