When the avalanche happened most of the Western climbers were, Peedom says, ‘still asleep in their tents’.Phurba Tashi and his team, employed by New Zealand expedition leader Russell Brice, were unharmed.That work is done by Sherpa mountaineers, who, as Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom tells me, shoulder a ‘disproportionate risk’ in climbing.Peedom has a long-standing relationship with the Sherpa community, dating back to a story, ‘The Sherpa’s Burden’, which she filmed in 2004.
One furious American climber first wonders whether the Sherpas’ ‘owners’ can bring them back into line, and then declares that his thwarted climbing plans mean he is ‘being held captive by terrorists’.The Icefall is a notoriously dangerous section of the Everest climbing route situated between Base Camp and Camp 1, a shifting glacier where crevasses open up at speed and avalanches occur frequently.The mansion-sized block of ice that fell in 2014 killed sixteen people, all of them Sherpas.The disaster, says Peedom, placed the existing tensions between Sherpa mountaineers and Western climbers ‘under a microscope’.She and her crew – which included high-altitude director and cinematographer Renan Ozturk and two Sherpa camera operators, Nima and Narwang Sherpa – ‘no longer had a climbing film about getting to the summit of Everest, we had a political film.’ , a documentary about the mysterious and fatal 1924 expedition undertaken by British mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. Mallory’s body was found in 1999, but Irvine’s remains have never been found.) Few films about the mountain have included the Sherpa in any substantive way. The film includes only one Sherpa character, who is negatively portrayed.