We Have Moved

Up until very recently Coldhouse has been based in Sheffield, but our playground and spiritual home has always been the Peak District National Park just a few miles outside of the city.  In fact, we love the Peak District so much that we recently decided to move our studio out to the village of Hathersage in the heart of the national park. Being a company made up of outdoor enthusiasts we are all keen to be outside as much as possible. We spend our time climbing, mountain biking, running, taking photos and seeking inspiration, so when a studio became available we jumped at the chance to make the move out of the city.

Dan Twort - Production Coordinator

I have lived a stone's throw from the Peak District my whole life.  I have spent many happy days climbing, mountain biking and just exploring the National Park, developing a love for nature and practicing my wildlife photography.  It has been an invaluable resource for my own well being and quality of life over the years. I am interested to find out what this move will mean to the crew of outdoor enthusiasts that work at Coldhouse, and how they plan to make use of the opportunities for adventure on our doorstep.

Matt Hardy - Senior Filmmaker

“My main passions are mountain biking, climbing, and running.  It constantly feels like a struggle for me to find enough time to get out and do these activities.  Having moved to the heart of the Peak District, I think that struggle might finally be over! From the door of the office I can run along the banks of the river Derwent on my lunch break, I can be at Stanage in 5mins for a quick after work solo, and my commute takes in some of the brilliant trails of the Dark Peak on my mountain bike.  I'll probably never be satisfied with the amount I get out and do these things, but moving here has definitely made things a hell of a lot easier!”

Tom Carr-Griffin - Producer and Lead Scout

It is raining. It is dark, cloudy and overcast. The wind is strong and cold. It is wet and muddy. It is the Peak District.  And yet it is full of opportunity and open spaces. There are trails to run, some of the most iconic climbing the country has to offer, and a myriad of streams and rivers tucked away in leafy woods, full of wild trout.  Now that our studio is in the heart of the Peak, lunch-hour has certainly just become a lot more interesting.

Emma Crome - Senior Producer 

“Since moving to the Peak District I’ve enjoyed getting to know the contrasting and atmospheric areas of the Dark Peak and White Peak through climbing, running and hillwalking. It’s a thriving, bustling, beautiful National Park, full of a heart and character that is made up of it’s rural communities and eager tourists as much as the windswept Moors and gritstone edges. 

To have the new Coldhouse studio based in Hathersage seems to now perfectly reflect our approach to business, constantly considering the delicate balance of continuing to do the work we love, whilst at the same time striving to give something back to the fragile environments we use for recreation. The Peak District is one of the busiest and most accessible National Parks in the UK, and it’s wildlife and landscape has been impacted for centuries by our human footprints. Being based in the heart of the National Park and donating to our ‘1% For the Planet’ partner ‘Moors For The Future’ will serve as a constant reminder of how we need to build a sustainable future for everyone. For me personally, I’m looking forward to learning more about the landscape that we are surrounded by and how we can better protect it for wildlife, as well as humans.”

Check out the work that we do with ‘Moors for the Future’ here - http://coldhousecollective.com/csr/

The partnership has given us all a chance to learn more about the challenges facing the fragile environment of the area and to work with a community to give something back.  If you live in or near the Peak District or South Pennines it is worth checking out their work and seeing if you can become involved in any way (link below). We look forward to the possibilities of the collaboration as well as the chance to spend more time in the area that we all love, taking as much advantage of our new location as possible.

https://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/get-involved


“Searching for an old cormorant fisherman”

In this blog our intrepid location scout Tom Carr-Griffin reminisces about his time preparing for the production of ‘Pertex Elemental Journeys, Episode 5: Made in Yangshuo’ in China.

Finding characters and locations across all corners of the globe can be a challenge but Tom’s scouting skills and detailed preparation are always up to the job, despite a few unexpected adventures along the way.

It hadn’t been quick to find him. You need to be on the ground, talking to locals, following leads. But I knew the area in which to begin.  I was in Southern China, XingPing village, in the region of Yangshuo. I was searching for an old cormorant fisherman and the right setting to put him in.

The Li river is an iconic place (it features on the Chinese twenty Yuan note) but it is long, with many tucked away areas, and much of it is overcrowded and heaving with tourist boats.

Dan, Waldo and myself had set off for the day on rented mopeds to cover some ground, in search of our cormorant fisherman and his setting, as well as options for our main climbing route. Our first port of call was Liu Tao at the Nirvana farm small holding and meditation retreat. Standing by the crowded ferry crossing on the banks of the Li we looked, unconvinced, at the thin beam of wood, no more than six inches wide, being held in place for us to get the mopeds onto the boat.  Waldo characteristically decided that speed would make up for any lack of accuracy and revved the bike hard, launching it towards the plank, missing, and sending the bike wheel-deep into the water, the plank leaping one way and a swift-thinking Chinese man diving the other. 

On the other side of the river, we entered the walls of the Nirvana retreat. Inside, it was calm and cool, rivulets of water ran through the garden and a vast rock face loomed above, enclosing and protecting. We sipped tea with Liu Tao and explained what we were searching for. Two leads came from this - a local photographer, Greg, who had a cafe in town, should be able to help contact a fisherman. For our climbing sequence, he said, pointing towards two peaks in the distant haze, we should travel to Nine Horses Mountain on the far side of the pass. 

We were climbing steeply now, the road little more than a track, muddy and slippery. Our wheels skidded precariously as we tried to keep momentum and broad leaves slapped at us wetly. Sweat beaded from us in the oppressive humidity, and our grins were broad as we doggedly rallied these old, unsuitable bikes through stunning scenery deep in old-world China. Hours later, aching, bruised and elated we emerged, some distance on the far side of the pass, onto a clear plateau high above the river. On the opposite side Nine Horses Mountain rose inspiringly, high, clear, white and daunting. We began scouting the face through binoculars, excitedly pointing out lines and possibilities. It looked magnificent.

A loud blast from an air horn announced the arrival of an oversized passenger liner, barging its way along the river, shattering any peace. We looked down on the Chinese tourists crowding the decks, chattering and snapping photographs. A few minutes later another horn blared as a boat came into view from the other direction. We sat and watched for perhaps twenty minutes as boat after boat ripped up the river and shouted its presence. There was no way we could film what we wanted here. We would have to scratch it from the list and continue the search.

It was evening in the village of XingPing, and the right time to find Greg at his cafe, tucked away down a maze of old cobble streets. We talked over a dinner of local foods and Greg agreed to act as our fixer. There were two or three of the old cormorant fishermen still left, but it was next to impossible for them to make a living from the trade they had grown up in. Over the last fifteen or so years, the area had become so popular with Chinese tourists that locals were no longer allowed to have their boats on the water between eight in the morning and six in the evening. The river was the sole domain of the money-making passenger liners. The noise and pollution from these vast boats had driven away almost all of the fish. Now, these old men kept themselves in coin by working for photographers and film-makers, with the same clothes, rafts and techniques they had used their whole lives. 

Three days later we were getting into position in the early evening. We wanted as much daylight as possible to work with, but had to wait until the curfew on the boats was lifted before the fisherman could join us. He also had to stop at the market on the way to buy fish for the cormorants to fetch. Whilst Greg had lived here for some time now, his Chinese was not so strong as mine, so it fell to me to direct the cormorant fisherman. And so I found myself, on a summers evening, stood thigh-deep in the Li River, shouting directions across the water, and occasionally wading across to negotiate and haggle for some piece of action or other. “Tom, pull your socks up!” I dropped into the water as Matt got some perfect shot or other. Bloody creatives.


Ellie Hague: On Life as a Coldhouse Intern.

When I was caught in the glare of the harsh reality of searching for a graduate position in the media industry, I stumbled upon an adventure-film production company named Coldhouse. I became captivated with naive curiosity and applied for the position. I was interviewed, and hired and then - like a family of wolves - they adopted me, and taught me what it means to be wild.

My intern adventures began on a shoot in Wales, where I trudged between slippery rocks and winding rivers formed over the aeons by the omnipresent rain. Scrunched under a survival bag, I wrung out my water-logged gloves and continued my attempt to operate the camera with frozen hands. I had never experienced the mountains in this way before, and filming in such challenging conditions felt a little out of my comfort zone. But that is the beauty of an internship with Coldhouse, there are so many opportunities to learn new things, not just about filmmaking, but about your own strengths and weaknesses, your own limits and abilities.

Almost a full calendar year later, the tangerine sunset illuminates the steep granite rock face in front of me. I look back down at the sea 20 metres beneath and try my best to ignore the first-time nerves of rock climbing. I was welcomed to the sanctuary of the top of the cliff with cheers and a selfie with half of the Coldhouse team. This was a memorable end to a well deserved day off, after a packed fortnight of non-stop filming on a little island called Owey, just off the West Coast of Ireland. 

Having a passion for filmmaking is one thing, but being able to combine that with an expedition-style outdoor shoot is a niche combination. Admittedly I’ve been raised in the millennials generation of makeup, wifi, technology, and lazy comforts. On Owey, we stayed for a week to make a climbing film, creature comforts like [hot] showers were non-existent, as was mains electricity, and we camped in what can only be described as a shed - which was also home to several spiders and layered with dust so thick we had to clean off the kitchen surfaces with a stiff brush! 

If I read that description before applying for the internship, I’m not sure I would have gone for it, but I’d have been making the biggest mistake of my life. There’s something so inspiring about waking up with the rising sun, and not being plagued with the material habits that used to overtake my mind in the city. Packing up to hike out to somewhere beautiful, I’m not sure I realised before that part of my job would be to strap myself into harnesses dubiously secured on the edge of a huge cliff face, to film climbers. Given that I have always been very uneasy with heights, to mine and everyone’s surprise, I loved hanging about here, wielding a camera as the climbers worked their routes.

One of the things I appreciate most about these experiences is how I feel when I’m back. Despite the sorrow of leaving such a magical place, and the immediate ache of wanderlust, I feel like an improved person. It’s as if nature has influenced me, and shown me how life is meant to be lived. I forget my insecurities and realise what really matters in life, and it’s not make up and WiFi.

Socially, if people hear that I'm in the media industry, they’ll immediately strike up conversation about Channel 4, or the BBC, and then proceed to ask me if I’ve applied for a job with these companies. My answer is always No, because it's not adventure film. It's not a chance to work with incredible outdoor brands, and see beautiful parts of the world like it is with Coldhouse. The outdoor film world introduces you to the hidden gems of this planet and teaches you how important it is for us to protect them, and the cultures of people that live there. Senior team members have told me many stories, such as being treated to a pretend marriage ceremony in Morocco; locals lending them traditional beaded outfits to celebrate and dance until the early hours (then of course, being hard at work filming the next morning!).

I never expected how much Coldhouse would teach me. Some highlights of my internship are things you probably wouldn't expect. I’ve had the chance to be a part of some incredible projects editing in the studio. It's particularly rewarding to see something I have edited being used by a client on social media, like a little taste of fame. I had never been particularly proud of my work during University but as I’ve gradually shunned my imposter syndrome, this internship hasn't just proved to me that I can make something 'worthy', it’s also shown me that I had much more potential to become a better filmmaker than I ever realised.

The editing team took me under their wing, and taught me everything there is to know. Learning about professional editing has been the most insightful experience. I went from stringing together a few clips at university, to being able to design a complex narrative, and conduct a detailed symphony of rushes in large, complicated projects.

So my journey over the last year has been indescribable. I've made friends for life with the kindest, coolest people. I’ve scrambled along cliff edges, hiked, travelled, camped, climbed, fished, filmed, swam, ran, and grown so much as a person. My internship with Coldhouse has been unforgettable, and I can't even begin to thank them for granting me this experience.

Lunging through the door to my city flat, I scraped my hastily packed duffle bag through the frame with me. I looked around at my show-room style apartment, and sat down in my living room for the first time in fourteen days, fighting back the lump in my throat. I sighed with relief. Relief that ten hours of travel was over, relief that I was back to homely comforts, and my own bed. I realised I was actually alone for the first time in 336 hours. But in spite of feeling happy to be home, I immediately missed everyone’s company, and the eye-opening life I’d just experienced for the first time on a little island called Owey. 


Vacancy: Production Intern

Coldhouse are recruiting a Production Intern for a studio based role for a one year contract.

The successful candidate will have an opportunity to gain valuable experience working in a growing, outdoors focused creative Production Company. Coldhouse prides itself on recruiting lifelong outdoors-people, each with their own specific skills, quirks and specialities. Like our team, at your core should be a love of storytelling, adventure, chips and a pint.

Job Title: Production Intern
Location: The role will be studio based from the Coldhouse Studio in Sheffield.
Salary: The salary will be £16,286.40 pro rata based on working 3 days a week (usually Tue- Thu) £7.83 per hour of a 32 hour week.

Summary of Job Role
The role will be to:

● Work as an assistant editor on specific projects
● Provide assistance to the Senior Producer to aid the running of the Company
● Assist on individual film and creative projects

How to Apply
Applications should be made by email to guy@coldhousecollective.com and should include a CV and covering letter outlining why you want the role and what you can provide for the company. For the successful candidate, we would require the option to talk to 2 referees prior to offering the role.

Cut-Off Date
Applications must be received by Close of Play Mon 7 Oct 19. There will be a paper sift and then an Interview round in Sheffield Thu 17 Oct 19. The successful candidate will be asked to start as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your interest in working with us.


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.