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!

Chardonnet Peak, 3824m

Version française ici
Photos Credit : Nils Nielsen and Liv Sansoz

Chamonix is an awesome place where most climbers, skiers and outdoor lovers would love to live there. But unique and amazing also means very crowded. Finding a great place for a climbing or a skiing day without anybody else is sometimes a bit tricky.

Where to find a bit of adventure and tranquility when you only got the day? Together with Nils we thought of the Chardonnet peak, a nice summit we can see from everywhere down in the valley and on which none of us had been. Nils suggested an interesting way to climb and ski it, different that most people do. We got a plan!

So here we go, heading to the Grands Montets lift to reach the Argentière Bassin. After the ritual of the bin and the “hard bad” snow to ski down to the glacier we take the direction of the Chardonnet with no one either before or behind us (it will not last, the first groups to the Chardonnet pass will eventually show up… ) All this with an amazing point of vieux on the Verte peak, the Grande Rocheuse and the Droites face.


From there, we skin up toward the Chardonnet pass, on a typical spring morning hard snow. This year, I decided to reduce the size of my skis and the weight of my gear. Except for the few really good powder days, I have done all my alpine days with the Rocca Freebird, 75 under foot, and I had lots of fun and lots of confidence with a small but real ski. Same thing with the boots, I now use the Syborg a lot that weight less than a paire of Baturas… after a few times you get use to ski them just like any bigger boots.


The wind is blowing on the plateau and I’m glad we are getting inside the South-East couloir that seems protected. As its orientation means it, we are in full sun and the snow is already quite wet and heavy. But there is already a good track that makes the ascent easier and we’re gaining elevation at a good pace. The scenery is very Alpine but friendly, with the white of the snow and the beautiful orange granit. Below are a few pictures of Nils and myself.

The beginning of the couloirIMG_3111

A few short crossing to release the calves without slowing down…

Eventually, we are getting close to the summit…

Those couloirs are always longer that what we believe and that’s exactly how Gaston Rébuffat said, “the already steep terrain straightened again”… It became that steep that we had to get the rope out for the last 20 meters, steeper and with a really sugary snow that made the progression delicate. One small climbing step (or two or three) to get out of there and we finally reach the Forbes ridge.


An icy wind greets us at the exit of the couloir and my wet gloves from the hike up in the sun and wet snow freeze in two seconds, taking the closed form of my hands on the ice axes. There is some more sugary snow to climb on the ridge that does not make me feel comfortable. I have to stay concentrated on the feet for the traverse that leads to the summit.


No time nor desire to stop for too long on the summit, the wind is cold and some clouds are coming. We’ll wait for the tea and cookies… Nils is running in front and I barely got to snap a shot on the sharp ridge…

The descent is really nice with ridge first, then some snowy shoulders, a bit of route finding, a bit of anchors testing (two abseils to reach behind the Adams Reilly pass). Finally we reach the glacier of the Tour, one last abseil to get away from a big bergschrund and we can ski again! The descent at first still request some attention because of the crevasses but then the terrain get more flat with no crevasses and we can really enjoy our descent all the way down to the village of the Tour.
It was a sweet alpine day, a day like I like them!


The Chardonnet peak, a really nice summit on which I’ll come back with pleasure. Thanks for the little taste of adventure shared with my favorite man ;)IMG_3107

Grandes Jorasses, back at it…

This fall saw unique conditions on lots of North faces and serious climbs in the Alps. The Grandes Jorasses was not the only one face to climb but when Rémi came up with the idea to go climb another route on this mythical face I was psyched. Funnily enough, I had just spent two weeks at sea level, walking with flip flops in the warmth of Turkey during the Petzl RocTrip so I was not sure how I’d feel in the cold and at altitude, but as always there is no answer to those questions until you go for it. So, we went for it…

The idea was to bivy at the base of the face and climb the combination of the Slovenian route finishing up with the Eperon Croz route. The plan B was to climb the Couzy-Desmaison further right on the Pointe Marguerite if other parties were already on the Slovenian/Croz route. We hiked up on a Friday at lunch time under a perfect blue-bird sky to the base of the face. One other party was already there but we had the feeling we would start before them and did not worry about having them above us on the route.

We started to climb at 1:20am and climbed the first two thirds of the route at night. Rémi climbed first through the bergschrund in good style making it look easy. I had no idea until it was my turn how tricky it was. I struggled. I did not like to lose time here at the beginning of a long day. It was only in an unconventional way that I could pass it and we could keep going. Rémi was climbing really fast, completely immersed in his element. I felt a little bad with leading and being slower. But it was great to sea how things can be done and learn from someone with amazing skills.  
The whole climb was a fun and great experience. And I’m definitely looking forward to climbing some other routes on this attractive and impressive face ;)

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 ;)