The Left Wall of Cenotaph Corner is a short 16mm film that depicts clean climbing techniques in Wales in the early 1960’s. Bob Godfrey – best known for his book Climb! (co-authored with Dudley Chelton) and his movie Free Climb – documented the historical footage.
A couple of years ago, we connected with Roland Edwards – the climber in the film – and he told us that he had a copy of the Left Wall. While it wasn’t the original version, we agreed that it’s probably the only copy left. At Madden Equipment, we’re archivists at heart and we worked with Rowland and some friends of his to make sure that this little bit of climbing history would be preserved.
The steep cliffs which form the walls of the Llanberis Pass in North Wales have long played an important part in the development of British rock climbing. The film shows how pebbles inserted into cracks provided “secure” attachments for climbers as their equipment and style evolved from pitons and direct-aid to free climbing.
The Left Wall route was first climbed in 1956 and Rowland made the first free ascent during the production of the film. Godfrey used only a single camera, so Edwards had to repeat the route eight or nine times as Godfrey filmed different angles.
Godfrey wrote in his original screenplay that “We climb with hands and heart, head and feet; those are primary and equipment is secondary. At the core of climbing adventures, life depends on steady nerves, a firm grip, a keen eye and an indomitable spirit.”
Many thanks to Rowland Edwards and Steve Grossman for their trust and support in us to preserve and archive this unique film. Thank you also to Brian Serff who provided insight to the selection of British climber’s pub songs that he played on the original soundtrack.
The 16mm film had both the color and sound restored and it was also digitized for preservation and continued use. The film resides at the Mountain Heritage Trust in England and the original first draft of the screenplay is archived at the University of Colorado in Boulder.