The Last Great Climb

Leo Houlding, Jason Pickles, Alastair Lee and an assorted cast equals one Antarctic adventure.
By Tarquin Cooper

As the trailer is launched, filmmaker Alastair Lee gives us the lowdown on his latest film, the Last Great Climb.

An epic to end all epics. Really?
I think its safe to say that was the hardest trip I’ve been on and the biggest climb I’ve ever filmed. One shoot in particular high on the head wall, the wind was raging as I hung in a seriously exposed position. We reckon it was around minus 25 C. I could only hold the camera for so long before my hands went numb and I had to let go and try and get my hands warm again. I had ice on the inside of my salopettes at the end of that day.

What was the idea?
It’s the first ascent of the North East ridge of Ulvetanna in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica — one of the most impressive lines anywhere on the planet. The expedition was lead by the world famous Leo Houlding and his trusty cohorts of Jason Pickles and Yosemite climber Sean ‘Stanley’ Leary. This is the third expedition film we’ve made together and having hit the Arctic and the Amazon previously, I think we’ve saved the best until last.

Why should we see the film?
It will be a visual treat. The mountain range has a very particular and pure aesthetic, its amazing to see it for yourself and it looks incredible on film. Ulvetanna itself is the masterpiece of the range, it’s like a fantasy mountain, big, pointy, steep on all sides and surrounded by white stuff. If nothing else you can sit back and just be transported to one of the most beautiful places on earth. That’s without bigging it up.

How long do we have to wait?
We're premiering in November in London, Leicester Square, Kendal Mountain Film Festival and simultaneously online with Epic TV. The download and dvd will be released shortly after that. All the details are at

"Anyone got the number for pizza delivery?" © Alastair Lee/

Seriously, any epics?
The whole picture just reeks of epic. The area is so harsh, remote and serious, every step you take out there could be considered epic. The scene on the ridge section of the climb itself is just mind bending, you’ve never seen anything like this, crazy exposure. Amongst all that there are some real moments of jeopardy, but I won’t give the game away just yet.

What is Leo like to work with?
Leo is brilliant to work with, he’s as committed to making a good film as he is to completing the climb, which is what makes it all possible. There’d be no point in me being there if the climbers weren’t up for it too, it’s a real team effort on the rock face, lots of hard dangerous work. His climbing style is more visually interesting than most. He’s very dynamic, most climbing is very slow by its nature but Leo is pretty quick at everything he does, so on the rock it’s pretty engaging. He only knows how to go for it.

Alastair Lee on location © Alastair Lee/

Grand Prize at Trento – how’d that feel?
In the mountain film making world, that’s as big as it gets, so to have your work recognized in such a way is huge.

What's next?
Hollywood or possibly Bollywood.

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