Posted: 04/15/2003


Living and Dying on Everest


by Del Harvey

Get a first-hand look at climbing Mount Everest by joining a camp of climbers, and their Sherpa guides, as they prepare for, and tackle, the world’s highest mountain.

Film Monthly Home
Wayne Case
Steve Anderson
The Rant
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
The Indies
Film Noir
Coming Soon
Now Playing
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Interviews TV

Living and Dying on Everest gives viewers an insider’s perspective on the real experience of making the incredible journey to Everest’s summit, from altitude sickness, to Buddhist rituals performed by the Sherpa guides, to finding the remains of climbers that perished trying to reach the peak.

I don’t often set aside time to watch documentaries, but the lure of Everest has even called to me at times. A place of extremes, Everest is the highest mountain on Earth and it’s quickly becoming the highest garbage dump and cemetery. The number of persons who’ve lost their lives to the mountain’s harsh extremes is legendary. Like most good stories, the “dirty stuff” is often omitted, for reasons of good taste. In this case, it’s pretty significant to note how many trekkers have left their mark in the form of waste and refuse.

As with life, it’s the journey that’s the biggest part of the story. Standing atop the mountain, for all its exhilaration, isn’t quite as breathtaking as the exertion and often sheer willpower required in getting to that spot. Award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker David Bolling was given the assignment of documenting an Everest expedition during April and May of 2000. He soon discovered that the climb was only part of the story; and it ends up that the clean-up was almost as big. Covering the Everest 2000 Environmental Expedition and its efforts to bring thousands of pounds of trash and hundreds of discarded oxygen bottles off the mountain, Living and Dying on Everest is not just another travel documentary of one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places on Earth, but also one of the most surprisingly stunning for its honest portrayal of the climb and the indelible print left by climbers past.

This is, among other things, a story about six very different people whose lives intersect on Everest. It is a story about how they get there, about their journey through the Khumbu, into the Sherpa culture and onto the mountain, about living for weeks on a glacier, about dreams dying and dreams coming true, about the hard realities of high altitude life and death. It’s a story of near tragedy and record-breaking triumph.

Told in first person by David Bolling, this is a must-see for anyone that’s ever been curious about what it’s really like to climb Mount Everest, this fascinating documentary gives brilliant insight into the breathtaking, and often life-threatening sport of mountain climbing.

Released by MPI Home Video on May 6th, Living and Dying on Everest is like no other film ever made about Mount Everest.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He is a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.

Got a problem? E-mail us at