Hard Grit

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Hard Grit
Hardgrit DVD cover.jpg
Seb Grieve on Meshuga (E9 7a), cover of Hard Grit & Hard Plastic (2006 edition) [1]
Directed byRichard Heap
Written byNiall Grimes
Produced byRichard Heap, Mark Turnbull
Edited byRichard Heap
Slackjaw Film
Release date
  • 1998 (1998)
Running time
53 minutes (1998)
80 minutes (2006)
CountryUnited Kingdom

Hard Grit is a 1998 British rock climbing film directed by Richard Heap and produced by Slackjaw Film, featuring traditional climbing, free soloing, and bouldering on gritstone routes in the Peak District in the North of England. It is considered an important film in the genre and regarded as a historic and iconic film. The film starts with a dramatic fall by French climber Jean–Minh Trinh-Thieu on Gaia at Black Rocks. Hard Grit won ten international film festival awards.



The film dramatically opens with French climber Jean–Minh Trinh-Thieu taking a large fall from the top of the Johnny Dawes's gritstone test-piece, Gaia (E8 6c) at Black Rocks, [2] from which Trinh-Thieu broke his leg. [3] Rock & Ice called it "the most iconic rock climbing whipper [fall] of all time". [4]

Shortly after the opening, film narrator Niall Grimes gives a brief and humorous overview of the history of gritstone climbing. As well as traditional climbing routes, the film also includes ascents of extreme gritstone bouldering and highball bouldering problems by Ben Moon and others. The creators of many of the extreme routes climbed in the film, Jerry Moffatt, Johnny Dawes, and John Dunne, are also shown speculating, and top roping on, future projects such as Wizard Ridge.

The film shows other large falls, although without serious injury, including Swedish climber Richard Ekehed taking a large fall on Master's Edge , and British climber Seb Grieve falling from high up on Parthian Shot (E9 7a) on very thin protection. [2] The film also features several important first and second ascents of extreme routes, including the first free ascent by Seb Grieve of Meshuga (E9 6c), at Black Rocks, and Robin Barker's first ascent of Marbellous (E8 7a), at Stanage Edge. [2]


Niall Grimes acts as narrator. [5]

The climbers are (in alphabetical order): [6]


By 1997, Richard Heap had been climbing full-time and living off the British social welfare system (the "dole") for a number of years. [7] He was part of what he termed the "Sheffield scene" of leading British gritstone climbers and was renting a room in Seb Grieve's house. [7] After attending a video production course at a local college, Johnny Dawes asked Heap to edit Best Forgotten Art (1996), and then left Heap with his camera equipment as he traveled to America. [7] [8] Heap spent the 1997 gritstone climbing season filming his friends attempting new routes, and Seb Grieve in particular. [8] After a day of shooting that captured Grieve's first ascent of Mesuga, and Trinh-Thieu's fall on Gaia, Heap said that "I knew we had something really special". [7] [8] Heap engaged Mark Turnbull to help produce the film (they formed SlackJaw Film), and engaged Niall Grimes to create a narrative for the film that Heap felt was needed to give it structure and ensure that it was not just a "random collection of routes". [7] [8]

In 2006, SlackJaw re-released the film as Hard Grit & Hard Plastic, which included extra material that increased the film's run time to 80 minutes, and had footage from the men's final in the Foundry International Bouldering Open of 1997 featuring Chris Sharma. [9]


Hard Grit is regarded as an important and iconic film in the genre, [5] [10] [11] [12] regularly appearing in top-10/20 type lists, [2] [13] [14] and was particularly noted for the blunt and direct portrayal of the risks and dangers of extreme gritstone climbing, and the portrayal of how the climbers dealt with the fear and stress they undertook climbing thinly protected extreme gritstone routes. [2] [13] [8] Director Richard Heap decided against a follow-up film (common in successful climbing films), due to concerns that future films could involve serious accidents, inadvertently producing what he called a "climbing snuff movie". [11]

The film demonstrated the techniques that leading climbers were using in British traditional climbing, including top roping prospective routes to practice moves, and the use of headpointing (e.g. the pre-placing of temporary protection equipment on the route), to reduce the risks of serious harm and injury. It also introduced the use of bouldering mats and highball bouldering techniques. [12] [15]

Hard Grit showcased the unique aspects of extreme Peak District gritstone climbing to the wider climbing world, which involved moderate height 10-20 metre routes, with limited/thin protection, requiring balance and friction-based climbing on tiny pebbles/crystals, and that often took place in winter months when the dry colder air aided friction. [16] American climber Kevin Jorgeson described the effect that seeing the original film had saying that: "Without Hard Grit I doubt there would have been a UK trip in 2008", [7] which was when Alex Honnold and Jorgeson traveled to the Peak District to repeat many of the routes featured in the film. [3] [17] [18] Other leading international climbers have been inspired by the film to travel to the Peak District and climb the featured gritstone routes, such as Belgian climber Siebe Vanhee (in 2021), [16] Italian climbers Mauro Calibani  [ it ] (in 2002), [19] and Michele Caminati  [ fr ] (in 2013). [20] [21] In 2006, American climber Lisa Rands, who had also watched the film, [22] travelled to the Peak District and completed the first female ascent of Gaia and the End of the Affair, becoming the first female to climb an E8-graded route. [23]

The following routes are climbed in the film (in the order in which they appear): [24] [6]

Subsequently climbed

Towards the end of the film, there is a section on future gritstone routes and projects (or "last great problems"), some of which are shown being attempted on a top rope (e.g. Johnny Dawes on Wizard Ridge, and Ben Moon on Smiling Buttress), [30] and others are just alluded to (and in the case of Equilibrium, only very briefly). A number of these routes were subsequently climbed, including:

Two decades later, the most prominent "last great problem" from Hard Grit remains Dawes' Wizard Ridge at Burbage South Quarries. [36]


Hard Grit won ten international film festival awards: [37]

See also

Related Research Articles

Rock climbing is a popular activity in the Peak District; particularly on edges such as Stanage or Froggatt. Generally the climbing style is free climbing and the rock is either gritstone or limestone. Climbing has been practised in the Peak District since the late 19th century; James W. Puttrell is generally credited with starting the sport. The first climbing guidebook to the area was Some Gritstone Climbs, by John Laycock, published in 1913. There are over 10,000 routes in the Peak District. One of the most famous Peak District climbers, and a pioneer of many new routes, is Ron Fawcett. The climb known as "Master's Edge", on Millstone Edge, near Hathersage, is a testament to his skill and strength. The climb is graded E7 6c and rises 19m up the near vertical edge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Traditional climbing is a type of free climbing in rock climbing where the lead climber places the protection equipment while ascending the climbing route; when the lead climber has completed the route, the second climber then removes the protection equipment as they climb the route. Traditional climbing differs from sport climbing where the protection equipment is already pre-drilled into the rock in the form of bolts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stanage Edge</span> Escarpment in the Peak District, England

Stanage Edge, or simply Stanage is a gritstone escarpment in the Peak District, England, famous as a location for climbing. It lies a couple of miles to the north of Hathersage, and the northern part of the edge forms the border between the High Peak of Derbyshire and Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Its highest point is High Neb at 458 metres (1,503 ft) above sea level. Areas of Stanage were quarried in the past to produce grindstones, and some can still be seen on the hillside—carved, but never removed.

Ben Moon is a rock climber from England. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Moon, along with climbing partner Jerry Moffatt, moved forward the level of sport climbing, both in the UK and internationally. He was the first person to climb a consensus route at the grade of 8c+ (5.14c), by freeing Hubble.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Sharma</span> American rock climber

Chris Omprakash Sharma is an American rock climber who is considered one of the greatest and most influential climbers in the history of the sport. He dominated sport climbing for the decade after his 2001 ascent of Realization/Biographie, the world's first-ever redpoint of a consensus 9a+ (5.15a) graded route, and ushered in what was called a "technical evolution" in the sport. Sharma carried the mantle of "world's strongest sport climber" from Wolfgang Gullich, and passed it to Adam Ondra.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black Rocks (Derbyshire)</span> Rock climbing area in England

Black Rocks, is a small outcrop of ashover gritstone, between Cromford and Wirksworth in Derbyshire, the Peak District, England. It is an important crag in the history of British rock climbing, and has some of the most extreme climbing routes in Britain, including Gaia.

Fred Rouhling is a French rock climber and boulderer, noted for creating and repeating some of the earliest grade 9a (5.14d) sport climbing routes in the world, including Hugh in 1993, the first-ever French 9a (5.14d) sport route. Rouhling is also known for the controversy from his proposed grading of 9b (5.15b) for his 1995 route Akira, which would have made it the world's first-ever 9b-graded sport route; 25 years later, it was graded at 9a (5.14d).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johnny Dawes</span> British rock climber

Johnny Dawes is a British rock climber and author, known for his dynamic climbing style and bold traditional climbing routes. This included the first ascent of Indian Face, the first-ever route at the E9-grade. His influence on British climbing was at its peak in the mid to late-1980s.

Steve McClure is a British rock climber and climbing author, who is widely regarded as Britain's leading and most important sport climber for a period that extends for over two decades, starting from the late 1990s. In 2017, he created Rainman, Britain's first-ever 9b (5.15b) sport route, and by that stage was responsible for developing the majority of routes graded 9a (5.14d) and above in Britain. McClure has also been one of the most successful British traditional climbers, and British onsight climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerry Moffatt</span> British rock climber

Jerry Moffatt, is a British rock climber and climbing author who is widely considered as being the best British rock climber from the early-1980s to the early-1990s, and was arguably the best rock climber in the world in the mid-1980s, and an important climber in the history of the sport.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Froggatt Edge</span> Climbing areas of England

Froggatt Edge is a gritstone escarpment in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park, in Derbyshire, England, close to the villages of Froggatt, Calver, Curbar, Baslow and Grindleford. The name Froggatt Edge applies only to the northernmost section of the escarpment; the middle and southernmost sections are called Curbar Edge and Baslow Edge respectively. The escarpment, like many in this area, is easily accessible from Sheffield.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Master's Edge</span> Rock climbing route, England

Master's Edge is an 18-metre (59 ft) gritstone arête that is a rock climbing route in the "Corners Area" of Millstone Edge quarry, in the Peak District, England. When English climber Ron Fawcett completed the first free ascent of the route on 29 December 1983, it was graded E7 6c, and one of the hardest traditional climbing routes in the world; it remains one of the hardest gritstone climbs.

Lisa Rands is an American rock climber. She is known for her bouldering for which in 2002, she became the first American female to win IFSC World Cup bouldering competitions, and topped the IFSC world boulder rankings in 2002. Rands was the first American female to climb boulders of grade V11 (8A), and V12 (8A+), and was the second-ever female in history to climb a 7C+/8A boulder. As well as making first female ascents (FFAs) of boulders such as The Mandala V12 (8A+), Rands was the first female in history to do an E8-graded traditional climbing route, The End of the Affair.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of rock climbing</span> Key chronological milestones

In the history of rock climbing, the three main sub-disciplines—bouldering, single-pitch climbing, and big wall climbing—can trace their origins to late 19th-century Europe. Bouldering started in Fontainebleau, and was advanced by Pierre Allain in the 1930s, and John Gill in the 1950s. Big wall climbing started in the Dolomites, and was spread across the Alps in the 1930s by climbers such as Emilio Comici and Riccardo Cassin, and in the 1950s by Walter Bonatti, before reaching Yosemite where it was led in the 1950s to 1970s by climbers such as Royal Robbins. Single-pitch climbing started pre-1900 in both the Lake District and in Saxony, and by the 1970s had spread widely with climbers such as Ron Fawcett (Britain), Bernd Arnold (Germany), Patrick Berhault (France), Ron Kauk and John Bachar (USA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dave MacLeod</span> Scottish rock climber

Dave MacLeod is a Scottish rock climber, ice climber, and climbing author. MacLeod is best known for being the first climber in the world to climb in free solo style a 8b+ (5.14a) route, and for climbing one of the hardest traditional climbing routes in the world.

Malcolm Smith is a rock climber born in Dunbar, Scotland, who in 2002, won the bouldering IFSC Climbing World Cup.

Ron Fawcett is a British rock climber and rock climbing author who is credited with pushing the technical standards of British rock climbing in traditional, sport, bouldering and free soloing disciplines, in the decade from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and of pioneering the career of being a full-time professional rock climber. At the end of the 1970s to the early 1980s, Fawcett was widely considered the best and most notable rock climber in Britain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Curbar Edge</span> Rock outcrop, Derbyshire

Curbar Edge is a gritstone moorland escarpment above the village of Curbar, in Derbyshire, England and close to the villages of Baslow, Calver, and Froggatt. It is located within the Peak District National Park at an altitude of 958 ft (292 m). It is regarded as a significant location for rock climbing, both regionally and nationally, in terms of both the historical development of the sport and as the location of first ascents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burbage Rocks</span> Hill in the English Peak District

Burbage Rocks is a gritstone escarpment in South Yorkshire, overlooking the village of Hathersage in the Peak District. The highest point along the escarpment is 429 metres (1,407 ft) above sea level, whilst Burbage Moor rises above to 438 metres (1,437 ft). Burbage Rocks is a southern extension of Stanage Edge. Burbage Brook runs from the northern end of the Burbage Rocks, past the southern end, through Padley Gorge and into the RIver Derwent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian Face</span> Rock climbing route, Wales

Indian Face is a 45-metre (148 ft) rhyolite rock climbing route on the "Great Wall" of the East Buttress of Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, in Wales. When English climber Johnny Dawes completed the first free ascent of the route on 4 October 1986, it was graded E9 6c, the first-ever E9-graded route, and was considered one of the hardest traditional climbing routes in the world.


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