Team Salomon

I’m really excited and happy to announce I’m joining the amazing team at Salomon!
So psyched to have such a great company and great people by my side for all the coming climbs, summits and sweet lines!
Congrats also to my new team mate Kalen Thorien for being a part of the team as well!
Check out the press release here ;)

Matterhorn, the horn of horns

The recent heat wave in the alps made a lot of summits tricky to be climbed. The Matterhorn seemed to be a safe option for a very aesthetic mountain I have never been on top of.
Together with my friend Laurent Soyris we hit the road to Breuil Cervinia with the Lion’s ridge in mind, up and down. Le Lion’s ridge is supposed to be less crowded and less people means less chance to have rock falls. The weather forecast was ok for two days with some possible thunderstorms in the afternoon of the second day.
We left Breuil Cervinia (2050m) in the morning, took the cable car to Plan Maison (2500m) and hiked up to the Carrel hut, filling some water at 3 300m (after this point there is no more water and no water at the hut), meet up with a lot of Ibex and few alpinists already going down.

The really last part before to reach the Carrel hut is more steep and got fixed ropes. We tightened and were impressed by the men who climbed here for the first time 150 years ago.

We got to the hut around 1pm which gave us time to look at the route for the next days, relaxed, eat, drink, have a nap, look at the topo, speak with other alpinists, all this not necessarily in this order. And watching the great view from the sunny deck from Dent d’Hérens, Dent Blanche and the Weisshorn (we can’t see it on this pano)

3:30 am the next morning. It’s time to get up, boil some water, gear up. We started to climb a bit after 4 am, just behind a Swiss party who woke up first. It was only 5 minutes we were out and already a big rock falls happened somewhere. Not close to us at all but it was huge and the noise was terrific. This heat wave definitely made lots of things too dangerous.

Right after the hut you have some steep fixed ropes called the “wake up” rope. After those it got easier but in the dark you can lost yourself. The Swiss went a bit wrong and so we did so we had to back up and find the right way. We chose to climb a diagonal ramp that looks fine. By that time an Italian guide from Breuil Cervinia who knew the route passed us with his client. In one had it was easy because we just had to follow him, in the other hand we had to wait a bit on the steep parts. On an easy terrain they let us pass them very kindly. The rest of the ascent got easy terrain, some down climbing, and again, near the end, some steep part with fixed ropes and even a ladder.
After a bit more of 3 hours of climb we reached up the Italian summit and got welcomed by the sun and a beautiful view. We “crossed the border” to go on the Swiss summit where there was already a lot of people and decided to head down since there was a possible storm coming in the afternoon. Going down can sometimes be more tricky than going up but all went well and faster than we thought. At 2pm we were down in Breuil Cervinia, at the same time that the first drops, happy with this long and great day on an iconic mountain drawn by aesthetic lines.

I could not finished this post without thinking of the incredible performance from Kilian Jornet on this ridge : 2h52mn02s to go up and down from Breuil Cervinia to the summit. This is so unreal and fantastic!

Le Cervin, 4478m, Arête du Lion

Majestueuse Pyramide, le Cervin est une montagne qui attire et donne envie à être grimpée. En ces temps caniculaires où pas mal de courses sont devenues simplement trop dangereuses, le Cervin m’a semblé rester une bonne option et qui plus est je n’y avais jamais été. Problème classique numéro 1 je n’étais pas disponible les deux jours de beau temps annoncés et le reste de la semaine était un peu plus instable. Problème classique numéro 2, trouver une compagne/ un compagnon de cordée avec qui j’ai envie de partager cette montagne qui soit dispo et motivé(e)… Au final c’est l’ami Laurent Soyris qui vient de réussir son proba qui se laisse tenter. Et comme une bonne nouvelle en entraîne une seconde, la météo a un peu évolué et l’on peut espérer un court créneau sur un jour et demi avant de potentiels orages.

Nous prennons la décision de faire le Cervin par l’arête du Lion et de rentrer par le même itinéraire. Moins de monde donc moins de pierres qui partent. Et puis, c’est nettement moins cher que par le Hörnli (15 euros au lieu de 150?). Voilà un plan qui roule, le matos est préparé en deux deux et dès le lendemain nous nous retrouvons dans la montée du refuge Carrel (3825m) partis de Cervinia (2050m) en prennant le téléphérique jusqu’à Plan Maison (2500m). (Oh les petits joueurs!…)

Un petit stop à 3300m pour remplir 3 litres d’eau chacun en espérant que personne n’a trop uriné ni cagué juste au dessus (on peut toujours espérer) et c’est reparti. Nous arrivons rapidement au col du Lion. Après cela devient un peu plus raide et l’on sortira la corde au passage bien vertical (corde fixe et pédales), avec une belle pensée pour les premiers Alpinistes qui ont franchis ce passage. Respect à eux.

Le refuge est juste après ces passages raides (plusieurs cordes fixes) et sur le coup des 13h nous sommes à Carrel après avoir croisé quelques alpinistes qui redescendaient déjà et une vingtaine de bouquetins, fiers, peu sauvages et incroyablement agiles.

Arriver assez tôt à un refuge c’est plutôt agréable. Cela permet d’aller jeter un oeil sur la suite, regarder les topos, discuter avec les autres alpinistes, faire la sieste, manger un bout et boire un bon Yogi Tea, pas forcément dans cet ordre. Et d’autres choses aussi. Comme profiter de la vue de la terrasse Carrel, sur la Dent d’Hérens, Dent Blanche et le Weisshorn (qu’on ne voit pas sur ce pano)

Ou se laisser intriguer par un hélicoptère à la recherche d’une cordée disparue :(

Et puis c’est le rituel de faire chauffer l’eau, manger tôt, profiter encore du soleil devant le refuge tout en rencontrant de nouvelles personnes. Et puis ne pas hésiter à aller se coucher tôt. Mais comme souvent en refuge, les nuits ne sont pas des plus calmes. La cabane Carrel c’est une cuisine et une grande piece avec 40 couchages, autant dire que quand il y en a un qui se lève tout le monde en profite. Le guide italien avec qui nous avons bien sympathisé et qui dort à côté de Laurent a dû réver d’éboulement de la voie, il hurle et se réveille en sursaut et nous de même. Pfff il n’est que minuit.. Finalement, deux alpinistes Suisses se lèvent et Laurent me réveille aussi. Il est 3h30 presque notre horaire de réveil. On essaye de se faire discrets… Chauffer l’eau, s’équiper, mettre la frontale sur les casques, manger et boire même si ça a du mal à passer… Et puis on part enfin, contents, sous un ciel étoilé. A peine nous avons fait 10m qu’un gros éboulement résonne autour de nous. Vraiment? à 4h du mat? Brrrr…. ce sera bien une de nos dernières courses s’il continue à faire chaud comme cela…

Les cordes de l’Eveil passées, un peu de montée traversée facile et là les Suisses partis devant semblent hésiter. Du coup on regarde au-dessus de nous, on va voir, on revient… hum… peut-on vraiment se perdre sur une montagne si parcourue? La réponse est oui. Laurent opte pour une rampe oblique tandis que les Suisses reviennent sur leurs pas. Ca grimpe un poil et du coup nous nous faisons doubler par un guide de Cervinia qui arrive par la gauche. Il ne s’est pas trompé lui et il doit sourire intérieurement ;) La suite s’enchaine tranquille, le cheminement est évident avec pas mal de spits, encore des cordes et des échelles sous le sommet. Tout est super sec et nous n’avons pas eu à sortir les crampons (les miens étaient restés au refuge). En un peu plus de trois heures nous sommes au sommet Italien accueillis par le soleil et par une vue magnifique sur des montagnes qui ne me sont pas familières. Il y a déjà beaucoup de monde côté Suisse. Nous traversons la frontière pour aller dire bonjour à nos voisins et après quelques photos nous reprenons le chemin de la descente que nous nous attendons à trouver longue et fastidieuse. L’orage est prévu pour la fin de journée, alors autant être en bas au plus vite. A 14h nous serons à Breuil Cervinia, en même temps que les premières gouttes, contents de cette belle journée sur une montagne historique aux lignes esthétiques.

Je ne pourrai pas terminer ce post sans rappeler l’incroyable performance de Kilian Jornet sur cette arête : 2h52mn02s pour un Aller-Retour de Breuil Cervinia au sommet. Ca parait tellement sur réaliste ;) !

Täschhorn, South Ridge

PHOTOS CREDIT : NILS NIELSEN AND LIV SANSOZ

The Täschhorn (4491m) by the South Ridge is nothing hard nor technical. It’s a nice summit in an area I don’t know that well above Saas Fee. So when Nils mentioned it, I was psyched for a visit. It’s always interesting to visit new mountains visit new ranges of mountains, to climb new summits and to embrace new views of other mountains. Regardless if they are easy or hard, well known or forgotten mountains. Above all, the journeys, the adventures take all their value because of the people you are sharing them with. And a day or two in the Mountains with Nils is priceless ;)

I was just got back from 6 days climbing ridges in les Ecrins (see the project Sommets pour le Climat / Summits for the Climate) with a heavy bag pack and packing for a two days trip with no bivy gear (except a stove and some Lyo Food) was a big contrast. It already had the taste of a fun and light ascent :)

The Journey started in Saas Fee where we took the Metro Alpin up to 3500m. It was 10am, we were right in the heating wave and the snow was already all soft and watery with no good track. We never saw that and it was not a great sign. Anyway the goal of the day was to traverse a few kilometers of ridges to reach the perched Mischabeljochbiwak at 3847m. We hiked up the wet snow until we met the rock of the Feekopf ridge and scrambled to the top of it at 3888m. From there we had to go down (oh no!) traverse the flat glacier (Alphubeljoch) and reached up the Alphubel summit at 4206m. And then again flat and down on the North ridge of the Mischabeljoch where the Mischabeljochbiwak stands up. Almost four hours of effort to gain 347m of altitude. But a few kilometers of ridges, involving gaining and loosing altitude.

Below is a map to give an idea of the terrain. The red square is the Metro Alpin from where we left.

The small and cosy Mischabeljochbiwak, perched on its ridge. I have to say that was a four star bivy, quite clean, with everything you need in it. I loved it and I could have stay a week there ;)

Inside the bivy : Cosy, warm and welcoming. Not to forget the kitchen with the view ;)

A view that was capturing a lot of my attention…

On the Majestic Matterhorn ;) Not Bad!

We were alone at the bivy, which was perfect to relax, read and have a nap. The next day was going to be a long day. A day that we started early like most alpine starts, around 4:30am. The temperature was warm, there was a good track thanks to people from the days before. We did not have to put our crampons before the last big field of snow which make the ascent easier and faster. The wind and some colder temps caught us before the summit and we did not stay long on it before to go down again. The conditions all the way up to the ridge were dry which made everything easier and faster. In less than five hours we were down to the bivy again. We knew the way back to Saas Fee was going to be long and the snow was going to get warm and rotten so there was no time to loose. Up the ridge, down the Alphubel, up the Feekopf, down to Saas Fee.

This is just another story of climbing a Mountain. Nothing extrem, nothing bad ass, just two people powered by their legs and their passion. Just another summit and lots of happiness. As I often say, Mountains are awesome and I enjoy sharing moments up there ;)

Grand Capucin with Vanessa

During this end of May and beginning of June, a certain amount of time, energy and thoughts were dedicated to the next project of our friend Vanessa François: climbing the Grand Capucin in Chamonix, despite the fact Vanessa lost the use of her legs after a climbing accident. Not a small project to say the least! The Grand Capucin is a really aesthetic face of 400m high, reaching the height of 3838m. Climbing the Grand Capucin felt like a logical next step for Vanessa after her climb of Zodiac, on El Cap, Yosemite. And the whole group of friends around her was psyched to help and make this new project happened.

Climbing the Grand Capucin face is way different than climbing on El Cap. There is a glacier approach, the bergschrund, a wall not as steep as Zodiac, 400m of abseils, altitude and cold… And above all the need for a perfect stable weather for four to five days. With the Grand Capucin we are in the heart of high mountains, a place that is so important and special for Vanessa.

So here we were, into the preparations, training, brain storming, finding gear solutions and resolving logistical problems. And I promise, there was a lot of things to think of! Little by little we got better organised, but we also found out all the complexity of such an amazing project.  Little by little, and for many reasons we realised we would not go in june. Weather became suddenly really stormy and other factors led to the wise decision of having the project postponed for a few months. September is our new timing project now and it’s only two months away. During those two months we will still try new technics and get more and more efficient with some specific things we don’t do or use for a “normal” climb. Vanessa will go in altitude and will probably have a bivy or two.

Speaking of bivy, below is a nice little edit about a bivouac we did last september in order to prepare the Grand Capucin climb. It was a great adventure with a wonderful team of people. I hope you’ll enjoy it! :)