The true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.


Kevin Macdonald


Joe Simpson (book)
8 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview:
Brendan Mackey ... Joe Simpson
Nicholas Aaron ... Simon Yates
Richard Hawking Richard Hawking ... Self
Joe Simpson Joe Simpson ... Self
Simon Yates Simon Yates ... Self
Ollie Ryall Ollie Ryall ... Richard Hawking


In 1985 two friends, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, set out to climb Siula Grande in Peru via the West Face, a hitherto unaccomplished feat by any climber. After a tough ascent they succeed but on the descent they run into significant problems. Soon they are both in dire danger and the chances of surviving are slim. Written by grantss

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The closer you are to death, the harder you cling to life. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The production spent a month in Peru but only 2 weeks of that actually shooting. The rest of the time was spent traveling to the remote locations. As Peru proved such a difficult place to shoot, they decided to only film what couldn't be filmed elsewhere and, once that was in the can, they decamped to the Alps where the transport infrastructure was much better. See more »


When Joe reaches the bottom of the crevasse (00:59:57) and starts crawling on his stomach towards the sunlight, you can clearly see the blue helmet of another person. See more »


[first lines]
Joe Simpson: We climb cause it's fun.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the first part of the closing credits (before the crawl), the credits are accompanied by black-and-white pictures showing the three men's journey back into civilization; the final picture is of Joe in the hospital. See more »


Referenced in Film 2018: Episode dated 2 December 2014 (2014) See more »


Spem in Alium
Written by Thomas Tallis
Performed by King's College Choir
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User Reviews

Incredible story of endurance that should be seen on the big screen
20 June 2004 | by gregsrantsSee all my reviews

'To be seen on a big screen!!'

I hated that line. I never thought it made much sense. Sure, when everyone had 13-inch television sets and a mono-VCR, I could understand how the movie going experience would be more enhanced at the local multi-plex. But in today's world of large screen, letterboxed television sets with surround sound sub-woofered DVD players, could I not enjoy any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at home just the same as forking over $13 sans popcorn and parking to sit beside a bunch of strangers in the dark that will undoubtedly chat non-stop behind me and ignore my discomforting shhh's? (whew, deep breath!)

'To be seen on a big screen!!' You won't ever get me uttering those seven dirty words to any friend of family.

But a funny thing happened on my way to review heaven, and that funny thing included the newly DVD released true story of two mountain climbers in peril in film Touching the Void.

Based on the true story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, Touching the Void takes us on an adventure of endurance and the struggle for survival of two young British climbers in the 1980's that attempt to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in Peru. Their hopeful two-day venture is met with catastrophe when Joe accidentally slips and gruesomely breaks his leg and decisions by both men are made that will ultimately seal their fate.

Sound exciting? You have no idea.

Directed in a documentary style using the real Joe Simpson and Simon Yates as narrators to actors recreating their ordeal, Touching the Void follows the journey of one man trying to save another from inevitable death only to eventually cut him loose when reality supplants hope.

Now separated, Simon deals with his demons of leaving a friend to die while the very much alive in spirit, Joe, struggles for days on end with a broken leg to crawl and climb over treacherous terrain to reunite with hopefully still-in-tact base camp.

As the film is narrated by two of the three participants in the story, is comes as no surprise that Joe survived his weeklong struggle. However, knowing the outcome in no way counters the impact of the ordeal. When Joe starts hallucinating due to the lack of water or has to take one hop at a time over a rocky landscape that leaves him with abrasions and pain that you would almost feel through the screen, you are still met with an edge of your seat tension, rooting for the will of a man to take each day in 20 minute segments of accomplishments in movement.

What makes Touching the Void so unique and different from other documentaries is the truthfulness of the two leads. They hold back nothing in an attempt not to sugarcoat the horror. Simon talks about thinking about the stories and lies he might tell in order to cover up what was a burdening decision to leave a friend behind. And Joe talks about yelling at Simon in anger and being surprised at how Simon developed a plan to take the two of them down the mountain when an injury of this sort was almost certain death.

But what really made this film stand out in my memory are the landscape shots of the mountain. Filmed both in Peru and Europe, the mountain's icy crevices and snow-banked cliffs were beautifully photographed and captured by director Kevin MacDonald. When Joe falls into a crevice that would be undeniable death for even a seasoned climber, we are left with a sense of claustrophobia and loneliness that is hard for even the most seasoned of directors to capture.

The DVD comes with extras that include a short of Joe and Simon reuniting 17 years later to go back to the mountain to relive the experience for the film crew, that is just as honest as the feature presentation. Joe talks of having no feeling whatsoever towards the attempt and wonders why he has agreed to what will be a disappointing emotional response for the director. And when Simon talks about how he and Joe have not remained close after adventure, we are reminded that these are real people with real feelings that survived something that might even have had Job cry 'uncle'.

So, in a year where documentaries have begun to outperform some mainstream Hollywood films, you can add Touching the Void to the list. Just make sure you see it on a big screen.

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Release Date:

12 March 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Touching the Void See more »

Filming Locations:

Peru See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$96,973, 25 January 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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