"In 30 seconds of climbing there's a billion instants; we want to capture one and frame it"
About us Dark Peak Images is really a fancy name for two blokes, a slide scanner and a shed-load of free time. Simon Richardson is twentysomething, works for a bank and desperately wishes he didn't. Stuart Littlefair is a little younger, and works in astronomy, which suits him just fine. We're both passionate climbers, and the strongest cowards we know.
Climbing CVs In case you wanted to know. Stu has flashed F8a, climbed E8, onsighted E6, climbed Font 8a+ and competed for Britain at bouldering. He climbs Scottish grade IV.
smells flowers. Note to ed: actually he'll kill me if you print that. Try "is a very competent climber operating up to E4."
Why we take pictures We were asked to write a short piece to accompany our pictures. It's always difficult, knowing what to say. Have you ever seen a picture of a climber which stopped you in your tracks? A picture so improbable,so perfect that you had to show your mates? Picture here Steve Bancroft poised on the arete of Strapadictomy, his face a portrait of cool ability. Photos like that make your heart beat faster and the palms of your hand prickle with sweat. And that's what Dark Peak Images is all about. We want to capture that sweaty intensity. In 30 seconds of climbing there's a billion instants; we want to capture one and frame it. All our photography is real. We don't like to pose shots or hide topropes. We just take our cameras out and try and capture a day's climbing with our mates.
We're not great photographers and we throw a lot of shots away [actually that's the sign of a good photographer: rejecting dross - Ed.], but we do come home with images of people out climbing; of our mates being gripped, enjoying easy classics or just larking about. The stuff we all do. We like to think that this gives our photos a bit of "edge". We hope you agree.
About the Pictures Every picture tells a thousand words....
Charles Hubbard (Blub) on Pebble Arete (B3), Stanage Plantation
There are some days when everything goes wrong. You can't climb for toffee, your shoe laces break, it starts to rain, it's a high gravity day. The thing to do when your mate has a day like this is make sure you get some pics to remind him. The day this shot was taken Blub's head was full of jelly. This image captures him peering for holds on Pebble Arete, shortly before he backed off. We've all been there...
John Helme on Kitten Claws (E3 5c), Carreg-y-barcud, N. Pembroke
What to do when you've finished your finals? Drop everything and head for Pembroke! At the end of a long weekend blessed with perfect weather, we headed for the north coast. John ummed and ahhed about this route all day and then, as we were packing to leave, changed his mind. Climbing well In the Zone, John pulled off his hardest lead of the year with ease. [The Editor notes: having led this, I can confirm that the break he's reached counts as a major feature of the route, which principally consists of 70' of very technical climbing protected by so-so RPs until the first good wire. It's a headbreaker.]
Stu Littlefair on Matinee (HVS 5b), Roaches, Staffs
It's always the same. You drive through perfect sunshine to arrive at a crag hidden under a veil of drizzle. There's only one thing for it -jamming cracks in the rain! Here, Stu gets stuck in to the, erm, classic Matinee, unwisely attired in cream jumper and shorts.
James on Coventry Street (E3 6b), Millstone
The funny thing about foot-and-mouth is that it got people out climbing! Banned from their usual haunts, everyone descended on the same crags, creating a lively scene and spurring people on to good early season ascents. James spent the day trying Coventry Street, without much luck.This was his last try, the day coming to a close and a light rain starting to fall. Did he make it? Well...
Stu Littlefair on Cock Robin (E6 6c/7a), Froggatt
This was a spur-of-the-moment attempt. We'd been part of a large group trying Strapadictomy (E5 6a) when Stu just tied in and went for it. Although he'd climbed the route before, this time it wasn't to be. Struggling with the desperate rockover onto the slab he pulled and strained, but in the end either his hip or the rock had to give. This route is rarely tried, but gives a fine ground up challenge with a side runner in Strapadictomy.
Quiet Waters (E3 6b), Huntsmans Leap, Pembroke
Your first route in "The Leap" is something to be savoured. If the cragis empty it's an eerie feeling abseiling into the chasm, the wavesrasping and sucking on the leap floor. It's even worse if your mateforgets the rope! Climbing on a single nine-mm rope is not to beadvised, but the classic Quiet Waters comes with the highest recommendation.
Bruno Marks vs. Strapadictomy (E5 6a), Froggatt
Ten falls, no submissions. Some climbs just won't go down without a fight. Bruno went through the full range of emotions this day. His initial cockiness soon changed to frustration, which is only a slip or two away from despair. Credit where credit's due - he never gave up. When he finally reached the top you could have heard him in Hathersage. Taken on the eventual ascent, this photo shows the fight needed to push your grade on a gritstone legend.
Ru Davies trying for the onsight on Anabolica (F8a), Siurana
For a little guy, he's got a lot of power! Poor old Ru powered through the crux on this route, only to fail a couple of moves away from a no-hands rest, easy climbing and the top. This is Ru on his second attempt, effortlessly redpointing the route. This photo shows how much harder climbing is for midgets, as Rupert nearly dislocated his shoulder on this move, which is one of the easiest on the route...