Dundee Mountain Film Festival
This was my second year in succession attending the Dundee Mountain Film Festival. I travelled down to Dundee by train on what proved to be a very miserable and wet Friday afternoon. Dinner was a delicious pint and burger at Tonic, right next door to Bonar Hall, and by 6:45 I was sitting in the auditorium itself whilst the Friday evening session audience slowly filled the room.
The five films shown were an eclectic selection from stunt paragliding in France to the Golden Age of big wall climbing in Yosemite. The highlight for me was the film Forgotten Dirt; mountain biking remote footpaths in the remote Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan including a visit to the high plateau.
After the interval mountaineer John Porter gave a brilliant illustrated talk focusing on his experience climbing in the Greater Ranges in the 70s and 80s at a time when alpine style climbing was being introduced to the Himalayas by talented European mountaineers. His talk focused around the climber Alexander Macintyre but also featured famous names like Chris Bonnington, Dougal Haston and Don Whillans. The photography was absolutely breathtaking and the routes were bold. With nothing in the way of sponsorship expeditions were on a shoe string budget and even just getting to the Himalayas was an adventure in itself. The talk was also very sobering with John describing how his generation almost "climbed themselves into extinction". It was truly superb though and I picked up a copy of his book One Day As A Tiger at the end.
I stayed overnight down by the waterfront and it was a cold Saturday morning. I wandered along past Discovery just as the sun was lighting up the clouds and then went along to the Parlour Café on West Port for a delicious breakfast of poached eggs and a cappuccino.
The Saturday morning session showcased four films from a Scottish perspective. “Deano” Dunbar had gone on another adventure, this time paddle boarding the length of the Caledonian Canal. There were then two excellent hill running films from Nadir Khan, one focussed on the Black Cuillin and the other on An Teallach. The final film was amongst my favourite of the weekend, Transition debuted last week at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival and it was a pleasure to see the whole thing here. Natalie Berry is a talented indoor climber (and an editor at UKClimbing.com) and in Transition, starts to take her ability and skills outdoors to the crags and cliffs of Scotland. The film is beautifully photographed and sees her tackling everything from sea cliffs on Lewis to winter climbs on the Ben culminating with an incredible climb on the nose of the Cobbler above Arrochar. Trad climbers Dave Macleod and Lucy Creamer provided reassurance and encouragement throughout Natalie’s adventures.
After the interval historian David Munro presented an illustrated talk on the “forgotten” Scottish polar explorer William Spiers Bruce who participated and later led many expeditions to both the north and south polar regions. The talk was complemented by numerous illustrations, photographs and maps from various expedition diaries and provided an excellent overview of an amazing career.
After a delicious lunch at Jute in the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre I made my way back for the afternoon session. The seven films were a real mix with the highlights for me both being set in the desert south-west of the USA. Desert Ice featured ice climbers dropping into remote canyons to climb ice routes whose existence wasn’t even known about until recently. The filmmaking was tense and exhilarating. The final film of the set was Sufferfest 2 in which climbers Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright cycled between and then climbed up 45 of the desert’s most interesting and iconic rock towers. This featured some incredible scenery and the film was full of both humour and hardships as the miles, weather and ascents started to take their toll.
After the interval filmmaker Jen Randall gave an excellent talk featuring a number of her short films as well as her most recent work, Operation Moffat. Jen was a very modest speaker but her filmmaking is superb and Operation Moffat in particular was great. It profiles the life of Gwen Moffat, the first female mountain guide in the UK who stravaiged across the country during the 60s and 70s in search of adventure. The interviews conducted with Gwen (who is now in her 90s) were both hilarious and heart-warming and the idea of a young female climber (Claire Carter) following in the footsteps of Gwen was beautifully realised. The film is excellent.
It was a shame not to have time to attend the evening session but I needed to be back in Aberdeen and so with the dreich weather continuing I headed back to the station and the journey north.