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.
For the Sherpa, Everest is Chomolungma, the mother of the Earth, a living deity who must be respected.Back when was filmed, Nepal was forbidden to foreign visitors, so expeditions departed from Tibet, on the mountain’s northern side.But in more recent years the situation has been reversed: the unstable political situation in Tibet makes that access route less appealing to Western clients and tour operators, so they approach the mountain from the southern, Nepalese side, which means climbing through the Khumbu Icefall.It had always been her intention to document village life, but after the avalanche, she wondered if she and her crew had become ‘ambulance chasers’.Eventually, and with the agreement of the villagers, Peedom went ahead with these scenes, in order that the deceased Sherpas might be seen as more than ‘faceless statistics’.
A Western client may, on average, traverse the Icefall two or three times during their expedition, but the Sherpas must carry loads of equipment through this treacherous terrain up to thirty times per climbing season. As Russell Brice observes in Peedom’s film, sending the Sherpa guides through the Icefall is like sending them ‘off to war’. Brice appears in as a conflicted and somewhat curmudgeonly figure.