Skip to main content

Review of Monkey See Monkey Do

Each autumn brings two seasonal imperatives: Autumnwatch and the new Hotaches film. Unlike Autumnwatch, Hotaches give us adventures without wings.

The art of a good climbing film, especially in this saturated media age, is to tell a good story. Any film-maker should keep this truism close to heart and Hotaches don't disappoint: the 2009 film 'Monkey See Monkey Do' is a collection of fantastic climbing tales, focusing closely on character and motivation. Every shot is saturated with the emotion of the climber, committed to telling the inner story as much as the wobbling, sickening 'real' world of the climbing. Some sequences in this film had me frozen in disbelief, particularly in the highlight of the four films: Single Handed.

The first film is entitled Slate Monkeys and follows three very different climbers to the slate quarries of Wales. Matt Segal, Hazel Findlay and Johnny Dawes attack a classic slate route with a heady mixture of youth, canniness, experience and sheer improvisation. It is no accident that there are echoes of Stone Monkey and some of the sequences of Johnny 20 years on, smearing up a slaty chimney, palming and warping himself into the rock are nostalgic and timely. Talented American climber Matt Segal bubbles with awestruck enthusiasm over his hero 'Janny' while Hazel climbs with a boldness and suppleness inspired by the original film. It is an engaging piece and some great close-up footage of marginal smearing and Elvis shuddering on this most notorious of rock forms.

Film 2 'Single Handed' is the tour de force of this DVD and features Scottish climber Kev Shields and his struggles to overcome a hand disability to push his climbing limits. Not only does Kev have to work round a one-digit hand, but he has had to overcome the darker disabilities of epilepsy and depression. It is enlightening to hear Kev explain climbing as a way out of these restrictions and it is encouraging that he found the strength to make committing decisions despite emotional and physical compromises in his life. Kev refuses to accept the restrictions of being a 'disabled climber' and he sees in it the opportunity for highly creative climbing. This is what makes his climbing so inspiring - it's his creativity on hard routes in Glen Nevis and the Peak as he adapts and improvises to overcome what some would state as impossible. His technique and balance is a delight to see on film and his commitment goes beyond most climbers' ideas of rational limits. The sequence as he commits to a Glen Nevis solo is a truly brave step as we realaise for Kev climbing is an irreversible decision.

Film 3 changes focus and pans out a little onto 'Little Big Walling' in Madagascar. The impressive granite cliffs of this island paradise are scampered on by lemurs and some entertainingly bonkers Englishmen including James McHaffie, Dave Pickford and Jack Geldard. The blank granite walls are overcome with good technique, persistence and the highlight is the route 'Yellow Fever' which is the only multi-pitch in the world with the route description: climb the vine in the blank corner. The landscape is the highlight of this movie and the routes filmed make you feel like phoning freinds to see if they are up for a BIG adventure...

The final feature is a short delight as we follow Sonnie Trotter and his dedicated belayer Cory Richards in Squamish. The hot summer frustrates Sonnie's attempts on a hard granite trad route, but in steps Cory with his entertaining philosophy of belaying as an art in itself. Sniffing the rope like a fine wine, choosing his belay device as though from a selection of weapons and 'warming-up' to belaying with his unique rope exercises ('The Archer' etc) finish this fine DVD with suitable humour and diversion. The best line in the movie is left to the end, as Sonnie completes his route and the camera zooms into Cory, who shrugs and says: 'If you're not belaying, you're just climbing.'

Well done to Paul Diffley on the production of another superb Hotaches movie. Great editing, soundtracks and bountiful extras - including the superb Firestone E7 solo by Kev Shields, which will make your eyes sweat!!

The film is available now on Pal DVD on our main Stone Country site (BUY HERE). It's inspiring stuff and guaranteed to make you wish you'd done more over the summer! If a climbing film is judged by what it inspires, then this one lights the flame within.


Popular posts from this blog

Plato's Cave

In his famous 'allegory of the cave', the Greek philosopher Plato pondered the artificiality of reality in imagining how we could be fooled into thinking shadows on the wall (i.e. virtual reality) could be seen as 'real' life. I'm paraphrasing, of course. What has this got to do with climbing? Well, I was pondering this myself recently while sitting on an artificial concrete boulder at the new Cuningar Loop bouldering park in Glasgow. Does it really matter that a boulder is made of concrete, surrounded by plantation and skirted with kind gravel traps rather than tree roots and spikey boulders? Isn't the 'real' thing so much better: the isolated erratic bloc deposited by geology's long-term aesthetic artwork? Well, yes, that's entirely up to you, but sometimes the artificial saves the day ... I was scuppered by Glasgow's cross-town traffic and turned back to my local artifice that is Cuningar to climb the blue circuit I had imagined as

Timeline Walks of Scotland #Culbin Sands

The Moray Firth’s sand-bitten southern coast, between Findhorn and Nairn, is home to Scotland’s most cautionary tract of land. Now a wilderness of maritime forest, dunes, salt marsh and spits of sand, its human history has been dated to the Bronze Age, around 1300 BC, but it is a territory that since glacial times would have been mobile and mutable. The Laich of Moray is the fertile strip of plain squeezed between the foothills of the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth’s south coast. In Gaelic it is called Machair Mhoireibh (the machair of Moray), a perfect habitat for golf courses and rich arable farmland, threaded by the glacially-rivered straths of Nairn, Findhorn and Spey. Culbin is an old parish which is now buried under 28 square kilometres of duneland and recent forestry. Sweeping east of Narin and curving in to rise up to its greatest heights above the estuary of the River Findhorn, it is now managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, but it is notable that this is a humanl

Scottish Bouldering #New Glasgow climbing wall: The Prop Store

The Glasgow branch of The Climbing Academy (TCA) is just about to open its new bouldering and lead-climbing centre on Glasgow's north side. Its south-side twin ('The News Room')  is already a popular bouldering centre, but the new site will bring fresh inspiration to climbers on the north side of the Clyde. Situated in Maryhill, not far from the West End, this new centre is named after an old BBC prop warehouse, so it's been named ' The Prop Store '.  The centre feels roomy and spacious with a long profile. The holds and panels are super-grippy and there are some free-standing boulders to mantle out as well as an impressive offering of angles, roofs, slabs and subtly sweeping walls.  There is also a section of lead wall with auto-belays for top-roping practice, and a training centre upstairs. They should be open this December, but here are some preview shots.