A lot of us want to be in the mountains right now but can’t due to COVID-19. To satiate my thirst for 14ers and 13ers, I’ve turned to some classic mountaineering favorites to keep a sense of adventure in my life (even if from the comfort of my couch). Here are my 10 best mountaineering movies to watch during this pandemic.
1) The Dawn Wall (2017)
Featuring Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, the Dawn Wall takes top place in my book for mountaineering and climbing movies. With a gripping narrative and serious big-wall climbing, it’s worth your time. Join these two climbers as they tackle the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, widely considered one of the most difficult big-wall climbs in the world. Featuring long days on the wall climbing, along with the story of Tommy’s past that drives him forward, the Dawn Wall is a gripping movie that gets to the core of what drives climbers forward.
The Dawn Wall is Available Here on Amazon.
2) Free Solo (2018)
Free Solo took Hollywood by storm and introduced millions to the sport and art of free solo climbing. Alex Honnold is a fascinating protagonist, dedicating his life to perfecting his craft. In Free Solo, he scales El Capitan without the aid of rope or any protective gear at all. One fall would be fatal. Thanks to its gripping story and stunning shots, it earned the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2019. While many movies are hype, I recommend Free Solo: It takes you past buzz and straight into the world of a climber.
Free Solo is Available Here on Amazon.
3) Touching the Void (2003)
It’s 1985, and Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to climb the remote peak, Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They succeed, and the two embark on the treacherous descent down the mountain — only to meet with disaster when Simpson breaks his leg in a fall, leaving Yates to lower him the rest of the way with ropes. When a storm threatens both their lives, Yates must decide whether to cut the rope and risk Simpson’s likely death. This thrilling movie is one of the older on this list, but it holds up well despite the time.
Touching the Void is Available Here on Amazon.
4) Valley Uprising (2014)
This climbing documentary tells the tale of Yosemite National Park’s climbing community. In doing so, it really delves into and shares the entire history of American climbing in the West, along with the many varying philosophies and arguments that have framed it. Valley Uprising is a great story that shares some of the greatest big climbs in history, along with the story behind them. If you’re a climber or lover of the mountains, you’ll probably love Valley Uprising. I highly recommended it!
Valley Uprising is Available Here on Amazon.
5) Meru (2015)
Meru Peak is one of the last unclimbed great Himalayan Peaks. Meru tells the story of three climbers overcoming serious loss, challenges and obstacles to reach the peak. Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk had to take numerous attempts to ascend this difficult summit, fighting freezing temperatures, snow and ice and living on the wall for weeks. One of my favorites!
Meru is Available Here on Amazon.
6) The Beckoning Silence (2007)
This British movie tells the tale of a climb up the Swiss Eiger in the pre-war era. As four climbers head up the icy slope, disaster awaits them at a higher altitude. Through a mix of teamwork, determination, and pure luck, the climbers work together to desecnd the peak safely and return to those they love down below. This film is 100% worth your time, even though it’s one of the lower budget films on this list.
The Beckoning Silence is Available Here on Amazon.
7) North Face (2008)
The North Face tells the tale of the 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger. As Nazi propaganda urges the nation’s Alpinists to conquer the unclimbed north face of the Swiss massif – the Eiger – two reluctant German climbers begin their daring ascent. The movie does a great job of conveying the challenges the two faced. It’s a gripping narrative with effects and cinematography to back it up. This will get your blood pumping at home!
The North Face is Available Here on Amazon.
8) Everest (2015)
This 2015 film tells the story of one of the most infamous disasters in mountaineering history: The 1996 Everest Disaster. After a series of successful but late summits, eight climbers were lost in a surprise blizzard during the descent. The movie tells the entire story of the climb from the perspective of one of the Guide companies. The tragic tale is a cautious note of warning for any who seek to reach Everest’s higher reaches.
Everest is Available Here on Amazon.
9) The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest (2010)
This exploration led by Conrad Anker and National Geographic returned to Everest and the Second Step to search for the remains or clues of George Mallory from the 1924 Everest Expedition. They test the theory that Mallory and his teammate successfully climbed the step and reached the summit, and re-create moments of their climb using historic mountaineering gear and clothing. It’s an interesting movie, half documentary and half-climbing movie, that resulted in one of the most exciting historic finds in mountaineering history.
The Wildest Dream is Available Here On Amazon.
10) The Summit (2012)
K2 is the second tallest mountain in the world, but it’s also among the most deadly. Unlike Everest, which is relatively safe for an 8,000m peak, K2 claims the lives of many who reach its high slopes. In 2008, 16 mountaineers reached the lofty summit. Within 16 hours, eleven lost their lives following avalanches and serac falls avoe 15,000 feet. The gripping tail is shared through first-hand narratives, re-creations, archival film from climbers, and official reports. While it’s last on my list, it’s 100% still worth your time.
The Summit is Available Here on Amazon
10 Best Mountaineering Movies to Watch During This Pandemic
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About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.