Don't climb Everest, if you must, watch it instead

Everest is a fictional movie shot in IMAX format and is based on the true events of the Spring climbing season in May 1996. A dozen climbers died that year, eight during the storm that is the focus of the movie and five from the cast of characters you see in the movie.

It tells the story of the two commercial climbing companies operating following the increase in popularity of Everest summit attempts. A bad year in '95 with no successful summits meant the pressure was on to ensure their clients made it to the top. The large number of teams and climbers on the mountain and the bad state of some of the safety ropes all played a role in making the dangerous situation a deadly one when a storm hit during the descent on May 11.

There were two journalists and a full IMAX team shooting a documentary that year which, given the tragic events, has made it one of the most reported seasons in Everest's history.

The original IMAX documentary remains one of the most successful IMAX movies. None of the climbers or crew were part of the teams that got caught on the high mountain camps when the storm hit, but it did provide chilling images of the impact and aftermath of the storm.

The movie focuses on Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), owner of one of the climbing companies taking a mix of climbers to the top of the world. It included journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) (whose book Into Thin Air seems to provide most of the details of the events), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who failed in his attempt the previous year, Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), who at 47 had climbed six of the seven highest peaks, and Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), whose survival was nothing short of miraculous.

Like most disasters, there is not a single event that alone would have resulted in the death of the climbers, but rather a series of poor decisions, bad planning and lack of co-operation that set up the actual disaster.

It is worth noting that, while the characters come from a variety of countries, the character that represents Ian Woodall, who leads the South African team, is the one highlighted to demonstrate the lack of co-operation which, for South Africans, will stick in their throats even though Woodall was English.

You are likely to back any call to ban climbing the mountain after watching this, but some context would help so that it does not do for Everest what Jaws did for sharks.

Just over 300 people have lost their lives on Everest, the majority are Nepalese working on the mountain and most deaths are from avalanches. 1996 was a bad year but 17 died in 2014 and the worst year for deaths is this year as 22 have already died, most following the earthquake that struck Nepal in April.

Over 7000 had succeeded though and the improvements in safety has increased the 1 in 4 deaths quoted in the movie to 1 in 5.

So I repeat, do not climb Everest, watch it instead.


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