Peedom’s resulting feature-length documentary, – which premiered at last year’s Sydney Film Festival and is now in commercial release – is not a film about that record-breaking climb, because it never took place.
The Sherpas’ ultimately successful call to cancel the 2014 climbing season was a form of labour dispute, one in which, says Peedom, they were asking for ‘better rights, better compensation, better insurance’.
But it was also a demand for the recognition and respect of the community’s cultural and spiritual beliefs.
Among his clients in 2014 were several return climbers who had lost out, financially, because of that cancelled climb, and both they and Brice seem at times impatient with the Sherpas’ grief and anger.
Brice grows increasingly frustrated, blaming the unrest among the Sherpas upon a ‘militant’ minority.
A climber wishing to summit Mount Everest must pass through a series of five ascending camps.
Base Camp sits at an altitude of 5400m, and the mountain’s summit at 8850m.Back when was filmed, Nepal was forbidden to foreign visitors, so expeditions departed from Tibet, on the mountain’s northern side.But in more recent years the situation has been reversed: the unstable political situation in Tibet makes that access route less appealing to Western clients and tour operators, so they approach the mountain from the southern, Nepalese side, which means climbing through the Khumbu Icefall.A Western client may, on average, traverse the Icefall two or three times during their expedition, but the Sherpas must carry loads of equipment through this treacherous terrain up to thirty times per climbing season. As Russell Brice observes in Peedom’s film, sending the Sherpa guides through the Icefall is like sending them ‘off to war’. Brice appears in as a conflicted and somewhat curmudgeonly figure.He is a highly experienced guide who cancelled his 2012 expedition because of an overhanging ice cliff that he thought represented a grave danger to both clients and Sherpas – an unusual decision, and one that attracted criticism from other tour operators.In , we see the villagers burning juniper bushes in order to restore karma.