Echo Wall by Dave and Claire Macleod


Watch the trailer again

Last week I blogged the trailer for Echo Wall. This week I’ve been lucky enough to preview the Echo Wall DVD and can tell you that the full length version lives up to the thrills of the trailer.

Climbing was a mystery to me until I moved to Glasgow in 1998. Back then I sometimes accompanied Colin to the Glasgow Climbing Centre at Ibrox. There I would piddle about on a couple of climbs trying the reach the top of easy walls before wimping to the café in the rafters to sup hot chocolate and watch the show on the really, really hard walls. One night I noticed a dark haired climber who bore a striking resemblance to my horrible ex boss, I was fascinated, not by the resemblance but by the sheer eloquence of the climbing. Even I could recognise this climber was special. At the end of the night I asked Colin who he was. ‘That’s Dumbie Dave, he’s from Dumbarton’.

The climber was Dave Macleod, now one of the world top climbers as proven in his astounding film E11, when he pioneered one of the hardest rock climbs ever.

A year ago Dave and his wife Claire moved to Fort William to concentrate on their professional climbing and film careers. They might not like this comparison but they seem to me to be the Posh and Becks of the climbing world, but with substance and much more to offer.

Echo Wall finds Claire behind the camera, filming her husband training for an attempt on a dangerous climbing route, a blank wall on Ben Nevis. Where this film differs for other climbing cinematography is that there is no Big Wall American hype or zoom-in shots of worried faces; no phoney tension build up or histrionics and no strangled cries of ‘OMG this is awesome’.

Echo Wall is clever. One powerful opening shot is a wide angle of the massive, terrible ice smeared cliffs of Ben Nevis and a single, small figure (Dave) moving up the face, the shot is super imposed with the climb’s name ‘Don’t Die'(XI). My heart stopped at that point and I began to bite my finger nails.

The training in Spain shows Dave climbing ‘Darwin Dixit’ (8c) solo (no ropes – very bad if he fell). The techno drum soundtrack choreographed the piece into a stunning new art form; a synchronism of man and rock. It was wonderful to watch and I still had some nails left.

The training on Echo Wall itself showcased Scotland at its weather worst and best. The highlight for me was Dave’s training run over Tower Ridge, a ridge that most people tackle roped up.

It was fascinating to listen to Dave’s philosophy on risk and to watch him on hand and knees on his hall floor making a reinforced thighpad (next years must haves) and explaining how it would give him a few minutes rest time on the climb just before the crux (the hardest part where he could fall off).

The actual attempt is arresting, I have no idea what Claire must have been feeling behind the camera and I wonder if having her there makes any difference to Dave’s obvious sound attitude.

I won’t spoil the ending for you but will recommend that, if you are planning to buy a Christmas DVD for an adventure hungry relative or Discovery Channel junkie, then this is guaranteed to thrill.

As a novice film maker, Claire must be applauded for the production of the film. The appropriate and evocative music is ModernTrad and very desirable to own. She would have been spoiled for choice of scenery shots in Scotland, in this instance the choices shows relevant locations, using the best light and angles. Even the fun shots of the pair digging a snow pack off the route lightens the tension and makes the whole project feel intimate.

I suspect we won’t see a perfume range produced by Brand Macleod but I predict that thigh pads and hopefully the movie soundtrack will be the next offering. Even an art installation at the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) is a possibility.

The DVD can be purchased from http://www.davemacleod.com and selected outdoor stores.

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