Sunday, 27 November 2011

‘The Long Hope’ DVD Trailer Now Online

Our new film, ‘The Long Hope’ is now available on DVD and HD download.
 The Long Hope DVD, Cover photo by Lukasz Warzecha, design by Ifan Bates
We had a great time at the premiere last week, with a sold out theatre at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. Folk seem to really enjoy it. It was great to be over hearing so many positive comments in the bar all weekend at Kendal… Not that we spent all weekend in the bar… just most of it!
 The Long Hope premiere, pic Lukasz Warzecha
Highlights of Kendal for me include, Cory Richard’s and Anson Fogel’s short film 'Cold' and John Beatty’s A/V presentation, ‘Wild Vision’.
On the Sunday night we were all thrilled to win the People's Choice award, thank you to everyone who voted for the film.
The winning team! Andy Turner, Guy Heaton, Lukasz Warzecha, Ed Drummond, Matt Pycroft, Claire MacLeod, Dave MacLeod, Paul Diffley, presented by Nico Favresse
If you want to know what all the fuss is about, watch our new trailer and don’t fear the ‘Full Screen’ button, its 1080p!
'The Long Hope' - Trailer
Do you want to see it all? DVDs and HD downloads now available from


P.S. Please hit one of the magic buttons below to share this blog and share the love x

Sunday, 11 September 2011

10 Reasons Why Climbing Photography is Easier Than Making Climbing Films

When I was shooting 'The Long Hope' on Hoy this year I had a running joke with climbing photographer Lukasz Warzecha that he had it easy and that shooting video was much harder than shooting stills. So, with that in mind here are my 10 reasons why:- 
(Warning: please don't take this too seriously!)

1 Sound Acquisition

Stills don't need sound! Recording good quality sound in an extreme position is incredibly difficult.  You have to compete with the environment (wind, water etc). It requires specialist equipment, radio mics, broadcast quality mics, wind shields. It also requires set up and monitoring with headphones (which are a real pain when hanging from a rope!).

2 Sound Post Production

Sound is such a biggy it deserves to get two in the list of ten. About 20% of the post production of a film is concerned with sound. 

3 Tripods

To get good GVs (General views - eg landscapes, pans and tilts etc) you have to use a tripod for video; with stills you can just snap away handheld. Yeah sure, there are a few times when you might shoot a still on a tripod, but it's rare. Good video tripods are heavy and a real pain to carry. (My top tip for any budding climbing filmmakers out there is always try to make the talent (i.e. the climber) carry the tripod!)

4 Lighting

When photographers talk about lights often they just mean flash guns; they only need to light their subject for a fraction of a second. Video needs continuous lighting. I recently shot some video of a climb in a cave. As well as 3 x 800 watts spotlights with stands I also had to carry in a large petrol generator to power them. Compare that to a couple of flash guns and a handful of AAs!

5 Media Size

After the two week shoot on Hoy I now have 1500GB of video to trawl through. I bet Lukasz came away with only about 50GB.

6 Editing

When I hear a photographer talk about 'editing' that really sets me off! They have it so easy! All they have to do is skim though their images from the shoot and pick out the keepers from the choss. Then they spend a pleasant evening tweaking setting and 'playing' with filters until they have their final images. Editing a film can be a 500-hour life altering journey, resulting in lack of sleep and social contact, malnourishment and an existential crisis.

7 Photoshop Trickery 

Whether its HDR (high dynamic range) or de-cluttering, photoshopping is easy with stills. Try fixing shots like this at 25fps. For a short 5 second clip that's 125 frames which need to be fixed and even then it might not work and look a little odd.

8 Video Formats

HD, SD, MPG, Quicktime, AVIs, PAL, NTSC, progressive, interlaced, anamorphic, frame rate, data rate, pixel aspect ratio, field dominance,  etc. Video formats is a whole world of hurt!
Compare with stills: RAW or JPG!  It's not just the number of formats that is the problem, it's trying to convert from one format to another. With stills you just select 'Save As' doesn't work like that.

9 Portrait Composition

Climbing is mostly a vertical pursuit; one goes from the bottom to the top mostly (usually!) in a upright position. Therefore it is so much easier to compose a good climbing shot in portrait orientation. Video is a landscape / wide screen format, we just don't have that option. When I shoot stills its a joy to be able to turn the camera around 90 degrees. Warning, if you ever ask a photographer to shoot some video for you on his DSLR ("my camera shoots HD video you know!") remind them to shoot landscape! 

10 One Frame for Glory!

For a photographer to win praise and even prizes they only need to produce one stunning image, or as a filmmaker would say, one frame. My new film 'The Long Hope' is 60mins long, so that's 60mins x 60 sec x 25fps = 90,000 frames! That's 90,000 frames that all have to perfectly exposed, composed and colour corrected. Not to mention in some sort of order so that the film makes sense. 

So that's why stills are easier than video.  This is an open and public invitation to Lukasz to defend his profession, or bow down before all filmmakers and admit that stills are easy ;-)

Finally, I have to come clean and say that I will be attending Lukasz's photography workshop in North Wales at the end of this month (if he is still speaking to me after this post!). Just because stills are 'easy' it doesn't mean that I can't learn something from a pro!

Still a few places left.


'Wide Boyz' - A Crazy New Climbing Film (Due 2012)

We've been working on a new film which will be out next year featuring Peter Whittaker and Thomas Randall.

The last time Pete featured in a Hot Aches film (Committed Vol II) he produced some of the craziest climbing I've ever seen.

Pete Whittaker on the first ascent of 'Dynamics of Change' E9.
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Over the last couple of years Pete and Tom have been on a mission to climb the worlds hardest offwidth cracks. This mission is culminating in a two month climbing trip to the USA starting this week. Hot Aches have teamed up with American filmmaker Chris Alstrin of Alstrin Films and Chris will be recording all the action across the pond.

Offwidth crack climbing is a bit of a specialty. In fact, I'm not sure I understood exactly what the definition of an offwidth was until working with 'The Wide Boys', or 'Wide Boyz' according to their blog. Tom described it to me as a crack which is too wide to hand or fist jam, yet not wide enough to fit your whole body into, as then it gets classed as a squeeze chimney.

Personally,  I'm not sure about the 'z', What do you think? Should I call the film 'Wild Boyz' or 'Wild Boys'? Please let me know in the comments below.

I spent two weeks filming with the 'Boys/Boyz' in the Peak District and North Wales, climbing many of the UKs hardest crack climbs.

Tom Hanging out of Cobalt Dream E5

Ray's Roof, first climbed by the inventor of Friends, Ray Jardine, was considered the UK's classic hard offwdith. I've not only filmed Pete and Tom solo this but I've also got some funny footage of them attempting it wearing a 20kg training vest… Not the easiest thing to carry in to the crag.

20KG training vest

The Wide Boys haven't just been ticking off all the hardest climbs and problems, they have been training too… training like I've never seen before!
 crack training

Underneath a suburban semi on the outskirts of Sheffield is an offwidth crack training dungeon! A training cellar in Sheffield is nothing new, in fact there was a time when you could hardly visit a climber in Sheffield without him wanting to show you his woody! However, this one doesn't contain tiny crimps and a replica of Hubble.  No, instead it is made up of horizontal offwidth cracks of various sizes.

Pete wedged between two pieces of wood underneath a house in Sheffield

Here Pete and Tom spend their evenings hanging upside down and completing monster crack climbing circuits. The width of the cracks varies in places and to aid identification they have named the sections of crack… most seem to have girls names for some reason! 
 Tom in his cellar
The Wide Boys have now clocked up over 18,000 feet of offwidth climbing in Tom's cellar. The question now is how will that translate to hard offwidth climbing in the States? You can find out by following Pete and Tom on their blog here Wide Boyz Blog

And join the Hot Aches Facebook page  for all the latest updates.


Pete and Tom's trip is supported by Wild Country, Rab and Patagonia

Thanks to Adrian Samarra for his help filming in the Peak and North Wales.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Bongo Bar, Norway.... or as I like to call it 'Um Bongo'!

I've just spent two weeks shooting stills and video for the Gore Tex Experiace Tour - Norway. The 'tour' gave two winner of a competition, Julia Snihur and Helena Robinson, the chance to climb and explore Arctic Norway with Dave MacLeod.

Dave MacLeod, Helena Robinson, Julia Snihur below Blåmann

We were based at Ersfjorden (or as I like to call it Erik's Fjord) just 15min drive from Norway's northern city of Tromso. Tromso reminds me of a little of Inverness, its population is comparable, it's in the far north and it has a big bridge!

Ersfjorden (Sport crags and boulders)

Fishing boat on Ersfjorden

It is an awesome area, beautifully wild with tons of rock and amazing light.

Amazing Light 

Dave was obviously very keen to get on to the 400m wall at Blåmann. In fact with in about an hour of picking up the hire car we had gone food shopping, dropped all our kit at our hut and we were walking in to crag. The walk in to the base is fairly short but stiff. I guess it's like the walk in to Orion's Face from the North face car park, or at least to the CIC hut.

The North Face of Blåmann

The wall felt quite alpine, you had to cross some short snow fields and a bergschrund before scrabbling up to its base. Dave then spent the next 3 days looking at freeing an existing aid route, Bongo Bar. I like to call it "Um Bongo" after the 1980's fruit drink:-

"Um Bongo, they drink it in the Congo" 

After 3 days effort and working out all the moves on the hard lower pitches (upto F8a) Dave concluded  that it wasn't a safe objective for the trip.

The team then focused on sports climbing for a few days.

Helena Robinson, climbing at "Erik's Fjord"

Dave MacLeod hanging out at "Erik's Fjord"

Dave MacLeod hanging off 'Fidel' at Gullknausen

Julia Snihur on Ramadan at "Erik's Fjord"

Helena Robinson on Granitveien at "Erik's Fjord"

Then Dave started to talk about Bongo Bar again, maybe there was a way it could be done. I remember asking Dave, "Is it niggling you"? He just laughed and said "Its more than a niggle!".

'Ghost Clouds over Blåmann'

So with only 4 days of the trip left we all hiked back into Blåmann again for Dave to attempt to lead the route free in a day with Julia seconding and sharing the lead on some of the easier top pitches.

Dave eyes up the route

With limited static rope, there was no way I could follow the ascent on the wall, so I got a position on a flank of rock overlooking the wall and shot video and stills from there. All the stills from this position have the theme of "Lost in a sea of granite"!

Dave and Julia swimming in the sea of granite 

As Dave and Julia approached the top pitches I lowered down the last 50m of the cliff to film the final climbing. After 11 hours on the wall they topped out at sunset. 

Dave and Julia top out at sunset. This picture was taken in the dark! ISO 800, 50mm f1.4, 1/30. It was lit by a head torch... I think it would have looked OK, but Julia was more interested in eating than posing for a picture after 11 hours on the wall. 

Two days later, Dave and I were back on the wall for some reshoots of the hard lower pitches and to grab some close up stills.

Dave MacLeod on Pitch 2 of Bongo Bar

Dave MacLeod on Pitch 2 of Bongo Bar

So take the live footage from long shots and the top pitches, mix in the reshoot of the lower pitches, add some handicam footage taken on the wall by the climbers, cut with interviews from Dave and Julia and I think we have a film!

For now, here's a wee taster:-


Thanks to GoreTex for supporting this trip and to Donald King providing safety and rigging support.

More pictures and video from the trip are on:
GORE-TEX Facebook site 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

E8 Onsight for MacHaffie

Yesterday Matt headed over to Raven Crag in Langdale to film James MacHaffie's attempt at onsighting Dawes Rides a Shovelhead. The route, originally climbed by Dave Birkett, comes in at E8 6c and has not seen an onsight attempt before. Caff made the most of the glorious sunshine and warmed up on a couple of the easier routes before deciding to give Dawes a go.

The route follows the thin crack line up the centre of the main face and is protected by a couple of relatively unreliable nuts and some old bolts. Caff mentioned that if the route had wires in the place of those bolts it would probably be E6. He is fresh off of his impressive 9a ascent of The Big Bang (which he climbed twice), and is feeling 'sport fit' at the minute. He said that the moves felt pretty easy, although there is a distinct lack of good foot holds in the crux section.

Caff is back in the Lakes for a few days, and is planning on heading down to Malham to spend a few days climbing some hard sport.

Thanks to Dan McCann for some of the images.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Gore-Tex Experience Tour - Arctic Norway

I'm very pleased to have been given the opportunity to join Dave MacLeod and two competition winners on a 14-day trip to the islands and fjords around Tromso in Norway.

The competition, run by Gore-Tex, asked climbers from all over Europe to apply to join Dave on the trip. After an initial selection process Dave narrowed down the field to just four finalists and last weekend Gore-Tex hosted a weekend climbing event so that Dave could choose the two ultimate winners who would be joining us in Norway.

The Finalists: James Oswald, Julia Snihur, Helena Robinson, Jacob Lloyd

I think all the finalist had a great weekend climbing with Dave. I took some stills of them climbing; it's been a while since I have taken only stills. Normally my priority has to be video and I try to gets some stills if time allows. Alternatively, I often work alongside a photographer who looks after the stills for me. I really enjoyed been able to concentrate on just one task for the day. And what a thrill to be allow to shoot in portrait! The thing is, climbing is all about the vertical... and wide screen video is all about the horizontal!

Ratho, The EICC and the Quarry

Up until last weekend I had always dismissed the quarry at Ratho (that is, the bit without the massive climbing wall in!) as a slightly scrappy climbing venue. However, after
taking photos and watching the finalists enjoy leading the routes I have changed my opinion of the place.

Helena Robinson on Shear Fear, E2 5c, Ratho Quarry

James on Sedge Warbler E2 5b

I think Dave found it very hard to choose between the four finalist, they were all really nice folk and super keen climbers, but only two of them could join us in Norway:-

Helena and Julia will be joining Dave in Norway

We head to Norway mid August. I'm very excited about this trip, I've never been to Norway before. I am tasked with producing still as well as moving images from this trip, so I'm also excited about been able to dedicate time to working with a more static medium.

There are some more images from the day on the Hot Aches Facebook Page.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

New Film Poster - The Long Hope

Since 2008 I've been working with a great graphic designer, Ifan Bates. Ifan's first design for Hot Aches was for the Committed II DVD:

Then in 2009 he produced the 'Monkey See, Monkey Do' DVD:

When he sent me the design for The Pinnacle I was blown away. For the first time it looked like a 'real' movie not just some climbing DVD.

Now he's just send me a draft for our new film, 'The Long Hope'. I think his design skills combined with Lukasz Warzecha's stunning portrait of Dave and Andy has made for an exceptional image.

'The Long Hope' movie poster - click for full screen

It's always funny to see the film poster design before I've edited the film... still it gives me something to aim for!


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Longhope route success

Yesterday at 20:40 Dave Macleod was sat on top of St John's Head having just completed the first ascent of Longhope Direct. The full route, at 500m, took Dave and Andy just under 10 hours to complete.

The Guillotine pitch - Lukasz Warzecha
When asked about the grade, an elated Dave said that he isn't entirely sure just yet, but knows that it's definitely harder than Rhapsody (E11 7a), the route he climbed at Dumbarton Rock in 2006.
Dave on Rhapsody - Hot Aches Productions
Upon hearing the news, Jon Arran stated that: "I find it incredible that this route has seen only three ascents in over 40 years and has never been repeated (or even attempted?) in the style of the previous ascent."

He continued to explain that the route was first climbed by Drummond and Hill using any means available to complete the route. After that the face went unclimbed for 27 years until Arran and Turnbull climbed it free, taking a different route between the two arêtes to make for a line that could be more easily free climbed. It is only now, after 14 further years, that Dave has climbed the entire face whilst incorporating the original aid crux in to his line.

Moving through the start of the crux pitch - Lukasz Warzecha

The route itself is fairly inaccessible, with access to the bottom of the line involving a 400 metre descent through a fulmar infested gully on steep overgrown terrain.
The Lost World: St John's Head from the beach - Matt Pycroft

It becomes even more daunting when you consider that working the 8b+ crux pitch involves shunting on an overhang suspended 400 metres above the rocks below. When you also factor in the inaccessibility of St John's Head (a pathless, heather infested moorland covered in dive bombing bonxies) it becomes clear that any line on the face is inevitably going to be a real adventure. Dave has been taking trips to Hoy for a while with the aim of working Longhope Direct, and yesterday was the first time he had linked the pitches together. Dave has just posted a detailed account of his ascent on his blog, and has stated that what he wanted from the route was a "super hard long route that was bold, loose, birdy, hard to climb in a day - as pure as possible." He says that "that’s absolutely what Scottish sea cliff climbing is about."

Guy, Lukasz and Diff filming Dave on the crux pitch. - Matt Pycroft

The Hot Aches crew all had a brilliant day, and needless to say we dragged our aching bodies through the doors of 'ME Cottage' that evening with grins from ear to ear. Guy, Lukasz and Diff all jugged a fair distance yesterday, and Guy was forced to make a speed ascent of about 50 metres to catch Dave traversing through The Vice. I spent the morning slipping and sliding my way down

A video of Diff filming on ropes on the crux pitch can be seen on the Hot Aches Facebook page.

The ascent is currently being discussed on the UKC forums.

Posted by Matt

Interviews with Dave and Andy

Interviews with Andy and Dave (pre-send) are both now on the Hot Aches Facebook page. We had intended to walk in on Monday regardless of the weather, but it became apparent very quickly that the conditions were just too damp and dismal…

Interview with Dave:

Interview with Andy

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Matt's guest blog - First few days on Hoy

Hi, I'm Matt Pycroft and I'm working on the Hoy shoot as a cameraman. I've put a quick post together to show you what's been going on since we arrived on the island.

Well the first few days on Hoy have been pretty exciting. The ‘ME cottage’ we are staying in is really swish, and is by no means the rundown bothy I was expecting.

'ME Cottage'

After arriving on Thursday night we packed our bags and grabbed a few hours sleep before heading out towards the crag on Friday morning. Between us we have a huge amount of kit, and as a result the walk in on Friday morning was a painful one when coupled with the initial section involving 400m of height gain on 45 degree terrain.

It's hard to keep up with Dave Macleod

Once we had made it to the coast, Diff and I shot some footage of Dave and Andy arriving at the crag, as well as capturing the moment where Andy saw the route for the first time. The crag is the biggest continuous sea cliff in Britain, and is an incredibly imposing piece of rock. From the promontory where I will be shooting some of my wide shots the line looks extremely impressive.

The view from the peninsula

Diff, Guy, Lukasz and I spent much of the day scouting out shooting locations and angles, whilst Dave and Andy checked out the route and had one last look at the moves (which, incidentally, was Andy’s first chance to catch a glimpse of the line close up).

Guy, Diff, Lukasz and Dave on the route

Whilst hammering in the stakes for the ropes at the top of the crag, there was a minor setback. I’ve put together a quick edit of the mishap below:

Hoy shoot - Behind the scenes from Hot Aches Productions on Vimeo.

As everyone became confident that they were ready for the shoot, people started to filter off back to the ME cottage to sort out gear and pack bags. It got to around 10pm and eventually it was just Dave and I left at the crag. After sorting out our gear we headed off towards the car. The sunset was stunning, and considering the crag is West facing it made for some great footage as we walked out.

Sunset over Hoy. Hard to beat.

We spent Saturday just chilling out and resting to be fully prepared for the shoot today (Sunday), but unfortunately we woke up this morning to an island coated in drizzly mist. Dave and Andy reluctantly called it off at around 10am, and we made the decision to head up tomorrow, weather dependant.

Dave and Andy, having just called it off.

An interview with Dave Macleod will follow this post on the Hot Aches Facebook:

Check out the team's blogs here:



Monday, 13 June 2011

Major New Climbing Film

This year's major film project is about to commence. We are shortly heading to the island of Hoy with Dave Macleod and Andy Turner to film an ambitious ascent of the Long Hope Route on St John's Head.

The Long Hope Route, Pic Dave MacLeod, Click to enlarge

But first, a bit of history. The Long Hope Route was first climbed in 1970 by Ed Drummond and Oliver Hill. They spent 7 days on the wall, sleeping on ledges and in hammocks, and several of the 23 pitches involved some aiding. A first free ascent was made by John Arran and Dave Turnbull in 1997, but this avoided the final pitch up the steep headwall, taking instead a slightly less direct line. Both ascents were landmark achievements for their time, both being onsight and showing real audacity in an unusually inhospitable environment. St John's Head is a 1000 feet of sandstone, making it the highest vertical sea cliff in the British Isles.

Topo drawn from memory by Oliver Hill, 40 years after the first ascent.
Click to enlarge.

This summer's challenge is for Dave and Andy to climb the Long Hope Route in a single day, freeing the final pitch up the headwall which Dave considers will come in around a hefty F8b+. Quite a challenge after 850 feet of sandy sea cliff and several pitches of E5 and above. This will certainly make it among the biggest undertakings in British climbing.

We have already interviewed John Arran, Dave Turnbull and Oliver Hill about their respective experiences on the wall and are privileged to have Ed Drummond joining us on Hoy this summer. The film will tell the story of the previous ascents as well as Dave and Andy's one-day mission.

Ed and Oliver gearing up for their 7-day epic (Pic. Oliver Hill)

For those of you who know sea cliffs and particularly sea cliffs on the Northern Isles, the varied challenges will be easily acknowledged. For starters, Orkney seems to have it's own weather system. While here in Edinburgh we might be basking in sunshine, St John's Head might be caught in a raging storm with gale force winds and lashing rain. In June, one needs thermals and Goretex. Having dressed for the weather, one is then left to contend with the wildlife, more specifically, the vomiting fulmars. As luck (or nature) would have it, the time when the weather is most clement for climbing coincides nicely with the seabird population reaching maximum density. Not least of the challenges is the approach. First, drive to the very northern tip of mainland Scotland. Then catch two ferries, followed by a stiff 2 hour walk-in and a horrific 1-hour scramble down a treacherously steep, grassy slope.....roadside it is not.

Dave at the top of pitch 1.

We had an unsuccessful attempt to film this route last summer. With a limited time available we had only one day to attempt the climb. The day started ok with footage of the first 2 pitches captured. But things started to unravel when a camera and tripod met with a gust of wind and a rock pool. Enough said. By the time I had scrambled back to the top of the cliff, soggy camera in tow, the mist was rolling in. As Dave reached pitch 5, the rain had started. Climbing and filming now both impossible, we abandoned ship. We've added some pics from last year to our Facebook page:

Soggy kit


Shooting plan for the crux pitch, Click to enlarge

Cameraman's view....birdseye

So this year, we're going back with the big guns. We have much more time, more crew and more film kit than we can possibly carry!! Mountain Equipment are key sponsors of the project and Stoats Porridge Bars will be keeping us well fueled.

Keep up to date with the trip via our social media pages:

Hot Aches:
Lukasz Warzecha:
Dave Macleod:

Hot Aches:!/HotAches
Dave Macleod:!/davemacleod09
Lukasz Warzecha:!/LukaszWarzecha

Lukasz Warzecha's blog:
Dave Macleod's blog:
Andy Turner's blog: