Touching The Void

Synopsis: In the mid-80's two young climbers attempted to reach the summit of Siula Grande in Peru; a feat that had previously been attempted but never achieved. With an extra man looking after base camp, Simon and Joe set off to scale the mount in one long push over several days. The peak is reached within three days, however on the descent Joe falls and breaks his leg. Despite what it means, the two continue with Simon letting Joe out on a rope for 300 meters, then descending to join him and so on. However when Joe goes out over an overhang with no way of climbing back up, Simon makes the decision to cut the rope. Joe falls into a crevasse and Simon, assuming him dead, continues back down. Joe however survives the fall and was lucky to hit a ledge in the crevasse. This is the story of how he got back down.
Director(s): Kevin Macdonald
Production: IFC Films
  6 wins & 10 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
106 min

We climbed 'cause it's fun.

And mainly it was fun.

That's all we ever did.

And we were fairly anarchic

and fairly irresponsible,

and we didn't give a damn about

anyone else or anything else,

and we just wanted to climb

the world. And it was fun.

It was just brilliant fun.

And every now and then it went

wildly wrong. And then it wasn't.

Got into Peru when I was 25, Simon 21.

But we had done a lot

of climbing in the Alps.

To climb mountains that have not been

climbed before, or a new route at a mountain

is what my climbing life

had been moving towards.

A friend of us, who'd done an amazing

amount of climbing in South-America

had seen this face in the mid-70's.

I think he said it would

be a challenging day out.

It was the last big mountain

face in this range of mountains,

that hadn't been climbed.

There's a great unknown there.

What's so compelling is

stepping into that unknown.

It was an isolated spot, a 2

- days walk from a road.

The mountains all around seemed very big,

compared to the mountains

I'd seen in the Alps.

We eventually reached a spot,

on the approach to Siula Grande.

You couldn't really take the

donkeys any further than this point.

I guess it would be 7-8 km from

the bottom of the mountains.

We knew Siula Grande was at

the back, but we didn't see it.

We'd met this lad called Richard Hawking

in Lima. He'd been travelling on his own.

And I think we said, "Why don't

you just join us on our trip?"

I think he said that he didn't

know anything about mountaineering.

I didn't really know

what pot of brew I was in.

or quite, what I was

letting myself in for.

We wanted Richard because

when we were on the mountain,

if he were at base camp he

could look after our kit.

I got to know Simon quite well.

I don't know whether it was

because of his personality,

or whether it was because he

was more forgiving towards me,

being a non-climber

in that environment.

But I found it very

hard to get to know Joe.

I was much more ambitious

about doing it than Simon was.

Siula Grande meant a lot.

We knew, a number of

expeditions had failed on it.

If no one had tried, it

wouldn't be quite the same.

It was the the fact that people had

tried and failed, so we knew it was hard.

And my feeling was, "Well, we'll

just do it. We're better than them."

Since the 1970s people

have been trying to climb

mountains in the great ranges

in what's called "Alpine style".

And essentially, Alpine style

means you pack a rucksack

full of all your clothing, your

food and your climbing equipment,

and you start off from a base camp

and you try and climb the mountain

you're gonna climb in a single push.

You don't fix the line of

ropes uphill beforehand,

you don't have a set of camps

that you stock and come down from.

That's the purest style and that's the style

that Joe and I had climbed Siula Grande.

It's a very committing way of climbing,

because you have no line of retreat.

If something goes wrong,

it can be very very serious.

There's no rescue, there's no helicopter

rescue and there's no other people.

There's no margin for error.

If you get badly hurt,

you'I probably die.

I hadn't seen it from this

angle, and it looked steep.

I sort of thought, you

know, "Christ, that's big".

Looks harder than I

thought and than I expected.

But I was excited.

Starting doing it was brilliant.

This is what we live for.

I love the actual movement of climbing.

When you're climbing well

it just feels brilliant.

It's like a combination

between ballet and gymnastics.

It's that mixture of power and grace.

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