K2 - The Ultimate High
SUMMARY (Mostly extracted from the K2 Press Information Pack)
Taylor Brooks (Michael Biehn) moves through life at a breakneck pace, grabbing the things he wants with little regard for the consequences. He plays fast and loose in his job as Seattle Assistant District Attorney, never shy about bending the law to suit his purposes.
It's not surprising that when Taylor pursues his passion, mountain climbing, he doesn't take it easy. Taylor favors the alpine-style approach, where climbers move up the face of a mountain in a few days, covering ground that might take a conventional expedition many weeks.
Taylor is accompanied on his mountaineering adventures by physics professor Harold Jamison (Matt Craven). The two friends are a study in contrasts: Taylor is impulsive and brash, while Harold is meditative and gentle; Taylor is an inveterate womanizer, but Harold is devoted to his wife, Cindy (Julia Nickson-Soul); Taylor is out to conquer the world, but Harold climbs mountains to challenge himself. Their differences are readily apparent on the mountain slopes: Taylor is clearly the more accomplished climber, but his tendency to be reckless is balanced by Harold's careful attention to safety.
The peak that particularly fascinates Taylor is the one considered the most difficult to climb, K2. While not the world's highest (only Everest surpasses it), K2 is undeniably the steepest and most remote -- 27 people have died trying to reach its summit, earning it a grim nickname, The Savage Mountain.
During a climb in Moose's Tooth, Alaska, Taylor and Harold encounter a mountaineering group who are out on a test run for a major expedition. Taylor can't help but mock their equipment-intensive approach. Despite warnings from Harold, two members of that party take an unnecessary risk and are swept away in an avalanche. Taylor loses no time using this tragedy to his advantage. There are now unexpected vacancies on this expedition, which Taylor has correctly guessed is going to K2.
Taylor manages to convince the wealthy expedition leader, Phillip Claiborne (Raymond J. Barry), to let them join the climbing team. The mountaineers include the noted climber Jacki Metcalfe (Patricia Charbonneau), Taylor's courtroom rival Dallas Woolf (Luca Bercovici), and Japanese mountaineer Takane Shimuzu (Hiroshi Fujioka). But Harold will not go without Cindy's approval. Taylor can't understand how Harold would let anything stand in the way of a chance of a lifetime. "If you ask me," says Taylor, "I think love costs too much... I say it's way overpriced." Cindy responds strongly. "You're going to blow everything," she says. But Harold speaks passionately of his determination to climb K2, she reluctantly gives in.
Two weeks later, the group is on its way to Northern Pakistan and the Karakoram mountains. First stop is the village of Skardu, where the mountaineers hire hundreds of the native Baltis as porters to carry supplies to base camp. Taylor is soon at odds with expedition leader, Dallas. Their conflict stems from differing approaches towards climbing, but Taylor's abrasive manner only exacerbates the situation. A certain degree of tension is to be expected as the climbers jockey for position. Not everyone is certain to be selected by Claiborne as part of the summit team, so they are all eager to demonstrate their fitness and determination.
After the Balti porters repeatedly slow down the expedition by ever-escalating wage demands, Taylor strikes out angrily by burning some of their money. This foolhardy act enrages the climbers as much as the Baltis. Even Harold loses patience with his friend. "I didn't make the world the way it is," says Taylor, "I just get through it as fast and clean as possible." Harold responds "We all make the world the way it is."
While Taylor alienates everyone, Harold becomes a hero by saving the life of Army Liaison Officer Malik Khan (Jamal Shah) and some porters during a cave-in on Godwin Austen glacier.
Just as the expedition reaches the foot of K2, most of the porters quit in fear, only a scant four hours from their destination, the base camp. The climbers must decide: either abandon the expedition or proceed with limited equipment. Taylor argues forcefully for continuing and Claiborne agrees. The six climbers split into groups as they move to set up three base camps on the icy slopes. As they approach K2's crown, even Taylor and Dallas find a way to cooperate. But the increasing altitude and severe weather conditions take their toll. One by one, the mountaineers are faced with setbacks and disaster.
Ultimately, Taylor and Harold are alone on K2, injured and fighting for their lives.
While Taylor had made every attempt to prepare himself physically and mentally for the climb, he ends up encountering a situation he never imagined. He must face the most painful and difficult decision of his life. He is forced to abandon Harold on K2 but, as he climbs down, he comes across Dallas's frozen body and makes a decision. He takes Dallas's rope and returns for Harold, using the rope to help him carry Harold off the mountain but they are running out of time. Claiborne is suffering badly from altitude sickness and has called for a helicopter to take him off the mountain. As the helicopter takes off, abandoning Harold and Taylor to their fate on K2, Malik Khan begs Claiborne to make one last sweep - and they find them.