FA film: North Wales Bouldering Vol 1: Mountains - 15/03/2021
Chris Doyleís latest film bears many of the hall marks of previous classics such as Wedgie Wall. That being, hardcore climbing action mixed with twisted humour. This time the goal is to pull back the curtain on the energetic first ascent scene in North Wales, specifically those that have been covered in the newly released Mountain Crags volume of the new North Wales Bouldering guidebook.
The film starts deep in the woods of Clegir, with yours truly gassing on about the amazing White Wall project and talking through the run of late Ď90s Northern Soul fanzines that lead into the North Wales Bouldering guidebooks. There is also a moment of magic discovery when a strange creature arrives on the scene bearing a gift. And then itís off gliding over the landscape via the mesmerizing Google Earth graphics to sweep down on crag after crag where we are treated to recent first ascent or early repeat footage. This is raw stuff, often caught on the hoof. Indeed much of the action has been captured on mobile phones. The variance in quality only adds to the authentic vibe that runs through the core of the film.
There are real eye popping moments, including some big falls (Check out Zed flying off the top of Sbigoglys at Craig Peniel!). Hypnotic sequences on intriguing, unfamiliar rock faces add to the sense of mystery and discovery. There is a strong sense of place in this film too. Obviously the Google Earth graphics play a big part, but the real landscape is always there in the background, a reminder of the unique feel of the mountains and valleys of Eryri/Snowdonia.
There is perhaps a misconception among those who donít do first ascents that this is an easy game to play Ė it most certainly isnít though. While the rewards are great when you do finally strike gold, much time is spent on fruitless searches. The scenes of Chris staggering through a rain storm, soaking wet and deliriously hoping that the next boulder will reveal a five star 7C are an honest portrayal of what goes on during a typical hunting session.
Throughout the film the music fits well with the action. The Bowie tracks are really strong, but my favourite moments come with the backing of Caernarfon hip hop band, 3 Hwr Doeth. Discovering them, via a recommendation from my son Charlie, was one of the music highlights of 2020 for me. Hopefully their appearance in the film will gain them new fans, they certainly deserve it. Check out the Hip Hip Hwre album on Bandcamp, Spotify etc.
The film finishes with a focus on Craig Daviesí discovery of the remarkable boulders in Cwm Craig-las above Nantlle. The main block here is an astounding chunk of stone, the sort of dream boulder that all activists hope they will fall upon one day. The team of lads taken there to sample Craigís new problems includes some of the main players at the top end of the North Wales scene: Pete Robins, Danny Cattell, and Mark Katz, who has returned to live in the area after a 15 year hiatus in Yorkshire. Anybody who does FAs wants to share the fruit of their labour - but it is a nervous moment when you invite the pack in for a look at your creation. Will they rate it? Will they downgrade stuff? No worries here for Craig, the lads clearly loved the place and if Danny canít make much impression on your main test piece you donít have to worry about your grades!
So, well done Mr D, youíve played a blinder again! This is a great film and one that manages to capture the essence of the North Wales scene in all its rough glory.