The Summit

(UK Ireland, 2012, 100 mins, DCP)


In the summer of 2008, 24 climbers set out to make the final ascent to K2, the world’s second highest and arguably most dangerous mountain. Eleven never came back. It was a disaster in a sport accustomed to tragedy. And it was by no means clear what had gone wrong. About the only thing all the survivors agreed on: the weather had been perfect; bright, warm and clear.

Nick Ryan’s film—written by Mark Monroe, who structured such acclaimed documentaries as The Cove and The Tillman Story—draws on interviews with the remaining climbers, sherpas and bereaved relatives to piece together an idea of the fateful events from myriad perspectives. Mixing digital footage shot on the ascent with dramatic reconstructions à la Touching the Void, Ryan puts us in the climbers’ boots to show how the compulsion to reach the summit—married with the frighteningly volatile nature of K2 itself—combined to turn small misjudgments into fatal errors.

We will probably never know the full story behind this tragedy—the Korean climbing team’s leader refused to participate, and some of the survivors offer flatly contradictory testimony—The Summit will leave you in no doubt about how the majesty of this peak continues to entrance adventurers, and the enormous demands it makes of them. As one sign lower down the slopes puts it: “Respect the mountain.”

"Riveting. Gripping. Thrilling." Indiewire

"A gripping cliffhanger. A heart-throbbing experience." Hollywood Reporter