Touching the Void

Bomb Rating: 

I must admit, I have something of a soft spot in my heart for mountain climbing films in which people either get severely injured or die. One, it proves to me what idiotic adrenaline junkies mountain climbers are. Two, it confirms that my decision to avoid mountain climbing and thus avoid a horrible death either freezing or falling, or possibly surviving sans frostbitten limbs. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

In 1985, experienced mountain climbers Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron) decided they would climb the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, which is 21,000 feet high. Why did they decide to do this? Because nobody had ever done it before.

Now, when there's something out there that nobody has ever done before, there's usually a reason. For instance, nobody has ever climbed up the side of the Empire State Building wearing underpants brimming with scorpions. Why? Because death is sure to be the result. And nobody has ever successfully inserted a shovel up their ass. Similarly, an ascent of the west side of Siula Grande is basically insane, which naturally didn't stop Simpson and Yates from trying.

While the boys make it to the top, they don't make it back down without a real problem. As they descend, each man climbs down a few hundred feet attached to a rope that is attached to the other man. Well, Simpson falls off an edge and nearly drags Yates off with him. So there they are, Simpson hanging in mid-air as Yates, a few hundred feet above him, tries to hold himself on the slope. They are unable to communicate. After weighing his options, Yates cuts the rope.

Now, apparently Yates's cutting of the rope has earned him complete scorn among the other half-wit mountain climbers, which confirms a saying of mine: "Overcoming risk is great unless you're the one who dies." What exactly was Yates's choice? Either cut the rope and live, or hang on and most assuredly join Simpson in his fate.

Amazingly, Simpson survives an incredible fall and then basically drags himself back to camp with a compound leg fracture. That Simpson survives isn't exactly a secret, since this is a docudrama and he's interviewed. However, I saw this months ago, so perhaps they don't tell you it's Simpson right away. I can't remember. I don't care. It is truly an amazing feat of will that Simpson survives and we get to witness every excruciating, nauseating step of it.

What's amazing is that this all could have been avoided if either of these guys just had one iota of common sense.

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