This is impressive. Authentic. More than that I was quite moved. I was gripped. Engaged. My palms sweated. It was an Oh-My-God moment. His mum belaying. His dad ashen-faced looked on. His talented fresh-faced sister offered encouragement. A move so improbable I could hardly believe my eyes. Had this young lad applied snake oil to his joints or drunk an elixir to make him so flexible – the hardest move on grit maybe....and way above gear. Then a death run out which Pete Whittaker had to talk himself up. A great climbing film moment, one of the best I've seen. Who says headpoint ascents can't make riveting viewing?
If you've paid good money for a climbing DVD this is want you want; an emotional response to what you are watching, to what others have experienced themselves; not indifference. Paul Diffley and Dave Brown of Hot Aches were there to witness Pete Whittaker climbing the first ascent of Dynamics of Change at Burbage and share it with us in their latest climbing film, Committed Volume Two. They weren't there by chance, goodness knows what effort and hoop-jumping these climbing film-makers have to make to be in the right place at the right time.
How the climbing media has changed. No hearing about an ascent three months after it has been done. We are all interconnected now, wherever we go; there is no escape.
We read about ascents almost as soon as they have happened and often straight from the climber's own blog or announced on a forum. Photographs and videos are available soon after, sometimes just a day or two. Then we discuss and dissect. All of us can, if we want, share in the ascent or at least its post-match analysis. Everyone can have a voice, we are all pundits; not just you Colin Wells. There is nowhere to hide; over grade or over hype, and you get busted. Climbing style, how a climb is done, quite rightly, has taken on a renewed importance. Climbers want authenticity, they want the truth.
Then at the end of the climbing season, film-makers such as Hot Aches, Al Lee at Posing Productions, Josh Lowell at Big Up, Peter Mortimer of Sender Films, Mike Call of Momentum Films, supply us with professionally produced climbing films.
Never has climbing history been so well documented.
The skill of today's top climbing film-makers is hardly worth commenting on or comparing – they have all got so good; but not without a great deal of experience, effort, analysis and thought, and importantly looking at what has gone before. They've learnt from what we all witnessed many years ago in Rich Heap and Mark Turnbull's Hard Grit, that drama is the key to good climbing film making. The current artists are so good I can't see them continuing to make climbing films, there must be bigger prizes for them. But no worry. With film making tools available cheaply, and primary school kids learning to film, edit and upload, we are assured of more climbing film talent. The Vimeo/YouTube/Mobile Phone/Facebook generation is on the ascendance, and there is no stopping them. Next up? Although live climbing broadcasts began back in 1967 with the BBC's Old Man of Hoy extravaganza costing millions in today's money, with today's technology it will soon be straightforward for anyone to bring us live and direct cutting edge ascents as they are happening....and all you will need is a mobile phone.
Committed Volume Two is a step up in the evolution of the film making art of Paul Diffley and Dave Brown. Their past work, such as E11, was very good; but Committed Two is better. I enjoyed it immensely. What you get? Nearly two hours of great self contained climbing stories: The Groove, The Allrounder, Grit Kids, Rhapsody 3, The Walk Of Life.
The three men of the moment feature in Committed Two: Steve McClure, James Pearson and Dave MacLeod.
The amount of preparation James Pearson engages in to climb The Groove at Cratcliffe Tor is illuminating, so much so the final ascent up the last great problem is so smooth it's like he's walking up a VS. Steve McClure exhibits similar ease, with a bit more huffing and puffing, on Rhapsody. Their talent is self-evident. Pearson executes one of the hardest moves on gritstone that has flummoxed the best and McClure makes mincemeat of one of the most physical trad routes in the world: third redpoint if I recollect correctly.
But we want a fight, and we get it. MacLeod scratching and torquing his way up The Hurting, in Coire an t-Sneachda ; James Pearson on the Walk of Life; seemingly endless moves up a never-ending slab of small edges and marginal gear. I had another of those Oh-My-God moments watching James and had to rewind for a double take. MacLeod again, his all round brilliance displayed, this time redpointing 'to the death', A Muerte a very hard sport climb at Siurana, Spain, and by the skin of his fingers. Different climbers, different types of climbs, all very impressive, and very inspirational.
And two new stars are born, the Grit Kids: Katy and Pete Whittaker. What a joy this section is. From via ferrata as kids with their parents to pushing their limits on the Peaks' gritstone edges, the message here is clear; pure climbing fun and at a very high level. No discussing climbing ethics or grades for hours for these two; no placing sponsors logos on their T-shirts and climbing pants. It's dump your school bags, do your homework then climb. Katy Whittaker's hard ascents are highly inspirational and not only for the increasing number of girls and women entering our sport. Goodness knows what the future holds for these two talented individuals. I wish my parents were climbers!
Some climbers like their DVD climbing to feature climbing alone but I'm sure the majority of us like some human context and in the best documentary tradition we get background: the tears, the worries, the joys, the doubt, the mundane, the kisses and the complexities. Again, the Whittaker family section is powerful with comments from their parents about how they feel about their offspring going out and doing hard and very bold ascents above bad landings. James Pearson's soul searching is equally gripping before his big lead above the Atlantic. Made even more poignant by the presence of his proud and loving partner, Emily.
All through the film we get insights, not just from the climbers themselves, their climbs and their partners, but from Dave Binney, Head Coach of the British Junior Climbing Team and from Jack Geldard the editor of UKClimbing.com; two commentators who know what they are talking about.
I get a bit jaded watching climbing films, like most I'd much rather be out there doing it. But this seasons current crop are impressive, and Paul Diffley and Dave Brown with Committed Two have made a climbing film that many will enjoy and that they should be very proud of.
Flaws? There are a few, but nothing worth writing about. Anyway, that's for you to decide and I'm sure you will in the post-watching analysis. We all have different tastes but remember though, it is harder for a Brit to praise than it is for an elephant to go through the eye of a needle. I applaud the climbers and those who film them for their talent and hard work, it certainly makes wet Saturdays in Ambleside easier to bear.
I give Committed Volume Two, two thumbs up.
Committed Volume 2 is released on Nov 21st.
Buy at www.hotaches.com pre-orders are being taken now.
5 Films. Total running time 1hr 50mins.
Some of the routes included:
The Walk of Life
Dynamics of Change
If 6 was 9
Captain Calamity -