The compelling story of 30-yr-old climber Tom Ballard, who disappeared on one of the Himalayas most deadly mountains in February 2019. Tom was the son of mountaineer Alison Hargreaves who perished on K2 in 1995. Mother and son, two of the greatest climbers of all time, died at almost the same age, in the same mountain range, both doing what they loved best. They now lie forever encased in the ice of the high Himalayas. Left behind to cope with the enduring tragedy are Tom’s sister, Kate and their father, Jim.
In 1995, Jim Ballard took his children, Tom (6) and Kate (4) on an expedition to K2’s base camp to say farewell to their mother, the result was a BBC film, Alison’s Last Mountain. Now, The Last Mountain follows Kate Ballard on a parallel trip to say goodbye to her brother on Nanga Parbat. Using archive from 1995 and Tom’s own extraordinary footage taken up until the days before his death, the film explores what made Tom continue his ascent with Italian climber Daniele Nardi after the other two members of the expedition turned back. Tom had always followed his credo to ‘listen’ to the mountain and climb as though he were a part of it, a ‘moving piece of rock or ice.’
The film features revealing interviews with those left behind, among them: Alison’s widower, Jim Ballard, Tom’s sister, Kate, Stefy, Tom’s girlfriend, Karim Hayat, who left the expedition stating he ‘did not want to lose [his] life there,’ and Alex Txikon who led the search for Tom and Daniele and found their bodies.
Combining 25 years of intimate, unseen family archive with footage of the family that director, Chris Terrill, has shot in the years since, the documentary tells the unforgettable story of a family who lived and were prepared to die for the love of scaling the icy heights of the world’s highest peaks and explores what it is that drives people to pit themselves against nature at its most ferocious and unforgiving.
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The Last Mountain is an emotional and haunting tribute to two icons of the climbing community; Alison Hargeaves and her son Tom Ballard. Shot over more than 25 years, filmmaker Chris Terrill employs footage from Tom and his sister Kate’s childhood trip to their mother’s last mountain, K2, as the backbone to a tale that is as complex as it is rich in drama, texture and emotion. Terrill weaves timelines and narratives drawing us into the family’s process of grieving in the very mountains that took two of its members’ lives. This is an important and masterful film and embodies the very notion of adventure.
– Karen Duthie, VIMFF 2023 Jury
Anthropologist and best selling author Chris Terrill is also one of the UK’s leading adventure documentary makers. With a string of awards to his name, Terrill's unique combination of skills (he does his own camerawork and sound recording) see him fully immersing himself amongst his subjects for months or even years at a time. From the award winning Soho Stories (BBC) to Nature’s Fury (ITV) a trilogy on the world's greatest storms and their impact on communities – his breadth of experience studying the human condition is reflected in a canon of nearly 200 films all of which have been broadcast in the UK or around the world. In 2007, he documented and participated in the eight months rigorous training undertaken by Royal Marines Commandos for The 55 Year Old Commando (ITV), after which he followed the newly qualified recruits to the front line in Afghanistan for their first taste of real war resulting in Commando on the Front Line described by The Daily Mail as "one of the finest war documentaries ever made'. He is the first civilian (and oldest person) to complete and pass all four commando tests for which he was awarded an honorary green beret – his proudest possession. In 2017 Terrill was conferred Doctor of Science by the University of Durham for his pioneering work in anthropology and filmmaking and in 2019/20 he set about completing the filming and starting the editing of The Last Mountain - a feature documentary that has taken him 25 years to complete.
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