In August of 2008, a group of mountaineers from all over the globe set off to summit K2, the second largest mountain in the world, behind Mount Everest. Known as “The Savage Mountain”, K2 is one of if not the most dangerous mountain on Earth, having a fatality rate of about 25% or one in four according to About Sports Climbing http://climbing.about.com/od/mountainclimbing/a/K2FastFacts.htm. Though being a group of expert climbers, most having successfully climbed Everest in the past, K2 proved its reputation after killing 11 of the mountaineers attempting to reach and descend from its summit. The documentary, The Summit by Nick Ryan provides re-enactments and documentary footage to focus on the horrific 2008 tragedy as well as the mystery behind the story of Ger McDonnell, a forgotten hero left behind in the death zone.
With so many lives being taken in such a short amount of time, this tragedy received lots of media and news coverage at the time in which the event was occurring. Due to the chaos being created by the media and the mountain itself, many false accusations and rumors were being spread
throughout the world. Among these accusations, doubt was brought upon the climber’s experience scaling mountains as dangerous as K2, an example of this being Spiegel online International’s article which was titled, “Just Pure Stupidity: Eleven Climbers Die in K2 Disaster”(http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/just-pure-stupidity-eleven-climbers-die-in-k2-disaster-a-569997.html). This documentary was made in order to explain the horrific events, justify and recognize actions or lack of, and answer many questions that arose because of the climb’s outcome.
The film was directed at those who had many un-answered questions about the event and the credibility of the mountaineers themselves. The film makes this apparent when Wilco, one of the surviving climbers talks about the many articles and news stories that depicted the climbers as inexperienced, foolish, and risky. He explains that all were prepared for the climb, and that it was the mountain that turned on them, spiraling the climb into chaos. He justifies by saying that because of high altitude, lack of oxygen, and the mountain’s challenges, there was nothing more that could have been done. To add, the film was aimed at showing all people the heroic efforts of Ger McDonnell, leading to his tragic death.
The film attracted people from all over the globe, winning many awards in the U.S. as well as in Ireland and Canada. Many adventurous, curious, and outgoing men and women bought the film in order to hear and understand the story of one of the worst mountaineering tragedies in history (http://thesummitfilm.com).
The film, along with attempting to answer questions arisen and recognize the heroism behind Ger McDonald’s death aims to shine light on the beautiful yet untamable K2. The documentary did this through interviews with survivors and images of the mountain that showed the danger and beauty that attracts many mountaineers every year.
The documentary tells the tragic story by using interviews with the survivors themselves as well as with one of the first men to successfully climb K2, and footage taken by climbers Pemba and Ger McDonnell. The climbers also were of many different nationalities and backgrounds, providing a different outlook on the events and the actions that took place. The film uses footage but also re-enactments with actors in order to show the viewers what happened during the 48-hour K2 climb. Though based on the real event, the film relied on the words of the climbers themselves which in the documentary we learn that many of their stories differed during certain events. This could lead to a lack of truth in what actually occurred on the mountain. Due to the many deaths and lack of witnesses, the public only has the personal stories from each of the surviving climbers and limited footage to understand what actually happened in that short 48-hour time span. To add, with most of the events taking place during the descent, many of the climbers were exhausted, snow blind, dehydrated, and suffering from altitude sickness during the time in which most of the unclear events took place, leading to different stories and a lack of closure for many.
In regards to a rating for The Summit, I would give it four nachos because it was very well put together in terms of depicting the difficulty of K2. It also provided many interviews with the surviving climbers and had outside sources supporting the claims in which the mountaineers were making. To add, it answered many of the un-answered questions that were brought about after the event took place. It brought recognition to Ger McDonnell and his heroic action to free the trapped Korean climbers instead of leave them behind, in which ultimately led to his death (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0OjubfY2VA). This documentary provided closure for family members, friends, and the world since the horrific tragedy was a shock to the whole globe.
Since the 2008 tragedy was so chaotic, it was hard for the public and even the climbers themselves to piece together what truly happened on that mountain. This factor led to confusion when watching the documentary at parts because the pieces did not always fit perfectly together. With that being said, it was a great documentary and provided much needed closure and information into what happened on the mountain in 2008.