Intrepid Viewing: The Climb (Nepal)

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Samy, character in the film, The Clmb, crossing an ice crevice with a horizontal ladder

Intrepid Viewing: The Climb (Nepal)

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by Taj Bates

How far would you go to win the heart of the woman you love? Would you climb to the snowcapped summit of the world's highest mount?

Meet Samy and Nadia.

Samy and Nadia smiling at each other in the film, The Climb

Nadia and Samy

They both grew up and still live in a housing project in Seine-Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris that is locally known as Department 93.

Theirs is a neighborhood of the working poor—first- and second-generation immigrants hailing from former French colonies like Senegal and Algeria.

Samy and Nadia are a classic pair of charming young people from good, loving families. Yet, theirs is a not-so classic tale of boy has years-long crush on girl.

The boy in this story is unemployed due to (a) having slacked off in high school; and (b) the dearth of job opportunities for poor Frenchmen of African descent.

The girl, who works and goes to college, tells the boy she's not interested in dating a Mr. Unemployed. She jokingly agrees to give him a romantic chance if he climbs to the top of Mt. Everest.

To everyone's surprise, the boy picks up the gauntlet; secures two local business sponsors; dons an oversized backpack; and heads for the hills... or rather, the mountains of Nepal.

"Women are like mountains, Johnny. You have to be worthy of them..."

One can sense this is subtle social commentary that it is easier to climb Everest than it is to find a decent job in France as an Afro-Frenchman.

But, once you ignore the film's silly and saccharine premise, you will get to embark on a cinematic journey to a place few women and men have or ever will trod.

There are 7.6 billion people on this planet. Every year, around 1,200 of them attempt to conquer Everest. Half of them do.

This is not just a sport of endurance, but also of modern-day kings with deep pockets.

Thrill-seekers spend $28,000 - $115,000+ to join expeditions to Everest's peak. (For some people, in some lands, that's a house and a car tied up in a velvety bow.)

They spend thousands more buying gear, expensive plane tickets, and training for the trek, usually by conquering other mountains like Denali and Kilimanjaro beforehand.

Samy, our tall, dark and plucky hero, does none of that.

Samy and guide using walking poles as they walk towards Mt Everest in the film, The Climb

Samy and his guide walking to Everest base camp

His strength training comes in the form of climbing the stairs in the high-rise apartment building where he lives with his parents and 3 siblings.

On his application to snag a Nepal government-issued permit and join a private expedition, he fibs and claims to have scaled Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro. In his backpack, he packs laughable non-essentials like Nutella and a Zidane soccer jersey.

He goes to Everest untrained and blissfully ignorant of the life-and-death challenges that lie ahead.

Samy doesn't fully grasp just how in-over-his-head he is till he reaches base camp at 17,598 feet (5,363 m) and hits a wall.

Samy and his guide looking up at a wall of ice in The Climb film

A literal wall of snow and ice that rises straight up towards the blue-grey sky and can only be scaled by abseil, with an ice pick in each hand and the upper body strength of Tarzan.

Yet, for all that Samy lacks in training and know-how, he makes up for with stone cold determination.

"What's important isn't so much the pace. It's not stopping."

No matter how hard or cold it gets; no matter how thin the air or labored his breath; no matter how much his body begs him to stop and turn back, he keeps going.

One step and one breath at a time.

Driven partly by his love for Nadia. Partly by his love for the disenfranchised neighborhood rooting for back him at home. And partly by the fact that this truly is his one and only shot.

For, unlike the modern-day kings and queens surrounding him, Samy cannot financially afford a second attempt.

The Climb is an inspiring and heartwarming film, beautifully made, with cinematography that will make you go, "Wow!"

Samy and guide walking up the snowy side of Everest in the film, The Climb

Samy and his guide trekking the snowy peak of Everest

The film takes you through the Himalaya's changing landscapes as Samy works his way up from Lukla at 9,383 feet (2,860 m) towards Everest's peak at 29,029 feet (8,848 m).

It is the second fictional feature to film on-location at Everest's base camp, which makes it authentically badass.

Plus, it is loosely based on, and co-written by, Nadir Dendoune. A French journalist of Algerian descent who hails from Seine-Saint-Denis. He conquered Everest back in May 2008, having never climbed a mountain before in his life.

When he reached the peak, he held up a heart-shaped piece of cardboard with the number 93—for Department 93, Seine-Saint-Denis.

Nadir Dendoune holding up a cardboard sign with number 93 while atop Mt. Everest

Nadir Dendoune holding up a cardboard sign with number 93 while atop Mt. Everest

According to Dendoune, he did so "to pay tribute to one of the poorest departments in France, one of the least loved too, and to [encourage the people there to] value themselves."

While The Climb is about a man's love for a women, the true life story that inspired it is about a man's love for the community he came from.

Related: Rock Climbing in Joshua Tree — A Day in the Travel Life