SOME OF MY FAVORITE VACATIONS INVOLVED mountains. Having grown up in a flatter part of the country, as soon as I see a mountain range in the distance, I start to get a thrill. There was one trip where we were driving on a road that was laid out like unfurled ribbon that had been pulled from its spool. Everyone on the road had to drive at a slow speed because of all the hairpin turns. By the time we reached the peak the sun had started to set, and the sky had this red and purple hue that gave the clouds a darker silhouette. Though I was starting to get nervous about driving down in the dark, we stepped out of the car to take in the view. There was dead silence except for the wind that brushed across my ears and gently prodded the hood of my jacket. I could see all the way down into the valley with its long shadows crawling towards me. It was such a beautiful sight; I felt as if I had entered an oasis or bubble that filled me with a peacefulness I had not experienced before. It was an effort to leave and walk back to the car to make our trek down the mountain, which was starting to look deeply wrinkled in the limited light. ON ANOTHER VACATION I WENT FROM one of the lowest spots in the country to one of the highest. After spending time exploring the bowels of the canyon with its multicolored layers of minerals and rock, we traveled to the base of one of the largest mountains on the mainland. A specially designed train car transported us up to the top after we were instructed to keep our arms inside the train car because the ice ripples, we would be passing through, were as sharp as a chef’s knife. Reaching the top, I had to first bundle up with the layers of clothing I had brought with before venturing out into the cold. The first thing I noticed was the strength of the wind as it tried to push me back into the train car. With a posted sign stating the temperature was at zero, the ends of my scarf that was wrapped around my neck were flapping behind me like a captured bird. The view was literally and figuratively breathtaking. Due to the cold this was one of my more challenging mountain experiences. Call me a lazy hiker, but I prefer being transported in some type of vehicle up to the top of a mountain instead of me hiking on a challenging trail. And I certainly would not consider trying what the people were doing in this film festival winning documentary. IT WOULD BE SAFE TO SAY I BELIEVE; most individuals would look for a way to get around a mountain instead of having to climb over one. That was not the case with the people in this documentary. Directed and written by Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa, Miracle on Everest), also written by Robert Macfarlane (Mountain Quest, Upstream) and narrated by Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate, The Florida Project); this movie’s best asset was its beautiful filming work, that was accompanied by a wonderful classical soundtrack. For those viewers who have a fear of heights, there were several scenes that might be uncomfortable to sit through. I do not know for a fact, but am guessing drones, helicopters, handheld cameras and mounted ones were used to capture the scenes. As much as I enjoyed watching the variety of mountain peaks, I wished there would have been more to the script. There were times I had no idea what mountain range I was looking at; this may not be important to some, but it was to me. I would have liked to have learned something new about the climbers and their experiences. For the most part I felt I was watching a repeat of something seen before. Despite this, I still enjoyed viewing this picture and still would never consider climbing a mountain.
2 ½ stars
There are still so many different things I see that I do not understand. Competitive eating contests would be one example. I like food as much as the next person but the idea of shoving and swallowing a bunch of food in one’s mouth in a short period of time makes no sense to me. In a circus I have seen some acts that make me sit there and wonder if that person really grew up wanting to swallow swords or chew up lightbulbs. When it comes to mountain climbing, the whole concept baffles me. I have no problem trekking up a mountain to a vantage point that looks out onto an extraordinary view; however, I want a trail that zigzags its way up where I can just walk and not have to use my arms to pull myself along. At the top I would like a little rest stop or cafe where I can sit out and gaze upon the breathtaking scenery. Even before the recent tragedy in Nepal, I never understood people who had the need to conquer Mt. Everest or any other high mountain peak. Hanging off the side of sheer rock covered in snow and ice, while dangling by a rope tied to a spike driven into granite does not sound like a fun time to me. Based on a true story, this adventure drama was absolutely riveting. Set in 1936 at a time where European countries were drawing sides, it was important to Germany that they be the first to conquer one of the most dangerous peaks in the Alps. Their hopes were dependent on the German climbers Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, played by Benno Furman (Joyeux Noel, In Darkness) and Florian Lukas (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Good Bye Lenin). Though they were experienced climbers the two men knew this climb would be their most challenging since they would have to compete against several other climbing teams to reach the top first. This award winning film had several remarkable scenes of Mt. Eiger which means ogre in German. Most of the drama took place on the mountain; however, the secondary story being held in the mountain hotel where childhood friend Luise Fellner, played by Johanna Wokalek (Aimee & Jaguar, Pope Joan) worked as a photographer was a needed respite from the intensity of the story. I abhor cold weather, am not fond of tall heights, do not understand the motivation to do something so dangerous, but none of it mattered because I was frozen to my seat watching this incredible story. There was German, French and Italian languages used with English subtitles. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Technically it was a working vacation, but it was an experience of extremes for me. In that one time period I went from a climate of 90 degrees down to zero. Having agreed to help a friend move from Phoenix, Arizona to Colorado Springs, Colorado; I flew out to pack up their house and load up the 18 foot moving van they rented. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon. Both of us were so stunned with its beauty that we walked around as much of the canyon as we could in the one day, oblivious we were getting sunburnt from the hot sun. After many ice packs and bottles of aloe vera lotion we reached our destination, despite cruising at 25 mph through the Colorado Rockies. I have to tell you, reaching PIke’s Peak was a thrill for me. The idea that a short time ago I was walking around in a T-shirt and shorts and now I was wearing multiple layers to stay warm was crazy. A high point of the trip was taking the cog rail train to the top of the peak. In the comfort of the rail car I saw amazing landscapes, where ice had frozen and thawed so many times that it formed into razor sharp edges that glistened in the sunlight. Once we reached the top I walked out to the looking point and relished the silence around me, peering at the vastness of the land that laid below me. The cog rail train was the only way we could have ever reached what I considered to be the top of the world. I have no understanding why someone would rather use their hands and feet to climb a mountain. This is why I sat through this documentary wondering why anyone would put themselves through such an ordeal. In the summer of 2008 twenty-two climbers made their way up one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, K2 in the Himalayan mountain range. Only eleven climbers survived the experience. Visually this was a gorgeous movie to watch with some breathtaking scenes, like the one showing K2’s shadow as it spread across the topography. I could see why this film festival winner won for editing, scenes were seamless and that is why I was uncomfortable with this movie. Since I could not tell which footage was real or reenactments using actors, I was uneasy watching the harsher scenes. Listening to the multiple theories and viewpoints being stated by so many people only made me confused. As a result my attention wandered during parts of the film. Adding in my lack of understanding for such an undertaking, I felt as if I was just sitting there and watching a series of beautiful postcards.