Action man tells of death-defying experiences

WHETHER he's dangling on the end of a rope over the highest waterfalls, cheating death on the roof of the world or venturing into the deepest subterranean caverns, it's all in a day's work for Scotland's own action man.

can hear first-hand about cameraman Keith Partridge's death-defying experiences
Audiences can hear first-hand about cameraman Keith Partridge's death-defying experiences

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Keith Partridge has mastered everything from mountain biking and skiing to abseiling and ice-climbing, not to mention wing-suit flying.

It seems there is nothing he cannot, or will not, do and nowhere he will not go. And he does it all with a movie camera in his hand.

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So perhaps it is no surprise that the Fife-based adventure cameraman has a string of highly acclaimed productions to his name – the Bafta-­winning Touching The Void, Alien Versus Predator and ­Human Planet, to name a few.

To reach the peak in his profession has meant pushing himself to the very limits of his endurance in ventures that have included scaling the north face of the Eiger, following hunters as they use eagles to kill wolves in Mongolia and reliving the terrifying ordeal of a near-fatal mountaineering trip in the Peruvian Andes.

Now Scots can hear first-hand about his death-defying experiences in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet at two talks being hosted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) this week.

Partridge, who published a book last year about his life’s work, is appearing tomorrow in Dumfries and on Tuesday in Galashiels to share some of the highlights.

“I am sure many of our members and visitors will have had this talk circled in their diaries for a while,” said the RSGS’s Gemma McDonald.

“Keith is renowned for capturing some of the most awe-inspiring images to have graced our screens and we look forward to hearing the stories behind his most famous and heart-stopping shots. “With his bravery and determination to get the shot, Keith really does epitomise our Inspiring People series.”

“We all have it in us to explore,” according to Partridge.

“After all, it’s curiosity that has shaped us, and through that quest for knowledge the RSGS has inspired so many to seek a better understanding of how our planet and its people work.”

He describes an average day, filming on the Eiger’s north face. “You walk out of the hotel and in comes a helicopter.

“Then you’re straddling across the doorway in the chopper with a winch line connected to your harness and, within three minutes, you’re being lowered down 120ft with the rotor blades just feet from the rock, and dropped onto a ledge the size of a single stair tread that’s 1,500ft off the deck. That was the commute to work.

“Forget sitting on the Tube or the bus. It is adrenaline overload from the word go.

But he insists he is far from fearless. “It’s not in my ­character to become gung-ho, not at all. I’m a bit of a chicken really.

“I think if you become desensitised to the situations you are in, then that’s when it’s
going to go wrong.”

Although he lives in Lower Largo today, Partridge was born and grew up in “the flatlands of Norfolk”.

He says it was a mountaineering trip to the Highlands that inspired his obsession with the world’s most extreme locations.

“That’s what sparked it off, then it was a progression from hill-walking to scrambling to rock-climbing, then going out in winter and ice-climbing followed by expeditions and mountaineering proper.”

It might seem impossible there could be much left for a bucket list, but the 49-year-old has one as yet unrealised aspiration – a full-on trip to the Transantarctic Mountains and a first ascent.

He admits that there are currently no plans on the horizon for such an expedition. “But you never say never,” he added.