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Nanga Parbat 1953

Nanga Parbat, Pakistan, 24 November 1993

By Hans Ertl from the German-Austrian Himalaya-Expedition 1953. In German. Black and white. 90 minutes. Filmed in 1953. Released 1953.

Story

The film opens with scenes of newspaper articles for the expedition, swimming on board the ship to Karachi, scenes from the train journey to Rawalpindi and the flight to Gilgit passing Nanga Parbat, and the reception in Gilgit. The expedition baggage is carried on donkeys and then by porters as the team treks to Fairy Meadows and on to base camp.

After base camp is set up, it's more carrying on the snow and glaciers and icefalls and avalanches to Camps 1 (4466m), 2 (5350m) 3 (6185m), and 4 (6690m), slowly breaking trail in the deep snow. At Camp 2 they look at the maps and plan their route, and playfully share a Lowenbrau beer. There are a few base camp scenes with Karl Herrligkoffer administering medicine, listening to the radio for weather reports, and scenes of communication between the higher camps and base camp.

On July 2, Buhl, Otto Kempter, Walter Frauenbergar and Ertl climb to Camp 5 (6900m) with great views of the Silbersattel (7500m) and the Nanga Parbat summit ridge. Ertl and Fruenberger wish Buhl and Kempter well and return to Camp 4. Hermann and Otto get their rucksacks ready for the 1225m vertical ascent over a horizontal distance of 1400m, with Buhl holding up the Pakistani flag he will bring to the summit.

Ertl illustrates Buhl's solo climb to the summit of Nanga Parbat on July 3, 1953 at 19:00, using shots of the shadow of a solitary climber, long shots of a solitary climber on a long ridge unfurling the Pakistan flag and then starting down. The sun goes down with stars in the sky before a new day dawns and the shadows of the solitary climber slowly comes back to be met by Ertl and Frauenbergar at Camp 5. He gives Buhl a brew and takes his boots and socks off, displaying his frostbitten toes. We see Ertl and Frauenberger erect the memorial plaque to Willy Merkl, and then everybody comes down through the icefall, across ladders over deep crevasses, and to the grass of base camp. We see an almost nude and emaciated Buhl soaping up and cleaning himself. The team drives back and Buhl is congratulated by the Pakistanis, followed by scenes of polo, with Buhl smiling and clapping.

For a film more than 50 years old, the quality of the print is excellent - very clear. There really isn't much narration, so you don't need to understand German. It was wonderful to see the youthful Hermann Buhl age before our eyes as the climb goes on. The chaotic icefall and avalanche scenes are spectacular, clearly showing the danger and the slow breaking of the trail. The pace is nice and slow, not too huried.

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