IMAX Everest: Peak Chapayev?

Father Alexander checks in with blockbuster news

Is Everest in the current blockbuster 3D IMAX movie in fact peak Chapayev? Sure looks like it says Father Alexander, spiritual adviser of Kazakh mountaineers.

In an email to Explorersweb last week, climbing Archpriest Alexander Zyryanov attached a picture he shot in 2010, while descending Khan-Tengri (7010 m) in Central Tien Shan.

On the West Ridge at around 6500 meter altitude, father Alexander took a photo of Chapayev peak (6371 m), a.k.a peak Chapaev, flanked in the clouds by the well-known peak Pobeda (7439 m) to the left.

He shot the image August 5, 2010, and uploaded it to Shutterstock on September 24 that same year. The American stock photography provider licenses images on behalf of photographers and soon contributions to the Kazakh church collection started to arrive.

“Normal fee for one image amounts to $0,25 or $0,33, and this image was sold many times,” Father told us, “but one day in April this year I was surprised earning $62,50 for it.”

He thought nothing of it until he saw the first frame of the “Everest” film trailer.

A great Kazakh mountaineer

Over the years at Explorersweb, Father Alexander’s involvement in current affairs would bring out some of the greatest mountaineering stories. Young Kazakh climbers would text him during K2 summit pushes and his climbing flock even helped place a new cross on his church.

Reason Father Alexander saw the Everest movie in the first place was because one of the main profiles in the 1996 disaster was Kazakh’s own Anatoli Boukreev, outstanding even among the already hardy Kazakh climbers.

After he died on Annapurna in an avalanche Anatoli’s peers set up an annual speed climbing competition to his honor and on Chistmas Day 2007, at the 10th anniversary of Anatoli’s death, Father Alexander and a group of Kazakh mountaineers climbed to the summit of Kotyrbulak peak near the mountain village where Anatoli lived.

The team brought up a bell and two memorial tablets, one from the Federation of Alpinism and another from the Russian Orthodox Church, to which Anatoli belonged. The memorial bell was installed at 3000 meters where Father Alexander held an Orthodox memorial for the great Kazakh climber.

A picture worth more than 62 bucks?

According to Wikipedia, Everest had the biggest September worldwide IMAX opening with $7.2 million, breaking the record previously held by Resident Evil: Retribution ($6 million).

Now Father Alexander’s beautiful picture of Chapayev peak, slightly modified, was everywhere: On all the official posters, the billboard in Venice during Venice film festival in September, and behind the lead actors in TV interviews.

As of November 1, 2015, Everest has grossed $42.3 million in North America and $132.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $175.2 million, against a budget of $55 million.

In the spirit of the approaching season Explorersweb reached out to movie director David Breashears with this story in the hopes of a contribution to Father Alexander’s collection surpassing $62.

After all, the holy climber lugged a heavy Nikon D70 to almost 7000 meters for it and now his name is not even mentioned.

Closure in 3D

Picture notwithstanding; the Everest IMAX movie has already brought closure to the Kazakh climbing community.

The 1996 Everest disaster was first made famous by Outside magazine writer Jon Krakauer in his book “Into Thin Air”. Climbing Everest with a guided commercial outfit the reporter misinterpreted skilled high altitude climber Anatoli Boukreev and his rescue efforts.

Now the tables have turned: Krakauer is reportedly bummed by the Everest movie portrayal of himself while the Kazakhs are happy with the film’s representation of Boukreev.

“I like it very much,” says Father Alexander about the movie, “and many of our climbers do too.”

“Great actors, good playing, wonderful mountains and true story!”

In 1989 Father Alexander even took part in mountain speed race with his Kazakh countryman. “Now we all are satisfied with image of Anatoli presented in the film.”

How fitting then if peak Chapayev, of Anatoli’s favorite mountain range, shot by fellow Kazakh mountaineer Alexander Zyryanov, gets final word in the 1996 Everest tragedy.


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