Main photo by Jimmy Chin/Meru
What makes a good mountaineering film? It's a tricky question to answer.
There's got to be drama, sweeping landscape panoramas, drama, an element of life/death, a strong narrative and ultimately a portrayal of the passion that keeps these men and women climbing some of the most dangerous mountains on earth.
Many of us will never climb mountains as treacherous as the brave individuals in these mountaineering documentaries, but that doesn't stop us wanting to watch documentaries about their tales - from the tragedies to the moments of accomplishment.
We've put together a list of the best mountaineering films available to watch today. So, in no particular order...
TOUCHING THE VOID (2003)
Touching The Void is one of the classic must-watch mountaineering films. It charts Joe Simpson and Simon Yates' successful but near fatal expedition up Siula Grande, a 6,344m peak in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.
It is a truly miraculous tale that is definitely worth a watch. Prefer reading over films? Try these mountaineering books instead.
Mount Meru in Northern India is commonly regarded as one of the toughest climbs in the world. No one had managed to summit it – which is exactly why legendary mountaineers Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk knew they needed to conquer it.
This mountaineering documentary is an epic narrative of the attempts to climb the Shark's Fin. It's a beautifully crafted film with a strong narrative that will keep even your grandma hooked until the very end.
THE SUMMIT (2012)
K2 is often described as the “Savage Mountain". It's far tougher and more dangerous to climb than its neighbouring Everest. Roughly one in four people that summit K2 have died according to past statistics.
The Summit recreates the day when 22 climbers attempted to reach the peak of K2 in 2008 – and only 11 survived. At that time, it was the single most deadly day in modern mountaineering history. This film pieces together all the perspectives of the story from different climbers – charting what really happened on that fateful day.
NORTH FACE (2008)
Based on the true story, North Face is a German mountaineering film about the competition to climb the north face of the Eiger, one of the most dangerous rock faces in the Alps, back in 1936. While fictionalised for the screen, it is still based on true events and makes for gripping viewing.
BEYOND THE EDGE (2013)
Everyone has heard of the epic tale of Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay summiting Everest for the first time – but these New Zealand documentary makers pieced together the story using archived footage, photos and well-staged re-enactments to bring the tale from 1953 to life on the screen.
Blindsight is the amazing tale of Tibetan teenagers as they climb Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest – completely blind. Rejected by their families and fellow villagers because they were thought to be possessed by demons, these amazing teenagers scale the 7,000m peak with help of blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer.
THE WILDEST DREAM (2010)
British climber George Mallory disappeared on Mount Everest in 1924 with his climbing partner Andrew Irvine. This modern mountaineering documentary tells the story of Conrad Anker (the same climber from Meru) who is investigating Mallory disappearance in 1999 (and ultimately find his body). It is interwoven with Mallory's biography told through letter, archived footage and photos.
THE BECKONING SILENCE (2007)
After nearly dying in the Andes (see Touching the Void above), climber Joe Simpson was told he would never climb again. Faced with this trauma, Simpson decided to investigate one of the most epic tragedies in mountaineering – Toni Kurz's mission up the north face of the Eiger.
180 DEGREES SOUTH (2010)
Adventurer Jeff Johnson makes an epic mission to South America via. Easter Island, following in the footsteps of Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia clothing brand) and Doug Tompkins' (founder of The North Face) 1968 mission to climb Cerro Corcovado.
When he meets the two in person, he realises why they became so inspired to protect the environments they sought to conquer.
For the past 26 years, mountaineers have tried and failed to scale one of Pakistan's 8,000m peaks in winter. In 2011, Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards became the first to do so – with Richards being the only American to ever summit an 8,000m mountain in winter. This mountaineering film tells of the epic journey that nearly killed them.