The Shark’s Fin, a 1,500ft-high blade of granite 20,700ft up, is the final challenge on the route up Meru Peak in the Himalayas. It’s seen more failed attempts by climbers than any route in those mountains. When that fact arrives, not long into Meru — a documentary about three climbers striving to be the first to the peak via the Fin — it seems like a set-up for a simple tale of over-the-odds heroism.
Instead, what unfolds is a terrific film about failure, resolve and human spirit. One of the trio, Jimmy Chin, is also a film-maker and photographer, so much of the climbing footage in Meru is expertly shot. Unusually, especially since Chin and his companions are American outdoorsmen, there is none of the whooping or posturing that can make films of this type seem like ski bums’ holiday videos.
Also welcome is the honesty of the three men in explaining why they feel they have to do what they do, with families at home and dead former climbing partners and near-death experiences on their minds. Understanding their compulsion is compelling: the talking-head moments are at times as dramatic as the mountain action. It’s been over a dozen years since the classic climbing doc Touching The Void, and this film reaches similar heights.
Meru is available digitally from today