Friday, December 18, 2015

MERU (2015)

Trapped in a flimsy contraption tacked to crumbly cliff a mile high and swaying in a snowstorm hurricane, fuel running low and little food for several days, is exactly how I envision spending my vacation days. NOT! And this is not to mention the still-daunting task of scaling the remainder of sheer granite above as well as eventually getting down, as your fingers and toes no longer register feeling and the altitude is doing nasty things to your body, seen and unseen. Yep, high-altitude climbers are crazy. Yet their daring, skill, and drive is so darn appealing and intriguing, possibly an acknowledgement that any sane person would never undertake such risks. And there is the ever-present specter of Death. I have watched and read many mountaineering movies and books. But the recently released Meru is one of the best I have enjoyed. Two experienced and climber-lauded icons, Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin (who is a wonderful photographer as well), along with relative newcomer Renan Ozkurk (who only a little earlier barely survived a snowboarding accident that crushed his head and neck), determinedly attack the never-summitted Himalayan Meru, a technically difficult pitch that required expertise in multiple methods and equipment, partly in homage to a fallen mentor and because no one else has accomplished it. The lure of the never before. Although it fits well into the growing body of documentaries on mountaineering, this one is gorgeously beautiful, intense, and informative, without being too hokey or artificially ramping up the tension. The section recording Chin's experience in an avalanche will scare the bejesus out of any one. I love John Krakauer's commentary, as well as interviews of participants and family, and some of the historical background. There is almost nothing I can say negative about this film. Anyone who likes adventure or climbing will love it.

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