Dec 24

‘A Fine Line’ documentary review.

Probably the biggest documentary of the year in the trail running circles, the first installment of the Summits of my Life series by Killian Jornet. However, this is not a trail running documentary.

A Fine Line official trailer. from Summits of My Life on Vimeo.

Speed alpinism is a whole different ball game in itself (somewhat an exclusive sport for elite alpinists) with much higher risks involved (probably second to BASE).

With that, I present a concise review of the whole documentary.

1. Messy

The storyline is not very well arranged jumping from scenes to scenes. If one does not have prior knowledge of Kilian’s feat, I highly suspect that the viewer will be lost halfway though the video. I have high hopes of the cinematography of this documentary but it pales in comparison to the hype generated from the trailers.

2. Misleading

There is definitely no intend to mislead by the authors, but I have seen on many trail running online channels that people are misled into thinking that speed alpinism is akin to trail running. I personally feel that the subject of speed alpinism is not sufficiently introduced at the start of the documentary, which dives straight into Kilian’s journey for the past year.
A brief look at the climbing channels online will surface a different perspective in which Kilian journey is covered as compared to the trail running circles. I’ll say that the climbing channels have reported the story in a far better perspective as one has to appreciate the technicality of the route that he was on, to be able to feel the epic-ness of his feat.

So, trail runners attempting technical routes; please do not go unroped!

3. Revolutionary

Kilian’s feat is revolutionary. It is not so much about the insane timing he has managed to climb Mont Blanc from the south face, but the new perspective he has executed in his version of alpinism. Climbing in the technical route with his ski gears and minimum hydration (400ml!) is probably pushing the human endurance at its limit.

4. A worthy tribute to his friend

The whole storyline revolved mostly around Kilian’s friend who unfortunately met with a deadly accident while attempting to do a traverse of the Mont Blanc massif with him. This is nothing but the best tribute that Kilian can present to his friend, as a hallmark of his legacy.

5. This is anything, but the start.

This is but the first year as Kilian builds up the momentum to his Everest attempt, and we will be in treat with subsequent continuations of this documentary.
Looking at his roadmap, I’ll say that a traditional mountaineer will definitely want to put a few more 7000 – 8000m peaks in his list while venturing out of Europe and into the Himalayas more. As such, it will be a really brilliant feat if Kilian can make history on Everest with his current roadmap, but it could at the same time, be very dangerous if he’s not well prepared.
Not known to many trail runners is that just this year, the best speed alpinist in the world (for now), Ueli Steck, has made an Everest speed attempt (his second attempt). He did not make history. If one looks at his accounts, one will see that there are many constraints high up in Everest.
I will summarise the constraints as follows: 1) Everest is getting too crowded year on year and there’s only one lane to move about 2) Weather can be a major hurdle, along with the cold and altitude sickness 3) One has to respect the Sherpas who set the fixed ropes every year and should not overtake them to incur unnecessary risks (but to break the speed attempt, one has to overtake the Sherpas) 4) High altitude climbing is nothing like Kilian has done before.

All in all, I would really like to see how Kilian will navigate these constraints and look forward to his revolutionary boost to the exclusive world of alpinism.

However, I hope he will take calculated risk and with that, I am optimistic that he will have a really good journey towards 2015.