Film shows real-time footage of Ger McDonnell preparing to climb K2

Ger McDonnell holds the tricolour aloft after becoming the first Irish person to climb K2 in 2008; later, he was tragically killed on his descent

Ger McDonnell holds the tricolour aloft after becoming the first Irish person to climb K2 in 2008; later, he was tragically killed on his descent

  • by Norma Prendiville

THE feature-length documentary, The Summit, which tells the story of intrepid mountaineer Ger McDonnell’s triumph and tragedy on K2, has been selected for the Sundance International Film Festival, one of the world’s best-known and most highly-regarded independent film festivals.

The Summit, directed by Nick Ryan, is the story of the worst disaster on the world’s second highest mountain, when Ger McDonnel from Kilcornan and ten other climbers died on K2 in August 2008. It is the only Irish film selected for Sundance which takes place in Utah in the USA in January.

”To be selected for competition at Sundance is one of the highest levels of recognition for any film and it is a real honour for all those who worked so hard to bring The Summit to the screen,’ Mr Ryan told the Limerick Leader.

Getting into Sundance, he added, was already a win. “I am so delighted for everybody and so delighted for Ger’s family because I think, for them, they really wanted to get the story out there.”

The Summit was premiered at the London Film Festival in October and received rave reviews and audience reaction. The hope now is that Sundance will open the way to international distributors. An Irish premiere is likely in the New Year but Mr Ryan was unable to put a definite date on a Limerick screening. The documentary draws on footage of Ger McDonnell and of the other international teams, involving 24 climbers in all, who were preparing to go to the summit of K2 on August 1, 2008. It also includes interviews with Sherpa Pemba Gyalje and some reconstructions as well as aerial views of K2, the worlds deadliest mountain.

Mr Ryan was inspired to make the film when mountaineer Pat Falvey approached him just months after the tragedy.

“At the heart of The Summit lies a mystery about one extraordinary man, Ger McDonnell, who was faced with a heart-wrenching predicament 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 mountain is to leave them for dead. Had Ger McDonnell stuck to the climbers’ code, he might still be alive.”

The film, Mr Ryan continues, is about the very nature of modern adventure.

“Thosse who survive carry with them a commodity to sell, The Story. This one remains contentious and fiercely debated.”




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