‘On what slender thread do life and fortune hang’

I’ve just finished editing a trailer for a short film project I was shooting in N. Wales recently with a group of climbers. It’s a project which Tom Livingstone and I had spoken about for a few months and finally managed to get some dates in the diary to make it happen. Story is all important and the visuals have to support a strong story, and while we had talked over a few possible narratives ,I think the story which will unfold is essentially Toms own personal relationship with Gogarth.


I’ve climbed on Gogarth a few times before, on the classic ‘Dream of White Horses’ and Britomartis. Both times I’ve climbed there I’ve found it to be a dramatic and somewhat intimidating place to be, abseiling in above the sea and the only way out is up .  And the first time I climbed there we abseiled into the wrong area so ended up climbing an E1 instead of the HVS was had planned , doh!

But that didn’t quite prepare me for how terrifying filming there would be. Abseiling is the most dangerous part of climbing, some of our best climbers in this country have died abseiling, because you are 100% depending on the system to hold you, any lapse of concentration or system/hardware failure and its not going to end well. When you are climbing, apart from hanging belays, the system is there in case you fall, and most of the time you don’t. Many of the lines on Gogarth don’t go straight up so trying to get abseil lines into position is challenging, luckily my assistant this trip was Tom Weston, a mountain guide and he was a god send on this trip and may well have saved my life.

The project is a film about the vibe and situations and Toms views on climbing on Gogarth, hopefully I’ll get that edited in the next month but as I’m just about to move to Edinburgh, I’m surrounded by boxes and Hard drives packed away ready to be shipped up North.


The most challenging area to film on is main cliff, Tom and James were climbing a route called ‘Dinosaur’  E5 6a, a  route that goes through a roof , then a groove and finishes up the headwall. Getting into position from above we had at least 5 rebelays to keep the rope safe and traverse across the face to get into the right spot. We had made every effort to keep the rope free of edges , the quartzite rock is notoriously sharp , and while I was on the end of a 100m rope, hanging free in space, my rope above me was slowly being damaged by a small crystal where the rope was in contact with the rock. Luckily Tom above me could see the rope and shouted down to me that the sheath on the rope had popped open and he was keeping an eye on it. As I was hanging in space I couldn’t stabilise myself by putting my feet against the rock or taking the weight of the rope till I jumared higher to get in contact with the rock. The action of ascending the rope was causing an up and down tension on the rope which was slowly being sawn in half. Tom lowered me down another rope and put me on belay just in case the abseil rope failed , which it didn’t but you can see for yourself how close it came to being a bad end to the day


It’s a lesson in how fragile what we take for granted actually is, hence the quote from Alexander Dumas that is the title of this blog.

Mostly I was filming but shot a few stills, cameras used were the 5D iv with the C Log profile and the 1 DC. Tiffen variable ND filters and Sennheisser radio miss used but with the amount of wind noise and the crash of sea and sea gulls some of the radio mic stuff is unusable.


Tom was doing laps on the E4 dws, ‘Electric Blue’ so we could film it from different angles , the crux is above rock so not somewhere you want to fall of even though it’s technically a dws.

We had Ian Craigie also along for a couple of days, a fellow Scot and talented climber and instructor from Plas-Y-Brenin, it was good to have a a variety of climbers and outlooks on the film to add different textures and flavours to it.


So there we have it, keep following my FB page for news on the film if you’re interested, thanks for reading.

Best wishes and stay safe