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IN PEAK CONDITION: EMFF PREVIEW

Published: The Scotsman (TSMag) 10 October

When model Katie-Jane Cooper met French adventurer Tarka L’Herpiniere in Chamonix in 2005, they had practically nothing in common. She was “doing her best to ski down a blue run” while he was skiing up, towing his mother. He thought she wore too much make-up; she thought he was “odd” for throwing himself into frozen lakes for fun.

In spite of this, they hit it off, and two years later became the first people to walk the length of the Great Wall of China in one go, covering 4,300km in 167 days. On the way they endured sandstorms, pigs’ heart suppers and extremes of hot and cold, and on 16 October they will kick off this year’s Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival (EMFF) with an illustrated talk about their journey.

They might mention their forthcoming One World jaunt, too: a 30,000km pole-to-pole slog by land and sea, which Sir Ranulph Fiennes has said is “set to be the greatest expedition of the century”.

Cooper and L’Herpiniere’s appearance will be one of five lectures at this year’s EMFF. On the afternoon of 17 October, legendary Scots climber Garry Latter will look back on 30 pioneering years on the rockface; then in the evening, the American climber-cum-comedian, Timmy O’Neill – whose habit of scaling buildings with no ropes gained him the nickname the Urban Ape – will hold an audience. Will Timmy be able to resist using Edinburgh’s iconic cityscape as a giant climbing frame while in town? No doubt the footage will make it on to YouTube if he does.

Scottish climber Dave Macleod altered perceptions of what was possible in his sport in 2006, when he climbed a route graded E11 on Dumbarton Rock (up until that point E10 was thought to be the hardest grade in climbing). On the evening of 18 October he will discuss what motivates him to keep looking for more difficult climbs, and show some work-in-progress video of his latest nerve-shredding project.

For decades, the 400km paddle from the Butt of Lewis to the Faroe Islands has been considered a Holy Grail by UK sea kayakers, but this summer ex-Royal Marine Patrick Winterton and ex-slalom kayak champ Mick Berwick completed the arduous crossing in 96 hours and 37 minutes, dodging giant trawlers and breaching fin whales along the way. Backed up with video footage and stunning photography, Winterton’s talk on 18 October promises to be an absolute treat.

Each of the above lectures comes with a programme of top-notch adventure films, often (but not always) on a similar theme. So Winterton’s lecture will be preceded by 60 Degrees North, a film about four British kayakers on a whitewater expedition to Greenland, while Cooper and L’Herpiniere’s talk will be preceded by three films including Bear Trek, about biologist Chris Morgan’s quest to save endangered bears.

Arguably the biggest filmic treats, however, come as part of the sessions featuring Garry Latter and Dave Macleod. Dringo I’r Eithaf (Climbing to the Limits) is a beautifully-shot Welsh film that will be screened before Latter’s talk. It shows talented 16-year-old schoolboy Ioan Doyle taking on some of the big walls of Yosemite in the company of his endearingly scared-of-heights mentor, Mills. Single-handed, meanwhile, one of the films to be screened during Macleod’s session, stars Scottish climber, the determined Kevin Shields. Born with most of his left hand missing, Shields, who also has epilepsy, explains that when he first started out he struggled to find anyone who wanted to climb with him. His gutsy ascent of an E6 climb at the climax of this film will leave you feeling very, very humble – whoever you are.

The Seventh Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, George Square Lecture Theatre, Edinburgh, 16-18 October, www.edin burghmountainff.com

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