The movie Everest tells the tale of what was at the time, the single most disastrous day on Mount Everest in 1996. Two of the survivors of that tale went on to write books about their experiences. Despite this, both Simon and William decided not to use those books as the basis of their movie. Instead, they authored a new story that was inspired by the events.
Of course, that didn’t stop those five little words from showing up at the very beginning of the movie. So if Everest wasn’t based on the books written by the survivors, how much did Hollywood sacrifice in telling this tale?
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- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
- Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers
- Everest (2015 film) – Wikipedia
- Everest (2015) – Synopsis
- Everest (2015) – Full Cast & Crew – IMDb
- Everest (2015) – IMDb
- Review: ‘Everest’ gives an Imax-close but confusing account of 1996 disaster. – LA Times
- Those Who Died | Storm Over Everest | FRONTLINE | PBS
- Ed Viesturs – Everest, 1996 — National Geographic
- Press Coverage Of The 1996 Everest Disaster – Excerpts | Storm Over Everest | FRONTLINE | PBS
- 1996 Everest Disaster Survivor Retraces Climb to Make Peace with the Mountain – ABC News
- Death on Mount Everest – May 10, 1996 – HISTORY.com
- 1996 Mount Everest disaster – Wikipedia
- Tragedy at 29,000 Feet: The 10 Worst Disasters on Everest | Outside Online
- Everest Movie vs. True Story of 1996 Mount Everest Disaster
- ‘Everest’ expert Nick Heil says movie is no documentary, but still pretty accurate | Fox News
- Why Everest’s Real-Life Author Hates The Movie – CINEMABLEND
- How Accurate Is ‘Everest’? The Movie Took A Few Liberties With The 1996 Disaster Tale
- ‘Everest’ Reality Check: How True Is Jake Gyllenhaal Drama Based on 1996 Climbing Tragedy?
- Adventure Consultants – Wikipedia
- Timeline of Mount Everest expeditions – Wikipedia
- Hillary and Norgay Were the First to Climb Mt. Everest
- List of people who died climbing Mount Everest – Wikipedia
- Edmund Hillary – Wikipedia
- Tenzing Norgay – Wikipedia
- 1996 Everest Disaster timeline | Timetoast timelines
- Stories – The Hour-By-Hour Unfolding Disaster | Storm Over Everest | FRONTLINE | PBS
- Sandy Hill (mountaineer) – Wikipedia
- Sandy Pittman breaks silence about 1996 Everest mountain disaster | Daily Mail Online
- Sandy Hill, 51 | Outside Online
- Everest | Sandy Hill
- Impossible to Forget | Outside Online
- The Real Story of Sandy Hill Pittman, Everest’s Socialite Climber | Vanity Fair
- Sandy Pittman breaks silence about 1996 Everest mountain disaster | Daily Mail Online
- 1996 everest map – Bing images
- Deaths on Everest
- Beck Weathers – Wikipedia
- After Everest: The Complete Story of Beck Weathers – Men’s Journal
- Paul & Fi’s Mount Everest Climb
- List of Mount Everest records – Wikipedia
- Everest crowds: The world’s highest traffic jam – BBC News
- Everest Takes Worst Toll, Refusing to Become Stylish
- Civil Helicopter – H125 helicopter – Airbus Helicopters
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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
The movie begins with some text saying that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first two people to have successfully summit Mount Everest. According to the movie, since then, hundreds have tried and one in four have perished trying.
These statements are true.
But it’s important to point out some terminology here. The movie correctly states that they were the first to summit Mount Everest. That means they climbed to the top of the summit, or the highest point of the mountain. They weren’t the first to climb Everest, though.
The first expedition to climb Mount Everest that we know about was in 1921 when a British expedition, aptly named the Mount Everest Committee, was put together to tackle the mountain. There was a team of five, and their primary purpose was for mapping the region.
So technically on September 23rd, 1921, this expedition’s leader, Colonel Charles Howard-Bury was the first human to set foot on the mountain when he and two others in his expedition managed to make it 23,030 feet high before being forced back. That’s 7,020 meters.
As a quick reminder, the peak of Mount Everest stands 29,029 feet above sea level, or 8,848 meters. Oh, and the name? Mount Everest was named after a Welsh geographer named Sir George Everest. The name was given in 1865 despite Sir George’s objections.
The movie, though, mentions the first humans to summit Mount Everest. And that was, as the movie says, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The pair put their names in the history books at 11:30 A.M. on May 29th, 1953 when they became the first human beings to ever climb to the very top, also referred to as the summit.
So if you’re like me, you might be wondering—that’s a long time. From 1921 to 1953? Did no one else try in those 31 years, eight months and six days between Colonel Howard-Bury and the expedition of Sir Edmund and Tenzing?
There were plenty. In fact, the first attempt to scale the summit happened in 1922, the year after the first humans stepped foot on Mount Everest. But they only made it 26,800 feet.
In case you can’t tell, that’s sarcasm.
It’s not that people didn’t try. There were dozens of attempts between 1921 and 1953. It’s just that scaling Mount Everest’s summit is that difficult. And that’s where the next part comes in about the fatalities.
As of this writing, 286 people have perished on Mount Everest. The first being a disaster that befell the 1922 British Mount Everest Expedition on June 7th, 1922. The latest being four people who perished on an expedition on May 22nd, 2016.
Up until the 1996 expedition, the deadliest day on Mount Everest was in 1989 when six Polish climbers died in an avalanche. That changed on May 10th, 1996.
Speaking of which, back in the movie, early on we get introduced to the characters in the film. We learn about Rob Hall, who’s played by Jason Clarke, and his company which is called Adventure Consultants. Joining Rob’s team for the trek are Beck Weathers, played by Josh Brolin, Doug Hansen, who’s played by John Hawkes, Yasuko Namba, played by Naoko Mori and Andy Harris, who’s played by Martin Henderson.
These character names are all based on real people. Even the company Adventure Consultants is real. That’s a real company and you can hire them today to help with your extreme mountain climbing or other adventures.
That’s not an ad. After all I’m a podcaster, not a mountain climber—I’ve never used their services. But based on their website alone, it looks like if serious mountain climbing is your thing, they’ve got you covered.
In the movie, Rob Hall’s team makes it to Base Camp and there he runs into Scott Fischer, who’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal. This happened on April 10th, a full month before they planned to scale the summit.
So the timeline in the movie is certainly sped up. In truth, ascending Mount Everest is not a race.
While the story mostly follows Rob’s team, you’ll notice Scott’s team is already there when Rob Hall and his Adventure Consultants team shows up.
In truth, Scott’s team was at Base Camp for a full month before they tried to scale the summit. Scott’s team used this time hike up to higher elevations to start getting their lungs accustomed to the lack of oxygen up at high altitudes.
The reason for this was simply because of the science behind high altitudes. As you get higher and higher, there’s less air pressure meaning in the same volume of space on top of Mount Everest there’s a lot less oxygen than the same volume of space at sea level.
At the peak of Mount Everest over five miles above the earth, or some 29,029 feet above sea level, there’s only 33% of the oxygen that you’ll find at sea level. So if you want to practice what it’s like to try to breathe at the top of Mount Everest, try taking only one out of three breaths.
Actually, no, don’t try that. With less oxygen, you’re going to be prone to headaches, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, fatigue and a lot more issues that makes it sound like the symptoms of a medicinal commercial on TV.
Collectively, all of those symptoms are what’s commonly referred to as altitude sickness. Or mountain sickness. As you can imagine, without as much oxygen, not only is it really hard to breathe, but on top of that you’re climbing the tallest mountain in the world.
So that’s why Scott Fischer’s team was taking some time to get used to the change in oxygen levels. But they didn’t just climb up and come back down. Over the course of their month at Base Camp, Scott’s team collected almost two tons of garbage that had been left there by others.
In the movie, the climb begins when the team from Adventure Consultants and other expeditions make it from Base Camp at 17,700 feet to Camp I at 19,900 feet, just past the Khumbu Icefall.
While crossing the Khumbu Icefall, in the movie, Josh Brolin’s version of Beck Weathers nearly falls while crossing a crevasse on ladders.
In the real timeline, it only took the team four hours to reach the end of the Khumbu Icefall. That happened on April 12th, and in the early morning hours of April 13th they arrived at Camp I.
The moment where Beck Weathers nearly falls was dramatized for the film, and likely came from Jon Krakauer’s book when he mentioned that both Beck and Yasuko Namba had difficulty crossing the ladder.
According to the movie, Jon Krakauer, who’s played by Michael Kelly, is a writer for Outside magazine and he’s there to write a book about climbing Everest. That’s true, and Jon’s book coming out of the experience is called Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster.
That book was used as the basis of the made for TV movie released in 1997.
But as we learned in the intro, neither that book nor Beck Weathers’s book called Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest were the basis for the movie Everest. One of the primary reasons for this was because even though everyone was experiencing the trek at the same time, everyone’s experiences were different.
And this brings up a good point about the accuracy of both this experience of Beck Weathers nearly falling off the ladders and, really, most of the movie. It’s not really following any of the experiences given by the survivors.
Instead, the filmmakers decided to use the real characters and their experiences to create a new story that’s centered around them.
In an interview with the film’s director, Baltasar Kormákur, he explained that they very specifically didn’t want to be about any one person’s perspective. Because everyone has their own perspective about what happened, the director wanted to take all of those perspectives into account but create a new story out of them.
For example, we already heard about the books written by both Jon Krakauer and Beck Weathers. One of those books in particular contradicts what one of the other people’s experiences were.
That would be Jon Krakauer’s book and the recollection of Sandy Pittman. At the time of the disaster, Sandy was the wife of MTV’s creator Bob Pittman. But that marriage was on its last legs. After the events, Sandy revealed that Bob had filed for divorce a few months before the expedition. So if you find her now, she’s Sandy Hill.
In the movie she’s portrayed by Vanessa Kirby.
In Jon’s book and articles he released afterward, Jon made the claim that Sandy was carried up the mountain. He portrayed her as the villain of the story, and someone who basically paid her way to the top.
However, according to Sandy, there was no villain in the story. There was no one to blame. It was an accident that happened. And there’s something to be said for Sandy’s perspective.
After all, when Sandy made it to the summit of Mount Everest on the 1996 expedition, she became only the second American woman to ascend what’s referred to as the Seven Summits. That’s the highest mountains on each of the seven continents of the world.
The point here is that the perspectives of those who were there don’t always agree. But all we have are the stories of those who experienced it.
So for the movie, the screenwriters decided to combine those experiences and make up a story. In another interview, Simon Beaufoy clarified, explaining he and his co-writer William Nicholson wanted to create a story about someone who was up there and who shouldn’t survive but does, and someone who should survive and doesn’t.
So Everest isn’t following any one story, but rather it’s an amalgamation of the stories.
But that doesn’t mean the film is rife with inaccuracies. For example, when Beck almost falls off the ladder in the movie, Josh Brolin’s version of Beck appears to get upset with the team leader, Jason Clarke’s character, Rob Hall. He grumbles he didn’t pay $65,000 to fall into a crevasse.
That little detail of the pricing is correct. The average cost for an expedition in 1996 was $65,000. And with inflation, that’d be about $97,000 in today’s dollars.
Back in the movie, when they reach Camp I, everyone is excited and eager. And that’s very accurate to how everyone was in real life. Everyone’s spirits were high. According to Neil Beidleman, everyone was filled with anticipation. Sure there was a lot of climbing ahead, but that’s what everyone was there for—how could you not be excited?
By the way, Neil Beidleman is played by Tom Goodman-Hill in the movie. He was one of the guides for the company Mountain Madness. They’re another mountaineering school and guide service, a lot like Adventure Consultants. Except while the Adventure Consultants team was led by Rob Hall, the Mountain Madness team was led by Scott Fischer.
Together, Mountain Madness and Adventure Consultants made up two of the three teams on that expedition. So the movie’s depiction of more teams is a little inaccurate. The other team was a Taiwanese climbing team, not a team from South Africa like the movie shows.
Despite this slight inaccuracy, the movie’s depiction of going from camp to camp is accurate as well.
Climbing Mount Everest means going to a series of camp sites that have been identified. A huge part of this is helping your lungs and body accustomed to the lack of oxygen, but it’s also because, well, you’re climbing a huge mountain. As I said before, it’s not a race to the top; it’s more like a marathon.
After Camp I, the 1996 trekkers headed to, you guessed it, Camp II. That’s going from 19,900 feet, or 6,065 meters, at Camp I to 21,300 feet, or 6,492 meters, at Camp II. In the real timeline, that happened on April 19th, 1996.
In the movie, it’s here that Rob Hall and Scott Fischer decide to team up and help each other. There’s a lot of people trying to climb, and apparently everyone is trying to ascend the summit on the same day—May 10th.
This traffic jam of sorts is true. Between the first ascent to the summit in 1953 to 2011, there’s been almost 6,000 people who have ascended Everest. Sadly, as we learned earlier, over 200 of those people perished in the process.
But about half of those 6,000 people happened after the events in the film that happened in 1996.
While that’s been a major increase in traffic on Everest, that’s still a small number compared to the Earth’s population. As you can imagine, it’s not like the path to the summit is a major walkway.
Or a walkway at all.
And since it’s so dangerous anyway, it doesn’t take a lot to make an increase in the number of people going at once to be a cause for concern. In 1996, there were two dozen mountaineers who were trying to reach the summit on the same day. To that point in history, the record on a single day was 37 people.
That had also happened on May 10th, so the three teams that made up the two dozen people trying to do it also decided May 10th would be a good day to do it again.
Oh, and as a quick side note, as of this recording the record for most people making it to the peak at once happened in 2012 when 234 people made it to the top of the world on a single day. Wow!
Back in the movie, even though it’s not really based on a single person’s experience, the collective experience of what it must’ve been like for the 1996 expedition to scale Mount Everest is fairly accurate.
In fact, that’s exactly what one of the world’s leading experts on Mount Everest said. In an interview with Fox News, one of Outside magazine’s contributing editors, Nick Heil, said the events in Everest may not be a documentary, but they’re fairly accurate.
After Camp II comes Camp III, which the team reached on April 28th. That’s going from 21,300 feet, or 6,492 meters, to 24,500 feet, or 7,467 meters.
Then on May 9th, 1996, the team made it to Camp IV at 26,000 feet, or 7,924 meters.
Now on Mount Everest, anything above 8,000 meters, or 26,247 feet, is considered the “Death Zone.” Of the 286 people who have died trying to scale the summit of Everest, an estimated 150 of those were in the Death Zone. Sadly, most of those bodies are still there. They’re simply too high up to be recovered.
The reason is mostly because of what we learned about earlier: lack of oxygen coupled with the difficulty of the climb itself. The last few feet makes what’s referred to as the Final Push as something that’s not only extremely difficult to do, but potentially deadly.
Since you’re only getting the equivalent of one out of every three breaths, that means your body is using up oxygen faster than it can get it back.
So, simply put, at that height it’s only a matter of time before you die. With the clock ticking, you have to get to the top and back down before your body gives up.
In the movie, we see the success of making it to the summit. And this is true. At 2:30 P.M. on May 10th, 1996, the team made it to the South Summit.
But as the movie shows next, it’s only after this elation of climbing to the tallest point on Earth that devastation occurs.
Not only is it true, but it’s also common in that more people have perished coming back down from Everest than going up. To my knowledge there hasn’t been any official study on exactly why that is, but if I had to speculate on why that is, I would guess it’s because of everything we’ve talked about so far.
You have the lower oxygen levels and the difficulty of climbing the world’s tallest mountain.
But you also have the Final Push. I’m sure it’s called that for a reason. Imagine you’re climbing Mount Everest and you can see the peak. You’re almost there—you’ve almost achieved your dream. The desire to make it just the last few feet has to be overwhelming. That exertion causes your body to use up more oxygen.
Remember your body is using up oxygen faster than it can get it back. That’s why a lot of climbers use oxygen tanks. But even with tanks, the clock is still ticking. All you’re doing is slowing down that clock—not stopping it.
So again, this is my speculation, but I’m guessing the reason why more people die on the way down than the way up is because of that extra exertion to make it to the top. But that’s only half the trip. You have to make it back down.
And not everyone’s body can handle that. For some, the clock simply runs out.
According to the movie, though, it wasn’t merely the difficulty of the climb that caused the disaster we see. There’s a major storm that hits the team.
This is true.
The turnaround time, or the time at which everyone needed to start the descent, was either 1:00 P.M. or 2:00 P.M. Some survivors have said 1:00 P.M. while others said 2:00 P.M.
Still, some mountaineers didn’t make it to the summit. One of those was John Taske, who’s played by Tim Dantay in the movie, and was a part of the Adventure Consultants team. Around noon, he and two others, Lou Kasischke and Stuart Hutchinson, decided it was getting too close to the turnaround time to be able to make it to the summit and back.
So they turned around. When they did, they found Beck Weathers. If you remember, in the movie, Josh Brolin’s version of Beck Weathers is curled up on a ridge and he waves off people. He keeps insisting he’s waiting for their team leader, Rob Hall.
Although the movie shows Jake Gyllenhaal’s version of Scott Fischer never made it to the summit, according to one of the survivors on Scott’s team, Charlotte Fox, Scott made it to the summit around 3:00 P.M.
At that point, the weather was clear. But everyone who was going to make it had, and it was time to head back.
So the descent began.
At such heights, there’s always wind and snow. But at some time after 3:00 P.M. on May 10th, a new storm hit. This was different. One of the members of Scott’s Mountain Madness team, Lene Gammelgaard, described the new snow as a mixture of popcorn and brown soap—extremely slippery.
And it hit out of nowhere. No one expected it. As difficult as it may be to imagine, at one moment you go from achieving what very well may have been your life’s goal—a bucket list item—and in the next moment you can’t see the person who was right in front of you.
That’s not to mention the sheer exhaustion and onset hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen to your tissue.
In the movie, Helen Wilton, who’s played by Emily Watson, received a radio call back at Base Camp from Rob. He explains he’s stuck at the top of the Hillary Step with Doug.
This call happened. It was at 4:00 P.M., and the only difference here was that Rob didn’t say he was with Doug. He just said he was with someone who was in trouble, and Helen assumed it was Doug.
Oh, and the Hillary Step? That’s also real. That’s a 39 foot, or 12 meter tall sheer rock face that’s almost entirely vertical. It was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who we learned was the first to scale the summit.
With the clock ticking, things go from bad to worse.
The movie is pretty accurate in its depiction of the conditions. While Rob and Doug were stuck at the top of the Hillary Step, other mountaineers were having difficulties of their own.
Sandy Hill Pittman was one of the ones who nearly didn’t make it. Charlotte Fox, who’s played by Amy Shindler in the film, happened upon Sandy on her own way down. She noticed that Sandy was laying down and wasn’t moving. She was in bad shape.
So Charlotte pulled out her syringe of dexamethasone and gave the shot to Sandy. A quick side note here, but that’s the shot we see Jake Gyllenhaal’s version of Scott Fischer give himself in the tent earlier in the movie.
Dexamethasone is a steroid medication that’s used to help combat the symptoms of mountain sickness.
About five minutes after getting the shot, the medicine did its work and Sandy started to come to. One of the guides for Mountain Madness, Neal Beidleman, happened upon the two women at this point and he helped Sandy down from there.
Because of the storm, as the sun began to set the conditions only got worse.
In the movie, as Beck Weathers lies motionless waiting for Rob Hall, his vision starts to go.
That is also true.
According to Beck’s own recounting of the event, he didn’t know exactly how much time had passed. Nor did his eyesight disappear right away. It was a slow transition. As the daylight started to transition into nighttime, he knew things were bad. Someone should’ve been there to help by now.
And his eyesight started to go as well.
At this point, according to Beck, he started to realize he was getting serious hypothermia. He started to hallucinate and, according to Beck, he never really had a sense of dread. Instead, it was really just apathy. He just didn’t feel like doing anything. It could’ve been so easy to just stay there and never get up.
Just before 5:00 P.M., the three mountaineers who turned back before reaching the summit made it back to Camp IV. That’s John Taske, Lou Kasischke and Stuart Hutchinson. Later, John would describe the storm that hit just as they arrived at the camp.
According to John’s description, it sounded like a dozen express trains bearing down on the camp. It was basically whiteout conditions being able to only see about 50 feet in front of you, or about 15 meters. Fortunately for John, he was able to get inside a tent to help get some sense of relief.
For many others, they were out in the open.
In the movie, Sam Worthington’s character, Guy Cotter, is at Base Camp with Emily Watson’s Helen Wilton, and over the radio Guy suggests Jason Clarke’s version of Rob Hall leave John Hawke’s version of Doug Hansen behind.
This happened at 5:14 P.M., and according to Guy’s recollection of the events they didn’t have any idea of what Doug’s condition was. At about 5:35 P.M., Rob radioed back to Base Camp saying they were still in the same place.
There was a pause. Then, Guy made the recommendation that Rob try to return on his own. That’s not an easy decision. You’re basically telling a guy to leave another guy behind—leaving him for certain death.
What would you do in that situation? Would you leave someone behind for certain death? Or would you stay with them even if it meant almost certainly your own death as well?
I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like.
At around 6:00 P.M., the storm got even worse. In the movie, we see lightning and thunder in the storm. And that’s accurate.
Charlotte Fox recalled this new rage from nature as being incredible. According to Charlotte, and as the movie shows, there was both lightning and what must’ve been deafening thunder up there over five miles above sea level.
At this point, according to Sandy’s recollection, visibility went from bad to practically nothing. In the span of just a few seconds, it was almost impossible to see the people who were just six feet, or 1.8 meters, ahead of you.
Even if you did make it back to camp, imagine trying to find tents in those conditions. It’s next to impossible; you’d have to fall on top of the tents to even know there were there.
If things went from bad to worse before, things now were going from worse to whatever is beyond that—unimaginable.
Not that they could see the sun anyway, but those are the conditions they had to survive overnight. If they hadn’t already, any hope the mountaineers had left started to dwindle with each excruciating second that passed.
In the movie, while Rob and Doug are up on the mountain, Rob finally decides to leave Doug and go get help. But a disillusioned Doug decides to get up and start walking. He takes off his clip and simply slips out of sight, falling down the mountain.
Unfortunately, we don’t know if this is how Doug Hansen passed away. What we do know is at 4:43 A.M. on May 11th, Rob radioed Base Camp and when Guy Cotter asked about Doug, Rob’s reply was simply that Doug’s not with us anymore.
Doug Hansen died sometime on the night of May 10th or in the early morning of May 11th. We don’t know how he died, but some have hypothesized that he fell near the summit.
Back in the movie, tears start to flow when there’s a heartbreaking radio call between Rob and his wife Jan, who’s played by Keira Knightley. In the movie, she’s pregnant with their child and the team at Base Camp manages to patch the Rob’s radio calls through to Jan on a satellite phone.
Although this might seem too made-for-Hollywood to be true, it is. The real Jan Arnold had successfully scaled the summit of Mount Everest with Rob in 1993. But being seven months pregnant, she couldn’t go this time.
According to a report from the New York Times, Rob Hall remained in touch with Base Camp throughout most of the evening. Despite their urges to keep him moving, he wouldn’t give up on Doug Hansen.
After Doug passed away, it was too late for Rob.
At some time in the evening, just like we see in the movie, Rob and Jan had what would be their final call. It’s another unimaginable moment. We don’t know if Rob passed away mere moments after saying goodbye to his wife like he did in the movie. But based on what we do know, he didn’t seem to think he was going to die.
He explained his situation to Jan, telling her he couldn’t move because of severe frostbite in his legs. He didn’t have a tent to break the wind and cold, he had no sleeping bag, no oxygen, fluids or food. Despite all of this, Rob told Jan he was confident once the weather cleared that rescuers would come to his aid.
Help never came.
At the end of the movie, another unbelievable moment happens when Josh Brolin’s version of Beck Weathers seems to come back to life. With sheer determination, he walks into Camp IV.
Amazingly, this is true.
The real Beck Weathers remembers what it was like to go unconscious. He remembers Yasuko Namba, who’s played by Naoko Mori in the film, being next to him. Beck just kept thrashing around, pushing at Yasuko to try to generate heat on his own but to keep her moving as well.
Slowly, he thrashed less and less. Despite realizing he had to be freezing to death, he said he wasn’t cold. Then, at some point, he lost consciousness. While we’ll likely never know the exact reasons, many have speculated a break in the storm caused Beck’s body to thaw just enough to wake him from consciousness.
When he awoke, Beck recalled not knowing where he was at first. As his situation slowly started to sink in, he also realized no one was going to come help him. If he wanted to survive, he’d have to do something on his own.
With no way to know which way was which, according to Beck, he used the wind to help him find the camp. Even though the storm had died down, there’s always wind that high up on Everest. The wind was still blowing hard, and by feeling when it was blowing in his face, Beck could get a sense of direction.
He thought he remembered the camp was upwind, so he started walking. One step at a time. In front of him, there was nothing but rocks and white snow.
As he continued, the thoughts going through his mind was that it was only a matter of time. He might as well just give up and die right here. Why not? If he didn’t die here, he’d just go a few more steps and die over there.
Just as he was about to give up, he saw the tents.
Meanwhile, back in the movie, interspersed with Beck Weathers’ amazing walk back to camp, there’s a scene where Anatoli Boukreev, who’s played by Ingvar Sigurosson, finds Scott Fischer’s body. Anatoli was the Mountain Madness guide who refused to use oxygen. He puts his hand under Scott’s frozen nose.
Sadly, the result is true. But that’s not how it happened.
In truth, Scott Fischer wasn’t alone. With him was a member of the Taiwanese climbing team named Makalu Gau. Both Scott and Makalu had stopped moving during the storm overnight.
It wasn’t until sometime in the afternoon of May 11th that Sherpas reached the two men.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but as a quick side note here, a lot of people incorrectly assume Sherpa is a surname. The name comes from two Tibetan words, Sher, which means east, and pa, meaning people.
So Sherpas are the people from eastern Nepal. As with any local people who grow up around a tourist destination, many Sherpas have made a living helping the mountain climbing groups who have trekked Everest.
So the truth is that it was Sherpas who found Scott and Makalu. Unfortunately, Scott Fischer wasn’t breathing when they found him. Makalu was, and the Sherpas managed to get him back down to camp. Makalu would later recall the last he saw of Scott was when one of the Sherpas was giving him CPR.
It was an attempt that would prove unsuccessful.
One of the final scenes in the movie is when a helicopter tries to make it up to Base Camp to get a badly frostbitten Beck Weathers. The movie makes it seem like getting a helicopter that high is pushing the bounds of where helicopters can go.
And that is very true.
After Beck Weathers managed to make it to Camp IV, it wasn’t the end of his walk. Fortunately, though, the other mountaineers at the camp were able to warm him up some with multiple sleeping bags and hot bottles of water.
Because of the lack of air that high up, a helicopter simply couldn’t go the 26,000 feet high to where Camp IV was located. And remember Base Camp is at 17,700 feet. So after all of that, the survivors still had to walk down to Base Camp before they could be rescued by a helicopter.
Makalu Gau recalled that he couldn’t walk all of it himself. He said it was only because of ten Sherpas who took turns dragging him that he was able to make it down. One Sherpa would drag him for a couple hundred feet, then another one would drag him for the next couple hundred feet. They’d cycle this way so it wasn’t one person doing it all.
Once they made it to Base Camp, a helicopter arrived. Probably the most inaccurate part here in the movie was when the pilot of the helicopter said they could only fit one person.
According to Makalu’s recollection, he remembers joining Beck Weathers in the helicopter. From Base Camp, it was about a one hour flight the 100 or so miles to Kathmandu, Nepal. That’s about 160 kilometers.
As a side note here, if you want to see what this sort of helicopter rescue is like, on January 8th, 2017, the Discovery Channel just launched a new series called Everest Rescue that follows the brave pilots who fly choppers up to rescue people from the Everest Base Camp.
Of course, today they’re using a more advanced helicopter, the Airbus H125, formerly known as the B3E, that can flight up to 23,000 feet. To learn more about this type of rescue or see some of the stunning views and just how dangerous it can be just to rescue people on Mount Everest, check it out.
The final moments in the movie show Rob Hall’s frozen body. The text on the screen says that Rob’s body is still up on Mount Everest along with those who lost their lives.
This is true.
There were eight people who died on Mount Everest that day. Andrew Harris and Rob Hall from New Zealand. Doug Hansen and Scott Fischer from the United States. Yasuko Namba from Japan.
And while the movie focuses on the expeditions on the South Summit, while all of this was going on there was another expedition on the North Side. It’s referred to as the 1996 Indo-Tibetan Border Police expedition and was record breaking in its own right as the first Indian ascension of Mount Everest.
Sadly, three of the six people in this group perished in the same storm. Tsewang Samanla, Dorje Morup and Tsewang Paljor.
Today, their bodies are entombed on Mount Everest along with hundreds of other adventurers who came to tackle the world’s highest point and never left.