Steamboat Springs’ Meyer reflects on film about K2 disaster |

Steamboat Springs’ Meyer reflects on film about K2 disaster

Luke Graham

Eric Meyer sits atop Mount Everest in 2004. Meyer, who grew up climbing in Montana and Wyoming, topped Everest and also attempted another 8,000-meter peak before traveling in summer 2008 to attempt to climb K2 in Pakistan. He has said it's difficult even to compare Everest to K2. The latter is considered the most difficult mountain in the world.

K2 as seen from Concordia glacier in Pakistan. Steamboat Springs' Dr. Eric Meyer traveled to climb K2 in summer 2008 and was on the mountain when falls and avalanches claimed 11 lives. K2 is the second-tallest mountain in the world, but it is considered the most difficult to climb. It has claimed nearly one life for every three who have reached its summit.

— It’s a day Eric Meyer never will forget.

Meyer, a Steamboat Springs climber and doctor, attempted an ascent of K2 in August 2008. He was with a group that decided to turn back to Camp 4 instead of continuing on to the summit.

It was a fateful decision for Meyer, as 11 of the 24 climbers who tried to summit the second-highest peak in the world died.

Now, Irish filmmaker Nick Ryan has taken the experiences and turned it into a documentary called “The Summit.”

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The documentary was featured at the BFI London Film Festival in October and recently was picked up by the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

"The film does a great depiction of the scale and steepness of K2, which averages 45 degrees from top to bottom," Meyer wrote in an email. "There is never-before-seen aerial footage of K2, which shows the precipice-like border of K2 with Pakistan and China. The climbing scenes are said to be some of the most intense ever captured on film, by using found footage as well as dramatizations that were filmed in Switzerland two years ago."

K2 has the second-highest fatality rate among the “8,000ers” — the 14 independent mountains taller than 8,000 meters. Only Annapurna has a higher fatality rate.

On Aug. 1, 2008, Meyer woke up on an unseasonably warm day and thought the group’s chances of summiting were good.

"I thought we had a 70 percent chance at the summit," Meyer said in 2008.

His group, along with Nepal's Chhring Dorje Sherpa, arrived in late June and spent a month acclimating and storing supplies around the intended route.

Meyer, Dorje and two other climbers were part of the first wave up K2.

The group was at the end of the line observing other climbers, watching a slow pace create a pileup in an area known as the “Bottleneck.” The rock gully with a 70-degree slope had frozen overhangs where huge chunks of ice loom over the path.

Looking up at the ice while contemplating the warm weather, Meyer and Swedish climber Fredrik Strång decided it was time to return to Camp 4.

The rest of the climbers reached the summit of K2, including Dorje. Avalanches tore away climbers’ ropes and stranded others. Dorje — who helped film re-enactments for the movie — eventually made it to base camp, and the other survivors trickled in the following days. All told, 24 climbers attempted K2 and 11 died, making it the single deadliest expedition on the famous mountain between Pakistan and China.

The movie focuses on Ger McDonnell, the first Irishman to summit K2, who died in the accident. After reaching the peak, it was said McDonnell refused to descend, instead focusing his efforts on helping others.

"Most importantly, perhaps, there are some speculative attempts in the film to portray the circumstances that may have befallen some of those who did not survive," Meyer wrote. "The film also shows the way climbers have fun and relax while on the approach to, and in base camp on a big mountain. The strength of relationships forged early on an expedition end up affecting actions later when the chips are down."

For a trailer of the movie, click here.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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