Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Mountains within

Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 audio

Scene from the documentary film "The True Summit"
Kevin DeVries

He’s climbed five of the seven highest summits and skied to the North Pole. He’s kayaked all of the Great Lakes and explored 70 countries. But in 2019, Kevin DeVries died of cardiac arrest. He was brought back to life by nothing less than a miracle and climbed Mt. Everest soon after. The True Summit is his documentary about the journey climbing Everest – and the mountains within.

A conversation with Kevin DeVries

Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 audio

DeVries says it can be more difficult to undertake the journey of 18 inches from the head to the heart than it is to climb 18,000 feet.

Kevin DeVries
Courtesy Kevin DeVries

“If we’re unable to do the 18 inches, we’re forced to go 18,000 feet or 18,000 miles, because there is something about the inward journey that, if we can’t process trauma or pain or past occurrences, we almost always externalize them because we can’t internalize them. In our documentary, there’s one line there where I’m actually sitting at base camp looking at the peak of Mt. Everest and I’m trying to breathe as best I can because we are at 17,500 feet. The question is asked by the narrator, ‘Do you still want to climb Mt. Everest?’ I replied that I felt like I already had. There had been a litany of personal experiences that had brought me to that conclusion.”

It was September 21, 2019, and DeVries had been training for the Boston Marathon. He was in top shape—or so it seemed.

After all, DeVries was no ordinary runner. He’s an explorer. His resume also includes helping excavate the Dead Sea Scroll cave in the Middle East.

But there he was, lying on the ground just outside of a cemetery, his heart stopped by cardiac arrest.

“It was right before dusk,” DeVries says. “Three people were nearby when it happened. A couple of them were running behind in their schedules. Another was a nurse practitioner. They knew what to do. They ran over and immediately started compressions to keep my blood pumping until an ambulance arrived.”

It was that immediate response that saved DeVries’ life. He had a defibrillator implanted near his heart to prevent a reoccurrence and make possible his longer journey.

But still, there was the trauma of that event and others that he and the 14 men DeVries was with at the Mt. Everest base camp needed to work through. The True Summit follows their journey — of 18 inches and 18,000 feet.

DeVries is the founder of Grace Explorations, an organization that helps Christian ministries reach men through Gospel-centered storytelling, and the events on which those stories are built. The True Summit premiered in November 2022 at Celebration Cinema theaters in Michigan but is still available online and in selected theaters.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.