Sunday, August 30, 2015

Everest packs an emotional punch.

I went to an advance screening of Everest at the Regal Cinemas Pointe Orlando 20 and IMAX at Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Dr, Orlando, FL. When I got in line and started sketching, there were about 30 people ahead of me. I went into the screening with no expectations thinking that it might be like other IMAX films I had scene at the Science Center with lots of scenery and little plot. The line started to move, but Terry still hadn't arrived. If I went in she would not be able to get in the theater. I stepped out of line to wait for her.  Gladys West who had given me my ticket had another to spare, so I got two seats in the third row and then went back out to wait for Terry. When she arrived, we were the last to enter the theater. Thankfully the theater was huge and there were some seats left.

We had both read "Into Thin Air" by John Krakauer so we knew what would happen on this dangerous expedition in May of 1996. The immense five story high movie screen showed a climber dangling from a series of interconnected ladders above a deep crevasse. The film was shot in IMAX 3D and we all had glasses. The films emotional center revolved around Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who was leading a group of climber up Everest each of whom had paid 50 to 90 thousand dollars for the experience.  His company was called Adventure Consultants. Rob's wife Jan (Keira Knightley) was at home pregnant and he planned to be back in time for the birth of their first child. Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) confided that in his everyday life, a dark cloud of depression followed him, but when he climbs mountains that cloud is gone.

The film was a gripping cliff hanger. At times the camera moved with ease looking down at the dangerous drops. The climbers had to acclimatize to the altitude over a month's period doing a series of smaller hikes up to the ice field. I actually braced myself several times, feeling vertigo from the heights. Climbing Everest has become a big business with hundreds of people at the base camp. Although some guides tried cooperating, there was also contentious competition among the climbers to get to the top.

There was a small window of opportunity to get to the top of the mountain on May 10, 1996. At midnight the stars sparked in a clear sky and Rob decided to bring his group to the top with a 2pm turn around time. John Krakaur asked each of the climbers why the took the risk to climb Everest. Kasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) from Japan explained that she had climbed 6 of the 7 summits. If she reached the summit of Everest she would be the oldest woman to reach the top. Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) had tried to reach the summit the previous year and had been tuned back by Rob. Every climber had their own reason to reach the top and Rob was tasked with getting them there safely. There were unexpected delays. The climbing Sherpas and guides had not set the fixed ropes by the time the team reached the Balcony (27,395 ft), and this cost the team almost an hour.

Doug once again got close to the summit, but since it was past the turn around time, Rob told him to turn back. Doug could see the top and insisted that Rob let him make the final ascent. When Rob agreed, I knew it was a fatal mistake. A blizzard blew in taking all the climbers by surprise. Snow blindness, hypothermia and lack of oxygen left them vulnerable to the elements.Some made it to camp while others collapsed from the cold. 34 climbers tried for the summit that day but 8 bodies remain on the unforgiving mountain. One in four climbers die trying to reach the summit and yet guided tours continue to bring people up to the death zone in record numbers. This is an incredible film that has to be experienced in IMAX 3D.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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