The end of one adventure, the beginning of many other ones

I haven’t BASE jumped since last year in March and realised I did not miss it. BASE jumping brought me to some awesome places, made me meet wonderful friends, made me share incredible moments and took me out of my comfort zone. It was awesome to experience being on the edge and push off the rock to that point of no coming back. It was magical to have this one second leaving the rock while everything inside you is telling you “no, don’t do it!” as an instinctual reaction. It was wonderful to be in the air and feel a form of freedom with such amazing feelings.

But little by little I found less interest in doing it. Loosing friends over the years affected me more than I thought. Some people think climbing mountains is more dangerous than BASE jumping. This is wrong. I know more climbers than I know BASE jumpers. I have lost more friends BASE jumping than climbing. This is the reality.

Having less interest in BASE jumping and wanting to climb more made me ready to quit. I love climbing mountains and it is where I want to put my energy and time. BASE jumping was fun, powerful, and different. BASE Jumping was a wonderful adventure. But I won’t miss it. I’ll miss some of its people.

Thanks to those who “guided” me on the learning path. And thanks to everyone I met and shared a jump with. I have fond memories of those times. I’m psyched with my decision and ready for more climbing adventures :)

The Border Lands: Fear and Happiness

I have already wrote about our expedition in the Tian Shan Mountains in my precedent post. But I haven’t talk very seriously about the fear I/we experienced over there. Fear is present on many of the expeditions that we take into the mountains. I’m not a big fan of feeling in danger, I’m not a big fan of feeling too much fear. At least not for too long.

On that trip, I was at the edge of my comfort zone. Terrifying rock falls at night and during the day time, piles of boulders ready to fall on us and some pitches of chossy rock to climb. All in all it was pretty stressful even though we where quite stoked to be here and climb. The worst for me was at night. I could not sleep. I was on a permanent vigilant state. The noise of the rocks fall was so loud that it gave us the impression a part of the wall was falling on us. I had to deal with this new type of fear. Not like a serac fall or an avalanche that last for less than 2 min and gives you a intense but “short” adreanlin shot. This type of fear was permanent and lasted for 5 days. Fear means tensions, tensions lead to a wast of energy and less focus. So the best was to not let my imagination making the danger bigger than it was for real. The best was to focus on the climbing and on being active.

Eventually the happiness of being in the heart of those untouched mountains with some amazing friends gained the upper hand on my fear…

Check out the video and get a little bit of fear…and happiness!

 

Also, Mike Libecki’s thoughts about fear on the Mountain Hardwear Blog

 

The Border Land

“We didn’t know what we would find. We didn’t know where we would climb. But we did know that we had to be ready. And that if we approached the trip with a strong team, everything would work out well in the end”

Last summer, Mike Libecki, Ethan Pringle, Keith Ladzinski and myself teamed up for an amazing climbing/exploring adventure in the Tian Shan Mountains. A challenging and not easy trip but great in term of experience/ learnings and friendship.
Before all I had to face a broken heel while bouldering, 2 months before I was supposed to leave. I had to decide, 2 weeks after the fracture, if I would be ready for the expedition or not. I thought I would be ready. From that time on, Neil of la Clinique du Sport in Chamonix, set up a training and rehab program that got me back on tracks faster than we were thinking.

Calcaneus rest home

Nothing like breaking my foot 2 months before leaving to make the adventure even more challenging ;)

Finaly, we left for the unexplored Tian Shan Mountains near the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, some 3,300 kilometers from Beijing. There are no comforts of civilization here. No springs rolls or rice noodles. No cell phone service or internet connection. There is only the wilderness of staggering glacier valleys and snow-capped mountains waiting to be conquered.

City

Leaving behind the civilization for the unamed mountains ;) Photo: Keith Ladzinski

These valleys and mountains remain nameless. The summits have yet to be measured. There are no paths to follow, no mapped out topography, and no climbers. There are only the small communities of Kyrgyz families living together in traditional yurts.

 

Entering the valley and getting closer to Kyrgyztan

Entering the valley and getting closer to Kyrgyztan

Kyrgyz yurts and their welcoming inhabitants

The goal of the expedition was simple. We set out to chart a new route up one of the region’s many virgin and unknown summits.

We had to deal with unexpected weather conditions, political resistance, and distances that were far greater than we anticipated. Mike, Ethan and myself did not hesitate to make the commitment to the expedition despite the challenges. We knew that all the hardships, all the suffering, would make the trip that much more worthwhile in the end :)

Taking some height and supporting the team. Could have been worst.... Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Taking some height and supporting the team. Could have been worst…. Photo: Keith Ladzinski

 

Watch Episode 1 of our adventure and stay tuned for Episode 2 ;)

Border Land | Episode 1 from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

 

 

More on the Mountain Hardwear blog
And more photos below….

The Adventure begin... no path, delicate terrain and heavy bag packs to start with... Photo: Keith Ladzinski

The Adventure begin… no path, delicate terrain and heavy bag packs to start with… Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Bad weather almost everyday did not really helped for climbing... Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Bad weather almost everyday did not really helped for climbing… Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Snow in the morning made the landscape enchanting... and the conditions miserable for rock climbing :(

Snow in the morning made the landscape enchanting… and the conditions miserable for rock climbing :(

Two tents lost in a desert of rocks, on top of ice.... Not what you would expected for your camping holidays ;)

Two tents lost in a desert of rocks, on top of ice…. Not what you would expect for your camping holidays ;)

Life in a tent.... Listening to french audio books is definitely realxing while being on and english speaking team for a few weeks ;)

Life in a tent…. Listening to french audio books is definitely relaxing while being on an english speaking team for a few weeks ;)

Mike Libecki does not ration passion, but he can ration food ;)

Mike Libecki does not ration passion, but he can ration food ;)

Oh well, shit happens sometime. A damaged finger will relagate me to jumaring....

Oh well, shit happens sometime. A damaged finger will relagate me to jumaring….

Ethan Pringle climbing at his best on the tricky chossy unclimbed rock. Awesome effort Monsieur Pringle! Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Ethan Pringle and Mike Libecki putting their effort together to top out to the summit that same day Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Gerat wall but scary features. You're never sure if everything is not going to fall on you in that place. We had really scary days.... Photo: Keith Ladzinski

Gerat wall but scary features. You’re never sure if everything is not going to fall on you in that place. We had really scary days…. Photo: Keith Ladzinski

 

Chamonix life!

It’s been too long since I wrote on my blog. Life has been pretty busy since I return from Patagonia. I did not climb or ski or fly anything big. I just had some “normal” days at home. Nonetheless, normal days at home are always filled up with beautifull moments shared with sweet friends. I love being in the mountains whatever I’m going to do. Sharing the classic Vallée Blanche with friends who never did it makes me as happy as skiiing something more serious. Climbing mountains always brings me lots of energy and excitement. Flying around the Chamonix peaks is something very special. Climbing on evenings at the gym with my friends always get me psyched. Of course, skiing in the morning, flying in the afternoon and climbing in the evening is one of my favorite combo. I could do that everyday. But… I work too and I love it. Happiness is here in my life whatever I’m doing.

One of the thing I love: sharing beautiful moments with sweet friends. Here with Caroline George after descending the rectiligne couloir in really good snow ;)

The bottom part of the rectiligne couloir. Pretty cool atmosphere. Photo: Dylan Taylor

Jamie, just after the belly goat step. Skiing in Cham is not like anywhere else.

February and its deep powder. First tracks are always good ;) Photo: Dylan Taylor

Some new lines for me this winter. Lots of turns, lots of fun…

Another first tracks day above the Swiss village of Trient. No complaining ;) Photo: Julien Miller

 

Sharing another great powder day with Mikey after a nice skin and boot up. Sometimes, you have to earn your turns ;)

And if the snow turns out to be bad, then it’s time for climbing… Mikey leading on the “Petit  Viking” at la Pointe du Domino

One of those beautiful moment in the mountains. So grateful and happy ;) Photo: Mikey Schaefer

If snow and ice are not so good, then flying could be a good option. No big effort, but stunning view ;)

Good to be in the air again :)

In winter, training on evenings after a nice powder day is always great. Especialy when you have all the cool Chamonix chicks climbing all together! That’s so much fun ;)

Well, I also have my “bad” days… Struggling on a 2000m of elevation while I was really sick. I could barely breath due to bronchial pain but I could not resist to not go. The Bérangère peak was attractive and I wanted to spend that day out with my brother Fred, Mika, Colin and Mikey. Mika, Mikey and I wanted to fly down so we carried the paragliders. Fred and Colin skinned up further to Dome de Miage and did an amazing descent. Photo: Mika Geroni

Struggling with the cough and a heavy head, carrying the paraglider. But too windy on top to be able to take off. You can’t win everytime… Thankfuly the spring snow was great and we had a fun descent instead of flying Photo: Mika Geroni

IMG_6428

Yes, I work too. But my office view does not suck ;)

Hush! Don’t tell anybody I fell! ;) Photo : Mikey Schaefer

Thanks to Julien, Mika, Danny, Donna, Fred, Gaby, Pierre, Emma, Greg, Kristo, Jimmy, Laurent, Marion, Dylan, Caroline, Jamie, Colin and Mikey for all the good vibes!

 

Patagonia Unplugged

Patagonia is known for is tough weather, long approaches and its awesome rocks and peaks. It’s been in my head since a few years but having to deal with injuries kept me away from this beautiful place.

Finaly, with the support of Mountain Hardwear, Janet, Freddie and I teamed up for a short month, hoping for the best regarding the weather and rock conditions. Janet and I both wanted to do a women party and climb the Fitz Roy. We had a few routes in minds depending on the conditions there. Freddie came along to climb but also to document our trip/ Adventure/ Climb (call it what you want except holidays…).

I was almost shocked by the beauty, the colors and the atmosphere I felt after landing in El Calafate. It was like being in a place I already knew and I felt connected with. Which brought me a good energy.

Boom ! El Calafate airport view. Not bad !

Right at the time we arrived we had a two/three days weather window so we geared up right away and hiked up with the most heavy bags I had to Piedra Negra, one of the bivy spot to access Guillaumet, Mermoz, Val Bois, Fitz Roy…. The weather was windy but sunny and warm. We got to climb some pitches on Guillaumet the second day but did not go all the way up. It was really windy and cold, we kept our mountain shoes during the whole climb. No way we would were climbing shoes that day! But it was a great warm up.

Little traverse and fun day on Guillaumet
Photo : Janet Wilkinson

That same day, while we were having fun on Guillaumet, a party of two beautiful women had an accident on Supercanelatta. It was around 2am when they fall for about 200 meters. They immediatly got the support of the others climbers climbing the same route and after a few hours the rescue was organized by the volonteer rescue team. No helicopter could come. The two women had several fractures and from 2am to 4am the next day they had to be carried on two liters over the glacier, down the morraine, crossing the river and so on. We were down our climb when the first team rescue came up with the liter and told us about the accident. All the climbers at the Piedra Negra bivy spot went to help the volonteers rescue team. We ended at more than 40 people to help. The two ladies were tough. They were suffering a lot but they never complained. Everybody did an amazing job and there was no little help. It was amazing to see all the energy between everyone to bring back to El Chalten in the fastest way possible the two injuried climbers. We arrived at 4am at El Chalten, everybody was exhausted but relieved to have bring down the two climbers alive. For everyone it was a good reminder. Keep your margin, remember you’re far from everything.
I decided to post a short video of the rescue I took with my Iphone so once can have an idea of how delicate a rescue there can be.

The rest of the trip was…. full of hope, wintery, frustrating, fun, tough, full of friendship. I think that 70% of El Chalten were climbers and they were all on the meteogram hoping for some high pressure and low winds. Everybody was talking about the weather. About the days left. About the routes. What else a small village full of climbers would talk about ?

We kept ourselves busy down in El Chalten with bouldering, sport climbing and meeting new friends, hiking around, reading and eating a lot. After a week in town everybody knows everybody. I was pleased to see Fred Nicole and Mary I haven’t seen for too long and share some other good times with some really sweet climbers.

Finaly, we though we’ll had a weather window on the 1st and 2nd of January. We went up to Piedra Negra on the 31st of December, hiking in the cold of a snow storm. We found our gear burried under the snow and set up the bivy. The day after, we went up to the Brecha of the Italianos with the hope to climb the Californinia route on Fitz Roy. We had a beautiful sunrise, and thought “here we go…. finaly the good weather is coming”.
A few hours later, while we were crossing the glacier breaking the trail in a deep snow, we found ourselves in the middle of the storm, and felt in the middle of nowhere. We kept going up and Freddie took the lead on the delicat mixed climbing pitches. Wind, snow, spindrift, cold but also smiles and jokes were our friends that day and night. We set up the alarm at 3am hoping (again) for the wind to calm down. The wind blown all night and we did not get out of our tent before 9am. It was freezing. The Fitz Roy did not wanted us that time. That’s how it goes.

All in all and looking back, I had a great time there. I improved my skills, I shared great and intense moments with Janet. I met new great friends. After all Mountains are not about summits but about sharing and living full on moments on them.

And of course, I got my desire to climb again in Patagonia bigger than before ;)