Doc Zone: The Climb

Feb 22nd 2008

Critic's Choice

by Henrietta Walmark

In 1982, Laurie Skreslet became the first Canadian to stand atop Mount Everest. It was a bittersweet moment.

While the country took pride in his triumph, the 8,800-metre climb to the summit was beset by controversy and tragedy. Four of the Canadian expedition's climbers died. A quarter of a century later, Skreslet and fellow mountaineer Patrick Morrow return to base camp to relive the highs and lows. Morrow, a photographer of renown who documented the original expedition, is accompanied by his photojournalist wife, Baiba. Morrow's trip back to Nepal is compromised even before they arrive. He's suffering from a mysterious illness and no one knows how he'll fare in the thinner atmosphere of the Himalayas.

Skreslet makes the trip with his 19-year-old daughter, Natasha. It's a sort of father-and-daughter reunion, as they have seen very little of each other over the previous 10 years. As Skreslet acknowledges, in 1982, he simply hardened himself and pushed past the tragedy unfolding around him to make it to the summit. Now, he wants to reflect on what has happened. Being with Natasha allows him to open up emotionally. Director Mark Johnson uses archival footage to complement Skrelset's and Morrow's recollections of the first expedition and then follows each man's personal memorializing of the toll taken by the mountain.


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