Why The Frozen Titans Was Perfect Timing For Will Gadd, EOFT 2014

The organisers of the 2014 European Outdoor Film Tour are today releasing the full programme for this year’s tour which visits 240 venues in 13 countries including the UK from 1st to 9th November. 

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Three climbing films are featured in the two-hour line-up of the year's best adventure sports films from around the world.

  • Alex Honnold free-soloing the El Sendero Luminoso route in Mexico, a 762-metre rock face of compacted lime, in January 2014.
  • Urban climber James Kingston scales cranes, bridges and skyscrapers hanging hundreds of feet in the air with no safety equipment in Don't Look Down.
  • And in The Frozen Titans Will Gadd tackles the route you can't climb in summer and you don't really want to climb in winter - the 141 metre waterfall, Helmcken Falls.

In an interview with the E.O.F.T. 47 year old Will Gadd explains why the Helmcken Falls climb came at the perfect time in his life and what inspires him to keep discovering new places. 

Will Gadd in The Frozen Titans, EOFT 14, 115 kb
Will: I think, for me, the most interesting places in life are places that not very much is known about – whether that’s physically or mentally or geographically.  If I find something, that is really difficult to understand and to figure out – then, for me, that´s very interesting. 

Understanding new environments and how to operate in them is endlessly fascinating. It’s like a mental obstacle course or a game of chess and that’s what I like doing. 

Everybody has something in life that they enjoy doing, that lights their head up like a light-bulb.  Maybe for some people that’s gardening, but for me it’s finding wild and new places in the outdoors and seeing what I can do there.

Q Would you say that’s also your main motivation as an athlete?

Will: As an athlete I’ve gone through different stages with different sports and learning how to do something well is also very challenging and interesting to me.  I tended to focus on mountain sports.  I’ll do them obsessively for five or so years and get a reasonable level of skill at them and then I keep returning to those sports and find new ways to look at the world using those sports. 

European Outdoor Film Tour, 157 kb

I get really obsessive about these sports. When I started paragliding – that’s all I did for two years, doing as much as I could every single day.  It was the same with mixed climbing or ice climbing or rock climbing.  Once you have a strong base in a sport then you can return to it at a fairly high level within a few months when you train hard and focus.

Q What do you think where is this drive comes from? Did you ever have an idol or somebody you got inspired by?

Will:  Well, I was lucky as a kid. I think all the people I saw at my parents’ house when I was young certainly inspired me.  They weren’t the sort of people that showed up in the office from nine to five. They were adventurers and explorers and geologists on expeditions.  I watched all these people living non-traditional lives coming through my house and I thought, ‘Wow, that would be really interesting if I could try to do something in life, that was meaningful and engaging to me, and kind of make my own path’. 

And also my parents.  My dad is a naturalist, which is a little bit different meaning in English than it is in German I think [laughs]. He is a mountain interpreter so he takes people out and shows them around the mountains.  In a way that’s also what I do with the films and the stories that I write. I try to take people on a journey to an interesting place.

Q I think lots of people think the way you’re living your life is very special and not for the masses. What do you think: is this maybe just an excuse? Do you think most people could actually have a similar way of life?

Will: I don’t think there’s anything special about me, that’s for sure. I’m an okay-athlete, but I was never the strongest or the fastest. I played traditional school sports when I was a kid. I did okay at them. I know as an athlete I am not exceptional. But what I am able to do is being obsessed about these sports and activities and work very, very hard.  I will put whatever hours, days, years of training into them that I need to get the skills and that’s different maybe from most people. 

I also worked hard in developing my writing, photography and film-making skills but I don’t think I am really very special at any of those things either [laughs].  If I have one great talent, it’s my ability to try and do things. I work, show up and try. And I fail way more than I succeed and then I try again until I figure it out.  I get mad, I do whatever it takes to keep trying, to keep beating myself against the obstacle until I go through it.

Q Some people wrote, that the route you did at Helmcken Falls in February this year might be the final stroke for your mixed climbing career. Is that true?

Will:  I think the Helmcken Falls route came at a perfect time. I was able to train, I was fitter and stronger at 47 years old than I’ve ever been in my life. And I doubt that I can ever get that level of physical fitness again.  My body is still injured from that climb. It really took everything I had to do that climb. I still have elbow and finger problems from that climb. It could be the hardest technical thing I’ll ever do as a mixed climber. I think that’s probably true. 

But there are other ways to go at the sports.  I’m looking at an area in China that looks very very interesting where nobody has climbed and I can certainly still climb reasonably hard for another five or ten years. 

Sometimes people think getting old is a bad thing. I am really proud to have gotten old [laughs]. It´s the greatest accomplishment of my life to make it this far, so I guess I wear my age proudly. I remember being 15 years old and climbing relatively hard, paddling my kayak in difficult water doing some tough grips. 

You know that’s the cycle of life and I am just happy to still be able to use my body at a reasonably high level and it’s a lot of fun. Today I’m up on this ridge where I landed my paraglider and I think I found a new cave just around the corner and I’m going go look at this cave and explore it – something I did a lot when I was younger and now I have the chance to do that. I don´t need to be the über-athlete to do this. The joy is in doing what you can, not just the hardest or the best.

Q Can you tell us two or three projects you want to do in the near future?

Will:  I've got two African projects, that I would like to get done in the next year and a half or so. I’ve been trying to do a trip to climb the last remaining ice on top of [Mount] Kilimanjaro and I am doing that in a month.  I’ve been trying to do this trip for two years now and life keeps getting in the way so that’s exciting.  Another trip I want to do in Africa following the route out of Africa that we as humans all willingly took. 

A couple of days from now I’ll be taking my kids on a canoeing on a backcountry lake and we’ll be camping and so that will be a great adventure for me and for them. So there is always something cool to do.

Q How important is it in your opinion to find a true passion in life?

Will: Everybody is different. I’m not normal in the sense that I am obsessive about these things and just throw myself at them. I know that. Most people probably would not enjoy doing what I do. It’s difficult, dangerous and painful. But it’s also really rewarding. So I look at somebody who has a good steady living and is really excited about maybe going out on their motorcycle on the weekends and that looks pretty good to me. I think it matters more that you create a life that you enjoy and find meaningful. You know, in a thousand years nobody is going to care about what any of us did [laughs]. So you might as well have a good time and do something that you really like.



Ellis Brigham, 73 kb



For more information visit European Outdoor Film Tour
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