Tuesday 24 March 2009

Busy times again

Climbing Batuka Extention 8b+, Freyr, Belgium. Photos: Jonas Haspeslagh

When I’m working these days it involves a lot of travelling. I’ve never been good with feeling at home wherever I am in the world. I tend to feel at home only at home. I guess thats my personality, but it’s annoying sometimes because my trips are always really interesting for seeing places and meeting people.

Last week among other places I’ve been in Slovenia and Belgium doing lectures to climbers. One of our goals with making Echo Wall together was for Claire and I to be able to travel to some of these nice events like Silvo’s festival together, instead of me disappearing on a bit of a lonely travel for work. We enjoyed seeing Llubljana and it’s people. Echo Wall won a prize at the festival too. It’s only the third year Silvo has run the mountain film festival there and it’s already a pretty big festival.

After a blur of Ryanair flights, working hard on my laptop and a squeezed visit to Dumbarton Rock I found myself in Belgium, climbing at Freyr the day after my talk. It was the first time I’d been out climbing in warm sunshine for several months, and it was making me impressively lethargic. In fact I reckon could have slept for the entire day. The Scots are so useless when we see a glimpse of decent weather. 

But it was a valuable chance to get some routes in, so I blasted off up a long 8b+, without really remembering the moves from my warmup bolt-to-bolt. I flailed impressively at the end, but bicycled my feet on the polished footholds through to the summit moments before forearm meltdown. All I could manage after that was a sleepy flash of the 8a next door. Although my head was still asleep, I did notice that I wasn’t really that pumped. Strange because I haven’t had time for endurance training with all this work. The reason, I found on returning home was that I’ve got back down to my fighting weight for the first time since I did Echo Wall. Feeling light on the rock is something I love but don’t get the chance often.

The grabbed climbing sessions in between work and travel have been really worth it, it seems. A friend showed me a prospective eliminate on Totality at Dumbarton. I made the mistake of trying it after I’d just spent a couple of hours pounding my forearms on my endurance circuit and failed from the crux several times. So it was nice to go back on the way home from Belgium and nail it quickly between showers. Before I left I also managed a quick hour in the glen and finally destroyed the roof project on Heather Hat I was talking about before. It goes at about V12 for me, but possibly a tad easier for giants. I’m not sure. I’ll try and get some video of it if the rain stops. 

Tomorrow, I am getting a new house which is very exciting. Comparatively little climbing has been done in order to make this happen, but naturally now I’m just starting to think of the coming months and churning around plans in my head. 

Thankyou for all your comments about Claire’s recent BAFTA award. There’s an video interview from Scottish TV about it here

Claire enjoying a ‘Coke Float’ a little too much on the way home from lecturing in Leeds.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Claire wins Best Director at BAFTA Scotland

Last night we were in Glasgow for the BAFTA Scotland new talent awards ceremony. Claire was nominated a few weeks ago for Best Director with Echo Wall. Claire was chuffed to bits to get the nomination and both of us were really happy to see a film from the small world of climbing making it into the glam limelight of the mainstream film and television industry.

But we both convinced ourselves totally that this would be as far as it went, and that the other three nominees for Best Director, with an obviously closer involvement in the film industry would have a better chance. 

I sat with Claire while she was briefed along with the other nominees (including the likes of Limmy) about which red carpet to walk down if their name was called out to come and receive an award. I thought it was nice to be invited to spend an evening in such company and see one of these ceremonies ‘in the flesh’. Loud music was played, presenters cracked jokes and announced winners. There was punching the air, shaky hands and tears from winners, and whoops and rapturous applause from a packed grand hall.

Claire’s Echo Wall was up against the directors of the thriller The Dead Outside, urban drama Running in Traffic and the documentary Ballads of the Book featuring contributions from Ian Rankin. We watched the nominees clips play including Echo Wall and then the presenter opened an envelope and announced the winner was Claire MacLeod. 

Claire’s face was indeed a picture. 

Neither of us can still believe that Claire won this award. The feedback we had from BAFTA’s jurors was that apart from the practical challenge of shooting a film like this single handedly and the seriousness of what Claire filmed (her other half risking neck), they liked the personal nature of the film and the appreciation shown of the beauty of the Lochaber in the shooting.

The impact of it in the ‘outside world’ of film was summed up by one of the other nominees. He asked Claire about the clip that played from Echo Wall of me saying:

“If I make a mistake on the climb, the consequences could not be higher for me, or for Claire.”

He asked if I was meaning we’d have to re-shoot the whole climb if I failed.

Claire explained, “No, he was meaning he would hit the ground and die with his wife filming if he made a mistake.”

This week, Echo Wall also won the Best Scottish Film award at the Fort William Mountain Festival, and Best Film at Glasgow Mountain Film Festival.

A little lost

This winter has been strange for me. I did my hardest onsight of a mixed route back in December, so my level has increased a little. But in trying many of the lines I’ve thought of in the past, I have had the feeling that in the right conditions, with the right partner, I’d have a good chance. Sometimes that feeling is nice. But sometimes I’m looking for a bit more. The bit more is a true uncertainty about whether the climbing is actually possible for me.

The solution to this is really brain dead simple - try harder climbs. Dumb ass. I’ve had a idea for such a climb for some time now, and been turning over in my mind about how, when and with whom to try it. The ‘with whom’ is actually one of the big problems here. Everyone I’ve asked so far if they fancy a look at it seemed a bit unsure. It’s hard to take a serious gamble on precious good winter days. One man who’s keenness seems to vary in line with how hairbrained the idea is Kev. 

So off we went on a perfect day on Tuesday for a look. The conclusion was as expected. Over an hour trying to get past the first 5 moves, followed by failure of arms at the crux and lowering down with my upper body turned to jelly.

But this was the most exciting and inspiring day out mixed climbing I’ve had for years, or maybe ever. The thought that one day, after more training and maybe more tries, this line could be a winter route gives me the same feeling Echo Wall did. 

I have a project again!!

Saturday 7 March 2009

One step forward, one back...

Working on the remaining Heather Hat project last winter. Yesterday I finally managed to stick the second sloper and take the cut loose. If I can just repeat that on a dry day I can try and link it through the finishing lunge.

Today I had a nice walk in the rain on Ben Nevis with Malcolm who'd flown over specially at the hint of good conditions coming on the Ben. Sadly it was the thaw day in the current good freeze thaw cycles going on up there. Observatory Gully looked like a dangerous place to stand today with huge amounts of snow turning wet in the sleet and then rain and just waiting to 'go'. We picked our way across the sidewalls to stay out of the firing line, but it was too unfrozen to justify starting up a new route. The thorough soaking did wonders for my head cold though!

Maybe I'll see some of you tomorrow for my lectures at the Transition Centre in Aberdeen.