Brit Rock – Celebrating The Spirit Of Climbing
Brit Rock 2021
Over the last decade, climbing has experienced an increase in popularity now envied by most outdoor activities and even many mainstream sports. Fueled by the seemingly never-ending growth of indoor climbing (which has no doubt been further accelerated now that climbing is an official Olympic sport), it seems that today almost anyone can call themselves a climber.
Alastair Lee has chosen to celebrate and hopefully expose new climbers to some of the qualities that have historically defined our sport: exploration, boldness, commitment, and the purity of the line.
While this explosion of interest and participation in climbing has had benefits (a more significant voice when addressing access issues, for example), it has also created a generation that's more detached from many of the core concepts that make climbing special.
With Brit Rock, filmmaker Alastair Lee has chosen to celebrate and hopefully expose new climbers to some of the qualities that have historically defined our sport: exploration, boldness, commitment, and the purity of the line.
Brit Rock consists of four films, perhaps the most visually stunning being Great Sheikhs. This film features Leo Houlding and Waldo Etherington bagging FAs on unclimbed desert towers in the Wadi Al Disah region of Saudi Arabia. While the climbers are the stars of this film (in particular, Houlding with his unmatched resume of difficult multi-pitch routes), there is no escaping that the landscape should share equal billing. The combination of red sandstone towers against the blue desert sky highlights the beauty encountered in remote desert climbing areas, and this is likely as remote as it gets in 2022 – there are no records of climbers previously visiting this region.
They cast off, often climbing on dubious rock, unsure of what awaits above.
I particularly admired this segment because it highlighted Houlding and Etherington attempting to climb these towers without pre-inspection or rehearsal. They cast off, often climbing on dubious rock, unsure of what awaits above. Lee's filming of this segment also has to be commended. By micing the climbers and using a combination of drone footage with cameras held by the climbers, viewers get a sense of being right there with the team as they progress up the routes. This film captures not only the beauty encountered in remote climbing areas but also the whimsical camaraderie that exists within a climbing team. For anyone who has recently started climbing and only knows the challenges of queuing up for routes, polished rock and the endless noise of crowded crags, this movie will be an eye-opener of what climbing was like before it became popular.
The next film in the line-up is E11 Lexicon featuring Neil Gresham. Gresham is a globally recognized all-rounder who is now approaching 50 years of age and has decided to attempt what could be his hardest traditional ascent. The film opens with Gresham describing a newly discovered unclimbed line in the Lake District (a rare find in the UK). Like many challenging UK trad routes, Lexicon requires committing and insecure climbing high above the gear culminating with a low-percentage crux just before the finish. Blowing the crux means the climber will face an 80-foot ground-scraping fall. While this should provide sufficient drama, the film also provides some insight into what Gresham has had to sacrifice to try and succeed on this route. The process is honestly captured by Lee and adds a humanizing element to the film. As the movie shifts to the crag to document the FA, Steve McClure and Dave MacLeod join the festivities, hoping to bag an ascent. I'll avoid spoilers and say that the next few minutes capture a fall so big that it won't fit in the frame of the camera angle. As a climber who will be looking at his 55th birthday later this year, I admired E11 Lexicon not only for its riveting climbing footage but also for its subtle celebration of the commitment necessary to continue to climb as we get older.
The third film in the line-up, Kjerag Solo, is a more straightforward affair and showcases Pete Whittaker as he free solos a massive (1082 m) wall in Norway. While the wall is physically dramatic, what makes this segment particularly interesting is how it has been filmed. Once again, Lee has miced the climber and used drone footage interspersed with climber-filmed segments. The result is a sense of being with Whittaker during the climb and experiencing the route from his perspective. While the ascent itself is sufficiently dramatic (especially as he gets higher on the route), the moments where he contends with wet rock and struggles with the route-finding almost inspire more of a reaction from the viewer. After 2 hours and 25 minutes of climbing, Whittaker tops out and understatedly utters, "That's a proper climb. I feel like I've done something." Yes, he certainly has. And this film perfectly captures the actual magnitude of the experience.
Our film 'Fall Theory' about the notorious Franco Cookson has been getting rave reviews from many of our screenings. It's a unique piece of work and whilst most of what these guys get up to is best left to them its still an inspiring and uplifting experience. Amongst all the lunacy we discover Franco has a very deep connection and respect for his beloved North York Moors. Watch it for yourself over the xmas week exclusively here
https://filmfestivalflix.com/brit-rock-film-tour/tickets/Posted by Posing Productions on Friday, December 17, 2021
The final film, Fall Theory, explores the climbing career of the previously enigmatic Franco Cookson. Growing up in the climbing backwater (by UK standards) of the North York Moors, Cookson claimed several difficult and bold first ascents that were skeptically received by the UK climbing community. Only after bagging the FA of Nothing Lasts in Northumberland in 2017 did the UK climbing community start to reconsider Cookson's accomplishments.
This film is packed with dramatic ground falls and popping skyhooks and should keep even the most jaded climber on the edge of their seat.
Fall Theory explores not only many of Cookson's early ascents but also follows him as he attempts his hardest and perhaps most bold new route yet. Upholding what seems to be a headpointing tradition, this film is packed with dramatic ground falls and popping skyhooks and should keep even the most jaded climber on the edge of their seat. On a more serious note, the film also explores the motivation of a young climber pushing national standards in a relatively secondary climbing area – something many talented Canadian climbers can relate to. Beautifully filmed with an authenticity missing in many climbing films, Fall Theory conveys the passion and occasional eccentricity required to climb such committing routes.
And there you have it. An overview of the four films playing at the Brit Rock film presentation. Should you go see it? Well, if you have even a passing interest in watching incredible climbers in stunning settings pursuing many of the foundational elements that have defined our sport, the answer is yes. You won't be disappointed.
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.