‘Shared Vision’ is a film by Keith Partridge featuring Red, Matthew, and Nick’s attempt on Am Buachaille.
As a teenager in the mid-1980s Red Szell watched a BBC documentary featuring Chris Bonington and Tom Patey climbing the Old Man of Hoy and knew ‘life wouldn’t feel complete until I’d at least tried to follow in their footholds’.
He began to climb and had Hoy firmly in his sights until an eye examination shortly before his 20th birthday revealed that he was going blind. For several years his life went into free-fall and his dreams were obscured by his struggle to adapt to his darkening world. The road to recovery began in 2009 when his daughter chose to hold her birthday party at a local climbing wall and Red saw a way back to the sport he loved.
In 2013 he realised his dream and climbed The Old Man of Hoy, becoming the first blind person to do so. His achievement was televised by BBC Scotland in an episode of The Adventure Show.
The following year Red reassembled the same team of climbing partner Matthew Wootliff, mountain guides Martin Moran and Nick Carter for a successful attempt on The Old Man of Stoer. But the third of ‘The Tom Patey Three’ big Scottish sea stacks, Am Buachaille, eluded him – until last summer.
‘It’s basically an extreme obstacle course’ he says in Shared Vision, the captivating documentary of the expedition by award-winning filmmaker Keith Partridge (who was the specialist cinematographer on the BAFTA winning film Touching The Void).
The film offers us a glimpse into the restrictions of Red’s everyday life in London and the freedom he finds on barely accessible rock pinnacles.
Keith Partridge has produced an enthralling film with some stunning cinematography. The soundtrack reflects the importance of communication between Red and his companions Matthew and Nick, and with each hard-won metre of progress we learn that this is indeed a shared vision of adventure, camaraderie and challenging the perception of disability. As Red puts it: ‘it’s about seeing what you can do rather than focussing on what you’ve lost.’
The film is dedicated to Martin Moran ‘…who guided so many to new heights’ but was tragically killed on Nanda Devi in 2019.
A special 30-minute director’s cut version of Shared Vision was broadcast on BBC Scotland on 14th August 2020. It should still be available on BBC iPlayer. Click here to follow the link.
And here is a selection of short films made while I was preparing for my Holman Prize Am Buachaille expedition.
With thanks to Henry Darke and my wife Kate for their camera work and editing skills and, as always to Matthew for his patience and boundless enthusiasm!
ExtremeBlindTriathlon (Kate Szell)
The 90-second application video that won me a Holman Prize:
Climbing By Numbers (Henry Darke)
Shot at The Castle Climbing centre with me attempting a 6b+, this shows how the ‘clock-face’ guiding system’ works. See accompanying blog article.
Isokinetic: We Can Rebuild You! (Henry Darke)
When age and over-training caught up with me I was lucky enough to have the support of the team at Isokinetic, the sports injury clinic on Harley Street.
Journey’s End: Holman’s Grave (Kate Szell)
Visiting The Blind Traveller James Holman’s final resting place in Highgate Cemetery.
VauxWall Bouldering Problems (Henry Darke)
With no rope there’s no leeway for poor footwork, so bouldering is a vital part of my training. Tomasz at VauxWall East opened the doors specially for us so I could work on some specifics, and give Alex Honnold’s ‘Free Solo’ boulder problem a try!
Secret Weapon: RuckRaft (Henry Darke)
How to keep our climbing gear and Keith’s camera equipment dry when we swim to the base on Am Buachaille? Ruckraft!
and here are a couple of videos of me climbing the other two Tom Patey classic Scottish sea stacks.
The Blind Man of Stoer:
(Nick Carter 2015) The Blind Man of Hoy (edit, Keith Partridge 2013):