Located on the border between Pakistan and China, K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth. For many climbers, it is an even greater prize than Everest, with limited routes, a steeper ascent, and a harder push to its summit. Nicknamed the ‘Savage Mountain,’ K2’s peak is so much higher than the rest of the surrounding range that it juts unprotected into the atmosphere, regularly exposing climbers to life-threatening weather conditions. In 2008, a tragic disaster on K2 claimed the lives of 11 mountaineers.
Four of those who lost their lives in the disaster were porters hired to carry the equipment and provisions of foreign climbing expeditions. Despite being paid at rates far below those received by international expedition leaders, such porters – whether they provide critical supplies to expedition base camps or take on higher-altitude tasks in support of ascending climbers – take on difficult and dangerous work. These efforts make them worthy of recognition as the true heroes of mountaineering.
In K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN, filmmaker Iara Lee and her team chronicle the lives of those who make possible ascents of the world’s tallest mountains, including both Pakistani porters and Nepalese sherpas. The film also follows the first official all-Pakistani climbing team, made up of former porters. This team successfully summited in 2014, on the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain. Amid breathtaking scenery, the film depicts the everyday sacrifices of porters and the courage of those indigenous climbers who choose to return to scale K2 in spite of past tragedies. In their striving to perfect their craft, these mountaineers provide a fresh look into the cultures and national traditions of Pakistan, a country typically portrayed in the foreign media as merely a land of conflict and sectarian strife.