A maverick bunch of Brits go big wall hunting in Brazil. Lead by pioneering legend Mike ‘Twid’ Turner accompanied by Steve Long who invite some youth on the trip in the form of the super strong James Taylor and Angus Kille (just climbed Indian Face!). The team head for the giant monolith of Pedra Baiana dreaming of a new line on perfect rock. From the outset the plan begins to unravel with fuel blockages, wasp attacks, a shortage of equipment and time all pinning back progress in this spectacular, insightful and charming film.
For Brazilian Line we have teamed up with one of the industries leading lights, multi-award winner Alastair Lee of Posing Productions to produce a compelling story of an ambitious ascent, ensuring the highest of production standards in adventure film.
Twid is a veteran of many big walls and has devoted his life to climbing since he left school. by the time he was 20 he had climbed many E6’s and then the following year he hit E7. Twid subsequently built up an impressive list of E7 ascents (which to date stands at over 70!) a few of which he managed to onsight and many of which were first ascents.
Twid’s alpine and big wall achievements are if anything even more impressive. He has established over 20 major new lines in the greater ranges and has climbed some of the hardest mixed and rock routes in the Alps. Highlights include the first ascents of Supa Dupa Couloir VI ED4 in Alaska (Piolet D’Or nominee), The Good the Bad and the UglyA3+ E3 on the South Tower of Paine in Patagonia, Endless Day VI A3+ on Baffin Island and Grains of Time, a 16 pitch E3 on Suro Tondo in Mali. He has accrued more than 100 mountain bivi nights living on portaledges, many with his wife Louise!
Steve has climbed in every continent over a period of over 30 years, and is still just as keen!
As well as his climbing he has racked up an impressive CV as an IFMGA Mountain Guide, notably: Technical Officer for Mountain Training UK, Development Officer for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, and Chair of the UIAA (International Mountaineering Federation) Training Panel, which also includes several voluntary projects around the world.
Steve tries to keep quite a bit of the year relatively free for training projects worldwide and also personal climbing. However, I can be tempted to make exceptions for particularly interesting and challenging adventures!
Steve describes Big Walling as one of his biggest passions and he and Twid bring an incredible level of experience to this climb.
James is an incredibly strong, young climber with several first ascents upto E9 on his CV.
James started climbing when he was 18 having just started University. He told a little white lie to his friends in the climbing club and ending up climbing an E2 as his first outdoor lead.
Things progressed from there and he ended up climbing most weekends and was hooked!
Nowadays he manages to hold down a full time job as well as push the boundaries of UK trad climbing. He always has a number of projects on the go and when the weather doesn’t allow him to be outdoors he will be found training in “The Mill”
Angus found climbing when he was fourteen and instantly became a climber. He grew up in Shropshire, England and learnt to climb on the soft sandstone of Nesscliffe. Having spent much of his adolescence escaping to the crag it was inevitable that he would pursue climbing as an adult.
He has now been climbing for around twelve years, in which time climbing has developed from a hobby into a lifestyle. In the past few years, He has made his home among the mountains in North Wales, where he works as an MIA climbing instructor. Now he works and travel to climb, whether it’s in the UK, Europe or further afield. He enjoys sport, trad, and bouldering and considers himself a bit of an all-rounder, but more recently he’s been trying to find his limit on the end of a rope.
This summer Angus made the 8th ascent of Indian Face on Clogwyn Du’r Arddu (Cloggy). The Indian Face was the first route graded E9 in the UK (therefore the world) and was climbed by legend Johnny Dawes back in 1986.
A twenty minute version of the film toured across the UK as part of the Brit Rock Film Tour. This had more than 40 screenings as well as a couple of overseas theatres.
The festival edit was also screened at Kendal Mountain Film Festival where it made the best of Kendal and footage from the film was shown as part of the festival trailer.
Brazilian Line won “Best Feature Film” at the Mountain Film Festival 2019. The film is now available on Amazon Prime and is being sold into TV around the world.
Pedra Baiana is situated about 11 hours drive to the North East of Rio de Janeiro. Twid had seen an article in the American Alpine Journal where an Argentinian team had spent several years establishing a new route on another face on the mountain. Some online research established that there were no other climbs and that there was massive potential for a new route on an unclimbed face.
The nearest town is Nova Belem and from there the mountain is reached on dirt tracks through coffee plantations. On our arrival we sought out the local farmers and got permission to climb – they were more than happy for us to provide some local entertainment, mainly I think due to the generosity and friendliness of the previous climbers to visit the area. Most days we would have locals come up to the base of the wall to point and laugh – they were genuinely interested in what we were doing and how we were doing it.
An account by James Taylor on UKClimbing.com:
“In 2018, I joined Mike ‘Twid’ Turner, Steve Long, Angus Kille heading out to climb a remote big wall in central Brazil. The objective was to establish and free climb a new route on the south face of Pedra Baiana. However, the expedition ran into problems from day one. We arrived in Rio to find civil unrest in the streets, the shops empty and the petrol stations barren. Strikes had brought the country and our expedition to a total standstill. Over a week behind schedule, we finally headed north out of Rio but found ourselves stuck in countless roadblocks, diversions through favelas and large-scale protests. When we finally found the wall we had such little time left that any efforts seemed futile. We worked feverishly, living out of our D4 portaledges, pushing as hard and fast as we could, inevitably coming up short exhausted and frustrated in equal measure. We vowed to return and finish what we had started.
he return trip was planned for the same dates in 2019. However when the year rolled back around Steve was out in Mongolia delivering a UIAA training course and Angus was setting up his own instructing company, focusing on work for the first time in his life; neither could find the time to come. This left just Twid and I for the return trip. We knew more firepower was needed if we were going to have any chance, so Twid rallied some troops and Shaun and Simon joined for round two on Pedra Baiana.
Once an objective has been set, the mission of any expedition quickly becomes one of logistics and a game of odds; how are we going to get ourselves into the right position, at the right time, and how are we going to make success the most probable outcome, once we are there. The logistics are often a boring set of budgets, permits and access issues, but for me, stacking the odds in our favour is possibly the most interesting part of an adventure. This is where training, dieting, experience, tactics, ethics, gear and countless other variables come into play, loading the dice to land for success. Undeniably the people you go on an expedition will affect the outcome beyond any other single variable. Knowing that I was heading out to Brazil with three mountain guides and a big wall veteran/ex-world champion felt good. The team put my tactical and safety concerns to rest, I was in good hands, however, I did feel like this year the team was missing one critical element; a super strong free climber.
Shortly after getting back from Brazil last year I belayed Angus on his hardest trad route to date, a route that needs no introduction: ‘The Indian Face’, at Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. After the long and foreboding march up Snowdon to arrive at the foot of the cliff, Angus chose to a rope down the face for one final practice of the crux before going for a lead. He didn’t even have to try. I stood at the bottom watching Angus climb the whole crux of Indian Face in his Scarpa approach shoes, with a pack on his back, whist pulling slack through a gri-gri. My jaw was on the floor. I have climbed with Angus quite a bit, but after that day out at Cloggy, I can vouch that Mr Kille is a total ninja on slabs. Climbing with Angus has always put me at ease. It’s nice to be on a route knowing you have a secret weapon like Angus with you; it feels like whatever happens the odds are in your favour. I always take more risks and put myself on the line knowing I have a rope gun to pick up the pieces if I fail. There are a lot of lessons to be learned about that team dynamic, I often refer to it as going out climbing with a ‘safety wad’, but almost always end up doing more dangerous things as a result. I felt very exposed on this return trip without Angus the ‘safety wad’ with me. I felt like I was now having to fill the role as the young free climber, I felt I had a responsibility and had nowhere to hide.
Last year one big question mark was left lingering in my mind; would the connection pitch go free? In 2018 Twid had made a bold move. He decided to leave the ramp that led diagonally up the wall and aim for the nearest runnel. This decision was partly forced by the diminishing nature of the ramp which had led us to this fork in the road. Twid has a few thousand new routes to his name and trusted his instincts to guide him, taking the line directly towards the hanging features above. This decision is where the route gets its name ‘Runnel Vision’ and where the question mark in my mind came from. The holds Twid could see leading towards the runnel ran out after 50m leading to a blank-looking slab before the runnel began. I knew this slab would be where the battle to free the route would play out, representing the most uncertain section of the face.
I took it as my mission to free climb this slab; that’s the reason I was there, to continue the free climbing from where we left off last year. Simon and I worked like dogs to find a passage through the maze of edges and nubbins, swinging around the wall, cleaning and bolting our way into each feature searching for a way to connect the dots. I have heard people use the metaphor of a jigsaw to describe climbing, fitting the pieces together to complete the picture- how nice and playful. The jigsaw Simon and I were putting together had no picture, few pieces, and every time we did make some progress, the puzzle would snap or crumble off the face of the earth. It took two days for Simon and I to give up on the hope of free climbing this slab. We soon came to the realisation that the route would require a pitch of A0 if it were to exist. I came down that night feeling despondent. I was sore to the bone from jumaring, cleaning and working on that slab for two straight days. Having that self-imposed responsibility to free the hardest pitches meant that in my mind the prospect of an aid pitch was directly my fault. I lay in bed that night feeling like I had failed the whole team and the trip. Where was my ‘safety wad’ to pick up the pieces and complete the puzzle?
A much-needed rest day came with a wave of guilt and confused emotion over the failings on the slab but ended with a new fire in my belly. This was partly to do with the Brazilian food but mostly from my drive to prove myself useful to the team. With renewed energy, we attacked the runnel feature, cleaning and freeing as we worked higher into its open arms. I led the first runnel pitch up into one of the steepest parts of the wall, stemming and pushing as hard as I could on the sides of the runnel to keep myself from pinballing down. The fire that was in my belly was now firmly residing in my calf muscles as I slumped onto the belay unable to talk properly though the amount of effort required to climb the single pitch. Blood was oozing from my fingertips where I had pushed the skin away from the nail, pressing on the walls to maintain my tenuous position, my palms were raw and starting to bleed from the effort. The next 400m was not going to be easy.
The crux came halfway up the runnel, a particularly flared section in the steepest part of the runnel with no foot or handholds to soften the relentless walls. Twid was belaying me at this point and after two failed attempts I began to doubt my ability and turn my thoughts inwards once again towards failure and negativity. Alun the cameraman, Twid, Shaun and Simon didn’t seem phased at all. Why were they not worried about the prospect of failing to climb the route? We had spent so much time, effort, money and energy to get here, somebody please panic! Why is nobody but me panicking? Why are they smiling? Somebody else please fucking panic!
Then the penny dropped; this is the essence of adventure, the unknown, that’s what we are in the midst of and that’s what these guys live for. That’s why they are smiling. My new age apprenticeship in climbing clouded the raw experience of being halfway up a big wall, with friends, trying hard and working as a team.
Perhaps that’s the last lesson I learned from the old guys, to zoom out and enjoy the whole process rather than attaching success or failure to the arbitrary rules of free climbing. My thoughts about the game of stacking odds and wishing for a ‘safety wad’ to send what I can’t, all seemed so silly right there with those smiling faces all around.
Over the next three days, we pressed on up the runnel and into the upper reaches of the wall. As the angle eased off, we passed hanging guardians filled with flowering cacti and golden hummingbirds, our vertical desert began to come alive again. Each pitch was successively easier than the last as finally, the wall started to lean back. Shaun led the last two pitches onto the summit as the sun dropped below the distant peaks of Minas Gerais, our efforts finally coming to fruition.
In the end, 18 pitches were free climbed, including the crux runnel pitch, establishing “Runnel Vision” (8a/A0) 800m. The team spent several nights on the summit and redpointed some pitches on the descent. Although it may be possible to free climb the remaining slab pitches I won’t be returning. My adventure on this wall has finished.
The trips were sponsored by: D4 ledges, Rab equipment and wild trail snacks.
Twid: DMM Wales, Rab equipment and D4 ledges.
Angus: DMM Wales, Rab equipment and Scarpa.
James: 3rd rock clothing.
Filming as a one man crew is always challenging. Filming as a one man crew on a big wall is even more so, especially when you balance a Red Camera hundreds of metres up a vertical wall as you try to change a lens or a battery, very aware that dropping anything could not only be expensive but could also have serious consequences for anyone below you.
– Rob Johnson
On this trip I relied on 20 years of rock climbing experience to be alongside the boys as they climbed each day. This would often mean jumaring up fixed ropes each morning, filming that days action and then abseiling all the way back down to try and get some drone shots before the day was over. I had pretty sore elbows by the end of the trip! It was great to be a part of team, to live in the vertical world for a couple of weeks and to meet the local people who farmed the land around us. It was also great to get the footage safely home to the UK with everyone all in one piece!
Once the edit started I was massively grateful for the guidance and help of Alastair Lee. With each edit I would send a Vimeo link across and his 20 plus years of experience were invaluable in shaping the film, its pacing and its storyline. This is my first long form climbing documentary, I have poured my heart and soul into it. I hope you enjoy it.