Extreme effort yields Everest time-lapse film

Ottawa filmmaker Elia Saikaly endured chilling cold, sleep deprivation and avalanches over two years to create his short time-lapse film on Everest.

Ottawa filmmaker and explorer Elia Saikaly spent hours shooting his latest Everest short film

(Elia Saikaly/Vimeo)

At 2 a.m., when other Everest climbers were getting much needed sleep in their wind-battered tents, Elia Saikaly was setting up shots and waiting for ideal conditions to capture the mountain's night sky.

Saikaly, an Ottawa-based adventurer and filmmaker who has summited Everest, shot over 70,000 still images over two years (starting in 2014) to create an astonishing film, released this week, that lasts just two minutes and 35 seconds.

The film's sense of solitude and tranquillity is thanks to the fact he shoots the footage overnight when all the other climbers are asleep.

"People just don't realize how much goes into it. How much suffering comes along with staying up all night, getting up early. And all the work that comes along, also, with getting it wrong, because you try these things and it's going great for two hours and all of a sudden the clouds will roll in and your shot will be messed up. So you try it again and when you get it, it's just pure magic." 


Saikaly didn't release the images sooner, because they were taken during two climbing seasons in 2014 and 2015 which ended up becoming the deadliest in Everest history.

Explorer and filmmaker Elia Saikaly delayed the release of his time lapse film, shot in 2014 and 2015 on Mount Everest, out of respect for the victims of two of the deadliest climbing seasons in history. (Radio Canada)

"It just felt disrespectful to release the images in light of everything that went wrong those seasons and everything that happened," said Saikaly.

"In 2014, I was actually trapped above the area where the avalanche occurred and a lot of those images that you see are actually from 22,000 feet, at Camp Two, on Everest," he said.

"And then in 2015, all of the images, I'd say about 70 per cent of those were shot just days prior to the earthquake. So it's a bit of an emotional release to a degree, letting them go and releasing them to the world."