Karakoram, Pakistan, 27 November 1976

by Steve Marts. Filmed 1975. Release 1976. 47 minutes. This is the story of the 1975 American K2 Expedition attempting the unclimbed Northwest Ridge. The team was led by Jim Whittaker and included his twin brother Lou, Jim Wickwire, and famed photographer Galen Rowell.


The films shows hectic street scenes in Rawalpindi where the team waited two weeks for good flying weather. They fly past Nanga Parbat and get an aerial reconnaissance of K2 before landing at Skardu. The porters are selected and the trek to base Camp begins. We get a glimpse into the Balti people, their villages and their way of life, while the porters and expedition members trek along the Braldu river and onto the Baltoro Glacier. The expedition doctor Rob Schaller treats both porters and the villagers along the way. There are so many porters that when they stop for the night, the expedition looks like a village. The expedition has trouble with porters, but finally reaches Base Camp on the Savoia Glacier, three weeks behind schedule.

They pay off the remaining porters, set up their Base Camp tents, and unpack and repack the loads. They carry loads to Camp 1 and Camp 2, and climb up steep snow above Camp 2. They have to descend to Camp 2 when a 5-day storm blows in. After the storm, they descend to Base Camp and again climb above Camp 2 reaching the ridge at 21,500 feet. Towering above them was the K2 summit, but to reach it they still had to negotiate the pinnacles. They were hit by another 5-day storm and they descended, carrying down a sick high altitude porter using a stretcher. The return crossing a river on a scary rope bridge and pass villages now harvesting their crops.

The climbing story is fairly straightforward with good mountain views. This DVD is more about the Pakistani porters, villages and people, then about the climb itself. The video quality is good, with the colour a bit faded and washed out. The film does not show any of the personal conflicts that Rowell highlights in his book, In The Throne Room Of The Mountain Gods.

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