So WHAT if It's There?
I just watched the movie Everest with my husband - it's the movie version of Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, which I read when it came out and hit the shelves of the little bookstore where I was working.
They're both about a disastrous Mount Everest expedition in which eight climbers died - Krakauer was a journalist that was there to write about Everest tourism. He was originally only supposed to be at base camp, but talked his editors and the climbing leader into letting him climb all the way to the top. The book was riveting, and I had sort of meant to watch the movie once I heard there was one, but had never gotten around to it. A friend mentioned it last week, so I asked my husband if he wanted to watch it tonight.
As it began, and familiar, likable actors were portraying people that I knew were not going to the make it out of the movie alive, I felt a bit weird. Why was I watching this when I already knew what happened? Was it just exploitative? A little further in, I realized that reading about climbing in horrible weather conditions doesn't really compare to seeing it on screen - the freight-train-speed wind, the ice, the chapped skin, the snow blindness - it was one thing to read about it, but I was convulsed on the couch in empathetic discomfort watching it. I'm still not sure about the ethics of it, which kind of couples with the dubious ethics of Everest tourism. I can just barely wrap my head around deciding you want to climb a giant-ass mountain, even though high altitude basically wants to kill you, and in all likelihood you will be trying to perform an arduous physical feat while feeling like you have a really bad flu - if you do it on your own. But strapped to some poor Sherpa, being shuttled up the mountain in a giant line of people like it's a ride at Disneyland? Does that not take some of the glory and shine off it? Not to mention the thousands of oxygen bottles, all the trash and the actual dead freaking bodies that the mountain is now littered with.
I looked up whether this event led to a decline in people signing up with companies to climb Everest. It didn't. That was the deadliest year on Everest to date, but there have been worse years since. Both tour company leaders are portrayed as passionate and honourable in the movie, but there has been some speculation from people who were there that the rivalry between the two led to at least part of the disaster.
It was interesting - in a non-detached, horrified way - to see the depiction of the way that people can convince themselves that if you just want something bad enough, you can overcome your physical limits. Maybe it's even true sometimes, in very specific situations, but clearly in many others it's just not. The people that survived have all kinds of reasons why they did, and I get that, but I think mostly it just comes down to dumb luck.
What do you think about the lure of mountain climbing? Does it call to you at all? I turned to Matt at one point and said "I just realized I'm not even tough enough to star in the MOVIE of this event". I definitely don't have that need for adrenaline that makes people risk their lives, or push their bodily limits, or train for months, or not eat Cheetos every day. I love a good hike with some elevation, but it should last no more than two hours and should end at a pub where they serve good poutine.