CHAM LIFE, 2.5 MONTHS IN

IT STOPPED RAINING!

I´d love to be able to write a post with at least a few dozen climbs, but unfortunately that is not how this will go. Since I am sponsored by no one less than myself, I have to produce myself the funds to live the lifestyle, and in May and June that meant a lot of work.

On the good side, I finally got my season pass, and been going up for climbing or running as much as possible. A whole new world of climbing aside from Argentiére opened and I was breathless when I actually first went up to the Midi station.

At the beginning I had bad luck with my off days coinciding with bad weather, but that is slowly changing and therefore I´ve been able to climb more instead of watching rain pour down outside my window. Been trying up several partners for different types of climbing too, and obviously, been the usual magnet to Spanish people, which used to be a good thing but has been proved otherwise.

 

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MOUNTAIN RUNNING IN CHAMONIX

 

One of my first runs in the mountains in May, still with some snow in the paths.

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My first time up to Flégére, one of my favorite KMV runs.

I went street running in Chamonix just once, and since going running in the mountains, I´ve never turned back. Together with a HFLC diet, my performance has skyrocketed and I´ve reached a point of my preparation for 2016 that I thought I would only reach in 3 or 4 more months of training.

Motivation helps a lot: the trails here are so beautiful and there are so many options of link ups that you just do not want to stop. Sometimes I stop running because I am tired, sometimes because I have to be at work. Fortunately, although I get sore a lot, I haven´t had any injuries. It is wonderful to feel the body working hard for a few ours, but also relaxing the mind during these 2-3 hour runs. It´s also wonderful to have a bathtub to soak in the muscles sometimes. I feel so privileged!

Encountered this ibex or whatever in one of my runs. We stared at each other for a while and then he let me pass. Thanks mate!

A view from up high on the Montevers to Plan d’Aiguille traverse, on the Grand Balcon Nord. Great way to start the day!

And before the sun started shining non stop I had a few days of wet running like this one. It was just me and a few miserable hikers.

My first run on the Grand Balcon Nord, right after getting my season pass. A very rocky trail that does wonders to destroy your tendons for a few days.

 

I am absolutely in love with mountain running, and even better, it is close to perfect in terms of preparation for an eight thousander – it doesn´t even feel like training. And then I had all these ideas of running in places I usually walked, like the Everest trek or the Santa Cruz trek. Now everything is like “why walk if you can run?”

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Halfway on a Grand Balcon Sud run. More proper running than in the Nord, and a lot more possibilities of link ups and longer routes. I´ve done all my half-marathon fun runs on this side.

 

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THE ARC´TERYX ALPINE ACADEMY´S MOVIE NIGHT

 

I didn´t participate in the clinics because well… I didn´t get paid in time to sign up. I did however managed to show up for the movie night, although I missed the first presentations. Some of the athletes I most admire were there, Marc Andre LeClerc and Will Gadd. The first one, probably the most impressive up and coming alpinist of our time, presented his solo climbs in Patagonia. The other the best ice and mixed climber, at 50 years old, showing the full film on his super tough ice climb in Helmecken Falls. It was so inspiring to watch them and their presentations, Marc in all of his shyness and Will absolutely funny and humble in his talent. So motivating to see these guys. They know they are cutting edge athletes and what they do is groundbreaking, still they are extremely simple, humble and modest. They know that tomorrow somebody is gonna come and climb even harder than they climb today.

By the way, Canadians are kicking ass in the mountains. Maybe that´s the place to spend next winter… ideas… Anyways, thanks dead bird brand for bringing these awesome talents to Cham for a humbling session!

And then there was the climbing world cup held in Chamonix, which was funny because competition climbing has nothing to do with alpinism, and sport climbing here is either something you do when there´s no time for alpinism or if you are a total newbie. I got to see Adam Ondra and his huge neck though! But unfortunately he didn´t scream, and I really wanted to see and hear those famous hysterical rants.

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The super overhang wall of the Climbing World Cup. Behind it, stuff that´s a lot harder and more fun to climb. I´m such an arrogant bitch, I know…

 

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LIFE DOWN IN THE VALLEY

 

Prepare for the rant: I confess I am quite disappointed with the “urban” life down in the town. Talking with someone after the Marathon du Mont Blanc event, we discussed how impressive these athletes are, almost super human, and what mental resilience to train and run 80 km with the immense accumulated height gain (almost 6 km). And then she said something that was exactly what I thought when I watched the runners from the 80 km arrive in Chamonix late at night: this is what Chamonix should be about, not the excessive and mindless drunkenness, rowdiness and drug use.

Some runners arrive in Chamonix after 17 hours and over 6000 m of positive height gain, during the 80 km race. That is what I run in week! These people are my heroes.

I remember when I swam in college: I was surrounded by many of the best and most talented swimmers in the US and maybe, of the world. Throughout college, some of them chose to party like animals, and some chose to dedicate themselves to a lifestyle completely geared to improve their performance. Most, if not all of the latter, went on to win Olympic gold medals and break world records. The other ones were still good, but then… there´s many people that are good at something, but being excellent or the best requires that extra effort.

And the egos. Hard to have a conversation where people are not measuring up their talents, achievements and generally trying to prove they are better at everything… or as we say in Brazil, “it is a who-has-the-biggest-dick competition”. It gets old and tiring pretty fast. I can take Mark Twight being arrogant and elitist, but that´s about it.

And although it´s only halfway through the year, I already have a winner for the country with the most unreliable, disorganized and arrogant climbers.

Good thing that in early June a friend from Ecuador came to Chamonix for some training. Gaspar is a super strong UIAGM guide whom I met in Ecuador a few years ago, and hadn´t seen each other ever since. Good to have some true latin blood to hang out with for a while! GDM I F*CKING MISS PERU!

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Crazy Chema and Gaspar on our first outing in Gaillands.

 

And then someone convinced me to go parapenting! Olivier went crazy with the maneuvers at one point and I almost called my mom, but I came out alive.

 

Olivier getting the chute ready to go. What a view!

 

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CABLE CAR ALPINE CLIMBING VS. BIG MOUNTAIN CLIMBING

 

For someone who does not come from a (snowy) mountainous country, like me, mountaineering isn´t a weekend thing, or even a monthly thing. When thinking about mountains it has always been the greater ranges and expeditions, and that has always taken at least a few months of preparation in the beginning, to many months in the recent past. So finally getting there had always had a huge meaning: of closure of the preparation and the beginning of the climbing itself.

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Here is a nice sunset picture at almost 10 pm for you guys. Summer is kinda like this everyday.

Chamonix on the other hand, provides an incredible opportunity to be able to climb some of most amazing routes in the world with incredibly simple logistics and little weight, because it can be done from a cable car. No wonder performance on technical ice, mixed and snow terrain here is so high.

I haven´t gotten used to some things yet. The amount of people crossing the glacier from Italy to Midi while we climbed around, for example. It also amazes me to see how many people here are involved in what here is a commonplace activity, while in Brazil it´s the total opposite. Obviously we´ll never get to this point because we lack the terrain, but having such a big community really seems awesome.

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My first visit to the Midi station. All this and more within a cable-car distance of Chamonix.

On the other hand, some of the things that attract me most in mountaineering are the wilderness and isolation, things that hamper accessibility and create a more intimate, personal experience. Even in the most sought after mountains of the Blanca, there is not the amount of people there are here. And in most of the borderline hardest ones, you´ll be pretty much by yourself in high camps, even sometimes on base camps. There´s no crowds, no helicopters on call, no refuge on the way back. The commitment is different.

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Looking to the north from the Midi station: the Chamonix Aiguilles, Droites, Courtes…

The accessibility here allows for a more concentrated, technical experience, and even I dare say, a lot more comfortable. This is the place to be for difficult technical climbs, fact. But it lacks the exploratory vibe. The feeling of reward on arrival: because of the long approaches, the porting of equipment, the meditative state of wild mountains.

None is better than the other though. They are just different.

 

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ONE YEAR AGO

 

I miss being around people who really love the whole experience of being in the mountains, including the anticipation of preparing for it. I know these people are out there climbing and training like madmen.

It´s also been a year since Parón. It still feels like it was a few days ago. And this past month I thought a lot about the abnormally numerous deaths I had to deal with while climbing in 2014.

Probably influenced by that, together with not being able to climb much, in June I had what was likely my worst homesickness/frustration crisis ever. I´ve lived away from my family several times and for long periods, but I guess I haven´t had time last September to “heal” alongside them from everything bad that happened in 2014. During the middle of June, I think I really approached mild depression, and I seriously thought of giving everything up and going home. Or to Peru.

I still haven´t processed July 2014. I haven´t figured out yet how to. It has affected my climbing a lot. Half of me wants to quit altogether, and I lost some of the crazy passion I had for the mountains. I keep going because I know climbing gave sense to everything I am, and I have to find a way to go back to that mindset, and don´t let the daily memories stop me from doing what I love most.

But it´s hard to keep the focus for a goal so distant and being so far away from people who are closest and dearest to me. Watching my nephews grow up over Skype, and giving hugs and LOL to friends and family via Whatsapp doesn´t really cut it, and it´s been pretty hard at times. But I know how regret feels when you sign up for something and get there and can´t perform because lack of preparation. So 2016 is still on, with full force.

 

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Written by Cissa

Fanatic alpinist, rock climber, and wannabe surfer. Sports and travel content writer and graphic designer in the meantime. Self sponsored, based out of a haul bag.

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