Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Everest in Books and Film

Wayne and I went to see the movie Everest when it was in town. It depicts the 1996 disaster for two guided climbing parties trying to summit the 29,029 foot peak. Since then, I've read quite a few books about the 1996 climbing tragedy and other climbing accounts. Here's my updated list.

Wayne and I stay at the movies through the credits. Towards the end, I read the movie was based (at least in part) on the book Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers. The movie focused more on the time that Rob Hal's guided team spent on Everest preparing for and climbing the challenging peak. Beck Weathers' book is more about his climbing experiences that lead up to the Everest climb, how climbing helped him counteract depression, how he struggled back to camp after being left for dead on the freezing slopes, and his miraculous evacuation and long battle to recover from extreme frostbite.

Next we saw the movie Meru. It was a documentary of the climb led by Conrad Anker with two partners, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk. Their two quests to climb the difficult Shark's Fin to the top of Mount Meru in Northern India was a self-filmed epic. During the film I learned that Anker discovered the body of George Mallory who disappears with his climbing partner Andres "Sandy" Irvine while attempting to be the first to summit Everest in 1924. This led me to Anker's book The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest. This book gave a me greater historical perspective to Everest and the men and women who have tried to survive the challenge of its "death zone."

Jon Krakauer was invited to participate in the ill-fated 1996 guided climb as a journalist representing Outside Magazine. In addition to his magazine article, he put the experience into book format, the result called 's Into Thin Air.  Jon was sponsored to write a story about the safety of commercial guided climbing groups. An experienced climber, he'd never before tackled such an extreme high altitude peak. Krakauer's book covered the extensive preparation and the climbing process. He was and one of the few clients to both summit and survive the experience that fateful day.

I also read The Mountain: My Time on Everest by Ed Viesters. Ed was the first American to summit all fourteen 8,000-metre mountains around the world. He participated in eleven Everest expeditions, of which seven resulted in reaching the summit. He was part of the IMAX Expedition in 1996 that played a role in rescue efforts for Rob Hall's ill-fated team chronicled in John Krakauer's Into Thin Air. Ed is one of the rare climbers who tackles ascents without the aid of supplemental oxygen. The Mountain gives a brief history of Everest, but focuses mainly on Ed's many expeditions to Everest, and how the experiences have shaped his life on and off the mountain.

The most recent book I've read was The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest by Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston DeWalt. Anatoli was the lead climbing guide on the Mountain Madness team that was part of the 1996 Everest climb. Scott Fisher was expedition leader and the only member who died that May on the mountain. Anatoli was heroic going out after dark in a blinding snowstorm to save the lives of members from his party, and others from Rob Hall's. Before Anatoli's tragic death in an avalanche a few years later, he was attacked by Jon Krakauer for climbing without oxygen and going down to camp before the client-climbers. If he hadn't, many more would have have been lost. I'm glad I read this book last to get a different perspective than presented in Into Thin Air.

There have been many books written since Everest's designation as the world's tallest mountain in 1856. There are even more books about the 1996 disaster that took the lives of nine climbers, guides and Sherpas from the two ill-fated parties.  I may read more in the future, but these were a good start. I'll keep adding to the list as I go.

Other films and documentaries include:

Everest is the 1998 IMAX documentary directed by mountaineer David Breashears. The IMAX filming party was climbing and filming on Everest at the same time as the 1996 tragedy. It's available on line and rebroadcasts on television on occasion.

Everest: Beyond the Limit is a 2006 documentary produced by The Discover Channel.

Everest: The Death Zone is a 1998 documentary produced by NOVA.

The Wildest Dream is a National Geographic documentary about the 1999 discovery of George Mallory's body.

Let me know if you have any other favourite Everest books to read. -- Margy


  1. These all looks like really interesting books to read. Daughter and SIL have a friend who has climbed Everet, not once but twice.

    1. I like reading more about films I see. Wow, someone you know actually climbed it. The climb to the stop sounded grueling, but getting there and all the health problems from bad water and food leading up to it sounded as bad or worse. - Margy

  2. We always sit through the credits too. We know a couple of people who are involved in costume & set design and once or twice we've seen their names up on the screen - right at the very end. Haven't seen the Everest movie yet.

    1. We like to see where movies were filmed and if there were airplanes, who did the flying. - Margy


Thanks for stopping by. Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. - Margy