I’ve just got back from a short filming trip to Poland and the Czech Republic. Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall AKA the Wide Boyz (Blog link) were invited by the director of the Polish Mountaineering festival to sample some of the local sandstone crack climbing. The festival director Maciej Sokołowski wanted Hot Aches to film Pete and Tom climbing the local test pieces and produce a short film to be screened at the festival in September. The festival will also be screening the feature length version of our Wide Boys film.
We only had three days to shoot the film so it was quite a busy trip. After three 12 hour days at the crags I think I have a nice 12-15 min film to show for it. It was really warm there, 30-35 deg C, so it was sweaty work lugging and jugging to get into position to film. All the cliffs we climbed on have very strict climbing ethics: no hard gear like Rocks or Friends and no chalk at all. Some of the routes are protected by a few spaced bolts but for the most part the only way to protect yourself is to place knotted ropes into the cracks.
This was all new to Pete and Tom, but we were looked after by two excellent local climbers Lukasz Mirowski and Slawek Cyndecki. The locals gave Pete and Tom a quick tutorial on how to place the knots into cracks and also gave them the advice “don’t fall off”…!! When asked what happens if you fall on the knots, Slawek replied “hmmm, maybe you break a leg”! Pete then joked to Tom that he was glad he had his BMC insurance!
It was just me from Hot Aches Productions available to film, but helpfully Maciej arranged for a local filmmaker, Damian Wodecki, to join us so that we could record all the action from two angles.
Our first day was spent at Hejszowina in Poland. This is an amazing sandstone plateau surrounded by pine forest and rock towers. It’s also a popular tourist location. There are guided pathways that lead up through narrow walkways between the rocks and towers before heading up ultimately to a terrace cafe on the summit plateau.
First Tom lead an excellent line called Zebatka. This route up the tower was protected by knotted ropes all the way; he commented that he felt like he was soloing it. One really nice feature of climbing these towers is that you get to sign a book on top and to see who else has climbed it recently. Pete and Tom both said how nice it is to top out on a tower. The only way to get up these towers is to climb, so it’s great to sit on top of something where the tourists can only stare from behind their safety railings.
After the warm up on the tower Pete was directed to a crack climb leading into a face climb at the top. I think Slawek said something like , “its a little tricky but for you no problem”… later after Pete had struggled his way up a sketch crux sequence Slawek commented.. ” hmm good, no one normally onsights that”… we were starting to sense that maybe the locals were keen to set the visitors up!
After lunch on the summit, both Pete and Tom did battle with a local offwidth test-piece called Jan Sebastian Dach. Positioned high up in the roof of the crag, the wide flaring crack has only ever seen one ascent.
With high temperatures and no chalk the crack spat out both the Wide Boys, but only after they had both pulled some pretty funny faces.
On our second day we crossed the border into the Czech Republic to climb at Teplice. This is an amazing place, the walls and towers are much bigger that at Hejszowina. It’s full of amazing lines. The Boyz eyed up a great looking line, a 50M offwidth up a beautiful clean tower wall. The route is called Udolni / Hlaska (VIII 6) and is the easiest way up the tower, the only other routes being even harder. This of course presents a problem for rigging a filming rope. Lucky for me Lukasz was happy to climb the route first to rig a jugging line for me to film from.
I got some very nice footage of Pete on this route. The light was lovely; it was about 6pm I think so it had softened a little and the base of the route was in shadow to give a nice, almost black, background to some of the lower shots.
Damian also got some nice long shots:
Pete climbed the route with a little bit of a fight, some sweating and a little more face pulling:
Once he topped out, he just kept on climbing :-
I ended up getting into position on the ropes, sitting on my skateboard ready to film about an hour or so before Pete set off. It was beautiful place to just sit back and appreciate the good parts of my job. After several months mostly sat in front of a computer it was a nice reminder as to why I do this.
Our last day was spent at Hejszowina again. Tom climbed a really nice line called, Kabaret Starszych. This was mostly protected by knotted ropes and followed cracks through some nice steep terrain. I filmed from the rope, jugging up as he rested between sections. As Tom topped out, over the tourist railings we met a Polish family who now live in Manchester, which was kind of a nice moment.
After lunch I recorded interviews with the boys. These interviews will tell the story of the trip and provide the commentary for the film. Then with only a few hours of the trip left we all walked back to the crag for Pete to give it one last go on Jan Sebastian Dach.
The temperature was a little cooler than the last time he had tried it, maybe 25 deg rather than 30 deg. There was also a little more breeze at the top. Pete taped his hands up with even more tape than normal and constructed a knee pad out of an old sock. I was optimistic that Pete would succeed on this route… I’ve often seen folk climb that bit harder on the last day of a trip. Unfortunately after three attempts the only thing Pete had succeeded in doing was pulling an even funnier face:
Thanks to Maciej, Lukasz, Slawek and Damian for making this trip so enjoyable.