Earlier this year when I saw the trailer for the new movie, Everest, after getting goosebumps head to toe, I texted my brother that I had to see it and preferably with him.
Just to re-iterate, my brother went to Everest in the 2014 climbing season to attempt THE beast, the tallest, Sagarmatha, Chomolungma, Peak XV.
Needless to say, I've been planning for months to see this movie with my brother. My whole life I've been following in his shadow; trying to copy him (or his blog titles), keep up, and living vicariously, so it comes as no surprise that I raided his book collection at some point and took a couple books that looked interesting or that he had recommended. (Mind you, the options were somewhere between mountaineering, running, and engineering related.) Point of the story, I ended up reading Into Thin Air. At the time, it was just a good read, but now, it means so much more. It explained Mt. Everest to me; like the geography, terrain, climbing jargon, death, and the overall tone of climbing the tallest mountain in the world. Turns out, the movie Everest was based on this book, so another reason I'm glad I read it.
The movie was based on the true story of the 1996 disaster on Everest when 12 people died, making it the deadliest season until 2014. Having not been to Everest myself, I thought it was a great movie. Had I not read the book, it would have been more suspenseful, but even so, it was incredibly dramatic as I remember my heart rate shooting through the roof at multiple points. I debated going to the bathroom a few times just to bring my heart rate down, but decided I couldn't miss any of the movie. It was nice going with my brother who was able to whisper things like; "the depiction of getting a helicopter above the Khumbu Ice Fall would be that crazy" and "yes, those bridges do exists" and "I took that helicopter from Lukla" as well as being able to nudge him when they mentioned about climbing without "O" (like he wants to do).
I watched the movie from the perspective of having HAD a loved one on the mountain before, so to me, it was really interesting to hear the raw things the mountaineers said that my brother didn't [want to] express to me. It also hit insanely close to home having the mountaineers' family's documented in the film. I guess I didn't realize the role I played in my brothers experience. To me, it was his spot light. At one point in the movie, the wife of Rob Hall was laying on the couch in the middle of the night wide awake & I vividly remember sleepless nights impatiently awaiting my brothers next update. Because of my own selfishness, I was rather happy to know his trek was cut weeks early due to the avalanche, so that I could sleep.
Death is real. I remember having the worst conversation to-date with my brother one night leading up to his departure for Everest. I can't imagine how my parents felt talking to their 27 year old son about the reality of him potentially dying on this mountain. I wanted to think he was smart enough to make good decisions, but I also know the mind games thin air can play on anyone. I think the decisions made in 1996 killed lives, but they were all justified to those people at that time. You just never know at 26,000 feet.
My thoughts post-movie are two-fold......
1- I don't want my brother to go back. The worst 2 disasters on the mountain happened in sequential climbing seasons, 2014 & '15, so what pattern are we in?
2- I want to go to Everest Base Camp. Just the journey there would be amazing and enough emotional havoc for me that I don't think I would have the urge to go through the ice-fall. No thanks. However, I would want to be there if my brother went back. Realistically, time & money will decide that.
"Thou shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3
Everest. Dir. Baltasar Kormákur. Perf. Jason Clarke. Working Title Films, 2015. Film.
Krakauer, Jon, and Randy Rackliff. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. Villard, 1997. Print.