Consumed by Old Tragedies

Do you ever watch a show or read an article, and the subject so captivates you that you cannot let it go? I do this. All the freaking time. Of course, true crime ropes me in every time. A lesser known side of me also goes through this with tales of adventure. I love learning about people and how they achieved their dreams. Then I  learn everything I can about who they are and what they are doing. Or in the latest case, what they did. Scrolling through Netflix late one night I stumbled upon a documentary, The Summit. It tells the story of a single day in August, 2008 , when 11 people lost their lives on K2. In case you haven’t heard of K2, it is the 2nd highest mountain peak in the world,  with a record of fatalities that goes back to the very first attempt to reach the summit. They say Everest is taller, but K2 is the harder climb.

Now, I know fuck-all about mountaineering, but I was instantly captivated. Among the 11 people  that died that day, one really stood out to me; Ger Mcdonnell. Part of it, I think, was the video footage of him laughing, having fun, and enjoying his life. In still shots, it seems he was always smiling, and he had a smile that could literally light up a mountain. He was, hands down, one of the most beautiful people I think I have ever seen. I don’t mean good-looking, although he was, in fact, extremely handsome. I can’t explain it, other than he had something that just radiated out of him from within, something I don’t even think he was aware of, that made him uniquely beautiful. There were no shortage of fine looking men on that slope that day. Some lived, some didn’t. But Ger McDonnell’s death is probably the first time I have ever cried like a girl watching a documentary.

Being me, I had to go find out everything I could about Ger McDonnell, K2, mountaineering, and moral codes of conduct when you are in the death zone. I think I was trying to understand why such a life was cut so short. I was trying to understand what kind of insanity propels people up the side of a mountain that could very well kill them, in an instant if they are lucky, or over the course of hours if they aren’t. I think I have a tiny glimmer of understanding now.

The adventurous side of me thinks it might be something I’d like to try. The fat girl side of me just laughs and laughs at the notion. I’d probably be more likely to sail around the world than climb any  mountains, but I get a sense of how alive it must make you feel. I’d like to feel that kind of alive, at least once, before I die.

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell you, if you like adventure, check out the story. Not just the documentary, but the story behind it. Learn about life, death, and love through the eyes of the survivors. And, just so you know, be prepared for a good, long, girly cry for the lives lost. It’s a story that will touch you in ways you never expected. At least it did for me.


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