So, this is pretty cool. I was just watching the latest episode of “30 Rock,” “Into the Crevasse,” on Hulu, and realized it’s (verrry loosely) based on the awesomely harrowing 2003 documentary “Touching the Void.”
I wish WordPress would let me embed video clips from Hulu, but they won’t, so if you’re interested you can go here and watch from 15:00 to 15:27 to hear Jack Donaghy basically recount the movie’s plot, with himself in the starring role. Or, you know, just watch the whole episode. It’s really funny.
And here’s the opening of “Touching the Void,” which appears to be available (although possibly altered?) on YouTube. Good job, internet, you’ve redeemed yourself.
“Touching the Void” recounts the incredible story of two unassuming and hardy Brits, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, and their seriously ill-fated climbing trip in Peru in 1985. On the way down from the summit, Simpson fell and hurt his leg in an excruciating injury. Shinbone through knee, and I’ll spare you the rest. Yates tied himself to Simpson and planned to keep bracing himself in the snow while lowering his injured friend in front of him, one rope length at a time, until they reached base camp. For a while, it worked. But then, in the dark, Simpson suddenly dropped off an unseen cliff. He was still tied to Yates, who was being slowly dragged forward. They were both sliding, inch by inch, to certain death.
Yates decided to cut the cord, saving himself but dooming his friend. Simpson plummeted into a deep crevasse — but he lived.
For the how and the why and the “OH DEAR GOD” of their story, check out the movie. It’s truly unforgettable. But here’s a bit of Simpson’s ordeal described by Anthony Lane in the New Yorker, in a review that has stuck with me for five years now:
What [Simpson] did next chafes against every instinct in our nature—against the urgings that compel us, whether in the landscape of our feelings, our social evolution, or our bad dreams, to work upward and head toward the light. He went down, like a miner into a pit. It is a true Dantean moment, this passage into the underworld, and even the taciturn Simpson is driven to a rare burst of rhetoric as he says of crevasses, “They have a dread feel—not a place for the living.”