09 Feb Nicolas Favresse
Interview by Maurizio Oviglia UP 2009
Photos by J.L. Wertz
A star of world climbing has been born with Nicolas Favresse who will appear in the firmament of the latest breed of all-round climbers, formed at the highest level of sports climbing and gradually opened up to the outside world and the greatest ascents on the planet. Sports climbing competitions, difficult routes, discovering America, expeditions, new routes opened… by now it is an often-repeated script, a formative ‘voyage’ which will be the same for the best climbers in the future.
Nic’s story is not so different from that of an Arnaud Petit, for example, but nevertheless it is worth following it step by step. It is his style, as can be seen from his official website, not to give much information on which to help us base the stages of his career. So we must concentrate on the person, rather than on his achievements… Nic is not just a ‘rock-cruncher’, on the contrary, he is more like a highly sensitive, incurable idealist. He plays and loves all types of music, with a preference for jazz. He is also aware of moral issues, has a great respect for the environment but hates politics and big business. It is obvious that Nic lives in his own ‘magical world’ like Amelie, which is one of his favourite films.
Nicolas was born in 1980 in Brussels, Belgium. Despite being one of the flattest countries… his attraction to nature and the outdoors in general was evident from an early age. When he was 15 years old he climbed his first route on the wall of all walls of his home country, Freyr, the same route which was the baptism of Claude Barbier, the Dolomites climber. But Nic knows nothing or little of all this and times have changed: he is gradually attracted to the competition circuit and is proposed as a participant in the World Cup. Nic’s passion for climbing is overwhelming and he accepts, even if he realises that he has other aims. Nevertheless the competition experience helps him improve, and he does this in record time, surprisingly quick according to some. His best result in the World Cup will be ninth.
Nic’s life takes a new turn when he is 18; thanks to a student exchange scheme he goes to America, where he comes into contact with the vastness of the continent, with its great walls and their trad style ascents. The New World literally captures his dreams and Nic returns to Europe enthralled by this experience. Even with his head in the mountains he still manages to complete his studies in marketing in 2003.
Little by little Nic leaves the world of competitions and returns to the crags. A trip to Spain brings him a very quick repetition of “Estado Critico”, 9a, putting him at the top of elite world climbers as well as becoming the first Belgian climber to break the 9 barrier.
But the attraction of the wide open spaces is too strong and in 2004 Nic goes back to Yosemite, then on to Patagonia, where he repeats the very difficult “Riders on the storm” on the Towers of Paine, in memory of the legendary, Wolfgang Güllich, his all-time hero.
In 2006 he goes back again to Yosemite, where he opens a new route with the Bulgarian, Ivo Nivov, “Lost in Translation”, free climbed and on sight, 400m 7b/c. It is the first time that such a pure style has been realised on Yosemite’s walls.
In 2007 Nic is back in Europe again, two new 8c+ at Kalymnos, to bring up his ‘level’ a bit, and then again nuts and friends in his backpack. His aim is obviously this type of climbing and his ideas on the subject are clear. By now he is ready to launch an attack in this style on the hardest routes but for the time being Grit is not part of these plans: the next step is to repeat Greenspit in the Orco Valley, 8b+ by Didier Berthod, credited as being the hardest crack in old Europe. On the way, he will also repeat Itaca nel Sole, 8b, climbing Legoland’s jamming roof on sight, graded 7b/c: “at most it is 6c, not even comparable to Separate Reality…”, Nic will confide in me! Nevertheless there are more important things and life is too short to waste time arguing about numbers, so he flies off to Pakistan on an expedition and with a very strong Bulgarian-Belgian team opens, free, two new routes in the Charakusa Valley. In 2008 he starts the season in England, the cradle of free climbing, where he surprises the locals by tackling an E8 on sight: he makes a mistake at the end, with a huge fall and reaches the front pages of the U.K. websites. In June he is at Squamish, Canada, where the case of “Cobra Crack”, 5.14c,the hardest crack in the world is quickly resolved. I am also at Squamish, but we don’t manage to meet up: he writes to me from his tent, where he his buffeted by continuous snowstorms from the wild massif of the Bugaboos, the Canadian Patagonia. He is now, apparently, on his way again to Patagonia… he will be back soon, but not sure when, as Europe has obviously become too small and limiting for his dreams…