Feature Image by: Jase Blair // @jaseblair

Documenting the Climb of the Trollfinger in the Faroe islands

6th May 2020

I’m falling.

There’s a stainlees steel nut and washer in my mouth, a hammer in my hand, a drill dangles from my harness, and the piece of climbing gear I was just resting my weight on just popped out of the crack it was jammed into. I’m briefly hurtling towards the North Atlantic, rough grey basalt flashing past in front of me.

image of cliffside

It doesn’t take long, though, for the rope to come tight as the next piece of gear holds and my dance with gravity is arrested. I gather myself, double check that I didn’t swallow the hardware or drill any holes in my flailing limbs, tell my friends on the ledge below that I’m OK and begin to haul myself back up. When I regain my previous high point I reseat the same piece of gear in the same crack, a little more carefully this time. When I’m satisfied that it’s securely placed, I gingerly weight it and go back to hammering the bolt I’d just placed, before threading a hanger and the nut from my mouth onto it and clipping the rope. As I prepare to make the next move up the wall, I wonder idly whether I should tell Jack or Dave to get a camera out in case that happens again, because it would make good footage.

jase scaling cliff

This is the challenge of being a participant-as-filmmaker. How much gear can I add to the haul bags? How can I balance the needs of the team to move quickly and safely with my desire to capture compelling footage and to develop a narrative? Do I have the energy to pick up the camera on top of a long hard day of climbing? Should I film this or intervene?

jase scaling cliff

I wrestled with this at many stages – raising safety concerns rather than filming what was happening, stepping up when my partners were exhausted and leading a pitch instead of hiding behind the camera, hauling my own 30kg bag of camera equipment up almost every pitch so that I always had the gear I needed handy. The trade-off is that I relied heavily on my teammates to make the bulk of the decisions, lead the great majority of the climb, and do the bulk of the work of setting up and managing climbing and camping gear. It adds a significant burden to an expedition, but the overwhelming benefit is bringing back a compelling story to share.

troll in grassy area

This film was released at the 2018 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, winning the Grass Roots Awards. It was a huge privilege to make the trip, and extremely gratifying to share this film with our community. The expedition was made possible by a Hillary Expedition Grant from Sport NZ.

Jase Blair is an award winning image creator based on the wild West Coast of New Zealand. 'Trollfinger' was filmed using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS 80D and a collection of EF and EF-S lenses.

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