ADVENTURE SPECIAL INTERVIEW
Def: What have been some of your favourite locations and experiences? KP: One of the greatest moments was spending time with the Mongolian eagle hunters on Human Planet . What a treat to spend time with them in an incredible landscape, watching them train their eagles to become their family’s hunters. Then there was the active volcano in Indonesia – going into the jaws of hell with all the sulphur, and with the world’s biggest acid lake over your shoulder, which has been known to explode. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? MB: The Himalayas, and Everest in particular. People like to talk down about Everest, but it’s a beautiful place and I’ve been there a lot in my career. And I love the Grand Canyon – what a stunning place. I really love these truly awe- inspiring places in the world where the physical geography is just so inspiring. Def: Tell me about shooting Touching the Void , Keith, that’s such a seminal film... KP: Obviously, the story’s outrageous and brilliantly told by the protagonists themselves, but it’s also the fact we did everything for real. So when you see an 80km snow blizzard, well, that was what we were filming. Everything had that edge to it. I always feel that there’s something almost subliminal that’s communicated through the lens, and you can’t fake that. I was stunt doubling for Simon [Yates] and I remember climbing this fluting. I lifted my left axe
out and I realised I was climbing on a hanging plate of ice about an inch thick, and then there was an air gap; it gives me butterflies now just thinking about it. Def: The human spirit and its breaking point are integral to much great adventure filmmaking. When have you arrived close to that point personally? KP: I remember my first real caving expedition for a BBC project in Papua New Guinea. It was a white water cave, so that was challenging to negotiate. When you put that in a canyon underground, and it’s unexplored, the risks are very high. And I am not a caver. I’m more of a climber, and while a lot of the rope skills are transferable, I had to get used
ACTION MAN Partridge filming on the north face of the Eiger (above) and on the Galician coast (below)
to the environment. ‘Can I do this? Am I capable of this?’ There were numerous moments on that trip where I had to give myself a bit of a talking to — ‘Are you absolutely sure you want to go through this at this moment?’ Because one slip and it’s a one-way ticket. You are not going to come back because rescue is completely impossible. MB: Sadly, I’ve been on expeditions where we lost members to avalanches. In 1999, at Shishapangma [in Tibet], Alex Lowe and Dave Bridges were killed. Alex was our expedition leader and Dave was a cameraman working with me. When the avalanche came and took their lives, it left us wondering what to do and whether or not to finish that film. I always make it a point to get behind- the-scenes footage, and we used some of that in a memorial for Dave. Up until then there were speeches and there were still photographs and there were a lot of people gathered in his memory, but once we played the video clip with some music, that was the thing that broke the dam and everybody was able to cry and feel something and to really let it flow. When people talk about catharsis and recovering from these things, that’s the best we can do in a tragic circumstance like that.
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