Saturday, 28 April 2007

Trauma - Video Frames

Hiding from the early rain

I’m really pleased with the footage of James we captured yesterday; hopefully I think we’ve succeeded in communicating the seriousness and difficulty of this fine route. Here’s a couple of video frames from the day:

Thin Moves!

Top Shake out

Sunset in the Llanberis Pass


Trauma E9

Friday saw the Hot Aches team back in Wales, at Dinas Mot in the Llanberis Pass. A 600 mile round trip in a day was a gamble - in order hopefully to film James Pearson make the much coveted second ascent of Leo Houlding’s Trauma, E9 7a.

Route Inspection

We filmed James on the route last Saturday, his first day on the route other than a brief recce a few years back. That Saturday after working the route his lead attempt was then aborted when a crucial blind wire placement went wrong. James survived one of those horrible barn-door moments and by then it was getting late and time ran out.

The line of Trauma follows an overhanging crack line and crimps, the only line of weakness to breach the nose high left on the buttress. [all photos, Hot Aches Images]

This Friday was James’ last opportunity for Trauma before heading off the Thailand for a two month trip. Despite a less than perfect forecast we were back. On cue, ast the moment we arrived all the other climbers knowingly left the crag and the rain began. We sat it out in a cave until things looked a bit brighter and then headed on up. Might as well now we're here.

Conditions were now good, but the wind was gale force. I really expected James to bail out. No way you could climb hard in that much wind? I was on abseil with cameras and was being blown all over the place. However James set to work and first examined that problematic wire placement in close detail and then had a solid burst on the top rope.

He felt good. Despite the wind we were still on.

James Pearson leading Trauma, E9 7a (to overseas readers, the '7a' refers to british techinical grades, in this case french 8a+)

On the lead James hand placed a pecker onto the top of a broken off old peg, then up to the crucial wire placement which this time appeared to seat in well.

E9 protection, a pecker.

He tugged it hard to test it and it seemed ok this time, so on and upward through a long sequence of hard moves, a huge amount of climbing for a short route, and finally to relatively easier ground and another gear placement before topping out.

A fantastic piece of climbing by James. At the top he doesn’t scream, he just smiles and beams with satisfaction. “An awesome route”.


This was a tough day on camera. Combining the role of filming and stills photography is hard at the best of times, but in a buffeting wind on a route that is too hard for the climber to go back on to ‘pose’ it requires a lot of planning and preparation.

We worked out the section of the route that I wanted to take the stills photo at. With Diff covering video on that section safely I juggle from video to stills camera. A 7 second window and then I juggle back to video as the next section of the route needs to be covered by my angle.

In the end we did get chance to re-shoot some stills, but for us that never cuts it compared to shots of the real ascent.


Finally a big thanks to Tony Waite, belayer extraordinaire. Finding a belayer for Friday was proving difficult for James. Apparently loads of people have day jobs and can’t just drop everything? Else those that just boulder turn out to not be so keen on the ‘long’ walk in. So Tony stepped in for the second time this year, to travel a ridiculous distance in a day to hold someone’s rope. Many thanks.

Tony Waite, Dinas Mot is perhaps not the best place to have to learn how to jumar. But needs must.

Also many thanks to Wayne Smith who drove from Manchester to stand on a scree slope for 4 hours in order to get us some great long shots.



Sunday, 22 April 2007

Llanberris and Burbage South

At 8pm on Friday night the Hot Aches crew hatched a cunning plan.

Based on the combined wisdom on TVs best weather forcasters and britains most optimistic rock climbers, we fixed a schedule that would take in 4 cutting egde routes over 6 days; first north Wales, then the Peak, then Devon, and finally the Isle of Skye.

Should be a doddle really?

A 4.15 alpine start transited us from Edinburgh to Llanberris Pass at a respectable hour. Weather looking fine and a good start to the mission. Even the challenge of having to rock climb (god forbid) with all the filming gear didn't hold us back from out first objective.

Diff's first trad route of the season. Moderate climbing feels like E1 with a rucksac bursting with camera and rigging gear.

So things didn't go quite to plan, although they very, very nearly did. A major route was there for the taking but something went a bit awry.

Views of The Cromlech. An amazing looking crag.

Time to rethink the plan. Stay another day in Wales? The internet reckoned the weather was breaking up so we headed for the Peak to complete 450 miles for the day.

On Sunday we met up with Australian climber Ben Cossey, a talented climber who made the headlines in January with an impatient and audacious repeat of Parthian Shot (E9) late after work and illuminated just by headtorch.

The overhanging arete of Simba's Pride. E8 6c?

Ben was psched for the true right hand side of the left arete of Stampede. Graded E8 6c on the left hand side it is considered harder on the true right. In fact, if truth be told, Ben seems to be pysched for just about anything on grit, or any other rock type for that matter.

So to Simba's, and with a couple of mats and no spotters Ben headed off upwards humming Bob Dylan tunes fresh in the mind from a recent concert. No gear means no ropes, and falling is not a good option.

Ben midway up Simba's Pride

Conditions today were far from perfect. It was warm and muggy and any self respecting grit-stoner would have been supping a pint in The Foxhouse. But Ben was eager and pulled it off. A superb effort and hopefully more to come before the movie is finished.

The final dyno move at the top

By mid afternoon the weather deteriorated. So Diff and I are back in the office. a 750 mile round trip but worth it. Just watching the weather now. Lots more to film if only we get a break.


Friday, 20 April 2007

8th International Award for E11


We're pretty chuffed that E11 has picked up another award. This time an international jury selected it as Best Climbing Film at "Hory a mesto - Mountains and City" Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia. I can't translate the judges comments so we're not quite sure what they made of it...

..But anyway, it's really good to see that British Trad climbing is being watched and appreciated around the world. Actually that is quite important seing as we will have soon devoted most of a year to making the new movie Committed... which also happens to be about British Trad climbing.

Whist we're on the subject of E11, a quick reminder the the Hot Aches E11 T shirt is now on sale through Dave MacLeod's webshop . In organic cotton it is available in both mens and womens cuts.

E11 T-Shirt Design

Video Frames of ‘Balance It Is’

I’ve now filled 200GB of my new 2TB hard drive with the HD footage of Katherine Schirrmacher on ‘Balance It Is’ E7 6c. I’m really pleased with footage, I think it’s best we’ve ever shot, lovely images and great audio from a dramatic day at Burbage South. I'm very excited about this chapter, i think it's going to be one of the highlights of the Committed DVD.

Here’s a few frames from the day:

Katherine jokes with the crew before her first E7 lead attempt.

Katherine gets into position on the crux arete.

Top Moves

E7 protection! A Wild Country Superlite Rock (No1)

Katherine laughs after her first E7 lead fall.

The Top Out

A very happy and excited Katherine gives a post-send interview


Thursday, 19 April 2007

Balance It Is

On Tuesday night we headed back down to the Peak for our 8th filming trip there this year. This time the objective was to film Katherine Schirrmacher on a fantastic looking grit E7 at Burbage South.

Katherine Schirrmacher contemplating her first E7 [Hot Aches Images]

E7 is very much the top grade for European females. In fact only America's Lisa Rands has climbed harder, and Katherine was understandably nervous on the day.

Balance It Is takes the arete to the left of Equilibrium. The crux is high on the route and involves a technical traverse out the the arete and then precarious moves and a difficult RP placement.

Practicing the top arete [Hot Aches Images]

An other angle of the top arete [Hot Aches Images]

The weather was fantastic, but the tension grew through the day as Katherine took two falls from high up. Later she managed to dig deep and climbed it flawlessly. A superb effort and a well deserved ascent.

Katherine, after the first fall [Hot Aches Images]

So the new movie Committed is coming together really well. This ascent is certainly one of the highlights to look out for. But we're not finished yet. Plenty more ascents lined up to film around the country.

Note, photos of the ascent are available through Alex Messenger. We'll publish a couple of video stills here once Diff sorts out his new 2 terrabite hard drive that has just arrived.

2 new training articles by Katherine have just been published on the Moon website




After a few days back in the UK and a couple of quick filming trips it was time to head back to Sweden, this time to climb rather than work.


Kjugekull, pronounced in English ‘shoo-ge-cul’ is an excellent granite bouldering venue in the far south or Sweden, not far from Malmo. Developed extensively over the last 6 years it boasts 1,300 problems in a venue of similar size to a larger Fontainbleau sector.

Nicholas heel-hooking up a great little font 6b

Jenny finally sends her project, a font 6a+ crimpfest

Simo giving it eveything

The first I heard of this venue was last year when I saw TJUGO PA KJUGE, a bouldering film by Swawn Boyle. More recently I was invited over by a couple of Swedish friends (who are now exiled in Scotland) to sample the granite delights.

Fiona Murray on a reachy font 6b

Easy wall followed by scary slab top out

So the verdict?
A great venue if you climb in the Font 6b to 7b range. Nothing for the hardcore, according to the guidebook just a couple of 7cs and one 8a. To my untrained eye there doesn’t seem to be a big list of hard projects waiting for the right superstar to arrive.


Monday, 16 April 2007

Ice Mines - Sweden

We now have several photos from last month's film shoot in Sweden. The story is still firmly under wraps until it's US network premiere, but a few photos of the filming task are shown here by way of a teaser.

L-R; Daniel, Ben, Dave, Will.

I need to chose my words carefully as this was not my adventure, I was just freelancing on camera, as was Christain Pondella, the stills photographer. So let's just say simply that this was truly the most crazy, ridiculous, stupid, brilliant, totally bad ass piece of climbing I have ever witnessed. Or as us understated Brits would say, 'rather interesting'.

Ice climbing has hitherto been a quite logically a 'terrainian' activity, by that I mean 'above ground', as your would expect.

Dave Brown jugging into position to film, 150m underground.

But last month, Canada's Will Gadd and Sweden's Andreas Spaak took the sport into seriously 'sub-terrainian' territory. Film crew and photographer followed.

I teamed up to shoot camera with British camaraman Ben Pritchard (well known for Slackjaw climbing films as well as many TV credits). Also onboard was Christian Pondella, a well respected US outdoor/adventure photographer.

Condensation on lenses is a major problem in this environment. Warming the camera up against a 400 watt studio light for 10 minutes sorted it out nicely. Will Gadd and Dave Brown.

At this stage I can't tell you what happened. Sorry, but I'm sure you understand... It will hit the TV, mainstream press and climbing press over the next few months. All that I can say is that we shot a hard-core climbing movie in the most unbelievable fantasy land, like some holywood sci-fi film-set---

--- Only that on one day Ben and Christian were nearly wiped out by a cutain of ice falling from 100m directly above them. At the time I was filming the climbers as they explored deep underground and I was feeling totally elated. Then the ice came down on the guys and I felt rather stupid at my elation.Tonnes of ice exploded in every direction. Quite miraculously they survived. This beautiful place was suddenly very serious. It was truly sobering.

Dave Brown starting the 150m ab at the second ice mine. A long way back up.

Thankfully it all ended well, a cracking film in the can, and for me just a few days back in the UK before heading back out to Sweden, this time to climb on sun-kissed granite boulders!

Dave B

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The County, Shanner and The Peak

After Friday's dramatic but untimely end to proceedings Diff and I were in the odd position of having the cameras loaded and no-one to film!
Despite a lot of phonecalls and headscratching we came to the conclusion that there was nothing else to do apart from go climbing ourselves! So we headed south to jostle with the bank holiday crowds at Kyloe in The Woods in Englandshire.

Diff thinks that his cunningly camoflaged wardrobe will distract attention from that right foot pushing off a boulder. tsch.

The bank holiday crowds had obviously decided to go elsewhere today. One lone northumbrian was present, and he was polite enough not to visibly laugh at our efforts.

Diff, "I didn't fall off, I'm just having a lye down"

Extreme trampolining. Diff puts my new DMM mat through it's paces.

As usual when Diff and I are the subject there is nothing newsworthy to report bar some spectacular dismounts.

Next day, still with no-one to film, I headed north with Fiona Murray to the grotty hole in the ground, Balnashanner, that was once Scotland's premiere hard sport climbing venue. It's 5 years since I've been here and after subsequently traveling to many of europe's best crags, re-acquaintance was somewhat dissapointing. Quite literally a dump.

But we persevered and tackeld a couple of 7as that actually gave up some superb climbing. The first one with a low down crux that was very sequency, the second a total pumpfest that saved the hardest to the end.

Next day we headed to the Peak, our 6th filming trip there this year.

Anonymous climber working their project at Burbage South

It was a good day filming, and the climber was making good progress. But a violent wind was not only making filming difficult, but was also making the balancy moves high on the arete rather challenging. So no success, but good progress and we'll be back next week for stage 2.

Anonymous climber working the top section

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Sweden, this time for rock rather than ice, and Diff has a weekend filming kayaking for the BBC.