In the winter of 1980-81 a British expedition comprising of some of the top mountaineers of the day attempted to climb Everest in winter. It was an audacious plan as they took no supplementary oxygen, used no Sherpa support above Base Camp and fixed very little rope. Camps were established, but the relatively lightweight style utilised the team's expertise in alpine style climbing which they had been so successful with over the past few years. To complete the challenge they attempted the long West Ridge via the Lho La and then planned to cross the 'Diagonal Ditch' into the Hornbein Couloir to reach the summit. It was in contrast to the first successful winter ascent the year before by the large Polish expedition via the South Col Route.
Success depended on good weather and a lot of luck. Before Christmas excellent conditions enabled rapid progress to the Lho La and above but the weather turned in January and high hurricane force winds and extremely low temperatures halted progress. Eventually they were literally blown off the mountain and it was an achievement for all the team to come back alive.
In two and a half months at Base Camp it never went above freezing and they went through 32 paraffin stoves trying to melt ice. Pete Thexton broke his ribs coughing as the health of the team deteriorated. Brian Hall and Al Burgess spent days pinned in a snow hole and were fortunate to be able to descend in a short break in the weather before the winds and snow returned.
High altitude action is mixed with team conflicts and emotions. Joe Tasker and Aid Burgess want to push on but Brian Hall, Paul Nunn and Al Burgess argue for caution. John Porter, Pete Thexton and Al Rouse are exhausted from pushing the route to almost 8,000m.
A captivating film of an unsuccessful expedition led by the charismatic Alan Rouse.