A study in hubris; sad and compelling
K. Swanson | Austin, TX United States | 05/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just happened upon this last night on late night PBS and was immediately captivated by the simple presentation, the intensity of the climbers' memories and the haunted looks in their eyes. I'd never really read much about this mess and it was interesting to learn the story from the varying viewpoints of those who survived.
At first I felt for the guides who died up there while trying to babysit some of the moneyed folk ($65k each, at the time; some were funded by NBC), at least a few of whom didn't do enough homework and put everyone in their expeditions at risk, but uber-guide Jim Williams says, on the PBS website, that the real fault lies with the guides' letting the weak climbers go further than they should, risking others' lives so they could reach the summit.
The guides are there to make money and might downplay the risks, so it's a two-way blame street. Sandy Hill, the NBC-funded "New York socialite" who brought an espresso maker, two laptops, and a video player to watch movies in her tent (all carried by porters, of course), was "short-roped" up to the summit AND down, and used far more than her share of the oxygen tanks available. There ought to be tests for fitness to do this trek, but enough cash is the main issue, and that blame lays with the guides. This Frontline special lacks the usual hard-hitting both-sides Frontline tone, but its charms outweigh its faults.
The PBS website has the film available for viewing, as well as many other features with the director and survivors. Very nice package, and the price--free--is right. Ain't it amazing to get something back from your tax dollars for a change?
The main flaw with this film is the occasionally weak re-enactments of the disaster, though they're probably very accurate as this doc was made by alpine expert David Breashears, who was there at the time. On the plus side, the many shots of and from Everest are incredible. All in all it's a thoroughly fascinating look at a sad event which highlights the ego/desire for transcendence/thanatos that drives people to make this climb. One climber had a seven-month pregnant wife, and he died up there. Hard to grasp the logic. I understand the lure of the climb but I think that the Disneyfication of one of the world's great places almost guarantees that the hubris will be repaid in spades at some point, as here. Everest is now littered with endless tons of garbage, and many dead bodies no one can or will retrieve; if the mountain does indeed have a spirit, it's no wonder that spirit gets furious with all the moneyed tourists and lets loose now and then.
And with a line of people waiting in front of you, how thrilling and rare is the whole thing, truly? Better to climb another of the endless Himalayan peaks, with no one else on them, for the pure adventure. That hardly plays as well when mountain-name-dropping, though.
I must say that lying in bed and enjoying cheddar popcorn and grape juice has rarely felt so sane. As various of the surviviors point out in their online interviews on the PBS site, this climb made them realize that their families and friends were worth a lot more than chasing the self-glorification of climbing all the highest mountains. Watching the interviews and seeing half the climbers waving their nubby, fingerless hands makes the point quite convincingly as well. I love hiking at 11-14k in the Rockies, but know full well that going over 21,000 feet without truly serious discipline and training is nuts. And commercial expeditions taking people not ready to do that, just to get their money...well, that's something more than nuts.
Storm Over Everest is certainly worth watching; there's a lot of naked emotion here, and much to ponder."
Storm over Everest - A dramatic battle between nature and me
Werner Kurz | Frankfurt, Germany | 05/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw David Breashears documentary movie "Storm over Everest" on Frontline and I was captivated by this dramatic battle between nature and men and the professional and "breathtaking" making of this film. I knew what happened on Everest's southeast ridge during the night of May 10, 1996, because I read Krakauer's and Boukreev's books about this tragedy but it's a completely different thing to watch the story in Breashears outstanding and realistic movie and to see and listen to the live comments of people who survived this terrible storm night above 26000 feet on the highest mountain on earth."
Excellent treatment of this difficult event
ILoveGadgets | Florence, SC | 06/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this on PBS in May of 2008. I had previously seen 'Into Thin Air' several times which is the account by a writer, Jon Krakauer, who was on this fateful climb. I enjoyed this movie a great deal more since it was in the words of those caught in the storm that night. It felt more 'real' to hear their recounts of what happened and what they went through. I trust David Breashears account given the number of times he has climbed Everest and his experiences. He had to bring down the body of a climber who died during that very trip, Chen Yu-Nan. If you want to know what can happen to a climber on Everest, this is the DVD for you."
An apt documentary
Christopher Alexander | Portsmouth, Hants, UK | 12/23/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Storm Over Everest" does an apt job of retelling the story of the 1996 tragedy atop Everest. The interviews with survivors from all over the world were especially powerful and truly helped develop an objective and detailed recounting of the event as it transpired. On a personal level I would have liked to have seen a little more of the scientific exploration of aspects of phenomena relating to weather, biology, and altitude at the time, but this is personal and did not detract from the overall power of the story. A must see for anyone serious about climbing mountains."