The Journey to the Wall

In July 2015 I spent six weeks in a remote corner of Greenland filming a team of young men climbing the vertical 1200m granite rock face ‘Mirror Wall.’

– Matt Pycroft

The expedition began when the helicopter left constable point.

The first chapter of the Mirror Wall expedition was in no way simple. Leo had spent months organising complex logistics to ensure that the ride into basecamp went as smoothly as possible. This involved getting the heli to sling load our literal tonne of equipment over to a gear cache where we organised everything, in preparation for the next leg of the flight.


New Beginnings

Heading out on location with Coldhouse for the first time was always going to be a highlight in the early months of finding my feet as their production manager. From the warmth of the Sheffield office I am constantly waving the guys off on their next job abroad and witnessing their return with SD cards full of amazing tales and imagery. I was keen to take my turn and get out and get involved with a shoot. My want to create and contribute to something tangible, exciting and original is overwhelming, and therefore the need to learn and experience how things run on location in the mountains is essential.

- Emma Crome, June 2016

Below the Douglas Boulder, Ben Nevis, 29th April 2016.

Dan and I hadn’t spoken for about ten minutes. Heads bowed against our chests we took repeated blasts of graupel to the face and the wind howled and screamed it’s contempt for our fragile forms. I stared miserably at the packet of biscuits half-buried in the snow next to me and wondered if I had made a terrible mistake - maybe office life was, after all, a better, healthier environment to exist in? I’d be dunking those biscuits in a nice warm cuppa right now if I was back in Sheffield.

Above Dan, the camera and I, Rab athlete Greg Boswell was steadily moving up a winter mixed route Cutlass, VI 7, our director Adrian on the ropes above him, filming top down and undoubtedly suffering from the endless spindrift whipping up the corner.

My experience of climbing in the mountains is fair, and thus suffering Scottish-winter style not an entirely unknown entity, but this felt quite different.

Route choice, logistics, safety and conditions are of course all serious considerations for climbers and crew. Yet on a film shoot in the mountains you almost have double the burden, considering the elements of the footage you need to capture and the shot list, how they are affected by the conditions, and doing everything you can to ensure that the right content is captured despite the limitations of the adverse weather.

Carrying all the equipment in to the CIC Hut was laborious yet only a small part of the workload, and establishing shots on the mountain side a complicated mix of safety and creative vision. I was overwhelmed at the speed and efficiency with which everyone worked - guide, athletes, and crew. I was even more overwhelmed by the fact that the compost toilet inside the CIC Hut was heated. It’s the longest I’ve ever lingered inside such a facility.

It was cold and pretty grim, waiting for the guys above to finish the climb. Snow sluffed over the rocks above us, pouring what felt like buckets of water down our backs, Dan barely able to see what he was filming. I gritted my teeth and buried my head further back in to my hood. Just as I was about to let the ‘suffer-fest’ inner dialogue take over, I cast my mind back to the end of 2015.

A few months before joining Coldhouse Collective I had felt I was under achieving, frustrated and stressed with a situation that was not fulfilling its potential. I wanted to contribute more to a job role and to the bigger picture, to be valued and understood as part of a team, but countless limitations forced me to readdress my position. I looked around me and saw many others who felt the same way, and I wondered what was holding them back? I didn’t want to compromise. I didn’t want to regret.

So, albeit rather tentatively, I quit my full time job, and re-attuned myself to dreams that have lingered for far too long in the peripheries of my life. Writing, film production, adventures in the mountains and with friends. These things define my happiness, and an opportunity to get involved with Coldhouse felt like taking a giant stride toward ambitions that had all but melted away.

It’s a tricky thing to take a leap of faith, to make big changes to your life and income without a known outcome. I liken it now to the many things I enjoy in life - adventures, writing a story, making a film, having a spontaneous ale session on a work night. The seed of an idea is where it all begins, and it’s up to you, and you alone to see it through to the end, no matter what.

So as I shivered and shook on my small perch in the snow I reminded myself that I am now lucky enough to consider ‘office life’ a comforting contrast to the days I get to spend out on location with the rest of the team. Learning, contributing, absorbing and enjoying, all the elements that were missing before are now falling into place. I am complimenting my existing skills by mastering treatments, call sheets, beat sheets and shot lists, and putting all the prep in to action on location.

Those wild few hours spent below Ben Nevis felt like a transition from old to new, from the past to the present and the future, and from uncertainty to “this is absolutely, 100% where I want to be. Even if my biscuits are a bit soggy.’