The best climbing film we've seen in a while with Dave MacLeod tacking a new route on the Ben - awesome...
|Echo Wall DVD - by
Rare Breed Productions. Price
|What is it? Edinburgh
Mountain Film Festival double award-winning film charting top Scottish
climber Dave MacLeod's project to climb a desperately hard and
dangerous new routes high on the north side of Ben Nevis. Filmed and
produced by Claire MacLeod, running time 44 minutes plus 28 minutes of
extras including an extended interview with Jimmy Marshall.
It's frighteningly easy to make dull climbing films. Some of the best
climbers in the world have managed it. Climbing some of the most
dramatic routes in the world. Why? I think it's because the effort and
the movement and the scenery are only half the story, the other half is
what's happening inside the climber's head.
That's what makes Echo Wall so special. It's a fascinating and visually
dramatic look at Dave MacLeod's thoughts and emotions as he tackles a
desperately hard new route high on the north side of Ben Nevis. Half of
it is visual drama, but the other part, the crucial part is emotional
MacLeod in person is a quiet, thoughtful kind of guy, almost shy. But
watch the film and it's clear that he's also massively determined and
focussed in a way that's unusually intelligent. Everything is
concentrated on the perfect route, the perfect moment, getting it right
for that place and time.
That means dedicated bouldering, soloing a desperately hard 8c Spanish
sport climb for mental toughness - 'I need to try and be bold and in
control when I'm climbing right at my physical limit' - and,
incredibly, around six days spent with a shovel clearing a massive snow
bank that's sending meltwater down the line of Echo Wall.
The climbing on the wall itself is a slightly scary journey into a
level of commitment that's way beyond what most of us will ever
experience. The dramatic tension of the climbing really is on the same
sort of scale as the Ben itself. As the whole thing builds towards the
long-awaited ascent, MacLeod's frighteningly open about the risks and
his own doubts and fears, there's no machismo, no BS, no fake
certainty, just a quiet acceptance that if he gets it wrong he could
'That final crux is going to be, terrifying ... you'd definitely hit
the ground,' he muses. 'It's a terrifying thought.' And it is too. And
underlying it all is the knowledge that his wife is behind the camera,
that when he talks to camera about death and risk, he's actually
talking to the woman he loves. Like I said, it really is frightening.
And that whole underlying conflict between control and fear
crystallises in one crux moment when Dave can't stop himself looking
across at his wife as he hovers on the brink of the commiting,
It really is a fantastic film, visually extraordinary and an emotional
journey that's as intense as the terrain. I'd recommend it to anyone
with an interest in mountains and human beings. The best climbing film
I've seen for a long time.
As a postscript, I asked Dave whether at that moment when he looked
across at Claire, there was any uncertainty in his mind whatsoever. He
sort of half smiled and then, in his calm, Scottish way, batted the
possibility away. 'No,' he said gently. 'I knew I could do