The Polish film, “Broad Peak,” is based on the life of Maciej Berbeka and his sheer determination to reach the summit he had failed to climb 25 years ago. The Broad Peak lies in the Karakoram Mountain range situated on the border between Pakistan and China. Maciej had once climbed Broad Peak in 1988, but he regretted not reaching the summit, and it was to honor his dream of ascending to the top that he took on the challenge once again, 25 years later.
Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The Polish Mountaineers had planned to ascend K2, but due to unfavorable weather conditions, there was a change of plan. Alexander Lwow, a fellow mountaineer, proposed that he and Maciej would climb Broad Peak instead of K2. Maciej was not convinced at first, knowing the risk involved, but gradually he started to show interest. The plan was for Maciej and Alexander to climb, Alpine style. The team was not happy with their decision; they had not planned for individual success, and their sudden plan was perceived as a betrayal. Nonetheless, the two decided to move ahead with their plan, and they were supported by their base leader, Andrzej, who stayed in contact with them through the radio.
“Broad Peak” has stunning visuals of the snow-covered mountains. The climb was tough due to the strong wind, but Alexander and Maciej continued trekking. They managed to set up their first camp and continued climbing the next morning. As they were ascending, Maciej lost hold of his grip and slipped. He managed to take control of the situation and avoid a death trap. The weather was not on their side. At night there was a heavy storm, and Andrzej advised them to descend if it continued to be the same in the morning. The next morning, the sun was out, and the mountaineers were ready to utilize it. As they proceeded, they came across a point that seemed almost impossible to overcome. Alexander wanted to return, but Maciej was determined to reach the summit. Andrzej advised them to not split up, but Alexander was not ready to risk his life. Maciej was now alone, even in the harsh storm, he continued to climb upwards. The team waited for an update from Maciej, but they did not receive any response. After some time, Maciej communicated with the base, stating that he had reached the summit. After spending a few minutes celebrating his success, he now had a tougher problem at hand. He had to descend and find the tent he and Alexander had set up, but he could barely see anything in the storm.
Unable to find the tent, Maciej dug a hole in the snow and stayed there for the night. Andrzej constantly reminded him that he had to move; otherwise, he would freeze to death, but Maciej could not push his body any further. He could no longer feel his legs, and there were moments when he considered giving up. As he was losing control, he thought of his wife and the love they shared. He was not ready to give up on it yet. He pushed himself and got out of the hole and descended. He was reunited with Alexander, and a rescue team came to save him. He was carried out in a helicopter, and the entire Poland celebrated his success. After reuniting with his wife and son, the media interviewed him, asking him about his remarkable journey. Even though the world around him celebrated his success, he could never forget how he suffered in the harsh conditions and how he felt closer to death as his body started giving up. But it was all worth it for the joy of conquering one of the toughest climbs. But that joy was short-lived, and he had to face a bitter truth, a truth that he could never truly get over in his life until the very end.
‘Broad Peak’ Ending Explained: Did Maciej Berbeka Reach The Summit Of Broad Peak After 25 Years?
As Maciej was recovering from the trauma of a near-death experience, he had to face a harsh truth. As it turned out, Maciej did not reach the summit of Broad Peak; he had reached the Rocky Summit, which was at a distance of 17m from the summit. Maciej was devastated. He could not believe that his team chose to not disclose the truth. They knew that Maciej had not reached the summit, but they did not admit it, knowing that he would attempt to reach the summit and that could have risked his life. Even though the summit was only 17m away, it would have taken him an hour to reach it. Till then, Maciej believed that the pain he suffered was compensated by the joy of reaching the summit, but even that was now taken away from him. It was all for nothing, is what he started to believe. He distanced himself from national expeditions and started spending more time with his family.
After twenty-five years, he received a call from Wielicki Krzysiek, a fellow mountaineer who had ascended Broad Peak during the summer and was part of the team that knew that Maciej had not reached the summit but kept it from him. Maciej ignored his calls, but he later came to visit him in his house. He explained that they had a young squad, the right equipment, and all they needed was an experienced mountaineer. Kryzsiek believed that Maciej deserved to conquer that mountain, and this was his chance to do so. He needed to complete what he had started twenty-five years ago. Even though he initially rejected the idea, he ultimately agreed to join the squad to climb Broad Peak again. Mountaineering is a passion that one cannot simply get rid of; it is a way of life. And the regret of not reaching the summit had affected Maciej. Even though he knew how risky it was, he could not let go of the opportunity. Krzysiek introduced him to the team he would lead. The team started their winter expedition on Broad Peak. This time the plan was for all four mountaineers to reach the summit, though the weather was concerning. Krzysiek suggested they start the climb at 2 in the morning, but Maciej decided to start at 5 a.m. He did not think climbing at midnight in the cold weather was a good idea, which was why he chose to do so at dawn. Krzysiek reminded them that they needed to utilize the daylight as much as possible. The team of four was running late; they were two hours behind schedule. By the time they reached the Rocky summit, it was too late, and Krzysiek advised them to start to descend, but the team was not ready to leave. Maciej announced that he would go to the summit, and the rest of the team decided to do the same. By the end of the film, we learn that the Polish mountaineers were the first to ascend Broad Peak in the winter on March 5th, 2013. Adam Bielecki was the first of the four to reach the summit, followed by Artur Malek, Tomasz Kowalski, and Maciej Berbeka. Maciej made it to the summit exactly twenty-five years after the day he missed it by 17m. Sadly, he and Tomasz lost their lives while descending from the summit. By the time they started climbing down, it was already too late, and they could not survive the harsh weather conditions.
Is ‘Broad Peak’ A True Story?
The archive material used at the end of the film is haunting. The base continuously tried to reach Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski, but they received no response. Maciej Berbeka was one of the most popular Polish mountaineers who was known for leading winter expeditions. While most considered winter mountaineering dangerous, Maciej was an expert at it. He reached the summit of Manaslu in 1984 and Cho Oyu in the Himalayas a year later. He was also known for ascending Annapurna and Mount Everest. The summit of Broad Peak is known for being one of the most dangerous places in the world, and many mountaineers have lost their lives in their attempt to conquer the mountain.
Before leaving for Broad Peak, the film shows how Maciej lived with the feeling of being a fraud for twenty-five years. The fact that he did not reach the summit, yet he was celebrated for it, suffocated him. But after watching “Broad Peak,” one cannot help but wonder if he would have survived the first time, he ascended the mountain. Considering the weather conditions, he could have lost his life had he attempted the climb further up the rocky summit. Maybe it was all for him to spend twenty-five years more with his wife, who always lived with the fear of losing him. Broad Peak consumed his life, whether physically or mentally. The pain he endured while ascending was nothing compared to the regret he lived with for years. While most might consider it madness, for those who have dedicated their lives to this passion, it is what keeps them alive. There might have been logical errors during the climb, but the “could-have-been-s” always remain in such life-threatening expeditions. Maciej and Tomasz’s bodies were never found. A search party was sent, but after two days, they were declared dead. Considering the weather conditions and their bodily exhaustion, it was considered impossible for them to have survived any longer.
“Broad Peak” is a 2022 Drama Adventure Film directed by Leszek Dawid.