Matt Helliker is one of the UK’s most accomplished alpinists, a world respected IFMGA mountain guide, and was one half of the team followed in the recent 4K mountain film; The Citadel. This film followed Matt and Jon Bracey, as the conquer the North West ridge of Alaska’s remote peak “The Citadel” in the Neacola range. It was the first mountain film to have been filmed solely in 4K, showcasing a ridiculously fierce route and the two Brits that are the first to have conquered it.
Matt is also an Osprey Sponsored Athlete. ospreyeurope.com
1.Thanks for taking the time to do this interview session, could you first tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a Professional Alpinist and a IFMGA mountain guide, I spend my time Mixed climbing, Ice Climbing, Rock Climbing and Skiing.
2.With having started climbing at a young age, what is it about the sport that has stuck with you and kept you going back?
Because there is always something different and new to do, every climb is unique. The movement, the commitment, the style – its very addictive.
3.What advice would you have for those who already get out hill walking for example, that are interested in trying climbing?
Well, climbing and hill walking are 2 different things, but if you put them together you’re a mountaineer! Hill walking in the UK is very special and gives you a great fitness base for the mountains and toughens you up, where as to start rock climbing, you need to get yourself to your local indoor wall, and work on your movement in order to get strong, but movement and flow on the rock comes first and with that strength.
4.For you, when and how was the transition from rock climbing to winter and alpine mountaineering made?
I feel I did it the right way round. I was always into hillwalking as a young lad and rock climbing lots in the SW of the UK, it seemed to me to be a natural progression to then go to Scotland, to mix and ice climb, to suffer! All of this pervious experience then made the step up to Alpine climbing feel steady.
5. As one that spends alot of time outside of the UK, what is it that draws you to other mountains? Is it the size, perhaps greater technicality, or such as in the recent film you featured in “Citadel”; are you driven to try things that others haven’t?
What drives me are first hard technical ascents, its not about how high the mountain is. I’m looking for big faces with unclimbed lines. There is nothing like this feeling gives me to be climbing a line not knowing until the last minute if it goes or not!
6.Of course the Citadel was a first, as was its feature in 4k in the accompanying film. Did it drive you harder to succeed knowing that you were being filmed by Alistair or was it better for you to switch off from that?
No, I’m driven enough so filming or not, the decisions I make in the mountains come from my experience and my gut feeling, the climb comes first and filming second. I’m there to climb, the filmmaker is there to film, if things work out and the two things come together then that’s great.
7.Did the fact that filming was taking place change the way you would normally approach such a challenge?
Yes for sure, at times we would have to slow up, so that the helicopter filming could get a special shot, and rather than in Base Camp just resting we would be filming a few things, filming does have a big impact on your expedition, that’s for sure.
8.Would you be interested in having more climbs of yours featured in such a way in the future?
Its great to make a film about a climb I’ve done, but also it add’s so much more stress and work into already a super stressful environment. For sure more films will come, but not of every trip, it’s also great to just go climbing and leave all of this behind at times.
9.What are your next big plans?
You can never say too much, but Nepal in October.
10.When put to our readers, a number were interested in asking what level of commitment is involved in becoming an IFMGA mountain guide, or indeed, to pursue a profession in any level of mountain guiding.
For sure to be a IFMGA mountain guide involves a level of commitment for 4-5 years, you need to be able to give your life to the process to get qualified, but once your done then your good to go. As jobs in the mountains go, its a top spot. I remember being quite gutted once I had passed, as the whole training and assessment process was very memorable.