Sundance '13 Review: THE SUMMIT - Worst K2 Climbing Disaster Ever

The Summit: "The deadliest day on the world's most dangerous mountain."

Director: Nick Ryan

Screenwriter: Mark Monroe

Official Synopsis: In August 2008, twenty-four climbers from several international expeditions converged on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on earth. Forty-eight hours later, eleven had been killed or had vanished, making it the worst K2 climbing disaster in history.

In a century of assaults on K2, only about 300 people have ever seen the view from the planet’s second highest peak. More than a quarter of those who made it didn't live long enough to share the glory, or to tell the tale.

At the heart of The Summit lies a mystery about one extraordinary man, Ger McDonnell. By all accounts, he was faced with a heart-breaking dilemma— at the very limit of his mortal resources, he encountered a disastrous scene and a moral dilemma: three climbers tangled up in ropes and running out of time. In the death zone, above 8,000 metres, the body is literally dying with each passing second. Morality is skewed 180 degrees from the rest of life. When a climber falls or wanders off the trail, the unwritten code of the mountain is to leave them for dead. Had Ger McDonnell stuck to the climbers’ code, he might still be alive.

The Summit is about the very nature of modern adventure. Those who survive carry with them a commodity to sell— The Story. This one remains contentious and fiercely debated.

Direction and Editing:

The direction was decent, nothing really mind-blowing, but the real footage from the adventure was seamlessly mixed in with the reenactments. The cinematography was also pretty breathtaking. The one thing that bugged me most was how the story was told through the editing. It kept jumping back and forth in time, and there were some confusing moments regarding some of the people in the film. The way it was edited just made it hard to follow certain people, but it doesn't take away from the intensity of this unbelievable story. 


After having seen this movie I have no desire to ever want to attempt to climb K2. I would die. I just don't have what it takes to take on anything like this. I recently went on an insane mountain biking adventure in Moab, UT and almost didn't make it out alive.  

This is an amazing story that's also incredibly scary and sad. As the synopsis states, 24 people set out on an epic journey to reach the K2 Summit, and 11 didn't make it back. It was crazy watching this story unfold, and it utilizes real footage and interviews with the survivors. There were several moments throughout the film where my heart stopped. I couldn't help but gasp watching a man slide down a mountain and off a cliff, or seeing an avalanche threaten the lives of people. I can't believe people actually risk their lives to do this kind of stuff, but they love it; they get a rush out of it. They do it knowing that they could die. The movie points out that 1 out of 4 people that reach the top of the Summit dies coming down, and that's when most of the tragedy struck in this story. So many things went wrong on this journey, and this doc examines why those things happened.

The Summit grabs you by the balls, and doesn't let go until it's over. Hell, even after it ended I continued to think about what I had just watched, and about those people who died doing what they love.

Similar To:

Remember Sylvester Stallone's 1993 action film Cliffhanger? Well, it's nothing like that. The Summit is a hell of a lot more intense, and it's a way better all around film with an intriguing story. This movie is similar to any documentary that you've seen on Mount Everest. There's a few of them on Netflix that you can check out if you haven't already. If you enjoy watching the Discovery, Travel, and History Channel, then you're going to love this movie.

Chances That You'll See it in Theaters:

Unfortunately, I doubt you'll end up seeing this movie in theaters. If you do, it will get a limited release. It will most definitely eventually be available on VOD and Netflix. When it is released, in whatever format, you have to watch it!