In my selfless mission to help everyone discover a love of the mountains *ahem* I have spent the past month watching almost every mountain related docu-film I could get my hands on.
A tough job, but someone had to do it, right?
There are so many out there, so I’ll admit it was tricky to cut it down to just 10.
I’ve chosen the 10 films that have inspired me, made me all emotional in some way, or given me goosebumps, in the hopes that they will do the same for you! If you’re not up for vertical challenges, they’re also incredible films which are worth a watch horizontally on the sofa. I’ll pop the trailers in too, so that you can see for yourselves!
And so with no further ado, and in no particular order…
1. Touching The Void
Touching The Void is just an insane film. It documents the (thankfully) successful, yet fairly controversial expedition of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson to ascend Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.
A true survival story against the odds.
2. The Summit
K2 is the dream for most mountaineers.
Second only to its neighbour Everest, it is far more dangerous and far fewer people successfully summit.
It’s certainly earned its nickname of the ‘Savage Mountain’.
The Summit documents what, at the time, was referred to as the ‘single most deadly day in modern mountaineering history’. 25 climbers attempted to reach the summit on August 1st 2008, and 11 never returned. With conflicting opinions from everyone on the mountain at the time, this film pieces together the opinions and the events which unfolded and goes a long way in clearing up what actually happened.
3. Beyond The Edge
This film covers the historical first summit of Everest in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
They were part of the 9th British expedition to attempt Everest and the first successful summit.
This expedition made history, and it’s why the so called ‘Hillary Step’ on Everest has its name. Norgay and Hillary were the first to ascend it en route to the summit using the crack between the snow and rock face.
Beyond The Edge uses original footage and photography from the expedition. I won’t lie, I’m a sucker for original footage in films like this. The original film was in 3D but it’s definitely worth watching if you can find it!
4. Few Words
Candide Thovex is incredible. There are no other words to describe him.
As a skier, I watch his videos and can’t help but feel goosebumps. I will never be that good, but it’s incredible to see what can be done on ski’s, especially after having broken his back!
He just pushes all the boundaries and is known to be one of the best freeskiers in history with good reason. Few Words showcases this perfectly, plus the whole film is on YouTube!
5. The Wildest Dream
George Mallory was part of the 1924 Everest expedition. He disappeared with his climbing partner Andrew Irvine after having last been seen 800ft below the summit. To this day, nobody knows if they made it to the summit or not.
In 1999 Climber Conrad Anker discovered Mallory’s body on Everest and became interested in the story even more. All of Mallory’s belongings were intact with his body, which remains there, but there was no sign of the photograph of his beloved wife Ruth.
Anker and his climbing partner return to attempt the climb with the same equipment to see if it was truly possible for them to have climbed the Second Step without use of a ladder.
It’s a very interesting watch and definitely worth setting aside time for!
Sherpa is an eye opening film, which not only covers the tragic loss of life on Everest in the ice avalanche in 2014, but also how much pressure there is on the Sherpas in climbing in the Himalayas. It’s well known that they risk their lives taking equipment and supplies up Everest on behalf of foreign climbers, and yet often their working conditions are not at all adequately safe.
This film looks in to the death of 16 Sherpas as part of this ice avalanche, their views and those of their families as well as the views of expedition companies and the Nepalese government. It also follows Phurba Tashi Sherpa as he undertakes his world-record 22nd ascent of Everest.
This film is very critical and exposes some of the realities of climbing the most famous mountain in the world, that perhaps many were not aware of.
7. North Face
North Face documents the 1936 attempt to summit the then unclimbed Eiger via the North Face by 2 competing teams. It follows Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser’s attempt on the ‘murder wall’, which ended in tragedy, like many attempts before.
Most German mountaineering films about that time were deeply rooted in Nazi propaganda, something this film hoped to detract from when it was made in 2008.
This film is chilling (no pun intended) and you’re made to feel like you’re on the mountain with the climbers and are able to see it from their perspective.
8. Into Thin Air: Death on Everest
This is a slightly more controversial one…
This version was made for TV and based on the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Telling the story of the 1996 Everest disaster, where a number of experienced guides and climbers lost their lives, it shows the events from the perspective of Jon Krakauer, who was on the mountain at the time.
Not long after reaching the summit, Krakauer and his team team were faced with disaster. Four of his teammates (including expedition leader Rob Hall) died whilst descending mid storm. By the end of the 1996 season, 15 people had died on Everest, making it the deadliest single year in Everest history to that point.
Here’s the controversial part: Krakauer was not impressed with the actions of Anatoli Boukreev (famous for writing The Climb). Krakauer criticised him heavily for not using supplemental oxygen whilst guiding and for descending from the summit hours ahead of his clients. Boukreev was however known to have made rescue attempts for the missing climbers.
This is partly what the film Everest (2015) was based on and Krakauer appears as a character in the film.
An interesting response to the controvery between Into Thin Air and The Climb can be found here…
9. A Line Across The Sky
Seven summits, 13,000 vertical feet of climbing and the first time it’s ever been done.
This film follows super famous climbers Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold who completed the first Fitz Roy traverse in history, in one push!
It’s funny, it’s inspiring, it won best climbing film at the Banff Mountain Film Festival
10. K2: Touching the Sky
There’s a reason K2 is in here twice.
Its beautiful, rugged, but also dangerous. It’s inspired so many books and films. K2: Touching The Sky is no exception to the above. In the summer of 1986, 9 teams attempted K2 from around the world.
13 climbers died. After 30 years later the children of the alpinists who died undertook an expedition to answer a question they had long wondered.
What is the price of passion?
There are so many more films about the mountains, mountain sports, mountain life, mountain people.
These are the ones I love.
If you want to get involved with Mountain Monday then click this link for all information!
What are your favourites? What films inspire you and why?