Thursday, 11 February 2016

ShAFF review: High and Mighty

Jimmy Webb climbing Livin' Large in Rocklands, South Africa

A few years ago, Outcrop Films released a great feature-length production, called Life On Hold, containing highball boulder problems from around the UKHighballing seemed like a natural progression on the North's grit and sandstone crags, cutting out the gear and climbing former trad routes over stacks of pads. 

Climbing high without the protection of a rope wasn't new, of course, as soloing is as old as climbing itself. With the invention and continuing progression of bouldering pads, however, highballing is about pushing the level of difficulty climbers are willing and able to tackle... while also being high off the ground.

Across the vast Atlantic pond, the Americans are taking highballing to whole new levels, with Bishop in eastern California a proving ground for the practice. The culmination of highball bouldering's evolution and the finale of High and Mighty, a film from this year's Reel Rock 10 tour, is a new boulder problem on the Buttermilk's infamous Grandpa Peabody boulder.

Daniel Woods' "The Process" is not only 50ft tall, it weighs in at 8C+/V16 in difficulty. Being shown at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, High and Mighty takes the viewer through the process Daniel employed to scale the boulder, the mental struggle as well as the physical. It makes for terrifying viewing but at least you're warmed up to it.

The preceding sections of the film show the evolution of highballing in America but also with footage of Jimmy Webb climbing Nalle Hukkataival's Livin' Large (8C/V15) in South Africa's Rocklands. Archive images and footage of earlier highballing efforts paint an interesting picture of how and why bouldering has arrived at its current altitude. But mostly, it's just a wincingly palm-sweating good watch.

Screenshot from High and Mighty

Catch High and Mighty at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival between Friday and Sunday, 11-13 March, at the Showroom Cinema.

Other ShAFF reviews:
  • Meru - high stakes, big-wall climbing in the Himalayas
  • Sherpa - trouble on Everest