Mountaineers Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey relive Citadel climb – BBC News

Media captionMatt Helliker and Jon Bracey attempted the Citadel ascent after determining a “majestic picture” of one of its surging ridgelines

Described as “the James Hunt and Niki Lauda of the climbing world”, Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey’s arduous is making an effort to scale one of Alaska’s most remote peaks is the subject of a new film. But what drives the mountaineers to risk living and extremity?

The towering, snow-capped heydays rise ominously, the sheer falls impressing anxiety into all but the hardiest of souls.

There, perched on a minuscule ledge, are two men and a flimsy seeming tent – dwarfed by the scale of their surroundings.

It is a stark and separated home, but one English climbers Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey knew they would have to conquer if they were to complete their rising of the imposing Citadel, part of the daunting Great Alaskan Range.

The pair were inspired to propel their attack on its never-before-ascended north-west bank after being wowed by “a stately photograph of its soaring beauty”.

Armed with a minimum of paraphernalium, they set about their criticize. It would be an adventure initially dogged by bad weather and worse luck.

Forced to retreat almost 1,000 m( about 3,300 ft) after encountering sheer granite impervious to their “clean” method of climbing without hammering permanent shafts into the rockface, the pair regrouped and swopped their focus to the north ridge.

It is a world-wide where one incorrect move be demonstrating deadly and the intrinsic jeopardies are not failed on Helliker.

“It’s a particularly exposed place, ” excuses the 35 -year-old. “In terms of a salvage, there’s nothing of that available. If you get yourself into different situations, you’ve got to get yourself out of it.”

“I’ve failed weigh of how many friends have died in the mountains clambering and skiing, ” he says, his happy-go-lucky flavor giving way to sombre reflection.

“Last time alone there were five. There’s no other play with that fatality rate.

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Image caption Alpinists Matt Helliker, left, and Jon Bracey have clocked up first ascents across Europe, Alaska and South America
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Image caption The Citadel is in Alaska’s little-climbed Neacola Range
Image copyright Posing Productions
Image caption The Citadel’s steep slopes are avalanche-prone

“In a dark kind of a practice you kind of accept it. You probably mistakenly think it’s never going to happen to you.

“I’ve ever tried not to have ‘epics’. There’ve been a couple of times when I’ve recollected ‘this is it’, but mentally and physically you’re not even half way there.

“You can go another half way to get yourself out of a jam.”

Bracey, 38, has a wife and two young children and responsibilities weigh heavily on his shoulders.

Reluctant to be away from his family for long periods of time, he says much preparation goes into plan and minimising health risks of each expedition.

“When I was younger I might have thrown caution to the wind. Now it takes months of mental preparation to be completely committed to the project.

“My wife has coping strategies when I’m “re going away”. We withdraw into our own worlds.

“Ultimately, I’m still the same person I was before I had boys. I’m still a urgently heartfelt climbers although there are I’m a father.

“My wife knew me for a long time before “were having” children. She understood who I was and what shaped me click. To repudiate myself the freedom to go off on certain kinds of escapade would have a big impact on me.”

Originally from Somerset and Berkshire respectively, Helliker and Bracey now live in the French resort of Chamonix – “a cool place to live” says the younger of the two men, but one which can also “feel like a little bubble” with its focus on outdoor pursuings, fitness training courses and partying.

The pair’s partnership strains back a decade with acclaimed first ascendings everywhere from the Alps to South America and the Himalayas.

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Image caption A “majestic” photograph depicting the mountain’s soaring ridgelines inspired the pair to take on the challenge

In some directions, it is perhaps an unlikely double-act.

With his long blonde mane, Helliker is a self-confessed “mountain and ski bum” with “non-existent” French. Fellow climber and pal Nick Bullock likens him to the 1970 s playboy Formula 1 racer James Hunt while casting doting dad Bracey as his fastidious Austrian adversary Niki Lauda.

It is a comparison that does not sit well in some quarters.

“My girlfriend didn’t like that so much, ” says Helliker with a hearty chortle. “She didn’t know who James Hunt was so she Googled him and pictured he was a womanising boozer.

“I had to tell her I’m not like that! What Nick symbolized was that Jon can come across as a bit serious whereas I’m more chilled.”

Bracey, for his part, takes it with good humour. He is keen, however, to play up his fun-loving credentials.

“On the surface perhaps people can see that similarity, but I still have that guileles feel and burning hunger for adventure, ” he maintains firmly.

Their Citadel climb, undertaken in April, is the centrepiece of a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Alastair Lee.

Taking its entitle from the fearsome mountain, it is being screened at selected venues across the UK and on Saturday will be shown at the Kendal Mountain Festival, in Cumbria.

A DVD and download release will follow on 1 December.

For Lee, who had already helmed several mountaineering movies before embarking on the journey to Alaska, it shed up an uncomfortable dilemma.

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Image caption Alastair Lee’s The Citadel be the first time that mountaineering documentary shot exclusively in 4k solving
Image copyright Posing Productions
Image caption The squad ran in after a break in bad weather. Heavy snowfall, nonetheless, made life tough for the climbers
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Image caption “Months of mental preparation” were required, says Jon Bracey

“Climbing a mountain and making a film about climbing a mountain are totally different, ” he says. “The last stuff you are able to do is take a movie crew.

“Life is stern. It’s serious if anything goes wrong. You don’t require your teammates to get hurt, but at the same era you want a good story.

“The excellent tales are the worst ones to live through. A heap of makes crave Touching the Void. You can see the pound signs.

“Certainly, this journey had its moments.”

Alerted to the project in February, within weeks he and young film-maker Matt Pycroft had touched down in Northern america alongside the two alpinists for the assault on the top dubbed “The Mountain God”.

Storms in the preceding epoches learnt the direction plastered in feet of fluffy snow – “horrible” conditions for Helliker and Bracey to tackle.

“You’re very isolated, ” says Lancastrian Lee. “You’re so far away from everything.

“There’s a real time of wallop when the access is by illuminate aircraft. You are in in a couple of hours rather than trekking for a week. It’s a huge shock to the system.”

Having previously worked with the pair on 2011 ‘s Moonflower – a lower-budget struggle detailing their rising of Alaska’s Mount Hunter – his admiration is clear.

But while speedy to showcase their employs, the film poses a question that have all along played on Lee’s mind.

“Essentially, they’re extraordinary people. They’re doing incredible acts. There’s a vulnerability to them, though, and establishing them as human signifies people are able to relate to them.

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Image caption Helliker is described as “a mountain and ski bum”

“They’re an unexpected partnership, really. Their reputations are so contrasting. Matt is the pin-up son and Jon is an introverted thinker.

“They seem more like competitors than copulates, but they’ve had this very successful job clambering mountains in the last 10 times. They apparently trust and respect each other implicitly.

“Like me, Jon is a family man and Matt has a girlfriend. Why would you want to jeopardy that by doing something that could kill you?

“There’s not an easy react other than ‘this is who we are’. If you take that away, you take part of them away.”

For Bracey, it revolves around a feeling of discovery.

“We have to have a healthy respect for perils. It is scary. It’s not like going on to a tennis courtroom and smacking a ball about for a few hours. It’s really serious. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, especially if you’re not 100% focused.

“People can say you’re courting jeopardy just by going there. That’s correct. That’s part of the hum – croaking off into the unknown, the constant search for what’s over the horizon.”

Helliker agrees.

“It’s like a shot of espresso. It affects you quickly and leads, but that shot is so good. It’s exceedingly addictive.

“The wages it gives you outweigh the believed to be ever rendering it up, but for sure there are gambles. What we try to do is finagle it as best we can.

“We both want to come back alive.”

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