An article and film about Pat Littlejohn and Peter Biven's audacious first ascent of Moonraker on The Old Redoubt: A journey back through time to August 1967 when the crag was still unknown territory. The climbing life of a young Littlejohn comes full circle as he climbs the route exactly fifty years to the hour later, with Peter's granddaughter. Anna Biven experiences her first time on a sea-cliff as she follows in her incredible grandfather's footsteps!
In reply to UKC Articles: More of this please - great story with good pictures and intelligent commentary by the protagonist. Good choice of music as well. Please can someone persuade Pat to start his autobiography - I would buy it unseen.
Next project Mercury.
Thanks Henry. I’m pleased you approve. John’s pictures are amazing, but some of Petes are great because they document some of the people and places around Torbay. He never showed his pictures to John Cleare even though they were close so John was surprised when any of these images emerged. He couldn’t remember him having a camera.
Having grown up in the southwest and climbed various Pat Littlejohn routes ... i had begun to build up this picture in my mind of what he looked like (an imposing muscle bound maniac) I remember meeting him at an event once and couldnt believe it was him!
That was a real treat. Congratulations to all those involved. Loved the interweaving of old stills with new video, not to mention Pat in his old rocking chair.
So pleased that Peter Biven had such good taste in music. Really nice to have a change from the usual frenetic crap that accompanies most climbing videos. The flowing Sibelius music is much more appropriate as it matches the flowing moves of a good climber. BTW, the music credits should include Sibelius' Fifth Symphony which accompanies the later part of the film.
Bet I get more dislikes than likes.
What a thoroughly enjoyable film, big thanks to all involved in bringing this to us, well worth the effort. Great hear the recollections from Pat and to see him climbing so fluidly, plus what an inspired choice of a climbing partner - more of this please.
Superb! Possibly my favourite UKC article yet... thanks so much for taking the time to create this article and accompanying vid.
I climbed Moonraker earlier this year after coveting it for years... every move I thought about Pete Biven on his first ascent, what he was thinking and what he felt. Truly magical place and spellbinding experience. To watch this video and read the article after climbing really brings the experience back to life and adds dimension to it.
In reply to UKC Articles: Wonderful. What a pleasure to hear Pat Littlejohn talking about this ascent. Great footage and soundtrack. Moving back to Devon after five years in a rockless middle eastern country. This is inspirational. Thank you James Mann.
Many thanks, one of the best films so far. Great footage, good story & blends film, photos & music. Also shows me what I missed back in 1977 when I was part of a group of 4 students from Oxford who drove down to Devon to climb this route only to discover that someone had misread the tide tables.
In reply to UKC Articles: Well done James, excellent interview and some cracking photography too. At least you had some decent weather unlike my ascent. That entry is something else especially if you don't expect it. We went across at high tide and were enshrouded in a heavy sea mist just after the ban was lifted . So you can just imagine how slimy it all was.
A minor quibble, I'm not that keen on the background music which sometimes wasn't quite background, (perhaps something more nautical such as the final theme in Master and Commander film). Certainly one of the best HVS's in Britain in terms of adventure. Well done to all involved.
The music has a significance. The final movement of Sibelius’ 5th symphony was one of Pete’s very most favourite piece of music and was played at his funeral. Pat suggested it immediately. It is strong but I like that it was a part of Pete and made me feel a bit closer to his character and personality during the hours of editing. It has actually become a favourite of mine me too now after the thousands of times I listened to it during the hours and hours of editing. I’m very pleased that you enjoyed it. It was, as you can imagine quite challenging to film the route in one take without Pat and Anna hanging around which I didn’t want as the day was important to the both of them. Without the help of Pete, Adrian and Brian it just wouldn’t have been possible. A very steep learning curve indeed.
Lovely. Sibelius 5 is a favourite so it worked brilliantly for me. Liked the final few feet of the top pitch to the final movement and the stills attached to the false endings. Debussy in the cave too. Sibelius is a true wilderness composer. We’re very definitely looking into the eyes of the same man 50 years apart. Anna seems to have gone on a journey too. Rambling now: chapeau!
Great work James and crew, a wonderful film. Glad the swell, tides and weather all worked out in your favour, tricky when you have a specific day in mind. Was driving home with the family from the Count House that day and had fingers crossed after chatting with you about this project and have been looking out for it ever since. Looking forward to the next one now!
That sounds potentially epic; depth charge with Steve Sustad. Must be a good story in that somewhere. I think Mr Fowler had a reasonably epic first visit to The Old Redoubt after being sent along by Pete.
Excellent video, thanks! I can at least relate to it, and it makes a change from mega-athletes hanging upside down doing the first ascent of a Z14c or whatever it is these days. We tried an ascent of Moonraker in the early 70s and having got unconditionally gripped getting to the first stance failed on the first pitch. But now, Hoorah, I have (almost fifty years later) an excuse after hearing Pat talk about Pete going off line and getting similarly flummoxed. In the somewhat hermetically sealed world of the Exeter Uni Climbing Club I had no idea then whether or not our failure would be laughable to the ‘real’ climbers up in the Pass; it turns out in hindsight that there really were an exceptional bunch of gifted climbers around the SW at that time. Chris Gimblett.
> An article and film about Pat Littlejohn and Peter Biven's audacious first ascent of Moonraker on The Old Redoubt: A journey back through time to August 1967 when the crag was still unknown territory. The climbing life of a young Littlejohn comes full circle as he climbs the route exactly fifty years to the hour later, with Peter's granddaughter. Anna Biven experiences her first time on a sea-cliff as she follows in her incredible grandfather's footsteps!
There certainly were a talented and adventurous group of climbers down here at that time. I suppose the nature of sea cliffs encourages this. It must have been a great time with huge swathes of coast, virtually virgin in terms of climbing. I’m really pleased that you enjoyed the film and Moonraker will still be there next summer if you fancy a rematch.