As is often the case with stories about Sir Edmund Hillary, Ocean to Sky is a story encompassing innovation and adventure, loyalty and friendship, and a can-do attitude. In 1977, Hillary led an expedition of 17 friends up the River Ganges, India's holy river, on a three-month, 2500km jetboat journey from the coast to the river's source in the Himalayas.
Ocean to Sky director Mike Dillon was an expedition member; one of the film crew who captured the journey on 16mm film. This footage has been remastered, and together with personal accounts from fellow expedition members, including Ed's son, Peter Hillary, we're given an insider's guide to being on tour with Ed Hillary.
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The journey takes us from wide, vast, unpredictable stretches of the lower Ganges towards the steeped gorges and white-water rapids in the mountains. As far as scenery goes, it's gorgeous, but it's the people who make this film special — from the crowds who lined the river for a glimpse of Edmund Hillary to the villagers they met along the way, and the team on this crazy, at times nerve-racking, trip of a lifetime.
The journey was taken several years after the tragic death of Sir Ed's wife and young daughter in a plane crash in Nepal. According to those closest to him, this was his greatest journey and one which allowed both father and son to find peace with their grief. Their pilgrimage mirrored that of many Hindus (albeit without the jetboats), showing us the importance and spirituality of River Ganga.
Watching Hillary: Ocean to Sky is like stepping back in time, there are many young faces that viewers will recognise, such as Sir Graeme Dingle, Dr Jim Wilson and Mike Hamilton (grandson of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton), and their recollections of Ed Hillary's life-threatening illness in the Himalayas is particularly emotional.
Cast: Peter Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary
Director: Mike Dillon
Running Time: 106 mins
Verdict: A great yarn told with heart and humour.