Irish adventure based film makers, Image Now Films (Dublin) and Pat Falvey Productions (Kerry) achieved a new world record of filming from a helicopter on K2 the second Highest mountain in the World to almost 8,000 meters which is known to climbers as The Death Zone.
'The Summit' film crew reach a new altitude record for aerial filming in a helicopter. Flying to an altitude of 23,500 feet (7,162m) on K2, Nick Ryan operated the Cineflex camera system mounted to the Pakistani Army Ecuriel helicopter, filming aerial footage of the shoulder above Camp 4 and the Serac. Stephen O'Reilly in the backup helicopter reached an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620m) from where he photographed the mountain.
The Summit: A film about the deadliest day on the worlds most dangerous mountain. The story of the death of 11 climbers on the ill-fated 2008 expedition to the summit of K2.
An epic journey, starting in Islamabad, the crew which consisted of Nick Ryan (director/producer), Stephen O'Reilly (Production manager/Camera), Mike Wright (Camera/Aviation engineer) and Nisar Malik (Pakistan co-ordinator), drove up the Karakorum Highway with 400kg of equipment to Skardu.
With the co-operation of the Pakistan Army Aviation Wing (5th Squadron), they flight tested the Cineflex equipment on Friday 22nd July and carefully observed the notorious weather patterns around K2. Monday the 25th was selected as a flight date, and the crew left the base at Skardu at 7.00am on the 50 minute flight to Paiju and then on to K2 where the mountain was completely clear, enabling the filming of some incredible aerial footage on the Cineflex Hi-Definition system (used extensively in the BBC series Planet Earth).
On behalf of all our production team we want to congratulate Nick and all on the ground in Pakistan for their amazing commitment and dedication of creating the final sequence of shots for our new film "The Summit".
This week we commemorate Ger and Rolf's passing three years ago. May they R.I.P. Their friendship and love are still with us, all of us that had the privilege of being part of their amazing lives. Nick, was very emotional when speaking to him over the weekend as he gave account of this amazing feat.
"We were incredibly lucky to get the weather to see the mountain, as mostly you will see either the top or the bottom of it, but not both. The light was fantastic, and winds low enough for safe flight and allow us to reach such great altitudes. The pilots are amongst the very best in the world and their knowledge of the region enabled this incredible journey. Their assistance and collaboration on the planning of the mission was fantastic. After three years of studying K2 in photos and video, to actually cast your eyes on the mountain was quite a moment. The shear scale of the mountain is breath-taking. To look down on the slopes of the south-east face and realise the climbers who never made it back are still resting there, was an emotional experience for me."
"We are all delighted and are looking forward to seeing some spectacular footage from K2. Nick goes into the final stages of putting all the content together over the coming months and from what I have seen so far, the film is going to be gripping. It tells an amazing story."
"The Summit" is a story of the struggle of man against the mountain. The cost of living in the god foresaken place known to climbers as the "Death Zone" the heroic events of a day that cost the lives of 11 climbers that struggled in the thin air of the world's secpnd highest mountain, K2.
For the first time ever the events are reconstructed by the unsung heroes of mountaineering history - the talented Sherpas, told through interviews by those on the mountain on that ill fated day.
It will tell of Ger McDonnell a young and talented Irish climber who was the first Irish man to summit K2, the worlds most treacherous mountain on the 1st/2nd of August, 2008. He was killed on the descent whilst attempting to rescue two Koreans and Sherpa Jumik.
Image Now Fims (Dublin) and Pat Falvey Productions (Kerry) due for film release towards the end of 2011/early 2012.
TV Release 2013
DVD Release Late 2013.
This film is done in association with The Irish Film Board, RTE and The BBC.
For more information, contact us here at www.patfalvey.com
Homeward bound from the ice!
It was the morning of Mar 6th, our fifth day on the ice. We had just woken up and were about to struggle out of our frosty, cold, damp sleeping bags for another days pulling to the North Pole. We were 15 minutes late in rising and I said “come on lads were running late,” when an answer from John replied ‘Pat, I want to get out of here, my fingers have been throbbing all night and I’m worried about them.'
I though I was hearing this wrong, “are you serious” I asked, thinking to myself, its not as if we could get a bus out of here. This was a serious request and one that could take out the expedition. I knew from John’s voice that he was serious. It was a shock and didn’t really sink in immediately for Clare and I.
John had developed frostbite on the second day of the expedition, he had persisted on but now his fingers were getting worst. I asked Clare to look at John’s fingers and what she felt, as a doctor about his condition. His fingers at this stage were very badly swollen, blistered and black. It did not look good.
After looking at them again, she said ‘well, the real risk to John now is if his fingers re-freeze. John can’t feel whether his fingers are cold or not when we’re on the move because of the numbness he has developed with the frostbite. If his fingers refreeze, it’s likely the frostbite will involve deeper tissues and result in the loss of part of one or more of his fingers. In this environment, it’s hard to avoid re-freezing, and if they were my fingers, I don’t think I would carry on. They don’t look good.’
Over the years Clare, John and I have lost many friends to expedition life on the big mountains and a lot more who developed severe frost bite that have lost fingers and toes. And we believe no expedition is worth a finger or toe, especially if these dangers can be avoided. John needed evacuation. Expedition life is about making decisions whether right or wrong and today we were faced with a predicament of choice as a team.
Our options were now limited in where we were. The pressures ridges were still tightly packed against the land mass and the ground was still like an earthquake zone cover in ice ridges and rubble fields. We had worked hard to gain our present position over the previous days and felt good about the ice pack and that the pressure ridges were easing a little as we made our way north from the Canadian land mass and were looking forward to easier going and increasing our mileage.
But there was now no question in any one of our minds that John needed to be evacuated from this cold, harsh and hostile environment to save his fingers. After reflection and the shock of John’s request, came the time for action. After accepting our dilemma, I made contact with Kenn Borek, the flight company that operates the twin otter serving the high Arctic and who had dropped us off for our journey to the North Pole. I explained our situation to Beverley who was manning the base at Resolute that morning that we required a rescue for John to ensure his fingers would not be lost. After a brief discussion with her she informed me she would make contact with Troy the chief pilot who had flown us in and check with him on rescue requirement for him to land. We also discussed contacting the rescue control centre as well as informing John’s insurance company of the situation. Over the next few hours we were busy organising an evacuation.
I contacted the rescue control centre informing them of our situation and requested the possibility of a helicopter rescue but was informed that a helicopter rescue would be out of the question for an immediate evacuation and if we really required it, then it could take two to four days. Our best option would be to find a flat pan of ice that a plane rescue could be attempted. We discussed our alternatives on the ice. We had three options, to continue, to stay or to retreat:
To find a pan for a plane to land near our present camp site. This would be our best option, but after much searching we could not find one. To have a helicopter rescue from our current position which would take days and then no guarantee. This was not good enough just to sit and do nothing.
To continue North bound in hope that we would find a pan, but as we did not know what lay ahead, very quickly we dismissed that one in fear that we would not and Johns fingers would get worst. After discussion on this with rescue centre we felt this would be wrong to do even though we were tempted to continue. Our third option was the only one open to us after discussing our situation with Rescue control centre and taking into consideration their advice.
Their advice was that we should make our way back towards Ward Hunt Island. They also told us that the weather was due to turn in 48 hrs, so if we weren’t rescued the following day, it would take 3-4 days after that before they could get to us according to the forecast. They recommended we look for a runway on our return route – the requirements were an area 200m x 50 m with no hard packed ridges; undulations were allowed, but none greater than 20cm. We knew the chances of finding such a spot were slim.
The decision to evacuate the whole team was based on the narrow time window we did have to reach the North Pole. Vicar the Russian company that was to pick us up at the North Pole had set a final cut off date for the 26th April. There reason was that due to climate change that the ice would be getting thin and too dangerous for them to hold their base Barneo on the ice any longer then that. We had allowed ourselves 55 days with a back up food supply of 5 days in the event of problems. Now, with all days needed to find a place to land the plane for the evacuation and to redo our trek to our initial position, then successfully getting to the North Pole was not a possibility in the time we required for to be picked up by the Russians.
This now really focused our minds on what best to do as a team. John was willing to go out alone but the fact that we were a team we had to stick together until a rescue. We had lost 2 days at the start because of bad weather in resolute. And we believed that we would not have a rescue until we reached Ward Hunt which would add a further 8 days to our expedition. Leaving us reaching the Pole in what we estimated would be our best situation if we had to retrace our steps again from the start from Ward Hunt we would not arrive at the North Pole until between the 2nd and 6th of May. Therefore 51 to 55 days minimum from there would bring us into May 2010. Our window for success would be too tight.
Decision made - Homeward bound
Our decision to turn was frustrating and depressing for us all. This was the furthest thought from our minds when we started, but our situation now was critical for the safe outcome. We all had spent a year and a half of training, massive sacrifices were made, we had put in months hard work in preparation and learning new skills for arctic survival, so as you can imagine the feeling were emotional and intense, but the decision was right to head back even if we didn’t want to.
We calculated that we would need 7 days food, fuel and all our camping equipment for security giving our present situation.
It was gutting to have to turn; we dumped and buried most of our food so our sleds would be lighter and easier to manage as we began our return journey. We had just spent 4 days crossing very difficult terrain where the pack ice meets the land mass the ice here resembles the rubble you would see in a populated earthquake zone, with ridges up to several metres high. Dragging an 80-90kg sled through here is tough work, but somehow enjoyable and exciting at the start of a North Pole Expedition. The thought of facing that again, but now on our way out, was hard. We also knew that even if we did navigate back to where we had buried our food, its position may have shifted with the constant ocean drift.
The day passed slowly as we made our way out, on route we kept looking for areas for a plane to land and just as the evening light was fading and we were looking for a place to camp we came to an area which looked pretty flat. We paced it out and it seemed just within their requirements. We decided to set up camp there and make further contact with Borek Air. They agreed to come in the following day to try.
The following morning
The rescue flight was flown by Troy and Braden. Troy had dropped us in a few days earlier and we knew he was highly thought of and one of the most experienced pilots in the high arctic. Before midday we could hear the engines. We had packed up apart from the tent and stoves in anticipation of a successful rescue, though I had my reservations.
Troy and Braden spent over 1.5hrs attempting to land on the runway we had prepared. I couldn’t believe their persistence and was thankful for it. Slowly it became clear it wasn’t going to be successful and the plane left. I contacted Beverly, at Borek Air’s base, just to confirm and to see what our next move should be. She explained they were on the ice! We were very surprised but relieved until we checked their position and fount they were 3.8 nautical miles away and we were given 3 hours to get there! It felt hopeless given the terrain we had to cross, (we had just spent 5 days travelling 8 miles!) but nevertheless we packed up and began to move as quickly as possible.
It was a tough afternoon. The pressure of time and knowing that we would be stuck here for a further 3-4 days if we didn’t make it to the plane was playing on our minds. We pushed on hard all day there was no stopping for food or drink. Finally, we could hear the engines. At this stage we had been going for 5 hours. John climbed onto a big chunk of ice and shouted at the pilots. They replied, so at least they knew we were close. We still couldn’t see the plane.
As the sun disappeared, we grew more concerned that the pilots wouldn’t be able to wait for us. Suddenly the engines went silent. We were sure they had been forced to leave. For them it was a big risk staying for that long, in those cold temperatures and now with night falling. John was ahead. Clare struggled to pull and haul her sled as quickly. I stayed at the back. I was worried that we were becoming spread out across an area of big pressure ridges in diminishing light. I called to both John and the pilots and was met with only silence. The situation felt foreboding.
We pushed on, when suddenly, like a mirage, Troy and Braden arrived onto the pressure ridge and helped us through the last few minutes. It was an incredible show of their bravery, decency and courage. Not only had these two guys spent an hour and a half attempting to land and rescue us, but had then successfully landed some miles away on very difficult terrain, waited for us for over 6 hours in temperatures of -43C, and had then come to assist us with our sleds in the final few minutes. Without further delay we loaded the plane and were in the air. It was a great relief to have made it; once the decision was made that we would evacuate, we just wanted to get off the ice. The ordeal of being rescued in such an environment was really brought home to us.
Reflection on decisions
Even though as a team, we are disappointed, we now must reflect on, did we make the right decisions under the circumstances. I reflect now on the facts of our situation as an Irish team on route to the North Pole and I ponder on my father’s advice who is my greatest mentor.
“Success in ones life is not just about achieving ones goals, its about trying to achieve your dreams and sometimes failure, for what ever reason is a part of success if you learn from them. “ (Tim Falvey)
Of course for us, our families and supporters it is incredibly disappointing that our expedition came to such a premature end, but on the upside, John’s fingers are improving slowly and will almost certainly return to normal over time. The Arctic Ocean will always be there and with a bit of luck we will get the opportunity to return very soon.
I must pay special thanks to all of those involved in the evacuation; to Troy and Braden two amazing pilots that went far above and beyond what we could have ever expected. To Beverley, Steve and all the Borek Air team in Resolute. To Rescue headquarters for their advice and co-ordination. To IHI Denmark for their professionalism and concern in dealing with John’s Evacuation. To all the management at Eureka Weather station for putting us up for the night on our return. To all of those that gave professional help in our preparation, thank you. It has been an amazing experience and the lessons learnt shall not be forgotten.
And especially to all of our fans and followers throughout the world who have been with us through thick and thin over the last 24 years of adventure all around the world thank you for your loyal support and concerns.
Back to reality and Ireland
Now lets look on the bright side of life, I’ll be back in Ireland for Saint Patricks day, for to see the budding flowers of spring and instead of the forty shades of white, I’ll see 40 shades of Green. Were going home to the place I love, but my thoughts are of the ice, the arctic ocean and of the North Pole.
Thank you all for participating in our adventures to make our dreams a reality.
To the future and a great life
Here is the interview on 2fm's Gerry Ryan Show yesterday the 9th. Pat is in Resolute. Thanks for the link Eugene.
The team were dropped off on Tuesday evening Irish time and were only able to move 1 nautical mile in distance over and around house sized ice blocks, ridges and ledges to their first night on the frozen edge of the high Arctic.
With no contact from the team until 1pm today Friday, the initial anxious wait for family and followers is now over.
" We have about 9 nautical miles done so far and we seem to be getting closer to the edge of the ice shelf that gets pushed toward the frozen lands edge behind us a about 15-20 miles. John, Clare and myself are in good form but its very tough with temperatures down to -40C. We hope to enter more even ice now over the weekend and start making better distance. We managed only 1 mile on Day 1, then about 4 on Day 2 and Day 3. We seem to be out of the worst of this section, hopefully have time to contact base again and give our position later tonight or early tomorrow"
Ice conditions are reported as 'good', which is positive news for all the teams. We will post the teams position here once received and we will have a trackmap available very soon also.
Niall Foley - Operations manager
Irish adventurers Pat Falvey, Dr. Clare O’Leary and John Dowd have early this morning Canada time (Tuesday 2 March 2010) departed from Resolute to complete a historical and icy voyage as they navigate, walk, ski, and swim for two months on a 784 km expedition of endurance. Man-hauling their sleds across the rugged, broken, melting Arctic Ocean from Canada, they plan to be the first Irish team to reach the North Pole without the aid of dogs or any mechanical means.
Having spent the past 22 days training in YellowKnife and Resolute on the North West Passage in Canada, the Irish team are now on there way to the start of their Journey at Ward Hunt for their 60 day trek to the North Pole.
“We are very concerned at the ice condition at the moment having had satellite images showing the thin ice and large open leads. The team are confident but we won't underestimate the conditions,” says Pat Falvey, “through cold down to -50 degrees Celsius.”
Following several postponed flight over the last week in both Yellowknife and Resolute, the team are now boarded and flying north with gear weighing hundreds of kilo's packed into their chartered Twin Otter aircraft following a green light for take-off this morning. Weather in Ward hunt had been unstable over the last two days grounding their final flight.
" We are go, just boarding the plane now and hope to start skiing later on tonight (2nd March Canada time, 3rd March Irish time), ice conditions are improving somewhat with sea conditions stablising also as we move away from the recent full moon. Clare, John and myself are nervous but confident." Pat said over Satellite conversation with Operations manager Niall Foley at lunch time today.
The teams progress can be tracked at News section on PatFalvey.com.
1st March - Pat in Resolute
Even though we would have preferred to be on the ice, we made the most of our day here in Resolute by going on a walk about, We visited the local hospital and spoke to Mary Byrne from Ireland who has been on working on these remote outpost now for over 13 years. We really appreciates her hospitality. She gave us a insight to Canadian Health care and I must say we were all impressed.
We tested our gun today and have found a few problems with it and therefore have spend most of the day sorting that out. We need it to be working efficiently in the event of meeting Polar Bears.
Other then that the day is passing slowly as we wait to leave for Ward Hunt. Tomorrow morning, Troy our pilot will ring again letting us know if the weather is good enough to depart.
1st Mar, Pat 5:30am Resolute time
We have just got up to go 5:30 Am, packed and ready to go, plane loaded and excited at the thought of landing at the beginning today at ward hunt 600 mile from here. Just as we were about to leave for the airport a call to our hotel from the Pilot Roy brought us bad news. Low cloud and precipitation will halted our plans of landing today. So front a safety point of view our flight has been canceled. We will check forecast mid morning again today and get further update.
Disappointed, we are heading back to bed for a few hours. At least our gear is on the plane...
28th Feb - Pat Falvey in Resolute
I have just loaded the plane with all the gear tonight at 7.00pm Canada time. Back at base for a few hours. At 5.00am our time we will receive a call to let us know if the weather is ok.
If it is ok we will leave Resolute at 6.30am for our final flight to Ward Hunt which will take us 6 hours. More then likely we will make a few miles tomorrow.
We are now at the stage that after all the training and logistics we are about to begin on yet another historical Journey.
We are tense with the expectation that lies ahead, We are confident with our ability to pull it off and just hope that we have done all our planning and logistics right. As out here there is no room for mistakes or fools.
To the Pole, the journey begins.
21:20 - Feb 28th
Just received a call from Pat, Clare and John in Resolute: "We are looking good for tomorrow morning's flight to our start point. The weather is good so we have to be ready tonight. We are awaiting some data coming back later today from a reconnaissance fly over of the start areas. Some reports yesterday indicated open water in certain areas and thickness being a possible concern although no data has been taken from the ground/ice itself. There are several other teams up here all now playing the wait and see game. Tomorrow we start our dream, whether or not the conditions are too dangerous we will see. I will update further when a course for our flight has been agreed then its final checks for our gear, a meal and our last sleep in a bed, if we sleep."
Over the next few weeks we hope to bring you some more images and video of their final days in Yellowknife and most importantly news and images from the team on the ice using their Iridium Satellite phone and HP Ipaq PDA. They will initially start on snowshoes and move on to skis after a forthnight as surface conditions stabalise but again they will be consistently assessing the terrain and adjusting. Their first day will probably consist of unload the plane, setting up the sleds and their clothing then a few hours trekking to their first campsite. Lets wait and see how they get on after their flight briefing. We will post an update here in the morning .
Niall Foley : Operations Manager
We're off, at least from YellowKnife in the North West Territories and in a way I felt sad leaving. Over the past 17 days there we made many good friends and were welcomed with open arms. I must pay a special Thanks to Matt Mossen and all his partners that help out over our period there, it really made life a lot easier for us as a team.
One frustration finished.
Now at least one frustration is over, we got a weather window and our Chartered, Dornier 228 took off on a five hour 850 mile flight to Resolute at 16;00 today with all of our gear onboard. This is an amazing aircraft, I even got the chance to fly it for a hour up thanks to Dave. For me another first and a fantastic unexpected treat.
We have shared the charter with Richard Webber a good friend of mine and his team helping all of us reduce the cost, its an expensive process chartering planes to get to these remote areas. (If your're interested in knowing a little bit about Resolute I'll do it on another new item.)
The Flight to Resolute:
Packed into the Dornier 228 we were briefed on the safety regulations by one of our two pilots. "There are five emergency exits and just to let you know our flying time today will be 5 hours and I hope you all went to the toilet before leaving as there are no toilets facilities on board. But we do have pee bags, but as you see if you want to go there is no privacy.
There is no food service on Board but we do have a lunch pack for all of you. Well thats expedition life.
Over the next five hours we flew over the wilds of Canada, beautiful remote and rugged. On route we passed two mines, a gold and a diamond mine and I was made aware of the fact that to get to them Canada's first ice roads were formed and was how ice road truckers series started filming trucks going to these mines. The remoteness of where they were situated blew my mind away.
Well, it was five hours flying as they said and no toilet and I held my pee all the way from YellowKnife and by the time we landed I was bursting and nearly had to wet my pants. God was I relieved when we got to our destination. I though once I started I'd never stop!
We said farewell to our pilots and headed for our hotel for a nights sleep. Conditions in Resolute were calm after a four day blow out with no planes landing and yes it was reasonably cold. - 30 degree Celsius. We look forward to what a new day will bring. Packing, checking and rechecking, some training and finding out the schedule for our next departure to our starting point.
We are now on a countdown to go. We were scheduled to start standby for the final flight to Ward Hunt on Sunday, not sure just yet if the delays will continue but now that we are in Resolute we will update Niall back at base as soon as we can.