07 February 2011

three days, three countries, three waterfalls

esc01ait starts with an ice climbing mix.

esc01for an eight hour road trip.

esc02to trélechamps.


near argentière.

still don’t know where that is…

basically, chamonix.

ahh, okay! i know where that is!

for you, the french always have to list the nearest big city, or otherwise you’re lost.

esc05alet’s back up.

what, exactly, possessed you to sign up for an ice climbing trip…?

there’s only one response. the one response all french people give: pourquoi pas? why not?

but you’ve also got some other motivations.

esc09un. snow-capped mountains do not exist in texas.

esc05deux. if you don’t do it now, you are not sure of your next opportunity to do this. you might be 85 the next time you’re near the alps. 24 and not-super-fit is better than 85 and frail, you tell yourself.

grimptrois. the most important. three girls. three girls who climbed in evreux last year. three girls who tried to get you to climb as well, but you adamantly refused each time. and then, in the summer, when separated and alone in texas, you decided to take up climbing to feel closer to them.

and it turns out… you liked climbing!

they inspire you. and you can’t wait until the day you get to climb together, all four, whether it’s in canada, in france, in texas, or in england.

esc03here, in the alps, you stay in a gite. basically a holiday home. but for you, it is an 18th century wood cabin.

esc04as always, the petit-dejeuner is taken.

esc14as you hike and hike and hike and hike and hike, you walk past this sign. the sign that tells you that you’ve just left the “safe” area

esc06and here you are, at la crèmerie. frozen waterfall number one in france.

esc13you. are. terrified.

esc11walking in snow is difficult enough.

hiking uphill in snow was another beast you just conquered.

and now, you’re about to climb a frozen waterfall?

don’t forget – you’re from texas – and more specifically a grand prairie.

even your friend questions you. “cathy, when you were growing up, did you not have any hills or anything that you ran up and down…?”

your answer is no. of course not. not in the plains!

esc07but! there isn’t time to stress.

you change into your crampons. cleats. spiked shoes. crunch crunch crunch.

esc10more importantly, you’re surrounded by people who know exactly what they’re doing.

esc08and, you attack.

up is the only direction.

esc12you can be scared. you can be petrified. you can be stressed.

but you have to trust the people and the materials around you.

that is the key for ice climbing. trust.

esc15back on paved roads. the sun is long gone and you’re about to head back to the gite for some dinner. and then straight to bed because you are crevée.

one down, two to go.

esc16day two. in switzerland. here you are at la bleu. the second frozen waterfall.

esc17today, you are more à l’aise. at ease.

you’re still terrified.

of heights. of slipping. of falling. of tumbling. of dropping 40 euro ice screws. of breaking bones. of dying. of cracking open your head. of being eaten alive by bears. of freezing to death. of avalanches. of being hit on the head with ice chunks. of cracking a hole in the ice and taking a cold shower. of sliding down. etc.

but just less terrified than the day before.

esc18the others go first because you’re most definitely the slowest. so you spend a lot of time looking up at the fesses of your friends.

esc19and loving every moment of being absolutely lost in nature with nobody but you and your fellow climbers.

esc20you finish the climb in the dark. under the stars. gripping onto the backpack of someone in front of you because you lack the équilibre that everybody else has for the steep descent.

esc21ah. here you are definitely à l’aise. 100%. this is your thing. eating and drinking!

esc22hot drinks / dishes with tons of melted cheese / admiring armand charlet

and you are morte again, so it’s straight to bed.

esc24day three. it’s snowing.

esc27this time you’re in italy.

esc25in the village of lillaz.

esc26the cars are parked and everybody gets ready.

esc29frozen waterfall number three. here you are. there’s only one direction: up!

esc30the first team leaves. then the second. then the third. finally, you.

the terror you felt yesterday and the day before is still there. but most definitely much smaller.

and the camera is left behind. because you are here to climb. not to make photos.

but just imagine a grand paradise. massiccio del gran paradiso. le massif du grand paradis.

imagine nature untouched. some of the most beautiful paysages you’ve seen. blankets of white. pale blues. ponds. waterfalls. icicles.

sometimes the most marvelous things can be captured only one way: by memory.


Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] said...

This is so beautiful and amazing! I have never even heard of this! Did you have to train? Have you ever done ice climbing before?

Lizounette said...

what a nice adventure. and it's true, sometimes the most amazing things leave only an imprint in the mind

donna said...

when we are out of our comfort zone is when we are most alive.....and when we challenge ourselves...we truly find out who we are...what a wonderful thing to step out ahead of the fear....and truly live.......

+cez+ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
+cez+ said...

Hey! I knew it was Valle d'Aosta!! Those mountains are unique. I was there last month..if only I'd known you were there I could have met you for sure,eh eh!
I'm an italian girl from Turin and I've been following your blog since last year.. I think it is merveilleux!

cathy said...

@brenna: a bit of training.. i've been climbing indoors since last summer. first time ice climbing, but the movements are very similar. completely worth it if you ever get a chance.

@cez: thank you! the landscape in italy was definitely my favorite.

Margaret said...

Oooh Aaaah What a beautiful blog, I love it.