Everest is the world's highest mountain. But those who've climbed it say the trek is often a highly romanticized, overcrowded hike. A new documentary called "Mountains" explores people's fascination with the world's highest peaks.
- Mount Everest is 29,029 feet tall, making it the world's highest peak.
- A new documentary film called "Mountain" reveals how a $25,000-plus trek to the top of Mount Everest can look like a conveyor belt of hikers.
- The documentary also explores our modern fascination with conquering dangerous summits.
Everest climbing season is here.
In May, when the mountains in Nepal and Tibet warm, the temperature at base camp on Mount Everest heats up to a daily high of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and the winds around the world's tallest peak become still.
The filmmaker and director Jennifer Peedom has a new documentary called "Mountain" about the reality of climbing Everest. The film traces our fascination with the world's highest peaks and documents some of the most daredevilish stunts performed on summits around the world.
Narrated by the actor Willem Dafoe, the documentary is an ode to mountains. But one of the most shocking revelations of the film — for those of us who haven't scaled Everest — is that the journey can be overcrowded.
"There's people everywhere," Peedom, who has climbed the mountain four times, told Business Insider. "You're in this incredibly remote place and yet you're just lining up."
'It's crowd control'
Sixty-five years ago, on May 29, 1953, a New Zealander named Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese Sherpa partner Tenzing Norgay became the first known climbers to summit Everest. Since then, the allure and the majesty of the mountain have attracted more than 4,000 others to try to reach the peak.
"There's sort of this idea that there's only one mountain that really matters in the kind of Western, popular imagination," Peedom said.
But the footage in her new film reveals a different side of the climb. Thrill-seekers on Everest can get caught in long, snaking lines and crowded camps — which is why you may not find many "true mountaineers" there anymore, Peedom said.
"It's a symbol of achievement, and it is an incredible achievement; it's a huge feat of endurance," she said. "But it's not exploration — it's crowd control."
This week alone, roughly 520 people are huddled in high camps on the Nepalese and Tibetan sides of Everest, hoping to reach the top of the 29,029-foot-tall peak, Reuters reported on Monday.
Climbing Everest can be deadly, and gear-hauling, trail-blazing Sherpas often take some of the greatest risks to ensure that paying customers make it to the top.
One of the deadliest days was April 18, 2014, when 16 Sherpas were killed in an avalanche. Peedom, who happened to be on the mountain at that time, chronicled the disaster and the angry sadness of surviving Sherpas in her 2015 film "Sherpa."
A year later, on April 25, 2015, at least 19 people, 10 of them Sherpas, were killed in another avalanche on Everest.
"There seems to be a disaster mystique around Everest that seems to only serve to heighten the allure of the place," Peedom said. "It is extremely overcrowded now and just getting more and more every year."
Mountains are nature's playground for daredevils
Peedom's new film doesn't focus only on Mount Everest. The movie showcases plenty of other feats of mountaineering, as well as impressive base jumps, bike rides, and climbing stunts on craggy hilltops around the globe, from Australia to Alaska.
Viewers sometimes see the cliffs via GoPro cameras, while other moments are shot by hand, helicopter, or drone.
The film is full of diverse thrill-seekers looking for their next mountain high, including the filmmakers themselves. In one scene, Renan Ozturk, a cameraman and rock climber, focuses his lens inches from a precariously placed toe that appears to be on the verge of falling off a rock face.
Other footage comes from mountaineers, cliff-jumping cyclists, helicopter-hopping skiers, and sweaty, yelling rock climbers — all set to a classical score by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
You won't find any experts in suits talking on the screen — just meditative shots of gorgeous summits.
Peedom hopes the film will prove that you don't have to go to Everest to enjoy the awesomeness of the natural world.
"There's so much you can learn about yourself when you put yourself in those situations," she said. "But you don't have to risk your life just to be in the mountains."