lives for Risking highs Mountain; Pick of climbing films at movie festival.
THE world's best climbers have a thing for North Wales it's been a training base for many before they tackle peaks from Everest to the Arctic, and New Zealand to the Canadian Rockies.
This month there's a chance to see some of those final climbs, with a film festival in Llandudno showcasing ascents that would leave many terrified.
"We were risking our lives. It was mental," says Tom Randall, reflecting on climbing a 160ft fissure in Utah National Park with his pal, Pete Whittaker.
The two, hailing from Sheffield, specialise in a style known as offwidth crack and their film, WideBoyz, just won the award for Best Short Mountain Film at the 2012 Banff Film Festival, held each autumn in Canada's Rocky Mountains.
WideBoyz documents Tom and Pete's assault of the gnarliest cracks in the USA, including the first free-climbing ascent of Century Crack, in Utah''s Canyonlands, the world's hardest and longest offwidth climb.
For those not in the know, offwidth climbing involves forcing your body inside a wide crack in a cliff face and shuffling up the rock a few inches, before wrenching your crushed limbs out of the slit and stuffing them back in a little higher up.
Some climbers TICKETS The Banff describe 'bleeding their way' up offwidth routes, and Tom remembers "screaming my way to the festival, Llandudno Cymru, Jan 01492 venuecymru.
top" when he climbed Century Crack, to shoot the film. So what's the appeal? "Crack climbing really fascinates me," says Tom. "I love unusual types of climbing. I don't like following the pack, and I wanted to be the best at something."
But getting into crack climbing in the UK isn't easy. "If you want to be a great offwidth climber, you can't do it here," Tom explains.
"There are only six hard-core climbs and, even then, the most challenging is only as difficult as the tenth hardest in the States. So I took a modern, scientific approach to training."
This involved building replica sections of Century Crack in his basement, from an old kitchen, and practicing non-stop for two years. And when it came to training outside, the boys are big fans of North Wales.
"Wales is one of the best and most varied places to climb in the world. We love it," says Tom.
"The Quarryman at Twll Mawr is top standard and similar to some of the slate quarries I've climbed in the US. Llanberis Pass and Holyhead are some of our favourite climbing spots in the UK.
Film Venue "But nothing can 26. TICKETS co.uk really prepare you for the offwidths in the US. Century Crack blows your mind. We pushed ourselves right to our limits on that climb."
And it paid off, with WideBoyz picking up an award at Banff, as well as receiving The People's Choice and Best Climbing Film at the UK's Mountain Film Festival in Kendall.
"The atmosphere at Banff is fantastic" said Scotland-based cameraman Keith Partridge, best known for filming climbing classic Touching The Void.
"The standard of films keeps rocketing skywards and the quality accelerated even more this year. But the best still really stand out.
"Great visuals and a superb soundtrack are important but, for me, it's the story telling that really grabs people. WideBoyz achieved this - the audience really willed them up those cracks."
The film will part of a selection of films from the Banff festival at Llandudno later this month. Also being screened will be Crossing The Ice, the story of two Australians who walked unsupported from the coastline of Antarctica to the South Pole and back.
It won Best Exploration and Adventure Film, The People''s Choice Award and the Grand Prize.
"Everyone was there with them," says Keith. "You just couldn't fail with a story like that. It really was outstanding."
TICKETS The Banff Mountain Film Festival, Llandudno Venue Cymru, Jan 26.
Tickets 01492 872000, venuecymru.co.uk
Pictures: Alex Ekins