This past weekend the St. Louis Science Center held the first annual SciFest. As part of the myriad of impressive events and presentations, they showed the 1998 IMAX film Everest, coinciding with a presentation on a scientific research project pertaining to effects of varying oxygen levels in humans done earlier this year and continuing next spring at Everest base camp. This research is being documented by the IMAX team for the sequel to Everest currently slated for a 2010 release.
This was my first viewing of the second highest grossing film in IMAX history and it is a real stunner. The documentary film crew followed a 1996 Everest summit expedition, centering on climbers Ed Viesturs, a U.S. climber attempting his first summit without the aid of bottled oxygen, Araceli Segarra, the first Spanish woman ever to summit Everest, and Jamling Tenzing Norgay’s first summit, son of famous Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who alongside Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first person ever known to summit Everest.
Filming was underway when the now infamous, sudden and tragic blizzard centered over Everest’s peak, pinning down and killing members of several other expedition teams attempting to summit. The IMAX expedition was not on their ascent at this time, though they captured footage of the struggling climbers during the storm and even halted production to assist in the dangerous helicopter rescue of Beck Weathers. These events were the catalyst for several books on the events, including Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and are covered in the narrative of the film.
Prior to the film’s start, a St. Louis Science Center employee and participant in the current study at Everest announced that they would be showing a ten minute preview of the sequel to Everest, still being filmed, which was cut together by returning Everest co-director David Breashears. The footage included the return of some of the featured climbers from the first film as well as some footage from a Sherpa run inn that was so other-worldly that it looked like a movie set. The crew returns for some follow up research next spring and may attempt to fly a stripped down, modified helicopter to the summit and film the flight. Sounds particularly hairy.