Mountaineers, photographers and cine buffs in Kolkata will get a treat this Friday. The Himalayan Club, Kolkata Section, in collaboration with the Italian Consulate, will screen a film by renowned mountaineer and photographer Vittorio Sella, dating back to 1909. Sella, whose photographs of mountains are considered the best in the world, shot the 35-minute film during a famous, though unsuccessful, attempt to scale the 8,611m-high Mount K2 (Godwin Austen) by Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi. The point till which the team reached is known as the Abruzzi Spur.
The film will be screened at Rotary Sadan. “K2 is known as the ‘Savage Mountain’. One can imagine the kind of effort it took in those days for a climber to carry a movie camera. Amedeo attempted the climb along the Baltoro Glacier. In the film, the last shot is of this glacier. Sella was unable to film after that as it was extremely slippery. Kolkata is lucky to have got this opportunity. The museum in Turin where the film is stored has granted permission for it to be screened only in this city,” said mountaineering historian Mirella Tenderini, who will give a commentary during the screening of the silent film. Tenderini has written several books, including one on Amedeo. Her latest book was on K2. When told by Himalayan Club vice-president Rupamanjari Biswas that K2 is out of bounds for Indian climbers due to political reasons, the historian said, “This is extremely sad. During my research, I realized that mountaineers had it easy before World War II. After the war, the geography of the world was re-written and restrictions were imposed.” She grew up in Milano and on Sundays, her family would take a train to the Alps. This is how her love for the mountains developed. A historian by profession, she married Luciano Tenderini, a climbing instructor and Alpine guide. With her late husband, she climbed the Alps and travelled extensively in Africa, climbing mountains and exploring deserts, where she still journeys to gather documentations for her books. “I am in touch with mountaineers who have climbed Himalayan peaks. Young mountaineers treat me as a mother or grandmother and get in touch before setting out on an expedition and after returning from one. The Himalayas have the highest peaks and the higher the peak, the greater its history. Technology has helped youngsters take up new challenges. This has turned mountaineering into a sport and made things safer. However, the romantic side has gone missing. It is good for the families that a mountaineer can now call home from the Everest Base Camp. In the old days, people would travel by ship from Europe to India and then trek to the Himalayas. By the time their letters reached home, they were somewhere else. There was a mystery and adventure involved in this. However, I am all for technology as it saves valuable human lives. I urge all mountaineers to go ahead and climb, but return safe,” she added.