Hugh Barnard is a mountain guide and filmmaker from Wanaka, New Zealand. Prompted by the death of a climbing friend he sets out on a journey to discover just what it is that drives his friends to climb. His quest leads him on a mountaineering trip with Everest climbers Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples, ice-climbing on frozen waterfalls in the far south of New Zealand and on an introspective journey that questions his own and other climbers’ attitudes to risk.
Through a series of interviews with leading climbers the film reveals an insight into what drives climbers to face the dangers of the mountain environment and what they perceive the rewards of this experience are. It also looks at how climbers deal with the realisation that their sport has killed many of their close friends.
The backbone of the film is a series of interviews with Christchurch psychiatrist and climber Dr Erik Monasterio who has conducted clinical analysis on the character and personality types of climbers and whose conclusions provide some idea as to the real motivations of climbers.
The film features stunning footage of climbs from New Zealand’s Southern Alps. The camera brings the audience along for the ride and extensive use of POV photography enhances this insight into the climbing experience for the non-climbing viewer. Time lapse, aerial and long duration scenic shots allow space for the viewer to fully inhabit the landscape of the film.