Maybe you saw our feature on Finland in Issue 115 and thought ‘that looks like fun’. Well, yes, it was. But it was also surprisingly hard work to trundle through the snow, slipping and sliding into deep patches, and fighting to keep the balance between cold and sweat. It was also fun taking a leisurely snow shoe trip by head torch across a frozen lake.
What Steve Bate has in mind sounds a little less fun, and a little more epic. And if things go to plan, you’ll be able to watch his experience from the comfort of your armchair. Here’s what his Kickstarter has to say…
In 2011 Steve Bate was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a severe form of tunnel vision that caused a 95% loss of his vision and will eventually lead to him going blind. Having always led an active lifestyle and with a deep rooted love of the outdoors the diagnosis was a crushing blow; at the age of 34 he lost his driving licence and was registered visually impaired.
Determined not to let the diagnosis bring an end to his former lifestyle Steve began a journey of challenge and discovery, getting off the sofa and pursuing his dreams. Two years after his diagnosis Steve travelled to the USA and the Yosemite valley with the goal of climbing the 3000ft wall of El Capitan. After two ascents of El Cap with aid climbing guru Andy Kirkpatrick, Steve spent 6 days on the wall and became the first visually impaired person to aid solo ‘Zodiac’, a 16 pitch route on El Cap’s South-East face.
Returning from Yosemite Steve felt a new goal was needed and decided to change his focus to track cycling with the aim of being selected for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Having never raced on a road bike or ridden on a velodrome this was an ambitious goal but within 6 months Steve made selection for British Cycling and Rio. Surpassing all expectations Steve went on to win two gold medals, a bronze and broke a world record.
Aside from Steve’s continuing involvement with track racing he has combined his love of cycling and the outdoors to go on ambitious bike packing adventures all over the world. Having already made a month long trip to Patagonia Steve now wants to participate in the Rovaniemi 150, a fat bike race that takes place in Finnish Lapland every February. Located inside the Arctic Circle the 90 mile race is a continuous, self-supported event through the Arctic tundra where temperatures can drop below -35°C. One of the biggest challenges Steve faces with his condition is night vision and being so far North a large part of the race will involve riding in the dark. This extra element on top of the already punishing nature of the race will give Steve one of his greatest challenges to date.
Losing your sight, paralysis, losing a limb, loss of hearing, these are all things that cross our minds from time to time but most of us don’t give serious thought to what we’d do if it happened. We also all carry our own ambitions but often every day life gets in the way and our aspirations get put on a back burner. It can often take a life changing event, like losing your sight, to reassess what’s important to you and spur you on to pursue some of these dreams but that doesn’t need to be the case.
Adventure based films regularly feature world class talent, achieving deeply inspiring but entirely unachievable goals for the average audience member; cutting edge climbs, high speed descents and BASE jumping are entertaining to watch but most of us will never be motivated to try them ourselves. Through Steve’s story we hope Focus will connect with audience members on a more relatable level, showing that despite life’s adversities and no matter how big or small our ambitions may be the most difficult part of achieving our dreams is stepping out the front door.
The film will make use of footage that Steve has self-shot since his diagnosis in 2011, including during his solo ascent of El Capitan and his time at the Rio Paralympics. This will be interwoven with contemporary material of Steve’s every day life, his struggle with his condition and interview that will explore his motivations for pursuing his personal goals. Focus will culminate with Steve’s participation in the Rovaniemi150 fat bike race in Finnish Lapland with the crew following Steve at every stage of the race as he fights with freezing temperatures and faces his biggest fear, riding in the dark. Expect numb fingers, frozen eyelids and over 24 hours of gruelling effort. “The thing I’m proudest of with cycling and in climbing is I’ve progressed the sport and proven normal people can achieve extraordinary things. I hope nobody thinks I’m any different to them” – Steve Bate
If you were at Strathpuffer at the weekend and thought -12°C was cold, you might be able to begin to imagine just how tough a challenge this race will be for Steve. He’s used to riding round the rocky trails of Calderdale, but while we’ve seen plenty of wind, rain and gloom, we can’t compete with the cold and dark he’ll experience in Finland.
If you’d like to support his film, head over to Kickstarter.