Tuesday, 20 October 2009

'Monkey See, Monkey Do' - DVD Released

‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ is now available to order from our webshop and you can now watch the trailer here. Thanks go to Ben Knapp for his work on the trailer.

Thank You Benjamin Knapp

'Single-Handed' Premiere

This last weekend saw the premiere of ‘Single- Handed’ when it played to a packed house at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival.

The reception was fantastic, Kevin received a huge round of applause when he took to the stage after the filmed was screened. To get an idea of what an EMFF crowd sounds like, see:

‘Single-Handed’ went on to be awarded ‘Best Climbing Film’ and the ‘People’s Choice’ award. Thank you to everyone who voted, I’m glad so many of you enjoyed the film.

‘Single-Handed’ is also a finalist at the prestigious Banff Mountain Film Festival, together with ‘Slate Monkeys’. Both of these films will also play at the Kendal Mountain Festival and maybe a few other festivals over the next year.


Friday, 9 October 2009

‘Single Handed’ MSMD – Part 2 of 4

The second film on the DVD is a profile of someone who must be one of the world’s most psyched climbers, Kevin Shields.

Kevin Shields (pic Steven Gordon)

All top climbers talk about calculated risk, but Kev pushes the margins of his ‘calculations’ closer to real limits than any other climber I’ve ever seen. It can be terrifying to watch. Even the detachment from the action that comes from being behind the camera does not offer any protection from that terror.

Kevin Shields (pic Steven Gordon)

I’ve been filming Kev since early 2006. Some of the footage I shot then was used in Committed Vol I, but the rest of it has gone unseen until now. This year I’ve filmed Kev both in the Peak District and the Highlands and, without wishing to give away too much of the story, have captured some really special moments, from ecstasy to extreme tension. Even during the editing process, watching short clips back has left my palms damp…and I already know what happens!

For me good films are all about emotion. For a film to be great it has to make you laugh and make you cry. Films that do both stick with you. One emotion that you should experience when watching Single-Handed is frustration. This was highlighted when I was adding subtitles as an option to the DVD. In this scene Kev is struggling with the crux move on an E7.

00:14:31:23,00:14:33:17, That's just never possible.
00:14:33:17,00:14:34:17, F**king F**K
[Big fall /slide down the slab]
00:14:37:05,00:14:38:11, Oooh ya f**ker ye
00:14:38:21,00:14:39:21, F**K F**K F**K

"F**K F**K F**K"

00:14:57:14,00:14:58:14, Argh F**K IT
00:15:02:02,00:15:03:15, Nah, it's just never gonnae work, Gaz.
00:15:04:15,00:15:05:15, Lower us down now.
00:15:07:20,00:15:08:20, F*ck

So just for Kev we've added a special warning to the DVD cover:

"Warning contains some effing and blinding"

The Score
‘Single-Handed’ has a light score in terms of music. We recorded some good location sound from the radio mic Kev was wearing, so I wanted to make maximum use of that in the mix. You may have noticed in other films that the breathing of a scared climber can add much more tension than any music, so most of this film uses an atmospheric soundscape rather than a musical score.

The one track I have used is by the singer/songwriter Francis Hayes and is called “Friday, Saturday, Sunday”. I had this track on an old CD that was recorded live in a pub in Stirling. I really liked the track, but the recording quality was quite poor.

singer/songwriter Francis Hayes

Since this was the only version of the song ever recorded I managed to persuade Francis to re-record this track especially for the film. This allowed us to adjust the length of the intro to match the opening sequence. Francis and I spent some time in Chris Hall’s home recording studio to get the piece just right for the film. Chris added some bass guitar to Francis’ original acoustic and worked his sound engineer’s magic to complete the track.

Chris Hall happy with the track

This short clip from the film shows Kev enjoying the wonderful line of ‘Traveller in Time” at Ramshaw Rocks in Staffordshire.

World Premier at EMFF

The World Premier of Single-Handed will take place on Sunday 18th October at 7pm at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival in the George Square Theatre. Kev will be there to answer a few questions after the film.

Tickets and details can be found here:

I’m really excited about seeing the audience’s reaction to this film. I may not manage to make everyone laugh and cry, but I'm sure its a film that will generate some emotion and leave your palms damp.


Kev is sponsored by

Mountain Equipment and Wild Country

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

'Slate Monkeys' MSMD Part 1 of 4

In this series of four posts I want to give you some background and a sneak preview of each of the four films on Hot Aches Productions’ new DVD ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ or ‘MSMD’ as the kids call it.

Hazel Findlay on the MSMD disc artwork. Photo by Adrian Trendall, design by Ifan Bates.

MSMD Part 1 – ‘Slate Monkeys’

I was very fortunate to get this footage, it wasn’t exactly a planned shoot. Matt Segal was on a four-week climbing trip to the UK and although I had planned to catch up with him, we had no plans to shoot anything on the slate. I met him a week into his trip in the Vaynol Arms in Nant Peris.

Also in the bar that night was the young British climber, Hazel Findlay. After a lengthy debate on conditions and weather, we made plans to spend a couple of days climbing in the slate quarries of Llanberis.

Matt and Hazel in the Vaynol (pics Tom Kirby)

The next day while Matt and Hazel were attempting the esoteric slate classic Gin Palace, who should turn up but Johnny Dawes, nicely completing the line up for the film. What followed was six hours of them taking it in turn to besiege this crazy route. You’ll have to watch the film to find out which of them makes it to the top.

Matt Segal (pic Adrian Trendall)

I think one of the things which makes this film interesting is the contrast between the climbers: A professional sponsored athlete from the US, a young student from England, fairly new to the scene, and the British rock master.

Rock Master, Johnny Dawes (pic Adrian Trendall)

The Score

Very early on in the edit stage I commissioned my friend and regular collaborator Chris Hall to compose the music for the film. I asked him to write a theme for each climber, based on their personality. Later, these themes were arranged to make the score for the film. I wanted to be able to tell who was climbing just by listening to the music.

Chris Hall

Chris then scored the music to match the climbing action. Since Chris is a climber himself he’s able to appreciate the situations that the climbers face, dilemmas over whether to move a left hand or a right foot first, that tentative feeling which comes with a sketchy foot or a razor sharp crimp. He also included several subtle musical cues which follow the action on screen, for example as Hazel’s foot slips there’s a ‘twang’ of a guitar string.

Here’s a two minute clip from the film:

I think the star of this film isn’t the sponsored athlete, Matt Segal, or even the rock master, Johnny Dawes. In my opinion, it’s the new girl, Hazel Findlay, who steals the show:

Hazel Findlay attempting to onsight 'Rainbow of Recalitrance' E6


Thursday, 24 September 2009

Monkey See, Monkey Do - New DVD Announced

New DVD!

Our latest DVD will be available from the 19th October. Leading up to the release I'll be adding some teasers and telling a few of the stories behind this new DVD.

For now here's a quick overview of what films are on the DVD:

Slate Monkeys

Set in the post industrial landscape of disused Welsh slate quarries, three very different climbers battle their way up some unusual climbing. Matt Segal, Hazel Findlay and Johnny Dawes take it in turn to crimp, palm, squirm and wriggle their way up the esoteric route, Gin Palace. But whose technique will prove successful?


Kevin Shields, pic Steven Gordon

Kevin Shields is known as the ‘one handed climber’. Despite being born with most of his left hand missing Kevin has shocked the climbing world with some daring and inspirational ascents. The film exposes Kevin’s motivations and follows his progression through the climbing grades, culminating in a gripping and palm-sweating attempt to solo E6 in Glen Nevis.

Little Big-Walling in Madagascar

James McHaffie on 'Tough Enough'

The West Face of Karimbony in the Tsaranoro Massif is home to one of the world’s hardest big-wall free climbs, “Tough Enough?”. James McHaffie and a team of top UK climbers head to Madagascar to find out if this route is indeed tough enough…

Hey Presto

Sonnie Trotter

World class climber Sonnie Trotter teams up with world class belayer Cory Richards to take on the Squamish classic, ‘Presto’. The film examines what it takes to belay on some the world’s hardest climbs.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Kev Shields on the Grit

Earlier this year I headed down to The Peak to film Kev Shields climbing on the grit. This was Kev’s first grit trip, so it was great fun showing him around the crags and pointing out lines for him to look at.

Kev enjoying a nice grit top out. 'Traveller in Time’ E4

If you’ve not seen Kev in action before, check out the clip of the month on our homepage from Committed Vol1.

While at Ramshaw Rocks Kev spied the nice looking line ‘Traveller in Time’ E4 6a. Kev was almost stopped by a long reach out left at half height. As most of Kev’s left hand is missing it makes moves like this almost impossible, but after inventive use of a high toe hook with his right foot Kev made it to the top moves.

The next day at Froggat Kev made a fine solo accent of the classic Brown’s Eliminate E2.

Kev on 'Brown's Eliminate' E2

I always find climbing with Kev inspirational; it forces me to examine my own self imposed limitations and makes me think what I could achieve if tried has hard as Kev does.


Monday, 9 March 2009

First Ascent ‘Silent Scream’ E7

Pete Whittaker

A team from Hot Aches were there to film ‘Grit Kid’ Pete Whittaker’s first ascent of ‘Silent Scream’ E7 6c. The route traverses the length of the Cioch Block in the Southern Quarry of Burbage South before finishing up the existing line ‘Masters of the Universe’ E7 6c.

Pete Whittaker topping out on Silent Scream 

Andy Pollitt made the first ascent of ‘Masters…’ back in 1988. I remember it made the front cover of one of the mags, ‘High’, I think, maybe OTE. It’s an interesting route in that, like its neighbour ‘Offspring’ (as seen in ‘Stone Monkey’), both leader and second have to abseil to a starting belay on the corner of the block.

Pete had previously climbed ‘Masters..’ ground up… well, ground up apart from the abseil in! Maybe ‘Abseil Up’ is the correct style description. He then looked for a way to dispense with the ab rope.

The new route starts on the left edge of the block and traverses a line lower than the existing girdle, ‘Silent Spring’ E4 5c.


Cross-through on the traverse

Pete’s mum, Jill, was belaying on the ledge. 

Jill Whittaker

The route is protected by a few ancient rusty bolts, which date back to a time when aid climbing was practised on this crag (1960’s?).

Ancient bolt

The route is also protected by a sling behind a ‘shipwreck’ of a block; I’m not sure what I’d trust more, the block or the rusty bolts. 

Pete hanging off the 'shipwreck' block

Once Pete reached the right side of the block he clipped a second rope into four more rusty bolts, belayed from the quarry floor by his dad, Paul. Then with a parent on each rope, Pete climbed the arete ‘Masters of the Universe’ to finish.

 Pete gurns through the last move

‘Silent Scream’ E7 6c


Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Video - James Pearson Working Gerty Berwick

James Working Gerty Berwick Feb 2008

Congratulation to James Pearson who claimed the second ascent of Gerty Berwick (E9), or as I like to call it “Gerty Berty”. I had been calling it Twlons for the last year since I first filmed James working the line.  (TWLONS – The Wall Left Of New Statesman).

James on Twlons Feb 2009

It was a very cold windy day in February last year, the day after James had lead The Groove. We called by Ilkley and James worked the moves on a shunt. I hung on a rope and got blown around by a freezing wind whilst I tested out some camera angles.  It was a rather grey overcast day, but luckily James brightens the shot up by wearing a black top and grey pants! 
The result of that cold day is this 3 min video clip below:

Maybe some of the hardest moves on a grit route?


Monday, 16 February 2009

Clip of the Month - Ben Cossey

I've just added a movie of Ben Cossey climbing Simba's Pride to the Hot Aches website as our clip of the month. This clip is taken from our DVD Committed Vol I.

You can watch it here.