Lost on Everest (Renan Ozturk and Drew Pulley, 2020): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed virtually as part of Mountainfilm 2020, a documentary film festival showcasing nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political, and social justice issues.

Lost on Everest, a National Geographic film about an expeditionary team tracking one of the early British attempts to stand on top of the world, made its World Premiere at the 2020 Virtual Mountainfilm Festival. Rising up to a peak of 29,035 vertical feet, Mount Everest has long captivated the imagination of climbers from all parts of the world.

Lost on Everest documents an elite group of research climbers who undertake a mission to locate and retrieve a camera from Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, a twenty-two-year-old climbing partner of the legendary George Mallory. The two disappeared in 1924 just 800 vertical feet from the top of Mount Everest. Mallory’s body was found in 1999, approximately seventy-five feet from his last known location. Irvine’s body and the camera he was carrying have not been found to this day and have long been speculated about.

Did Mallory and/or Irvine make it to the top of Everest?  Or do Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay keep the title of first confirmed climbers to the summit. Utilizing the latest geospatial imaging tools and first-hand accounts of climbers claiming to have seen a body that may or may not be Sandy Irvine, the team ascends Everest under an ordinary climbing permit. Spectacular photography and intimate footage of the team as they battle the conditions imposed on them by the altitude and constantly changing weather conditions enhance the film’s compelling narrative. Testimonials, present-day interviews, and narrative voice-overs keep the audience engaged and informed as archival footage of the early British expeditionary attempts to provide historical context and the impossibility of the feat.

Interestingly, the day before the team makes their ascent, a parade of approximately 200-300 climbers create a traffic jam atop Mount Everest waiting for their respective turns to reach the summit, is captured in spectacular fashion. The photograph went viral and put Everest into the global dialogue front and center once again – and not necessarily in a positive light. Undaunted the team completes its summit without a climber insight and one of the climbing season’s windows most perfect days. What happens next could change the history of climbing forever as the team makes its way downward in search of Sandy Irvine’s final resting place. And what started out as an extreme climbing, turns into a mystery begging for someone to solve.

Lost on Everest was directed by Renan Ozturk, a globally recognized climber, filmmaker, and artist known for his extreme, outdoor visual storytelling. Ozturh films include Denali’s Raven (Mountainfilm 2017), Life Coach, and Mothered by Mountains (both Mountainfilm 2018). Alongside Taylor Rees, he co-directed The Ghosts Above (both Mountainfilm 2020). In 2013 Ozturk was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. Drew Pulley, a renowned seeker of documentary content for National Geographic having tacked a pride of lions on foot, explored secret government facilities and has camped out in polar bear country, co-directed Lost on Everest.

The film’s final screening is scheduled for May 23rd, 7 PM MDT. With a fast run-time of sixty minutes and a short film, The Ghost Above, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the climb, Lost on Everest is highly recommended.

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