Movie Review: The Summit


My addiction to Everest and mountain climbing is well documented so when this film hit iTunes and Netflix at the same time – I was pretty excited.

The story follows the greatest single day disaster on K2, the 2nd highest peak in the world. K2 has a well-deserved honor of being called the mountain climbers mountain. Standing at 28,251 feet above sea level, it is a mug more technical and difficult climb than Everest. As comparison, over 2,700 people have summited Everest. There have only been 302 to summit K2.

The day was August 1, 2008 where 11 climbers lost their life and the film takes a unique approach in telling the story – using actual footage, re-enacted scenes, and cut away interviews with the story’s key players.

The film attempts the impossible – to clearly lay out the timeline of events on August 1, 2008. Most of the story is from the perspective of climbers that had spent over 50 hours in the death zone – above 26,000 feet. The brain doesn’t get enough oxygen at that elevation which not only hinders decision making in the moment but seriously damages short term memory. The story telling suffers because of this.

Most film makers abhor using a narrator to frame a film and help tell the story – but this film needs one desperately. The complexity of what happened needs a 3rd voice to bring perspective. Bouncing from interview to interview – each with a slightly different version got a bit confusing.

In fact, the story of August 2008 still isn’t completely understood. Conflicting reports are still given. What is known is that the seracs (ice overhangs) that cover the place on K2 known as The Bottlenecks, fell creating a steeper, more difficult climb on top of an already difficult section of the mountain. Plus the avalanche of ice knocked multiple climbers of the mountain and cut away guide ropes from Camp 4 to the Summit. This left dozens of climbers cut off on each side of the Bottleneck – some ascending and others descending. Most of which did not have extra rope with them. With the weather being picture perfect, no one had any idea how much danger they were really in without the guide ropes.

While the film was difficult to follow at points and I found most of the re-enactments bothersome. It’s the interviews with the climbers where this film is most insightful and powerful.

One of the climbers said it best when he was asked why more wasn’t done to rescue these climbers. He said you don’t climb K2 unless you can rescue yourself. It’s a dangerous mountain and she always wins.

The film will be interesting for you mountain climbing fans. I don’t see it having as broad of an appeal beyond that.


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