Mountain of Storms (2018) - full transcript

In 1968, five friends took a road trip to climb Cerro Fitz Roy, and documented the whole thing on a 16mm Bolex. Along the way they surfed undiscovered breaks, skied on sand and snow, spent 31-days in a snow cave

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] 8,000 miles
from the sun and surf

of California, far away at
the southern end of Argentina,

lies a wild land
called Patagonia.

From California by
car, by boat, on foot,

four men came to
climb a mountain

that had been climbed
only twice before.

Four men.

Yvon Chouinard,
internationally known climber.

Doug Tompkins,
climber, skier, surfer.

Dick Dorworth, champion
skier, novice climber.

And a young English
climber, Chris Jones.

The mountain is an 11,000 foot
pile of glacier and granite.

It's got sheer
walls, cliffs of ice,

wild wind, and bitter cold.

It's called Fitz Roy and
their objective, the summit.

(wind blowing)


Six months out of the year,
Yvon Chouinard is a blacksmith.

He makes mountain-climbing
gear, much of it by hand,

some of the best there is.

The other half of
the year, he climbs.

He's got an international
reputation and it's growing.


The shop's about to close

because Yvon and his
friends Doug Tompkins

and Dick Dorworth
have an appointment

with a mountain called Fitz
Roy, far south in Argentina.

It'll take months
in a second-hand van
just getting there.

Along the way, there will
be surfing and skiing.

Well, let's go.

♪ Running, run, run,
run, run, run, run ♪

♪ Running, don't know why ♪

♪ Looking for a place to go ♪

♪ Always reaching high ♪

♪ I remember thinking last
time that I was home to stay ♪

♪ Now I have to leave
that home life ♪

♪ But I'll be back someday ♪

- [Narrator] The Pan-American
highway is strung

like a necklace
over the hemisphere.

Yvon, Dick, and Doug
follow it through Mexico

and they'll stay on it
for thousands of miles

till it peters
out in the jungle.

And then, any way they can,

they'll get down to Chile

where they'll pick up a young
Englishman named Chris Jones.

He's down there on an
expedition of his own

and that's good because as it
is there isn't room in the van

to scratch your head.

And then on southward,
always southward.

♪ Watching the road
through dusty windows ♪

♪ Riding the waves
in (mumbles) ♪

♪ Me and my van (mumbles) ♪

♪ Racing away ♪

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Once
out of North America,

the cities and towns are as
bright and loud as jungle birds.

Guatemala City, where
pineapples are a penny each.

San Salvador, Managua,
Nicaragua, San
Jose in Costa Rica.

Dick Dorworth's only
begun to climb this year.

He's listened to Doug
Tompkins and Yvon talk

about the Argentine expedition

that recently climbed Fitz Roy

and he's impatient
to get on with it.

But South America
demands patience.

Down here, the clocks
don't run, they walk.

South of Panama City, the
highway loses itself in jungle

so for two weeks they kill
time waiting for a boat

to take the van across
the Caribbean to Colombia,

where the road starts again.

A haircut can save trouble
at South American borders

and there are a lot
of them to cross

before they get to Fitz Roy.

In the marketplace, Doug
Tompkins has his fortune told

by a brightly
colored little bird

who chooses a
message just for him.

(speaking in foreign language)

Your family is thinking of you.

(calm music)

- [Doug] It's really pretty
hard to say sometimes

why you'd get in a truck
and drive 18,000 miles

to climb some mountain.

You never really thought
about the motives.

You never really sat down

and analyzed just why
you were gonna do that.

It probably would scare you.

- [Narrator] From
Colon in Panama,

the boat crosses to
Cartagena in Colombia.

The highway picks
up again and unwinds

through Colombia and Ecuador
and then down into Peru.

Doug and Yvon keep an
eye on the Pacific surf,

looking for a chance to unstrap
the boards they've brought

and at Chicama in northern
Peru they find it.

Waves a mile long
and smooth as glass.

Yvon's a fine surfer.

Doug's pretty good at it,

as he is that almost
everything he tries.

Dick Dorworth's no surfer

but he wipes out
with a good grace.

♪ We wanted to ride the waves ♪

♪ Just to ride a
mile of ocean blast ♪

♪ It's a hot, windy summer day ♪

♪ And it won't be long
till we're standing tall ♪

♪ Cutting through an ocean
full of shifting walls ♪

♪ Reaching out to listen
as the seagulls call ♪

♪ You begin to realize that
you're just that small ♪

♪ Knowing that the seagull
doesn't care at all ♪

♪ Gonna ride another wave ♪

♪ Don't fall, don't tumble ♪

♪ You're on your own ♪

♪ Yeah ♪

(waves rushing)

- [Narrator] Peruvian surfers
they talk to sent them down

to the little fishing
village of Cerro Azul.

(seagulls cawing)

Across the bay, seabirds
watched as Doug and Yvon decided

to see what would happen
if you went with the wave

under that long pier.

Maybe you'd come out the
other side still standing up.

(upbeat music)

They'll sell their
surfboards in Lima.

The money is getting low
as the road gets long.


South America can
be hard on a van

that was showing her age
when she left California.

10 or 15 flat tires later

and even after a
complete engine overhaul,

she still needs some
encouragement from Yvon.

It's funny traveling down
the length of the world,

the seasons turn around on you.

You start out in the summer
and pretty soon you've gone

in the back door into spring.

♪ We're on our way down
the road, miles to go ♪

♪ Through the seasons ♪

♪ We're on our way
to the desert again ♪

♪ It's a rocky road ♪

♪ We're on our way down
the road, miles to go ♪

♪ Through the seasons ♪

♪ We're on our way ♪

- [Narrator] "You North
Americans," the Peruvian said,

"are gluttons for fun."

So they offered
Dick, Doug, and Yvon

a spine cracking 70
mile an hour ride

on something that
used to be a jeep

out over the sand dunes.

Boys passed on that but they
did join them on the dunes

to do a little skiing.

The Peruvians tried
to show them how

but Dick Dorworth is an
expert skier, a champion,

and he started teaching them.

Instead of just
scooting down the dune,

try some of these link turns.

Snow skiers have been
doing them for years.

They tried them out but
what they really liked best

was just speeding straight
down as fast as they could.

And Dick could understand
that because it was down here

that he once set a world
speed record on skis.

It was in Portillo, Chile.

A team out to break the world
speed record has prepared

the slope of ice themselves.

On the team, Dick Dorworth.

After months of training,

he's ready for a ride of
a few flashing seconds

down the slope to
the transition point,

where his speed
will be measured.

- [Dick] The main thing to do
is to keep your body very low

and keep very far forward,
you know, or like an egg.

You must maintain
balance at all costs.

When you start at Portillo,

it's a commitment that
there's no retreat from.

The mountain is 80%
steepness so in 50 yards,

you're going to be going
80 or 90 miles an hour.

(fast paced music)

- [Narrator] That's it.

106 miles an hour
to set the record.

- [Dick] I haven't run for
speed for quite a while now

but because of it, it has
enhanced my pleasure skein.

I have much more fun skiing now

than I ever had then.

- [Narrator] Then
try this, Dick.

Mount Llaima in Chile.

A live volcano, its smooth lava
slopes, neatly snow packed.

Maybe the longest
ski run in the world,

it's like five ski slopes
one on top of another.

From the little
lodge at its base,

it's an eight hour
walk to the top.

Yes, a walk.

No lifts, not even a rope tow.

This is skiing as it
was in the beginning

when you climbed as
high as you could,

skied as far as you'd
climbed, and then went home.

Yvon the climber, the
surfer, the mountaineer

is a duffer on skis,

about as capable as Dick
Dorworth on a surfboard.

Dick's watched
him fluff and fall

but says Yvon's a natural skier.

Yvon's willing to ski Mount
Llaima but at his own pace.

Near the top, the
sulfur fumes are thick,

the rocks are warm,

and the volcano is breathing
quietly in its sleep.


- [Doug] The wind was
blowing hard from the north,

would blow the sulfur
fumes away from us

so we could get right
to the very edge.

I mean, right to
the absolute edge

and stick our ski pole
right off into the smoke

of the steamy volcano.

I'd never been
that close before.

- [Narrator] It's the slope
that skiers go down endlessly

in their dreams.

♪ Like a wind blown rose ♪

♪ I'm falling like
a wind blown rose ♪

♪ I'm falling like
a wind blown rose ♪

♪ I'm falling like
a wind blown rose ♪

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] And
here comes Yvon.

- [Yvon] All the way
down the mountain

is just one fall after another

and finally I just gave
up trying to ski it

and I'd just make a traverse

and then kick a turn and
then make another traverse

and I kept doing
that for 5,000 feet.

- [Narrator] It feels good
to be up on a mountain.

The cold air in your lungs,
the snow under your feet.

There's another reason
for the skiing though.

Their summer softened
bodies are toughening up

for the snows of Fitz Roy.

It's September, spring in
the Chilean lake countries

south of Mount Llaima.

The skis have been sold

and the last leg of
the journey takes them

past white Mount Osorno.

The further they go, the
less road there is to go on.


Here the Andes step
up and out of Chile

and down again into the
Patagonian desert in Argentina.

The only way over the
mountains is by hopscotching

from lake to lake
on little ferries.

(calm music)

There's been a change
of plans though.

It looks like there will only
be three against Fitz Roy.

The young Englishman
Chris Jones didn't show up

at the meeting place and
after a few days wait,

they decided to
go on without him.

- [Chris] When I realized
I wasn't going to make it

and that I was going to
miss my friends in Chile,

I said to myself if
they think they're going

to climb Fitz Roy without me,

they've got another
thought coming.

There's only one
road from the north

across the Patagonian desert
that takes you to Fitz Roy

so I decided to hitch a lift

to a point I knew
they'd have to pass.

And I was prepared to sit
there all week if necessary,

waiting for them.

They were rather
surprised to see me

but it wasn't until
I got in the van

that I realized how lucky
I'd been to catch them.

What if I had fallen asleep

or it had been
night or something

and they'd simply
driven straight past me?

Then where would I have been?

Not on my way to Fitz
Roy, that's for sure.

- [Narrator] It was in 1834
that a young English naturalist

looked out on Patagonia
with something like horror

at its wild sterility.

He and the captain of
His Majesty's Ship Beagle

found the South
American ostrich,

the wild llama, horses
left by the Spaniards,

and little else but wasteland.

The naturalist's name
was Charles Darwin.

The captain's name
was Robert FitzRoy.

From 60 miles off,
you first see it.

Blue with distance but harsh,

defiant as a clenched fist.

This is what you've come for

and from here it doesn't
look difficult to climb,

it looks impossible.

- [Man] But first
there's some 60 miles

of Patagonia to cover.

The Rio de las Vueltas,
the River of Turns to cross

and then the road
gives up for good.

Carrying all our gear
in the van was easy

but the van had to be left here.

Pack horses are the only
way to get to the mountain

and then our own two legs.

So we thought very carefully

about what we would really need.

- [Narrator] The Argentine
army lends a soldier

along with the horses
to get you to the camp

at the base of the mountain.

As far as anyone can remember,

it was Doug who first
said "Let's do it,

"let's climb Fitz Roy."

He's in its shadow
now, a happy man.

The weather in Patagonia
is as strange and harsh

as the land.

The horses and men enjoy
bright sun all morning

but by afternoon it's raining

and by evening the
rain's turned to snow.

♪ No, no, no, no, don't
mind the falling rain ♪

♪ It feels so cool ♪

- [Narrator] This campsite
was established by the French

in 1952 and used again by
the Argentine expedition

some years later.

They hurry to set
up some shelter,

wrestling bags and
gear in the wet cold.

A little taste of
what's to come.

But by the next day, Patagonia
has changed its mind.

The weather is fine again.

Doug and Yvon will scout
the first part of the route,

comparing their charts
with the reality,

while Dick and Chris
finish setting up camp.

Despite the warm sun,

they can feel a chill
wind off the glacier.

Up there, Doug and Yvon
are striking the first blow

against Fitz Roy.

- [Man] Fitz Roy is
11,289 feet high.

Not the highest
mountain we could find

but as every climber knows,

the challenge of the
Patagonia Mountains

isn't necessarily height,

it's the technical climbing
difficulties and the weather.

(wind blowing)

- [Narrator] The charts and
maps don't show the storms

that brew just 50 miles
away on the Pacific

or the winds made down on
the continental ice cap

that comes screaming
across Fitz Roy's glacier.

Doug and Yvon scout
their planned route

and it looks possible

if the wind and weather
will let them take it.

By late afternoon, they've
surveyed as far as a place

for a first camp
on the mountain.

(calm music)

From base camp to camp one
with equipment and supplies.

Each of them carries
an 80 pound load.

No one knows how much time
Fitz Roy will demand of them,

so day after day they haul
and carry like pack animals,

making kick steps up
the steep snow fields,

sunburnt, bone
aching, exhausted.

♪ The mountains are peaceful
when the morning comes ♪

♪ And the wind will
cover our tracks again ♪

♪ As we lift our
eyes to a fiery sun ♪

♪ That sparkles on
fingers of ice and stone ♪

♪ Far above where
the eagle flies ♪

♪ There's a place where you can
reach out and touch the sky ♪

♪ And all your troubles
just disappear ♪

♪ When the wind is strong
and the air is clear ♪

♪ I say, far above
where the eagle flies ♪

♪ Is a place where you can
reach out and touch the sky ♪

♪ And all your troubles
just disappear ♪

♪ When the wind is strong
and the air is clear ♪

- [Narrator] On Fitz
Roy, tents are useless.

The wind would snatch
them away like rags.

The only security is in
a cave dug into the ice.

Inside, it's wet,
cramped, dark, and cold

but it's quiet out of the wind

and at night it's a lot cozier

than anything you
could find outside.

In fact, camp one is
positively luxurious.

A rock outcropping with
a view where you can sit

and dry your ice-soaked
clothes in the sun.

A visitor, an Andean condor,

soaring on its 10
foot wingspread.

This huge bird is
really a vulture

and you wonder if you're being
filed for future reference.

In 1952, a Frenchman, Lionel
Terray, led the expedition

that climbed Fitz Roy
for the first time.

He was one of the most
famous climbers of his day

and he called Fitz Roy
his greatest achievement.

But the time is now and
beyond these snow fields,

there will be the
first real climbing.

The mountain's in a
good mood, dazzling sun,

calm air all day.

If this weather holds,

they could be on the
summit within days.

The first vertical pitch.

Yvon is in the lead.

The rope around his waist is
belayed by the man below him

who will hold him
in case of a slip.

This is aid climbing,

where there are no
hand or footholds

and you ascend on aid slings,

foot straps that are a
kind of movable ladder.

Climbing is the kind of
mathematics of danger.

Each problem is an
equation of rock and muscle

and a wrong answer
could mean a fall.

Yvon searches without
strain for solutions

while the man belaying him
waits, watching every move.


The lead climber's life depends

on the pitons he
hammers in the cracks.

The rope that will
catch him if he falls

is threaded through carabiners
hung around the pitons.

(upbeat music)

Alpine type climbing is
a whole mountain full

of different problems.

Rock walls are one,
snow is another.

No pitons here.

You drive the shaft of
your ice ax into the snow

and use it for balance
while you make kick steps.

For traction, you wear spikes
on your boots called crampons.

If the snow is rotten, it can
give way under your weight.

After Yvon is fixed to rope,

Dick Dorworth, the
junior climber,

uses a mechanical
ascender called a jumar

to climb the rock face.

A gear allows the jumar to
move up the rope but not down.

(calm music)

Late afternoon and another
camp has to be made.

Camp two.

They tunnel down into
a snow filled crevasse.

A natural hollow in the
wall of the crevasse

makes a fine cave when the
loose snow is dug out of it.

Only the snow in the
crevasse keeps settling

and opening a crack
in their tunnel floor

that has to be continually
packed with more snow.

Fitz Roy's mood is changing.

Storm clouds are moving in fast.

The winds are mounting, the
temperature is dropping,

and by the next day
you're buried in snow.

There will be no climbing
today or tomorrow

or the next day or the next day.

In here, four men sit
in the murky half light

and look at each other

and the floor keeps opening up.

Outside, the mountain's
wrapped in storm,

the wind's at gale force,

and the temperature's
way below freezing.


- [Dick] Each day became
the same, day after day.

You can read so long

and you can talk
about things so long

and you can think
by yourself so long.

You learn your own
rhythm of doing things.

(calm music)

(wind blowing)

- [Narrator] After days of
being bottled up in the cave,

any let up in the weather
is an excuse to get out

and at least look around,

to prove to yourself no
movement is possible.

Against 100 mile an hour winds,

Doug and Chris try
to make it to a cull

where they can see if
the storm is letting up.

No good.

Not far from camp,
they're beaten by wind,

blind with snow,
frozen to the bone,

and within a few minutes
they're back inside.

(calm music)

You lose track of the days.

One said it was 15 days they
were nestled in the mountain,

another said 18, another 20.

It's always twilight inside

and the only time that
counts is meal time.

♪ I'm alone to think about all
the faces that I've known ♪

♪ I wanna go home ♪

- [Narrator] They drink soup
that gets thinner and thinner

and they tell tales.

The oldest escape of
men trapped together.

Yvon tells about
California and being warm,

the ocean, about
girls, and you listen

between sleeping and waking.

It seems sometimes that you're
dreaming of being trapped

in a cave of ice in Patagonia

and that all the
time you're home.

♪ To think about California
in my (mumbles) ♪

♪ I wanna go home ♪

♪ I wanna go home ♪

♪ I wanna go home ♪

♪ I wanna go home ♪

♪ Wanna go home ♪

(wind blowing)

- [Narrator] When the
food's finally gone,

they retreat from camp two.

If it had been any storm
but a Patagonian storm,

Yvon might have suggested
going on with the climb.

- [Yvon] Whether we climbers
want to admit it or not,

90% of the times that
we retreat from storms

we could have gone on and
just climbed right on through.

Most storms in the mountains
are merely uncomfortable,

they won't kill you,

but on Fitz Roy these
storms are a different story

and you knew you had
to get out of there.

- [Narrator] After weeks
of being caged in ice,

even going down
seems like progress.

In the face of the storm,

they rappel down the walls
they climbed up foot by foot,

all the way back
down to base camp.

Back in base camp, the
foul weather keeps up.

Chill rain, snow, high winds.

For nearly a month, there's
nothing to do but scavenge

and try to keep
warm and kill time.

(calm music)

Yvon ekes out their supplies
by learning to bake bread

in the oven
thoughtfully left behind

by the French expedition
so many years before.

And then suddenly one evening
the clouds have shattered,

the sky is red, and as
every climber knows,

red sky at evening means
fine weather in the morning.

(upbeat music)

♪ Cold morning ♪

♪ Such a windy
mountain morning ♪

♪ They are ready today ♪

♪ They were ready
a long time ago ♪

♪ Oh, a brave man with a
primal sense of danger ♪

♪ Climbing for the
kingdom above the clouds ♪

- [Narrator] Down here
at the end of the world

when good weather comes,
it comes from the south,

riding on winds
from the Antarctic.

Up on Fitz Roy, day comes
wrapped in clear inhuman cold,

cold that split stone.

The glacier moves an inch.

The wind screams.

Nothing lives.

All the way back up to
where camp two used to be,

doing it all again against
an old enemy, the wild wind.

- [Man] It took us over
an hour to find camp two.

It was buried under at
least 20 feet of new snow.

We had neglected to mark the
entrance to our ice cave.

From here, we can
see tomorrow's climb.

We can plot an imaginary
line up 2,000 feet

of frozen granite.

If the weather holds,

we'll see if that line can
really take us to the summit.

- [Narrator] 2:30 a.m.

Yvon leads the first pitch.

- [Yvon] Mountains are
very silent and ominous

this early in the morning.

You have a lot of fear

because fear of the
dark for one thing

and fear of sticking
your neck out.

Anyway, early in the morning,

there's just no brave
men early in the morning.

- [Narrator] The
pre-dawn cold is intense

but fingerless
gloves are necessary.

Bare fingertips can find a
hole where gloves would slip.

You try to rub some
life into frozen fingers

while you plan the next move.

(calm music)

6:00 a.m.

Yvon the careful problem
solver has exchanged lead

with Doug the risk
taker, the charger.

Their scouting led
them to believe

that by this time the climbing
should be getting easier.

It's not.

Above each crest,
they find new walls.

But the granite is good,
rough surfaced, and cracked

and they move fast
for a rope of four.

Doug and Yvon are
the climbing team.

Chris Jones and Dick Dorworth
are the hauling team.

Between the four of them,

even when the hand holes
turned to finger holes

and the foot holes become
almost non-existent,

one way or another
they keep going up.

10:00 a.m.

Far back, Dick
Dorworth struggles

with the mountain on his own.

- [Dick] Most of the
climb, I was the last man.

I was always hustling
to get up to them

so they'd have
more ropes to use.

Usually by the time I would
get to the top of a rope,

the rest the guys
would have gone on

and left another rope for me.

So very often I was just alone.

I'd get to the top of a pitch

and I'd have to coil the
rope I just jumared up

and get on the next
rope and go up that.

A lot of times, I would
get behind everyone else

and I would find myself alone
on the side of Fitz Roy.

Sometimes it
started to get to me

but I never dwelled on it.

I just got on my jumars
and jumared up the rope,

got on the next rope,
and jumared up that.

- [Narrator] 2:00 p.m.

The way is blocked by
a series of towers.

The only way up the first
tower is a difficult crack.

Doug's willing to let
Yvon have first go at it.

Yvon the graceful,

the climber who never
seemed to show strain

even at the most
difficult points.

In the end, fingers numb,
boots frozen hard as iron,

all his expertise depends
on the strength of his arms

and his legs and his will.

3:00 p.m.

There's an unknown number
of pitches left to do

and not much daylight
left to do them in.

On this side of the mountain,

oncoming weather can't
be seen before it hits

and if it hits, it'll hit hard.

Doug struggles up
snow plastered rock

while Yvon belays him.

This close to the summit,

the wind cuts through
the cracks and chimneys,

knife-edged and bitter cold.

A chimney is a crack
wide enough to get into.

This one's fairly easy
climbing for a while.

Then toward the top,
it narrows sharply

and it's Doug's turn
to feel the squeeze.

(upbeat music)

When a crack's wide
enough for your hand

but offers no lip to
take hold of, you jam,

force your hand in, make a
fist, and pull yourself up.

5:00 p.m.

A traversing pitch takes
Yvon around the corner

of the last tower.

Beyond him, he can
see the snow field

that leads to the summit.

That snow field has to be
reached before the light fails.

To be caught up here
at night in the storm

that could come at any
hour would be death.

6:00 p.m.

There are still an unknown
number of pitches left to do

as Doug takes over
the lead again.

That's it.

(upbeat music)

Off to the west, they can
see another storm gathering.

That means they've
got more hours

of climbing yet to do tonight
to get down to camp two.

They ought to turn
back right now

and get as far as they can
from this exposed place

but they won't turn back till
they've stood on the summit,

just for a moment, just
to taste their victory.

♪ We have lived
with the mountains ♪

♪ We have shared many days ♪

♪ Now we're free, it's
such a long road ♪

♪ To the kingdom in the clouds ♪

♪ Run, run, run,
run, run, run, run ♪

♪ Running, don't know why ♪

♪ Looking for a place to go ♪

♪ Always reaching high ♪

♪ I remember thinking last
time that I was home to stay ♪

♪ Now I have to leave
that home life ♪

♪ But I'll be back someday ♪

♪ Cause my love is strong
as the wind that blows ♪

♪ Down from the northern snow ♪

♪ It's time to get on the road
with some friends of mine ♪

♪ Freedom, freedom is
another life that we share ♪

♪ South to the border,
stopping where we may ♪

♪ No one cares how
we spend our days ♪

♪ Watching the road
through dusty windows ♪

♪ Riding the waves
in (mumbles) ♪

♪ My and my van (mumbles) ♪

♪ Racing away down
icy mountains ♪

♪ Watching the road
through dusty windows ♪