If you aren't already deathly afraid of heights and blizzards, you will be after seeing Everest. This dramatic thriller tells the story of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster, in which eight people died while on an expedition to scale the infamous summit. One of the climbers who lost his life was Andy Harris, played in Everest by Martin Henderson. Harris was one of the guides for the Adventure Consultants, along with Rob Hall and Mike Groom. In the film, he appears to die while with Hall, falling off a cliff after a hallucination. But Rob Hall never reported this, and since he died shortly thereafter, there is no way to confirm the circumstances surrounding Harris' death. So what really happened? And was Andy Harris ever found?
The film takes a bit of artistic liberty in its portrayal of Harris' tragic death. Harris did in fact perish on the mountain, and his body was never recovered. However, Rob Hall's body was discovered on the South Slope of the mountain, and Harris' ice axe and jacket were found nearby. This would imply that Harris died close to Hall, but the absence of any bodily remains meant that filmmakers had to fill in some blanks in explaining Harris's death. Here's what is actually known about how Andy Harris died versus how the movie handles it.
He Went Back To Help Rob Hall
The movie accurately portrays the fact that Harris attempted to climb the South Summit to bring oxygen to Doug Hansen and Rob Hall, who were stranded higher up the mountain and in poor shape. But this was during a blizzard, and Harris quickly found himself in a struggle with the harsh elements.
He Was Suffering From Oxygen Deprivation
Harris experienced the effects of hypoxia, in which the brain is deprived of oxygen for too long. This leads to disorientation and dementia, and in Harris' case, it led him to believe that the oxygen tanks were empty even though there was in fact a sufficient supply. The film shows Harris hallucinating while suffering from hypoxia — he seems to believe that he is overheating and so he takes off his jacket, which leads him to lose his balance and fall to his death. This is an example of poetic license on the film's part; it explains why Harris' coat would be found without his body. But in fact, nobody saw Andy Harris die.
He Was Never Found
In both the film and real life, the next morning Rob Hall successfully radioed the base camp and told them that "Andy was with me last night" but was now gone. Hall was disoriented and close to death himself, and the base camp attempted to comfort him by lying that Harris was safely back with them. In fact, it is believed that Harris walked off the South Slope while in his vulnerable physical and mental state.
Andy Harris' death was undeniably tragic, and Everest provides the viewer with a possible scenario for how it happened. The true story of how he died may never surface, but the movie memorializes his legacy as a man who risked his own life to try to help his fellow climbers.
Images: Universal Pictures