In Cliffhanger, Sylvester Stallone plays Gabe Walker, a member of a mountain-climbing rescue team. Gabe is haunted by an incident from his past when he couldn't save the girlfriend of his best friend, Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker), from falling to her death. As the story begins, Gabe has left mountain-climbing rescue work and has set up business in Denver. He returns to the mountain rescue office to persuade his lover, Jessie (Janine Turner), to quit and come back to Denver with him. While he is begging Jessie to head out to Denver, things are happening in the skies overhead. A gang of professional crooks headed by psychotic Eric Qualen (John Lithgow) has hijacked a U.S. Treasury plane carrying millions of dollars. But the plane crashes, and the bad guys find themselves stranded on top of a mountain with the money (put into three cases) scattered around the wreckage and with no way to get down off the pinnacle to retrieve the cases. They put in a phony distress call that is received by the mountain rescue team. Gabe agrees to take part in one last rescue attempt, and they head up to help rescue the thieves. But Qualen has plans for the rescuers -- to force them to climb through the dangerous snow-covered peaks to find the three suitcases of cash.