Hard Grit
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 Northern 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, 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]

Featured routes

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


  1. ^ Parry, Dave (November 2018). "BMC Peak Area Newsletter". British Mountaineering Council. p. 8. Similarly, it can't have escaped everyone's attention that on John Houlihan's Hard Grit front cover shot of Seb Grieve on Meshuga, Seb's wearing a totally different brand new Wild Country harness (complete with shiny new cam), rather than the one he wore on the ascent in the film itself.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Burns, Cameron M. (27 May 2020). "13 Great Climbing Films You Might Not Be Familiar With (And 5 of the Worst)". Climbing. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b McDonald, Dougald (25 November 2008). "Americans Rampage on British "Hard Grit"". Climbing. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  4. ^ "Weekend Whipper: Hard Grit! The Iconic Fall from Gaia". Rock & Ice. April 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  5. ^ a b Grimes, Niall (13 March 2017). "Ape Index: Hard Grit Live". British Mountaineering Council.
  6. ^ a b "Running Order: Hard Grit". WorldCat. 1998. OCLC 52904571. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Mann, Neal (12 March 2018). "Hard Grit: Twenty Years On". The Project Magazine. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e Treasure, Will (28 October 2020). "Factor Two: Season 3, Episode 8: Hard Grit". UKClimbing. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Hard Grit & Hard Plastic (2006)". SlackJaw Film. 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  10. ^ Gill, Dave (19 December 2018). "How does video affect climbing?". Climbing. Retrieved 14 February 2022. You'd be hard pressed to find many climbers that haven't stumbled across the horrendous fall in the opening scene of Slackjaw Film's iconic Hard Grit.
  11. ^ a b Heywood, Ian (2006). "Climbing Monsters: Excess and Restraint in Contemporary Rock Climbing". Leisure Studies. 25 (4): 455–467. doi:10.1080/02614360500333911. S2CID 145136276.
  12. ^ a b Hutton, Mike (3 November 2022). "How the World's Boldest Climbing Area Got that Way". Climbing. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  13. ^ a b Bisharat, Andrew (6 September 2022). "The 20 Best Climbing Films of All Time". Outside. Retrieved 18 October 2022. Number 10. Hard Grit
  14. ^ Roy, Adam (16 March 2011). "The Top 5 Classic Climbing Films". Outside. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  15. ^ Hutton, Mike (12 November 2019). "No-Bolt Roulette: The Evolution of Headpointing on Peak District Gritstone". Climbing. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  16. ^ a b "Siebe Vanhee mops-up the 'hard grit'". Climber. 8 December 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  17. ^ "Kevin Jorgeson Decks From And Then Sends Gaia (E8), Solos Meshuga (E9)". ClimbingArc. 20 November 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  18. ^ "Alex Honnold flashes Gaia E8 6c". PlanetMountain. 13 November 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  19. ^ di Gallo, Andrea (1 November 2002). "Mauro Calibani, Hard it = Hard Grit". PlanetMountain. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  20. ^ "Michele Caminati dodges rain and snow in search of sun on England's gritstone". PlanetMountain. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  21. ^ Schofield, Sam (15 July 2013). "Michele Caminati Hard Grit Interview". UKClimbing. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  22. ^ "Moments". LisaRands. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2022. April 16, 2006: E is for extreme and Gaia's E8 grade has never been in doubt. This sweet, enticing line tackles a shallow groove in a free-standing 50-foot tall prow at Black Rocks, England. It was made famous in a sequence from Hard Grit, a film by Richard Heap and Mark Turnbull, which opens to Jean-Minh Trinh-Thieu (a top French climber) taking a harrowing fall from the climb's precarious upper section, breaking his leg.
  23. ^ McDonald, Dougald (8 April 2006). "Rands Headpoints Gaia". Climbing. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Slackjaw Film – The Hard Grit Routes". www.slackjaw.co.uk. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  25. ^ "Ben Heason flashes Paralogism (E7 6c)". UKClimbing. January 2003. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  26. ^ "Jacob Cook climbing The New Statesman, E8 7a". UKClimbing. 6 December 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  27. ^ Geldard, Jack (20 June 2011). "Parthian Shot - The Saga". UKClimbing. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  28. ^ "Tom Briggs – Renegade Master – Ground Up". Climbing.de. 25 September 2001. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  29. ^ "TALES FROM BEHIND THE LENS". SlackJaw Film. 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  30. ^ a b Campbell, Duncan (December 2013). "Ty Landman On Smiling Buttress Update". UKClimbing. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  31. ^ "Neil Bentley climbs Equilibrium, Britain's first gritstone E10, contender for hardest trad route in the world". PlanetMountain. 30 March 2000. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  32. ^ "James Pearson repeats Elder Statesman at Curbar". PlanetMountain.com. 9 February 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  33. ^ "James Pearson climbs The Groove E10 7b at Cratcliffe Tor". PlanetMountain. 5 February 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  34. ^ "The Groove – PROGRESSION". Climbing. February 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  35. ^ Campbell, Duncan (13 December 2013). "Interview with Ty Landman on the Smiling Buttress FA". Rock & Ice. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  36. ^ Brown, Nick (21 March 2016). "The Last Great Problems on Grit". UKClimbing. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  37. ^ "turenbull/heap". aspenvalleyfilm.com. Archived from the original on 17 January 2004.
  38. ^ "Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival". Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.