Interview: with Guy Buckingham, MIC and Safety Officer

Interview with Guy Buckingham, MIC and Safety Officer

Meet Guy Buckingham, a former Royal Navy Submariner for over twenty years and current Chairman for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, the representative professional body for those holding the UK's highest mountaineering awards.

Climber, mountaineer and coach, with first ascent expeditions in the Greater Ranges under his belt, when notguiding clients, Guy Buckingham has also been working alongside injured soldiers using the outdoors as part of their rehabilitation.

With a varied schedule which sees Guy working with Infinity Mountain Guides in Scotland over the winter, coupled with work in North Wales and England for the summer, it’s been a busy past year working closely with Guy as part of filming for Episode 2 PERTEX® ‘ Elemental Journeys’ and Rab® ‘The Place of the Gaels’.

 

How does a day differ working with a film crew in comparison to a 'normal' day with clients?

With the dynamic nature of the filming, the production group are often spread out and there will be constant tweaks and changes. It’s my responsibility as a safety officer to keep an eye on the safety  as the crew will be focused on getting the footage during filming, which usually involves monitoring changing factors such as weather, avalanche conditions, visibility and condition of the climbs. What I really appreciate about Coldhouse is that they really make you feel part of the team and are happy to listen to suggestions about locations and ideas for good positions for capture.

Utilising my local knowledge of an area and experience, there are lots of points that are jointly discussed between myself and the Director & Producer in order to get the shots they want to achieve. I always feel quite apprehensive when they go with one of my location choices, but so far it’s worked out - phew!  It is very easy for the Director and Producer to be focused on capturing a particular shot meanwhile time is ticking for achieving the rest of the shoot; the advantage of not being heavily involved on the creative side means that you can nudge or drop a subtle hint to help them keep the team on track.

What tips have you learnt from working alongside the Coldhouse crew?

Filming is by nature stressful as you are usually fighting the light, visibility, wind, shoot location etc. A memorable scene which springs from the last shoot I did was the work on Place of the Gaels on Ben Nevis which shines out for various reasons. The conditions were appalling, including a lack of good visibility; the dedication of the film crew to get the shots they needed really impressed me and comes through in the final film. With the ethic in Coldhouse of passion for their vocation combined with good humour and friendliness, it makes for a fun and an enjoyable experience, even when you have spent 2 days freezing cold on top of the same winter climb.

How do you balance juggling between what you love as a recreation and a profession? Are there aspects of the outdoors you try and keep separate from your own enjoyment?

When I think about the work I do, my main purpose is to ensure that my clients have an enjoyable and safe time whilst sharing my passion for the outdoors.  I really don’t mind if I am taking a group mountaineering in Snowdonia or leading a client on a big multi-pitch winter route in stellar condition as  the experience is about prioritising their safety as well as their enjoyment.

The work life balance is based on making a decision about being out in the mountains . I have tended to stop leading expeditions to the Greater Ranges and keep that for my own enjoyment, which is based on a personal reflection about the responsibilities and time commitments of the projects. It takes a huge amount of planning and preparation prior to the trip, meaning it’s normally only possible to do one every year or two, in a small self-supported group with focuses on technical climbing. It also means that I choose to climb alongside equals to reduce the overall risk of the expedition.

In the past year, I have been fortunate to be able to travel into the mountains and explore new unexplored areas , such as the Gangstang North West Ridge, India with my friend and climbing partner Malcolm Bass. Hopefully there will be plans for our next jaunt in  Spring 2018.

I'm interested in the outdoors and working with clients, how can I turn this into a career?

There are so many routes into working in the outdoors. The easiest way is to start building your logbook experience and work towards the National Governing Body Awards, for mountaineering it is worth checking the Mountain Training website which explains what is available. One pathway would be to search out work with a local outdoor centre which will help you build experience and qualifications as well as start to build a good set of friends who will be interested in the same things you are. The one thing I would say is that there is no substitute for experience.

What's the top tip for getting the best out of a mountain day? E.g. timings/ preparation/ seeking advice from instructors etc?

This is a personal view and makes me sound quite old (which I am!), but I believe there is significant pressure on people today to achieve so much from limited time on the hills. Everywhere you look there are instant images showing amazing locations, climbs and experiences, this is great for engaging the imagination and the drive to get out and do stuff.  However, what it usually doesn’t show are the close calls with danger, the time spent waiting out bad weather or the experience of the individuals involved, which may include them pushing themselves into dangerous positions that they might not even be aware of. As I said before there is no substitute for experience, I would highly recommend gaining that from professionals. There are many ways to do that, you could go through a website like AMI to "Find a Leader” or through the BMC or the Alpine Club to find access to subsidised courses and mentors, especially if you are young person wishing to get involved with the outdoors.

For more  information please contact Guy Buckingham via email.


Filming Albion

Producer Emma Crome describes the impact ‘rewilding’ has had on her perception of the UK’s wild spaces, and how it sparked the idea for our latest film project at Coldhouse.

We gazed up at the red sun as the wind whistled through the spruce that snapped and sprang above our heads. The plantation forest gave way to a clear cut area littered with white stumps and stacked with dead wood on a bed of mud and stagnant water. Beyond that lay the monoculture, the empty grassland that makes up the majority of the uplands in the Cambrian mountains. The man stood next to me spoke with enthusiastic authority about the significance of this area in relation to what he’s come to call ‘rewilding’. I winced when I heard him use the word. Even after two years of research, I was not entirely comfortable with the interpretations of this somewhat controversial concept. But the red sun beat down on the wet desert, and it felt somewhat appropriate that on this particular day, we were lingering on the last gasps of a distant storm.

As a keen climber and hillwalker I spend the majority of my free time in the British countryside -  in particular our National Parks. I grew up on the edge of Dartmoor, spent childhood holidays in Snowdonia and the Lake District, and have lived in the Peak District for the last three years. Passing through and interacting with these beautiful places and their communities has been and continues to be an important part of my life, and consequently I always felt a familiarity and love for the landscapes that make up our small island.

So when I stumbled across ‘rewilding’ and the ideas that underpin it a couple of years ago, I do not exaggerate when I say it had a profound effect on my outlook and understanding of our natural spaces. Scrolling through the usual newsfeeds online I happened across the Sustainable Earth Institute’s edit of George Monbiot’s Ted Talk, ‘How Wolves Change Rivers.’ His description of trophic cascades and their impact on ecosystems fascinated me. I began to delve a little deeper, and from there the once familiar landscapes of Britain unravelled.  My eyes were opened to the many political, environmental and economic issues surrounding our land - vested interest, system justification and societies creeping withdrawal from natural space, conscious or otherwise. The National Parks I had perceived as ‘wilderness’ playgrounds for many years were in reality shadowlands and theme parks, complex in structure and influence, and denied their full potential.

The seed was sown and my appetite for this subject insatiable. I felt inspired to find a way to get people - in particular the UK outdoor community - engaged with the subject of the future of our British countryside, and perhaps induce a perspective change as profound as the one I am still experiencing. Making a film seems like a sensible step forward, although as a friend quite rightly pointed out recently, the subject is far more important than the film itself. But as emerging documentary filmmakers, it’s our responsibility to unpack ideas and to present the whole truth. Asking for George Monbiot’s input - author of ‘Feral’ and one of the most passionate and enlightened thinkers of our time -  seemed like a natural first port of call.

Storm Ophelia’s exhalations whipped up some strange weather in the UK in October. As we set the cameras rolling the atmosphere was post-apocalyptic and unnerving.  We felt exposed and vulnerable under the Saharan dust as George shared his insights into what he describes as an ‘ecological disaster zone.’  It was a profound beginning. Later we crept into the nearby ancient woodland where the idea for ‘Feral’ first came to George’s mind. It was calm even though the river was loud and running fast under the green canopy, and we watched as the salmon took temporary flight up and over the waterfalls. The contrasts of the day were not lost on us.

As a company with the outdoors at the very core of what we do, it seemed quite natural to explore the subject of rewilding with George. Having a voice within the UK outdoor sector is not something we take for granted at Coldhouse, and I feel compelled to consider the implications that recreation, agriculture, industry and politics have on our green spaces. How can we maintain our cultural heritage, whilst at the same time restore and protect that which may be lost?

 

George Monbiot was our first contributor to answer this question - he won’t be the last. As he quite rightly points out ‘..rewilding should take place for the benefit of people, to enhance the world in which we live, and not for the sake of an abstraction we call nature.’

It feels as though we are chasing the storm by reaching out and dipping our hand into this sensitive subject; yet to engage with and challenge our own perceptions of our ‘wild’ land here on our doorstep is as fulfilling a past time as any I can think of. Through this project, I hope we can contribute to making a positive difference to environmentalism in the UK.

#albionfilm


Cúchulainn: The Ridge, 55 years on

Read an exclusive piece by Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes, author of ‘In the Shadow of Ben Nevis’, about what it was like revisiting the Coruisk hut with Coldhouse Collective for the first episode in the PERTEX® Elemental Journeys series.

‘It was raining as the boat left Elgol and sailed up Loch Scavaig to the beautiful hidden harbour of Loch na Cuilce at its head, right in the heart of the Cuillin Mountains of Skye. Nothing strange about this, it had been raining in the Highlands all summer.

It had been a few years since I was last here but nothing had changed much. Mountains rising steeply into the mist and a vast amount of steep black rock with Coruisk JMCS hut standing white and tiny with its back against a giant gabbro cliff.

I hobbled and splashed the 50 yards to the hut. The Coldhouse crew were already filming. “This can’t be much good,” I thought, looking at the leaden streaming sky, but nobody seemed to mind.“This is exactly what we want,” Matt Pycroft said, peering into his camera. “Atmosphere!” Well there was plenty of that!

This time it was different, the hut was spic and span and by the time I arrived Emma had a brew on the boil and Matt H and Ryan were already sorting out the cameras and filmmaking stuff.
I had been involved in a number of film shoots over the years but this was a bit different.

Ryan Goff shooting footage of Spike walking away from the Loch Coruisk hut, with Matt Hardy making sure the filming followed a steady path.

I felt a bit like an old bodger at first. I was still on crutches after a knee operation but the crew put me at ease and I gained a few ‘brownie’ points when I pulled a litre bottle of Bell’s out of my rucksack. An evening of merriment ensued and it felt as though we had known each other for years as we made our bed for the night in the hut.

Day two had its moments as well, the rain was pouring down in buckets when out of the mirk appeared a bride in a full , if somewhat bedraggled wedding dress with a rather sheepish groom. They’d wanted somewhere different to get married and this was certainly it! Filming ceased for a while and we broke out the Bell’s to celebrate.
That evening I discovered that the entire team were tone deaf as they listened eagerly to my crap banjo playing and actually asked for more, and then, blimey, they filmed it! By now I was getting right into this and basking in the game of being a film star.

The weather bucked up and the boys were filming using a drone. I’d never seen this done before but the footage they were getting of the Skye ridge was absolutely spectacular. This was our last day and I didnot want to leave. We sailed out into Loch Scavaig, the drone buzzing
around the boat still filming us with the spectacular silhouette of the Cuillin Ridge in the background.
So, I guess that’s the easy bit done. Coldhouse Collective have still to film Finlay Wild running along the ridge and all that, and then there’s the painstaking work of editing the miles of film taken. I know the huge effort that has gone into the making of this film and that ‘Cúchulainn’ will give an amazing and real picture of Skye in all its many moods.’

Written by Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes exclusively for Coldhouse Collective.


Shooting on the Cuillin Ridge

One of the unspoken rules of our expeditions into the mountains is that no one can complain about how much they are suffering. Early starts, long distances to cover, heavy packs, a lack of sleep – these are all things that every member of the team will be struggling to deal with and overcome in their heads. You accept it, you understand that you are all in the same situation, and you support each other with some frivolous banter and hearty encouragement. Any moaning just drags down morale and motivation.

With this in mind I found it difficult packing up my rucksack for what was to be my third trip up to Sgurr a Bhasteir on the Cuillin Ridge, a distance of about 5km and a total ascent of around 850m. I’d sprained my ankle about three weeks previously, and had it strapped up. I was concerned about slowing everyone down, but equally excited to be hobbling my way around the mountains again.

Matt Pycroft, Matt Hardy, Ryan Goff and I were set to spend a night filming and bivvying on the ridge – capturing a running sequence at sunset and sunrise. I knew the route well having been up and down twice to exactly the same spot last year. Not a great distance but a fair amount of height gain. From Sligachan you can see Am Basteir and the route in. I’m not sure if that makes things better or worse – the tiny silhouette of the Tooth never seems to get any closer as you trudge up the path next to the Allt Dearg Beag waterfalls, and on a still day the midges nibble your ears and the humidity makes the pools of water beneath you incredibly enticing.

Camera equipment, bivvy kit, extra layers and food and water all makes for a decent load to carry. Once you get up onto the ridge there aren’t many options for water, so you need to think carefully about how much to take and where you need to top up along the way. Meals and snacks also need to be carefully planned. You burn so many calories that you need to make sure you have enough energy to keep going and to keep the morale high, but equally you want to be as fast and light as possible to minimise the suffering and cover ground efficiently. A tricky balancing act that can only be perfected with practice.

That being said our intrepid cameraman Matt Hardy donned his usual 100 litre tardis-type pack, and Ryan’s hip belt broke before we left the car park, inducing an emergency repair fashioned from a spare piece of webbing. No complaining though, this was all par for the course.

The trudge passed slowly and uneventfully, and thoughts of the previous year’s trip drifted in and out of my mind. I had to chastise myself for feeling less than enthusiastic about making the same journey again – complacency is not my desired disposition, and I reminded myself I was lucky to consider these mountains familiar and have an abundance of memories amongst them.

On top of the ridge we setup our camp on the col close to the deep gully of Bealach nan Lice, a lofty position with glorious views to the North, West and East of the Isle of Skye. The guys prepped the kit and we began to recce for the sequence in preparation for sunset. The sky was clear save for a few streaks of white cloud that crept in and around the summits.

Matt Hardy was our body double for Finlay Wild, record holder for the Cuillin Ridge traverse and the subject of our capture in a couple of days time. Matt gallantly dashed backwards and forwards over the rough ground, bobbing amongst the gabbro like a chamois, following our instruction over radio comms and patiently waiting for the right wisps of cloud to frame the shot. No complaining from him, and I’m pretty certain he was even enjoying himself.

Concentrating so hard on capture in the mountains sometimes means you miss the opportunity to appreciate your situation, you’re so caught up in the technicalities of filming. Not so on the Cuillin. The atmosphere, the contrast of dark rock and empty sky creates the sensation that everything is moving, alive and breathing steadily, the ridge some great Leviathan washed up on the shores of Skye.

As the sun finally set at around 1030pm, we took in the red pink hue over the sea and then settled into our sleeping bags. Sunrise was at 0439am which meant starting up again at 0330am to prep for the next sequence. Matt and I had a fairly spacious tent with plenty of room for boiling up water in the porch and stashing kit. We chuckled as we listened to Ryan and Matt jostling for room in their slightly less palatial abode, the only time any kind of discomfort was vocalised.

Sunrise came around too quickly as always. I’m not a morning person before 10am, let alone 0330am, and the lack of sleep almost made me indifferent to the dawn light. Almost, but not quite. Matt Hardy danced over the ridge in front of Am Basteir as the light threw down its blue hue and opened up orange corridors across the land below. Ryan moved about deftly with the Sony FS7 shouting directions, and Matt Pycroft hunkered down on a rock ledge in an elevated position with the 5D Mark IV to capture the stills.

My duty was to approve of everything and ensure steady progress – no shot was to be left uncaptured. Then breakfast. Cold and tired, I fired up the Brew Kit as the incredible reds and pinks in the sky gave way to washed out whites and grey. We passed around coffee and porridge and discussed the capture and whether we were satisfied. The weather was due to turn and the clouds were banking up like the dark rings under our eyes.

It is a big effort for what turns into a few minutes of footage for a short film. Packing up and walking back down we debated the pros and cons of shooting in the mountains, the limited options you have when the weather turns bad, kit maintenance, tiredness and motivation. The conclusion we came to is that there can be no complaining, because not only is it all worth it in the end, but more importantly the experiences we have doing this job are enough to sustain us when we spend weeks on end back in the studio in front of our screens.

We reached the Sligachan Hotel at about 10am. Two days of toil for a small segment of a seven minute film. We ordered a full Scottish breakfast each.

“My ankle hurts,” I moaned.
“That was the worst nights sleep ever,” Ryan whined.
“Shut up” said Matt and Matt at the same time.


Skye 2016

Scotland is full of surprises. On our latest shoot on the Isle of Skye we required drizzle and cloud, inclement weather that would suggest typical spring conditions. No worries, we thought. August on Skye? It will be rain showers galore.

It didn’t quite turn out that way. Arriving at the Old Inn in Carbost we busted out the sunglasses and the sun cream and stared at the MWIS forecast in disbelief. Extensive sunshine. Little if any cloud clearing by midday. Rain not expected. For a week. Damn it. We carried on in the hope of finding some wisps of cloud here and there, heading up to the Cioch to capture some classic scrambling, and then on to Am Basteir where we captured Calum making the third ascent of ‘An Inconvenient Tooth, E8 6c’ on the Basteir Tooth.

Chasing the cloud rather than the sun felt odd at times, especially when we had to get creative and stage some rain droplet action. In the end we opted to stay on the ridge overnight to get an early morning start, hoping to capture some cloud before the sun could get too high and burn it all off.

 

The rain made a brief appearance at 3am, whilst we were all enjoying the luxury of our bivi bags. Helpfully the midges also made an appearance, often mid-drone shot and mostly when we attempted to eat the carefully packed pizza slices whilst battling with our head nets.

All in all a classic Scottish experience and another successful shoot wrapped up.


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.