Over the last several years, one of the most misused words in the English language is “epic.” This has been written about quite often. Whereas “epic” used to describe harrowing and even legendary adventures or tales, it is now often used to describe things as mundane as concerts, frat house parties or a hipster’s ironic beard.
Closer to the heart of the outdoors tribe, another misused term has been the word “sufferfest.” A sufferfest has been properly described as an event in which the parties involved endure physical hardships that are long-lasting, severe and potentially life-threatening.
A sufferfest now can be used to describe an uncomfortable or tiring hike. With perhaps some rain or (gasp!) snow. Or perhaps a challenging road race. You know, the one with hills. A real sufferfest.
I’m sure that you can figure out the definition of an “epic sufferfest.” That’s the concert/beard/party/road race/uncomfortable hike in which YOU were a main participant. Such epic sufferfests are then shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, usually accompanied by selfie photographs.
Uh, no. These words need a reset. Three guys — Simone Moro, Denis Urubko and Cory Richards – have done just that.
I know I’m late to the party on this, but I just watched the short film “Cold.” It’s about 20 minutes of sparsely narrated but incredibly photographed footage of these men’s 2011 winter ascent of Gasherbrum II in Pakistan. It’s the first time a Pakistani 8,000-meter peak has been successfully climbed in winter.
The climbers paid for the experience. Temperatures that were -30, -40, even -50 degrees F, complete with high winds. They dealt with the health problems typical of high altitude – lethargy, fatigue, hacking coughs.
And then there’s the mountain itself, and all the dangers it can throw at you without warning, especially in winter.
As a short film, it does its job quite well, capturing the moments that made this particular climb so hard and miserable. Personally, I’d love to see a reboot of the film in full-length documentary. But as a short, it was good enough to deservedly win lots of awards. The chief reason: The filmmakers were able to successfully tell the story of the climb without lionizing the climbers. They were characters, if you will. But the driving force (and central character) of the story was the bone-chilling force of the mountain and the elements, and how easily Gasherbrum II could have snuffed out the lives of the men who endeavored to climb it.
Consider the terms “epic” and “sufferfest” (correctly) redefined. Watch the movie and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Here’s a trailer, and forgive the initial f-bomb.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088