NOTES FROM THE WALL: THREE BELGIANS, ONE BIG WALL

How would you feel about spending 19 days climbing and sleeping your way up a 1200 metre-high vertical wall? That’s exactly what a trio of Belgian climbers – Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll, Nicolas Favresse, and Siebe Vanhee – did in February 2017, when they successfully free-climbed one of the hardest routes at Torres del Paine, “El Regalo de Mwono”, Patagonia. When they got back from the trip, Siebe and filmmaker Guillaume Lion put together a short film, Notes from the Wall. Here, we find out more about these climbers and what went into this film.

Rock climbers are a passionate bunch. Sean, Siebe, and Nicolas are no exception. Sean explains, ‘Climbing is my way to live life. I can travel, meet amazing people, share experiences, and live incredible adventures. Big wall free climbing teaches you everything about life. It makes you live in the moment. You can really feel things, you can really taste food, and you can really feel the rock shredding your fingers as the blood oozes out.’ Siebe feels similarly, enjoying everything from sport climbing to big wall adventures. Nicolas ‘just loves rock in all its forms’: big alpine walls, small boulders, the musical kind. He explains, ‘For me, challenging myself on a climb is just a way to get connected with nature. Climbing brings me to beautiful places, it inspire me to push my limits in climbing but also in music. It brings me a unique feeling of connection.”

Music features quite a bit in Notes from the Wall, as the boys keep themselves entertained in the face of rough weather. Unlike many climbing movies, Notes from the Wall wasn’t ‘made up in advance’, as Siebe explains: ‘Sean, Nico, and I decided very impulsively to make a trip to Torres del Paine, excited for a new ‘free climbing’ adventure. Like always, we took our cameras on the trip to record as much as possible of the ascent, the view, human encounters, and dialogues. The big wall expedition turned out to be quite a unique experience for the three of us, because none of us had ever spend 19 days on a vertical wall’. They were prepared to spend extra time on the wall without food, so focussed were they on free climbing the whole wall.

The three of them successfully completed the climb in 19 days. On their return, Siebe got in touch with filmmaker, Guillaume Lion, who he knew from Belgian youth competition climbing. Siebe explains, ‘I wanted to share the real story and not just some heroic climbing movie!’ Together, they edited the story and the result is a film which shows raw struggles with one’s ego and nature. ‘We wanted to share what we did and experienced as honest as possible. We want to share with this movie that we are human, with dreams, goals, and issues as well. We are convinced that sharing the truth and showing our vulnerable side is the most meaningful, although showing your vulnerable side isn’t very easy!’

Notes from the Wall is a heart-warming and entertaining story of companionship. While you can enjoy this film from the comfort of a theatre, Sean, Siebe, and Nicolas will continue to find comfort outdoors, climbing the big walls.

Catch Notes from the Wall at the 2019 Radical Reels Action Sports Film tour!

For tickets, go to https://www.radicalreels.com.au/tickets/

Words by Amy O’Toole