Film, K2, Mountains, Nick Ryan, Photography, Travel

The Summit, 2013 documentary by Nick Ryan, award winner at Sundance


2013 documentary by @nickryanfilm

K2, in terms of the % and number of climbers dying on it, the deadliest mountain on earth. 1 in 4 people who try to climb K2 don’t come back alive. This is an extremely dangerous mountain to climb.


As a viewer, of a film like this, you wonder what mistakes did they made? Were they avoidable, would I have got killed too?

The great thing about this film, is that it is not trying to create a drama or a mystery out of the tragedy.  There were questions to be asked, and survivors stories did not completely match up. However as these story tellers had survived near death experiences, it’s understandable their accounts became a little scrambled.

Having read and watched a number of re-tellings of similar events like this, there are certain key things that happen, which can get yourself killed, or at least severely risk your life.

The first classic danger is starting your summit attempt later than you meant to. Sometimes it’s as simple as oversleeping. Even if you avoid this own goal is avoided, other events may delay you. A key piece of equipment is forgotten, or damaged. These late starts then produce the classic tension between knowing the window of safety, to get up and back down again has been greatly reduced. In many accounts of successful summits, they begin at, or even before, the crack of dawn. Ideally you then successfully summit, spend less than 5 minutes on the top, and then do your best to get back down alive.


What was going through people’s minds when they left 3 to 4 hours later than they should have, to attempt the summit? They still go for it. In this K2 episode for example, 15 of them summit between 5 and 7pm in the evening. Never enough light left to get them back down again safely.

These are not stupid people, and most highly experienced mountaineers too. Often the weather has been bad for a long period of time prior to the summit attempt. Climbers know they may have to wait for the right weather conditions. However days can turn into weeks, and the overall annual climbing season is quite limited. They begin willing the weather to turn good, and stay good. Despite the fact they are in an extreme part of the world, heading into the ‘death zone’, above 8,000 meters.


This film was well made. There is no attempt to sensationalise what happened, nor try to find a scapegoat in a simplistic way. Watching it, you make your own conclusions. I won’t spoil the ending, but overall it was basically a series of bad decisions mixed with some unlucky events happening. Some people who survived were probably extremely fortunate to h survive. Others who died were unlucky to have died, except that by simply stepping foot on the K2 mountain you are already taking a risk. Sometimes we make bad decisions and we get to survive this, most of the time probably. However on other occasions things start to go wrong, people make bad decisions, and it all just spirals out of control from there.

Watch the trailer here.


It’s a good film to watch though. Beautiful in parts, and life affirming in many ways too. Watch it if you can.










2 thoughts on “The Summit, 2013 documentary by Nick Ryan, award winner at Sundance

  1. Pingback: Web Summit Day 2 in pictures | Sarah Paddle Swim

  2. Pingback: Race against time, 6 Days of the Rising : Indiegogo movie funding launched | Sarah Paddle Swim

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