I’m standing at a belay looking up at the clear blue skies as Pat and Graeme sort out the gear for the next section of the climb we are on. 7 months ago I didn’t know either of these guys but I’ve been working hard at making friends and, already, we have confidence in each other, a relaxed atmosphere, and enjoyable banter – key ingredients for an amazing day out.

How far we have come

Beautiful conditions on the Pellissier Gully

Beautiful conditions on the Pellissier Gully

I’ve talked several times on how far I have come but it continues to make me feel grateful for taking the plunge and moving to Chamonix last year. I’ve grown as a climber, I’ve come on leaps and bounds in general fitness, and I am working with new clients, remotely, on projects that inspire me. One area that has, understandably, been slower to come together has been friends and friendships.

Sophie and I knew a number of people before we moved here but it was quite a big change to move away from having all of your oldest, closest friends just a bus ride away like in London. Our dream was to come to Chamonix to settle down and stay for the long haul, hoping to make strong friendships with both valley veterans and newcomers alike.

Being a seasonal town, Chamonix also has a very transitory population with people coming for just a winter or summer season, this means that long term friendships can be hard to form with all the comings and goings. Putting ourselves out there, though, and constantly being open to new people has started to pay off and we are beginning to see the foundations take shape of what life will be like here long term.

Making friends while climbing

Whiskey and Poker night

Whiskey and Poker night

A few days ago I set off on a climb I’d had my eye on for a little while called the Pellissier Gully on the Pointes Lachenal. I planned to do the route with Graeme, a climbing partner with whom I had climbed a few routes over the summer. The night before I received a call from Pat, an Australian who moved to Chamonix the same time I did, who was hoping to come along as well. I have not really climbed much as a three but didn’t want to say no and so welcomed him on board.

I have had the fortune to climb with a number of people since coming here and, I’m pretty sure all of them have been great people. I’ve learnt something of every single one of them and know that, if they call, I would happily climb with them again. As is natural in a transitory place like Chamonix, however, there have been a few people who I’ve hung out with and climbed with more than others. These relationships have already grown into strong climbing partnerships, new business ventures like thevalleeblanche.com, and just cool people to hang out with.

Hanging at the belay

Hanging at the belay

Over the last few months, especially, a decent group has started to form all made up of people who have been here about the same amount of time and, though everyone has varying levels of experience, we all have a similar list of objectives and dreams. The poor weather and lack of lifts over the autumn months gave us plenty of time to hang out at The Zoo (a poor weather, dry tooling venue) as well as get to know each other better of pot luck dinners and wings without the risk of a hangover spoiling the next day. As well as building a solid base of friends in the valley, there have been a few people who come through regularly such as Graeme, who are just a pleasure to be out on the hill with.

As I stood at the first belay of the Pellissier Gully with Pat and Graeme sorting it all out for the next pitch, I was able to really appreciate what having good people around you does for your own sense of happiness and enjoyment. The mountains can be a very stressful environment but being out with people you trust, who are fun to be around, and who are into the same things as you is what, without realising it, I have been searching for recently.

Whether it is a day out on a route with Sophie, where we get to share an amazing experience together, or I have a great adventure with my new friends, it is all feeding my soul and making it harder and harder to imagine a different life.

by Charley Radcliffe

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