Sunday, 24 December 2006

Cave Action

Yesterday, when most of Britain was out shopping, I headed up to Birnam with Fiona Murray for another blast on our respective climbing projects. Now is the time that the training really needs to be coming together. Only 3 weeks left before we head out to Austria and Italy.

Diff meanwhile was down in the Peak, scoping out some fiming locations.

Will Gadd and Kev Shields climbing at Birnam, Feb 06 (Photos; Hot Aches Images)

Fiona has been training on Scott Muir's brute route Fast and Furious (which featured in Fools With Tools) and on the last few visits has come tantalisingly close. At the same location I've also got a new project that I bolted in the autumn which I've been steadily getting stonger on.
Tony Stone at Birnam demonstrating that mixed climbing is the perfect excuse to grope a woman's arse.

Over on my project I had decided that it was time to sort out the gear at the end of the route, so I relocated a couple of bolts and added a decent lower-off. Stupidly I hadn't brought a spanner, so the last bolt and lower-off were just tapped in and hand tightened into the nearly horizontal roof. I'd fix it properly next visit, not expecting to get anywhere near that point on my climbing attempts. This route is way harder than anything I've climbed before.

Dave on Project X

Funny how things happen. My high point on the route before had been halfway. But this time I managed to keep going and going, fighting like mad. I nervously clipped the final bolt but a single moment of doubt about the bolts before launching into the last two moves drained my energy, and I was off.


Fiona Murray is a very stong winter climber and on this sort of terrain is certainly the country's best female. With 3 M10s under her belt, Fast and Furious is nevertheless her hardest objective yet. Sure, it's only really a training route, but it's still hard.

Fiona Murray on Caveman M10- Hoarhouse Cave, Canada (2005)

Fiona competing in the Ice World Cup 2006

On the third attempt of the day Fiona finally succeeded on F&F. "First Dickless Ascent" as the Canadians say, a poignant way to refer to female firsts.
Three years ago the route was graded M11 and climbed using heelspurs to rest at various points. Nowerdays mixed climbing grades have been realigned and the style of climbing is to not use spurs, and so on routes like this there are no rests. On the new grading scale F&F is now M10+ (or M10 if you do use spurs).

It's a good feeling to still be getting better at climbing after nearly 20 years at it.

Well we weren't filming at Birnam. Been there, done that. Next stop should hopefully be our delayed trip down to the Peak, next Tuesday.


Dave B

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Hari Berger

It was very sad this morning to learn of the death of Hari Berger on the "Eiskapelle" near Salzburg.

I have only met Hari a few times, but he was a very inspirational climber, super-psyched and super talented. I interviewed him recently for a magazine article about his new routes in Chile and his ambitions for more ice climbing in the greater ranges. That makes his death on an innocuous sounding small glacier seem harder to comprehend.

Condolences to his family and friends.

Hari Berger in Norway, on his way to winning the Ice Climbing World Cup Series 2005/6 Hot Aches Images


Dave B

Solo Action

Two days later we were glad to be able to get back to Largs to film in better weather. Kev had been going nuts about getting the route sent. When a project is right at your limit and is also so dangerous then it takes a lot of mental preparation, and I guess that when you feel you are ready to do it then you just want to get on and do it, rather than waiting around for the weather. Kev's project follows the slightly overhanging left facing wall. All pictures copyright Hot Aches Images

The route has no protection, escaping off left to the crack line isn't an option and their is no gear out on the arete either. The landing is bad, so it's was to be a pretty serious solo.

Kev Shields on the first ascent of The Darker Side E4 6a/b

Contemplative afterwards.


Dave B

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Change of Plan

Our filming trip to England ended up being cancelled at the last minute due to illness. So we headed over to Largs on the west coast of Scotland to film a first ascent (solo) of a route that Kev Shields had been eying up.

Last time we were over this way was in August and the weather was pretty idilic.

Fiona Murray, Kev Shields and Reuben Welsh at Quadrocks (Largs), summer 2006. [All photos copyright Hot Aches Images]

Unfortunately this time we spent the day dodging showers. We could see them heading across the sea from Arran and we'd try and work out if it would hit us or pass by. Just as Kev's route was becoming dry another one would catch us. Frustrating.

Another shower about to hit.

It wasn't the best outing for the new cameras either. Sony, in common with other manufacturers, are at pains to point out in their literature that their cameras are neither dust resistant or water resistant. In fact anything vaguely related to a normal day of filming climbing seems to invalidate the warranty. Why can't you get robust and weather sealed bodies and lenses like you do with good Digi SLRs?

Kev Shields back in August, making the first ascent of The Benny Hill Show, E4 6a/b.


Dave B

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Cameras and Climbing

Our upgrade process is now nearly complete with new cameras arriving as well as new audio and video software, PC and laptop. All this takes up quite a lot of time setting up and training (or "playing", as my partner calls it).

A pair of new Sony V1's. High Def. 24p. Sony's latest model, just launched in Europe.

It is quite amazing how camera technology has advanced in recent years. You can now achieve the same picture quality for a few thousand pounds that 3 years ago would have cost you £30k+. And camera size and weight is now small enough be able to lug around mountains and up and down rock climbs.

We also have some bespoke filming kit under development and another specialised camera to come. More on that soon.

We are heading down to the peak tomorrow for 6 days of filming with Kev Shields and Dave MacLeod. Should be interesting in lots of respects. Firstly Dave MacLeod is driving! - so if you see a Nissan Micra with L plates then steer well clear. Secondly it is Kev's first time on grit, and Dave himself hasn't been down there for several years. In fact, despite hailing from Yorkshire I haven't climbed on grit for 15 years. I'm not sure how I'll cope after 2 years of pocket pulling on limestone. Actually I know exactly how I'll cope, so I'll be staying behind the camera.

Hopefully our timing for the trip is right. The weather has been pretty poor, but now the forecast is looking really good.

Meanwhile back in Scotland winter has well and truly arrived. On saturday a few of us headed out to snatch an early season route. 5.00am start from Edinburgh is always tough, and I always have to do the driving while everyone else sleeps. Anyway, several hours later we arrived in the Northern Corries to be rewarded by excellent climbing conditions.

Mess of Pottage, looking plastered.

Dave B, looking pensive. In fact I'm doing exactly what I hate from climbers that I am photographing or filming. Wearing black clothes is rubbish for pictures, especially in winter.

On the subject of rubbish, my climbing was pretty appalling. I spent 90 minutes making painfully slow progress up the first pitch. 15 metres up I spent ages trying to find to find a way up, just two moves to go to easier ground. I committed to a couple of poor hooks and immediately was flying, back flip through the air and back down near my unimpressed belayer. "You were climbing crap" was her verdict.

Es and Thomas who were with us had a rather better day. They climbed Fall Out Corner, Thomas' first winter route in Scotland.

Back in the office we've been selling a few photos this week, UK and overseas. It's funny how you end up making money from climbing pics. Some of them keep getting used again and again. Sometimes other pictures that you never expected to sell also get used when a specific request comes in.


Tuesday, 5 December 2006

A Day Of Training

Today I didn't much feel like working. All the urgent stuff is out of the way, so I was glad that Mike Tweedley and Tony Stone turned up at 11.00 for some training in The Schoolyard - (the Hot Aches climbing wall that is conveniently located next to our Haymarket base).

Perhaps they were inspired by hearing yesterday the The Ice Factor are going to host The UK Ice and Mixed Climbing Championships in January. Once again the BBC will be televising it on The Adventure Show (BBC Scotland and Sky channel ??)

Tony, Mike and myself were the top 3 brits in last year's males comp so it's time to buckle down again. First we sorted out some overdue roof repairs on The Schoolyard roof, then some route setting was in order. Last year's competition featured some whacky route setting (this year Dave MacLeod is doing the honours), so Mike decided that we need to emulate some of that madness.

Tony Stone with drill. Doing what you're not allowed to do down your normal local climbing wall.

Tweedly innovative as ever - invents a new climbing technique... axe between the legs. Thigh power.

You may recognise Mike from our first movie Fools With Tools.
Three years on and happily nothing changes.

Tony Stone, fresh from an ascent of the '38 route on the Eiger, struggles to climb a 3ft log. (actually he's cruising but he still gets some stick).
Later Dave MacLeod called round with Cubby after a day's filming for the BBC at Aberdour. He was running low on stock of E11, so now he has plenty of stock to run to Christmas. You can buy E11 along with a range of other DVDs from his online store.

That's enough. Need to get one with some work now.
Diff has been updating our website so check out the latest.
Dave B

Monday, 4 December 2006

Sunday Times Article

Some of you might have noticed a double page article about Dave MacLeod and E11 in this weekend's Sunday Times. It's pretty rare that the mainstream press devote any space to climbing.

We prepared a special selection of clips from E11 which they are hosting on their website

I wonder what non-climbers will make of that fall?

Dave B

Right Place Wrong Time

I new that we should have stayed a bit longer at Siurana.
Just after we left I read that Edu Marin grabbed the much sought after second ascent of La Rambla f9a+, as well the second ascent of Rich Simpson's A Muerte f9a (confirming the grade). Two days later Chris Sharma also ticked La Rambla. See

Oh well. We're back filming at the end of next week, hopefully down in The Peak.

Dave B

New PC

Exciting Boxes

It was an exciting day for me on Friday when my new PC arrived. Despite my previous career in IT I am very poor at PC admin and I had a very bad relationship with my old computer. Most of our previous work from ‘Fools with Tools’ to ‘E11’ has been edited using my old PC… plus an increasing number of external hard drives which orbit the mother ship. My old PC refused to power a second monitor, despite me pointing out to it on several occasions that it had all the necessary hardware to do so.

Old SetUp ‘one monitor to rule them all’

Whenever I feel frustrated with technology, which happens a fair bit in this game, I am always reminded of the wise words of Douglas Adams:

"Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet"

So with the advent of my new PC I am going from a ‘one monitor to rule them all’ set-up to a three monitor system; two for my new dedicated editing suite and one for email/ web/ word etc… I feel like Mr Universe from Serenity

New SetUp

The purchase of the new PC, isn’t just to save me the effort of trying to get my old system to work, it’s actually needed in preparation for our move to HD video. We currently have 2 very sexy Sony HD Camera on order and there was no way that my old PC could handle editing HD.


Saturday, 2 December 2006

Wet Weekend

After spending a whole week in the office I just have to get out climbing.
Strange. Until a few months ago I was able to climb outdoors nearly every day. The sun always shone and work was something that other people did. Now that all seems like a distant memory.

Not that I'm complaining. Making films and taking photos is a lot more fun than most jobs I can think of. In fact it's more fun than any other job I can think of - which I guess is why I'm now doing it. Shame the pay is so bad, but who needs money?

So at last the chance to go and get some climbing done. Winter climbing conditions in Scotland had arrived early but then disapeared again. Also it's way too wet to rock climb, so back to the regular autumn haunt - the cave at Birnam and some hard training.
'The Tube' - a huge cave at Newtyle Quarry, Birnam. Thomas from France attempting F&F. (photos copyright Hot Aches Images and Oliver Metherell)

Dry tooling is a bit daft, but Birnam is a great venue to build up stamina for mixed climbing and for comps. I bolted a ridiculously hard line here 6 weeks ago. 60 degree overhanging for 35 metres. no rests. It's way out of my league but its good fun to try. Today I made some progress, some long links and the sequence works fine. Just need to get way way fitter and a bit stronger so that the moves aren't so close to my max. Most of the time that I climb aerobic fitness really isn't that important, but on this kind of terrain it really brings it home to you. You need to climb for about 7 minutes without a single rest and still be able to pull really hard on virtually every move.
Dave B on project X at Birnam.

Amongst the group at Birnam were Flo and Fiona, who featured in our All Mixed Up DVD.
Cavewomen - Fi and Flo today, looking very interested in doing some climbing.

Fiona got within a couple of inches of sending Fast and Furious D10+. Spurless and insisting on clipping every draw is a tough stlyle. If only she would skip that last clip it would have been sent weeks ago.

Fiona attempting F&F

Flo, attentive as ever.

Kev Shields was also at the Cave. We've been filming Kev a lot this year, on trad routes, soloing and on mixed routes. Today he made his umpteenth repeat of F&F.
You might notice in the photo that Kev has an unusual attachment to his left axe. Some smart engineering by Strathclyde Uni. Prosthetics dept enable Kev to use an ice axe without having a left hand. There should be a photo of Kev on one of his new E4s in the next edition of Climber Magazine.
Finally a picture of hardcore alpinist Oli Metherell on the North Face of Les Petits Nouveous Tile


Thursday, 30 November 2006

Back In The Office

At last some time at home.
Unfortunately the office work is hectic at the moment. So much to get sorted. Diff is working on our website and new blog as well as sorting out a special edition E11 T-Shirt in time for Xmas. I'm busy sorting out distribution for E11 in various far flung lands. Just sorted out a deal in Spain. E11 along with Set in Stone and First Ascents are going to be bundled into a special triple 'trad' DVD pack retailing at 60 euros. (In fact I say I sorted it out - in fact Al Lee from Posing Productions sorted this one - thanks mate)

We have got new video cameras on order which sould be here soon. Sony's very latest model. First batch that arrives in the country apparantly. Moving up to High Def. for filming doesn't come without problems. Diff does most of our editing and has a smart new PC arriving tomorrow.

What else is happening? The Sunday Times are running a feature and review of E11 this weekend. We have been busy preparing them an exclusive 4 minute edit of the film that we be hosted on their website. Aparantly it will be in the section next to Jeremy Clarkson 'On The Edge' or something similar sounding.

Next week we have BBC Scotland coming to our offices to shoot a 6 minute news story that will air on The Adventure Show sometime in the new year. Fiona says that I better to some cleaning. Hmm, she has a point.

I'm procrastinating at the moment with this blog stuff. Instead I should be finishing off my 'Mixed Messages' article for Climb Magazine but I'm not sure how to pitch it. The deadline was today which I've missed.

At last I'm getting back into my training. This week has been busy at the Schoolyard with a lot of folks over to train and that always helps to give you the impetus to train hard. Tonight we set a lot of new routes. That's the most fun, a bit of competition is good in training, just makes you try that bit harder. The Ice World Cup is only 8 weeks away though and I feel miles away from where I need to be for it. Ok. Must buckle down to training properly now. No excuses.


Siurana - Flying Visit

Straight after Kendal we did a quick turnround and headed out to Spain for a few days of filming and photography. Dave B. heading up the ropes for another take (all photos copyright Hot Aches Images)

Diff hanging out between shots.

Scottish climbers Dave Redpath and Dave MacLeod were the main people we were out to film. Other climbers in town included Chris Sharma, Dave Graham, Yuji Hirayama and Dani Andrada as well as the ever present Toni who is the guardian from the refuge. The Dave's were suffering from the heat and a bit of sun stroke - 3 months since the sun has shone in Scotland. Redpath was focused on a cracking line, Anabolica, a steady 8a. MacLeod was back for unfinished business on Lodi Social (sp) 8c+ as well as a look at El Muerte (Rich Simpson's 9a) and some other hard routes. Sharma et al were occupied on La Rambla 9a+.

Things didn't quite go to plan however Redpath pulled it out of the bag to send Anabolica on his last go of the last day. (how many times do climbers manage to do that?)

Dave Redpath on Anabolica f8a

Dave MacLeod flashing the same route (his first f8a flash!)

Dave MacLeod figured out a direct sequence on A Muerte f9a, avoiding the big reach left followed by big reach back right - instead a heinious looking 2 finger match, but it worked. Good progress and looking very possible.

Mr Siurana, Toni Arbones from the refuge on his latest project. Here shaking out 20 metres up on this very steep f8b+ before lauching into the crux sequence. (failed today)

Dave MacLeod on Lodi Social (sp) f8c+. Very close but not this time.

Over on La Rambla there were no ticks whilst we were there. Yuji was on his fourth visit foucused on the route and a huge number of redpoints. We watched some video that Toni shot that day. Yugi fell on the final crux. He's reached this point a countless times. It was nice to meet him. A very happy and humble guy, and a realy graceful climber. I hope he succeeds. When we left he had only 2 redpoint days left. I didn't really get to see the other guys climb which was a shame. Next time maybe. We'll be back later in January when the Scottish contingent might find temperatures more to their liking.

E11 received it's 'Spanish premiere' in the campsite bar. There were a lot of startled viewers who are not really used to the strange discipline of trad climbing. Huge falls and gear snapping definately earned Dave Mac a bit of respect from the locals. If you are passing that way you will probably catch it on in the bar - spanish subtitles and all...

Festival Season

We've just spend a mad month attending three film festivals (Edinburgh, Banff and Kendal)... that's a lot of partying... disguised as networking.

We premiered E11 at Edinburgh, that was a excellent night, the crowd was really hyped up. It was great to see Dave & Claire MacLeod there with a lot of their friends and family. Stevie Christie, the director of the Festival, has done an awesome job building this event up over the last few years. It was amazing to be awarded ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Climbing Film’ and the ‘People Choice Award’ for E11.

After Edinburgh we headed off to Banff, the world's biggest Mountain Film Festival. This is the 3rd year on the run that i've headed over to Banff with a film. Amazingly our first ever Film 'Fools with Tools' was excepted there back in 2004. Last year we were there with Cavewoman and of course this year we had E11. Banff is just an amazing experience, i'd recommend anyone to attend. Set in the beautiful Canadian rockies, the Banff festival brings you the best mountain films and speakers from across the world. I always come away from Banff inspired, both to explore this world and to make better films.

Finally we headed to Kendal in the English Lake district. This is the biggest mountain festival in the UK and still seems to grow ever year. Kendal is the maddest of any festival i've ever attended. The Saturday night party is crazy... absolute madness. Although this year i was disappointed to see that the Police weren't called out.
We also came away with a gong, Judges Special Award, a trophy sculptured by Andy Parkins and a cheque that should cover most of our bar bill.

So as the last hangover from a festival has cleared, it now feels like time to move on from E11 and start concentrating on our next film. We've already ordered new HD cameras and started to line up some talented athletes to film.