The docudrama The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest is as much a love story as it is a mystery. In 1924, George Mallory, a charismatic adventurer, attempted to become the first man to climb Mt. Everest. Devoted to his wife, Mallory had planned to place her photograph on the mountaintop to mark the accomplishment. He was last seen some 800 feet below the peak before he disappeared behind cloud cover and was swept into legend.
In 1999, climber Conrad Anker found Mallory's frozen remains on the side of the mountain. It was unclear if Mallory, who had a broken leg, died going up or coming down. The one thing that was certain was that while various papers were found perfectly preserved in his pockets, the photograph of Mallory's wife was missing.
The first official climb to reach the mountain peak was recorded in 1953, but the question remained: Had Mallory reached the top in 1924? Naysayers maintained that Mallory couldn't have scaled the Second Step, a wall just below Everest's peak (the point is so difficult, contemporary climbers use a metal ladder at the site). Others focused on the missing photo, something Mallory would never have parted with except at the top of the mountain.
A decade after finding his body, Anker returned to Everest to replicate Mallory's climb, using the route and equipment available in the 1920s. After facing many of the same challenges as Mallory, including bad weather, difficulty acclimating to the height and the seemingly impossible Second Step climb, Anker did what many believe Mallory did; he reached the peak.
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Using archival footage, voiceovers reading segments of the tender, loving letters between Mallory and his wife, on-screen interviews, and scenes of Anker's contemporary climbs, The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest tells the parallel stories of Mallory and Anker. Haunted by the loss of companions during climbs, torn between their love for their families and their obsession with the mountain, both men set out to do the impossible at incredible personal risk.
With the breathtaking and rarefied beauty of Mt. Everest as a backdrop, The Wildest Dream tells the story of two men who had dreams larger than the mountain they conquered. Mallory's final accomplishment may still be in question, but his - and Anker's - place in mountain climbing history is assured.
Multiple screenings daily. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit www.hmns.org. $9 to $11.