I remember reading about James Pearson’s ascent of Walk of Life back in 2008 on UK Climbing. It was probably the first time I’d really heard of him as I’m not a grit aficionado and the main thing that struck me, as it did most people, was the grade – E12 7a. The hardest trad route in the UK, maybe the world, that’s quite a claim. I read UKC quite a lot and remember the thread that went on and on in the aftermath, James was getting destroyed on that thread!
James is a top quality climber, no one sane would ever argue otherwise, since climbing hard routes on the grit and Walk of Life down in Devon he’s climbed all over the world ticking hard routes wherever he goes on both trad and sport. People slated him because of that grade. Was he a media whore, did sponsors pressure him into it or was his ego as big as hills balls?
I guess that’s where this film comes in. It’s the story of James Pearson’s climbing career so far, I say so far because this guys going to be climbing hard for years and years – there’s loads more to come for sure.
Hot Aches have a great history of creating quality films – Wideboyz, E11, The Long Hope route and Committed to name just some of them and they’re all brilliant. Having seen all of these and really enjoyed watching them I was psyched to watch this film as soon as I got somewhere with a decent internet connection for downloading it.
The basis of the film is an ongoing interview with James with loads of previous footage of him climbing his best known routes, starting on the grit with routes leading up to The Promise and The Groove before moving on to Walk of Life. James was understandably riding high after smashing out such top drawer routes before things started to go a bit awry, beginning with Team America quickly repeating and then down grading his grit routes before Dave Macleod down graded Walk of Life from E12 to E9 after a quick repeat as “tendon therapy”.
All the footage is really good as always with Hot Aches and the dialogue from James is interesting to hear as he discusses, very frankly his thoughts with the magic of hindsight and talks about about his private life too.
At the time of Walk of Life James tried doing Dave Macleod’s Rhapsody up at Dumbarton Rocks and blogged a bit about it, which only gave the UKC users more ammunition. To get closure on this part of his life, James travels back to the UK to get it done. This is the bit I was really looking forward to seeing. E11 was a great video, watching Dave work the route and taking that big fall over and over was pretty exciting. We get to hear from Dave on the film, as well as Jack Geldard, who talk about the story and give their views in the style of a Match of the Day analysis.
After some interesting dialogue with James’ wife Caroline on the film, we get to see James getting on with Rhapsody. Again the footage is really good and there’s even a little cameo appearance at the crag by Dave himself.
I’ve mentioned how good the footage is, my disappointment on this front is that a lot of the footage isn’t new, yes it’s really good, but I’d seen a lot of it before. There’s some new footage of routes since James moved abroad and a bit of Caroline climbing too and all the footage of James on Rhapsody is new but the Rhapsody section was a bit shorter than I hoped. The only other thing I didn’t really get was why James was topless for the entire interview….
James comes across as a top guy, he’s very open and honest throughout, I think it’s fair to say he’s a very different person to the one who graded Walk of Life E12.
I’m glad I bought it, I’d watch it again, I’d recommend you watch it, but it I’d have liked to have seen a greater quantity of new footage.