cloudhiking - maps and adventure guides

Site Links


Contact Us









Friends' Links

Appalachia & Beyond

Family Wilds


Marking My Territory

Outcast Hikers


872 The Summit
Movie Review

The Summit poster at the Belcourt, Hillsboro Village - Nashville TN

Last Friday, (18OCT) Diane, Amy, and I went to our neighborhood theater to watch The Summit, a mountaineering documentary on K2.

K2 is the world's second tallest mountain. It is considered to be the most difficult of the 8000 meter peaks (when climbed by the standard routes). In other words K2 is a bit shorter than Everest, but K2 is a much more difficult and dangerous climb. The 2008 season on K2 was tragic. Twelve expeditions were attempting the summit during a small window of good weather. In the preceding weeks all of the teams had climbed to the upper camp (Camp 4) and were waiting for the weather to clear. On a perfect day, all of the teams started for the summit. The documentary is the story of these attempts.

The Summit was filmed to clarify or contradict some of the opinions of what happened on that summit day climb in 2008. Unfortunately, all of the theories are unproven, including those of the documentary film. Many of the climbers on the mountain that day, died without anyone witnessing the tragic events. The mountaineers who were able to provide details were struggling just to survive. Their stories of the events were from the minds of climbers who had spent too long in the Death Zone, above 8000 meters.

Whether or not The Summit gave definitive answers to the events on K2 was immaterial to me. I went to see the documentary because it was about a mountaineering expedition to K2.

closeup of the Summit poster

A few The Summit documentary notes ...

K2 is a dangerous mountain. One out of every four climbers who have attempted the mountain have died.

In some years, no one even attempts the mountain, as the weather never breaks.

When fair weather is forecast, all the teams try to climb the mountain at the same time. The long line of climbers can only move as fast as the climber in front of them can move. Yes, in most cases they could go around the slower climbers, but that would require more energy.

The summit seekers hear the summit sirens and continue climbing even though they all know they should return to camp and hopefully try again on another day.

With so much invested (time and/or money) in the expedition the climbers often risk everything for the summit.

Climbers are not invincible. When they make bad decisions, the chances of bad things happening increase. In the documentary some of the problems were too many summit climbers, a lack of coordination between teams, not enough climbing rope (for fixed lines through the dangerous sections), a late start, and slow climbers.

Some teams did not even summit until 8pm, dusk. They knew they were going to have to spend a night out in the extreme weather, but still, they continued to the summit.

The documentary won the Editing Documentary award from the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

The cinematography was amazing. The editing was superb, but so was the re-creation footage. It was easy to believe that all of the scenes were live, not staged.

When rockfall, icefall, or avalanches occurred in the documentary, the accompanying sound effects were very loud and realistic.

The scenery was unbelievable.

I have read many books on K2 (9 books just about K2 and many more where K2 was just a chapter), but have never been there. Though still photographs were included in the books, the film showed footage of notorious sections of the climb such as the Bottleneck and the hanging serac (ice cliff) which were mentioned in all of the books.

An Italian in the movie "Marco" said K2 was the Italian's mountain because they were first to summit the mountain in 1954. American mountaineers have always considered K2 to be America's mountain because they have had a long and colorful history with the peak since the 30's. So who's mountain is it? Probably, Pakistan's - well, at least geographically.

Sherpa Pemba Gyalje from Nepal, was a climbing member of the Norit Expedition. He is a legendary climber.

On the way home from the theater, I explained to Diane and Amy about the controversies surrounding the climb. I had previously read and reviewed "No Way Down", a book about the expedition, that gave differing opinions. Diane and Amy did not know anything about the climb and very little about K2, but they still enjoyed the documentary.

The Summit was a great mountaineering documentary. Hopefully, it gave closure to the families who were seeking more answers to the tragic events of the day. For me it was a moving story told through unbelievable footage. It is a must see.

Happy The Summit trails


Name (required):

Comment (required):

Please Introduce Secure Code: