BOULDER, Colo.—It is unlikely anyone who viewed the film “Everest” was not impacted in one way or another.
Just the beauty and awesome, stark power of the mountain are incredible sights. Then there's the sad tragedy that struck in May 1996, which the movie was built around.
For Chuck Demarest, a veteran mountaineer who made it to the top of Everest in 1998, it certainly hit home.
The tragedy has been well documented over the years: an unexpected, massive storm struck as some climbers were getting close to the summit while a few were descending from the top. From that point, the lives of eight climbers from four expeditions were lost.
Demarest knew some of those who perished: Rob Hall, the leader of an expedition, and Doug Hansen, in particular. They were two of the main characters in the movie. He also knew Scott Fischer, another victim and key figure that fateful day, but not well.
Hall and Hansen had been with Demarest in 1995 when he made his first attempt to climb to the world's highest peak. All three were forced to turn back a mere 300 feet below the summit of the mountain 29,028 feet above seal level because of another brutal storm.
After viewing the movie recently, he said he was impressed with the photography. “There were many actual shots of the mountain ... I don't know how they did it. Maybe a fixed wing plane.
“The facts of the movie overall are what happened for the most part—with some exaggeration and sensationalism. Overall, I thought the movie got an A. For the photography, an A-plus.
“As for the characters, they made Scott Fischer out to be a happy-go-lucky guy, a devil-may-care type. That was not the case. He didn't have a nonchalant attitude—you don't get to be successful with a nonchalant attitude. And Scott Fischer was very successful. I knew him in passing, but I also knew a great deal about him. He was an aggressive climber, but he was careful.
“As for Rob Hall, I think they did a pretty good job with him. I know the movie had to skim over things, but I think they did the best they could with most of the depiction.”
The bottom line, Demarest said, is that Everest is a dangerous place, and those things do happen. Every mountain climber knows it, he said, but they continue to do it.
Why? Because the mountain is there. Because it's an incredible challenge. Because climbers have to do it. Take your pick, he said. “In my case, it's just who I am. I just like the mountains. I feel more like myself up there.”
At 72, he doesn't climb as much as he once did.
But he and his wife, Judy, recently completed a technical climb in the Rockies, and he still climbs a mountain in the 14,000-ft. range about once a week.