Monday, August 22, 2011

“Because it’s there.”

Ever since my parents took us camping in the Lake District – just before WW2 broke out - and we climbed Helvellyn, I’ve been dotty about mountains, so watching The Wildest Dream last night was a no-brainer. It is a documentary in which climber Conrad Anker, an American, follows in the footsteps of George Mallory the British climber. The object of the expedition was to ascertain whether Mallory reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1924 before Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay in 1953.

In 1999 Anker discovered the body of Mallory 75 years after the fatal expedition. The question was did Mallory climb the dreaded Second Step and thus be the first to conquer Everest?

All of his belongings were found intact except for a photograph of Ruth, which he had promised to leave 'on top of the world' if he succeeded. The absence of the picture has led to speculation that he might, after all, have reached the summit, and that he and Irvine - whose body has never been found - fell on their descent.

Anker and Leo Houlding replicated the dress, hob-nailed boots and equipment that Mallory had used.

Mallory met and fell in love with Ruth at Charterhouse. They married in 1914 six days before WW1 broke out. He served in France and they had three children.

In 1921 Mallory joined an expedition to Everest to explore routes up to the North Col. He discovered the Rongbuk Glacier – the route now most often used by climbers.

On another expedition in 1922 they were forced back at 26,985’ and later an avalanche killed seven Sherpas. Mallory was torn between the blind ambition to be the first on the highest mountain in the world and the distress it brought to his wife and children.

In 1924 he knew this would be his last chance to achieve his ambition and promised Ruth he would leave her photo on the summit. The fact that the photo was nowhere to be found, although the rest of his belongings were intact, makes his reaching the summit a possibility. Doubt was cast as to whether Mallory had the climbing skills to conquer the Second Step but eventually Anker thought it possible.

The programme is narrated by Liam Neeson and the letters from Ruth were read most movingly by his wife Natasha Richardson. Only later did I discover it was the last film she did before her tragic death in a skiing accident.

Another moving moment was when Anker’s wife said she knew what it was like to be married to a climber who didn’t come back. Her late husband had climbed with Anker and was tragically killed. When Anker was trying on the ancient climbing clothes of the twenties his wife asked her young son if he would wear those clothes, he said no because he wouldn’t climb Everest.

Altogether I found it a moving and inspirational film. See photos below.

30 comments:

GYPSYWOMAN said...

oh, pat, what a truly beautiful movie review and story of these magnificent climbers and their families/lives - and what an incredible story/stories - thank you so much for introducing me to them - these beautiful people - and to their incredible lives - very very poignantly told -

and an interesting word verification here - surkfi - surf i? -

Granny Annie said...

What a wonderful review. Now I must see THE WILDEST DREAM. (I was a bit confused in your last paragraph on who exactly was wife, mother,son, husband.)

kenju said...

I have never heard that story and I know I would love seeing that!

Pat said...

Gypsywoman: I'm so glad you appreciated it:)

Granny Annie: sorry it is a bit involved. The last paragraph relates to Anker's wife and her son. Anker used to climb with his wife's first husband. When the husband was killed in a climbing accident Anker married the widow and adopted her sons. So one can undestand the son saying he would not climb Everest.

Judy: it always horrifies me that there are still some bodies left on mountains where it would be too dangerous to attempt to bring them down . At least Mallory's body was buried.

Rog said...

I love the Mountains.

Isn't Mallory the one who was photographed in the Everest foothills naked except for his pipe and hat?

Pat said...

Rog: how thoughtful of you to provide the link:)
WV: supeno.

nursemyra said...

I would love to see that documentary. Recently I read The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrad. Fascinating account of Scott's last journey written by the youngest man who accompanied the team. Such hardships these men endure in their exploratory quests

Pat said...

nursemyra: I'm sure it will be shown widely. The Worst Journey sounds a book I would relish - especially tucked up in bed on a cold winter's night.
These men have enormous courage and endurance but I wouldn't want to be married to one.

Dandelion said...

You've really made me want to watch it. But why oh why didn't they think of the obvious solution to the connundrum: go to the summit and find the photo!

Pat said...

Dandelion: there is the little matter of the Second Step and once a climber had made it would they possibly have the strength to hunt for a photo which has had God knows what wind and weather to cope with over decades. I don't know . It's an interesting thought.

Pat said...

Sleep tight - wherever you are.

Macy said...

Thanks for this Pat. I'm a massive fan of documentaries, I'll check this one out.

Pat said...

Macy: it is so easy these days to miss them.

lom said...

sounds like a very moving film. I will put it on my want to see list

The Unbearable Banishment said...

I know I'm being mamby-pamby but taking on such a dangerous expedition while having a wife and, especially, young children at home is selfish.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This sounds like a fascinating film....I must say, I have never had any interest im mountain climbing, myself...(I am a real "chickn"....) And in part, don't understand the obsession this often engenders, despite the great and enormous risks. It just seems to me to asking for death! Do I send crazy?
And yet, it interests me that there are these amazing people who want to do this and follow their dream. And this kind of documentary interests me very very much! Thanks for the Heads-Up, Pat....

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

"....It seems to me to BE asking for death...Do I SOUND Crazy?....."

Forgive the typos, my dear.....(OY)

Pat said...

LOM: it has had very little publicity so I'm happy to raise awareness.

UB: that was my sub-text. All the adventurers - to my mind - put their goals before family. As also, I think great artists - often not very nice people. Is it possible to be a genius and nice? Discuss.

Naomi: I was thrown in at the deep end and it became thrilling to get to the top and see what there was to see. Later I started rock climbing and that WAS terrifying.
The nearest I get these days is trundling up our lane.
I don't think you are crazy - I do think the climbers who do very severe climbs have to be.

LL Cool Joe said...

Sounds like an excellent film, I've never heard of it either. Thanks for the review!

Pat said...

LL Cool Joe: even in the Radio Times they didn't highlight it. I'm glad I stumbled over it.

Nea said...

Thanks Pat, it sounds fascinating. I'll keep my eyes open for "The Wildest Dream".

And thank you for Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat. I loved them both.

Pat said...

Nea: I expect I'll find time for the odd game of Scrabble.
I'm just reading 'One Day' which is the book and film de jour:)

Guyana-Gyal said...

I agree with UB.

Sometimes I wonder if early Sherpas weren't the first to make it to the top though, but western media would never know.

Hm...are there genius people who are nice? I hope Stephen Hawkin's nice because I'm an admirer.

Pat said...

GG: yes those Sherpas were formidable guys. I still think nice and genius are strange bedfellows.

rashbre said...

I was reading somewhere that there's another expedition being planned to try to verify the Mallory story one way or another. I'm not so sure its really a good idea. Some things are best lost in time.

Pat said...

Rashbre: I agree. It's time to let him rest in peace.

Granny Annie said...

Pat, I had to come back and comment again. Yesterday I picked out a audio book from a recent group I ordered online. I had not even paid attention to what it was about but liked the title. Turns out it is a novel based on the story of George Mallory's life titled PATHS OF GLORY by Jeffrey Archer. It is excellent and I loved having this post about George Mallory before beginning the book.

Pat said...

Granny Annie: thanks for telling me. I love it when things like that happen.

Granny Annie said...

I have just completed listening to PATHS OF GLORY by Jeffrey Archer and I am left with no doubt that George Mallory was the first Caucasian to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. I became side tracked by this audio book and did not start the documentary of THE WILDEST DREAM but I am going to start that now. If I had not read this post first I doubt I would have been as eager to stay with the audio book and I ended it in tears. Did you know that George Mallory II (his grandson) left a family photo on the summit of Mt. Everest in 1995? I guess you probably know all that stuff. Thanks again for the introduction.

Pat said...

Granny Annie: no I didn't know that. It is very moving. I'm tempted to listen to Paths of Glory or maybe read it.