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Having received positive feedback for our film shoot on Monday, I was optimistic and eager for Tuesday at Napes Needle. We met Paul Horton at university at 9am, and all hopped in a minibus to be ferried over to Seathwaite farm ready for our walk up to the needle. We decided to approach the needle from Seathwaite as although it was a longer walk, it would take less time on a whole than driving over to Wasdale and walking in from there. The walk was nice and simple, although packs were heavy due to us having to haul in camera kit, climbing gear and personal mountain equipment. We arrived at midday, wasted no time and quickly began setting up ropes so that we could get going as soon as Leo arrived. I was to be stationed directly opposite the needle, halfway up a route just across from Eagles Nest Ridge, and it quickly became clear I was going to need to lead up to it, as there was no easy way of abseiling down. I set about gathering everything I would need to spend the day on the ledge, and with a belay from Ali climbed up to my perch. I would be needing a lot of gear, including the Sony Z7, a tripod, my rack and rigging equipment, waterproofs and of course food, but decided to pad all of this and haul it up to myself rather than climbing with it hanging off my back. Once on top of my perch I placed a couple of bits of gear and began to get everything ready for when Leo arrived. I attached a sling between my camera and tripod and my harness, clipped my bag into the system and began experimenting with the composition of the needle. With the weather being undesirable, I made a mental note to not include too much sky in the shot, as the dynamic range of the camera meant that the sky was just getting blown out whenever I exposed for the needle. I memorised a couple of shots, and took note of appropriate zoom lengths before settling down and waiting for our climber.

Leo below the needle - Photo: Joshua Crabtree

Leo arrived slightly later than scheduled, as he had got stuck in traffic and had had to jog up from the car park with all his equipment. This however did not hinder him, and before we knew it he had soloed to the top of the needle to ‘check the moves’ as it had been sometime since he had last been there. Josh was set to second Leo up, and once we had done a ready check he was off. I took some shots of Leo on the first pitch of the climb, as I had three tapes in my bag and it seemed silly not to make use of having a stunning vantage point. He climbed the first section a couple of times, redoing it on the arête the second time round which made for some great shots from where I was sitting. Once Martin was happy that we had all the shots we needed from the first pitch, Leo rigged a belay and set off climbing the second pitch. He redid the first few moves three or four times so that Dom could get the shots of Leo climbing round the corner to the standard he wanted, but then continued round and into my shot. He climbed this pitch a few times as well which, like on Little Chamonix, allowed me to take several different wide angle shots as well as some close ups. He reached the top, and I took some footage of him belaying an excited Josh up until they were stood on the top of the needle shaking hands. Leo exclaimed that the needle is a real summit, something that you have to be a climber to achieve, and Josh agreed before they began to rig for the descent. Josh reverse-led the top pitch and Leo down climbed it, but realised that while he was half way up the climb he may as well attempt the E3 route which comes over the overhang near the top. He shouted over to me that this was the shot, and I hastily reframed so that the overhang was the focus of the shot, but with a scenic background looking over towards the mountains. I had tried to frame the shot with the dry stone walls and steep screes of Wasdale included, but this detracted from the needle too much. Leo spent some time working out the moves, and being an exceptional climber found that he did not need to cut loose to overcome the small roof section. He did however, for the sake of the footage, throw in a quick cut loose and I sat there watching with a weird mix of emotions. Half of me was in awe, watching one of the best climbers in the country ascend what is arguably the birth of recreational rock climbing, but the other half was in a complete state of ‘oh god please look good on film.’ It turns out the footage was exactly what Martin was hoping for, and that evening he put together a short edit for cumbrialive.tv that was centred around my shot from that day.

The short teaser Martin uploaded can be seen here

Once Leo was down and Martin was happy that we had everything, Dom, Paul and myself began derigging and descending while Martin carried out a quick interview with Leo. Once on the ground and with the interview over, we had a brief discussion about how the day had gone, and also discussed what was going to be a tricky day filming on the Central Buttress, Scafell Crag.

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