by George Wolf
“Every cell in your body is screaming ‘oxygen…”
That’s how one climber describes her attempt to survive K2 in The Summit, a documentary that outlines, in gripping fashion, the deadliest day in the history of the world’s second tallest peak.
Everest may reach higher, but experienced mountaineers brand K2, along the border of China and Pakistan, as the most dangerous climb there is, evidenced by a mortality rate greater than that of playing Russian roulette.
In the first two days of August 2008, eleven climbers lost their lives in a series of events that is still not fully understood. Director Nick Ryan weaves together interviews, outstanding reenactments and some thrilling archival footage to put you about as close to the danger as you’ll ever want to be.
Working with skilled doc writer Mark Monroe (The Cove/Chasing Ice), Ryan is not only able to convey the enormity of the challenge, but also the universal themes and human frailties that follow each climber.
While the drama plays out, there are inevitable clashes of risk and responsibility, of sacrifice and reward. When the survivors struggle for explanations, there are conflicting accounts and pointed accusations. As one climber explains, “only the mountain knows.”
The film does struggle with a few occasions of possible confusion, as there are frequent switches in time and location as the climb becomes more perilous.
Those moments aside, The Summit is an engrossing, often pulse-pounding experience that demands a big screen viewing.