Winter has well and truly arrived and, with a brief break in the snow, I decided I needed to check out this Microadventure game that so many people have been enjoying (Sophie’s night out and Anna McNuff’s many microadventures). With so much going through my mind recently, I knew some quality own-time would be greatly appreciated. It seemed an easy choice to make. It turns out the harder choice was staying.
It’s November, six months after I started my alpine apprenticeship, and we’re all still rock climbing in shorts and tshirts and, after an unseasonal summer, the Autumn has shown Chamonix’s true colours. It is beautiful here right now and, though the days are getting shorter and the mornings are certainly crisper, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the summer.
After writing about my recent epiphany, the journey to finding meaning in what I’m doing, and decision to focus on a single mission over the next year, a good friend emailed me an article called Taming the Swarm by Oliver Emberton. Wow, this article really nails it!
This is a rather expansive question but one I have been wrestling with since moving to Chamonix. What is my purpose? What am I actually doing right now? And, am I happy with that direction?
Every great change is preceded by chaos – Deepak Chopra
When I’m about to make a big decision, I often take the time to ask myself, What is the worst that can happen? I don’t mean this in a throw caution to the wind sort of way. I mean this as; based on my judgement, experience, and intuition, what are the consequences of my actions and am I willing to suffer the worst case scenario. I’m not always right but I trust myself to make the best decision I can at a given moment.
When Sophie and I moved to Chamonix we exposed ourselves to a number of risks: our security, our careers, even our reputations. Likewise, when I set off on an alpine climb in the high mountains I am exposing myself to risk, this time: injury, or worse.
With so much on the line for either of these paths, why would anyone voluntarily put themselves into these positions?
At the end of September, Sophie and I finally made it back home to Chamonix and what a welcome home it was. After a month on the road for the Alpine Coast to Coast followed by two and a half weeks back in the UK, both of us have been craving normality, sleeping in our own bed, and not living out of a bag.
It has been quite an eventful few months; Sophie and I completed the Alpine Coast to Coast, I managed to get out for some of my own climbing, and we have been back in the UK meeting friends and family, even giving a few talks. And falling off the wagon. Hard. It has been amazing but I have made compromises en route that have led me to where I am today – pretty disappointed and feeling a little too sorry for myself.
It is not uncommon following a big adventure or challenge to crash and to experience the post adventure blues. Focusing on one objective for so long and the void completing it leaves can be hard to fill. Add to that the physical and emotional hangover, and your body’s fight to get back to normality and it’s safe to say that it is a real rollercoaster.
In the final days of the Alpine Coast to Coast, Sophie felt confident that, with so much lined up after the adventure, this might be the time when she sneakily sidesteps the blues and doesn’t have that massive crash. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen and Sophie had a very tough week following our arrival in Monaco. We both knew exactly what was happening and did our best to ride the waves of emotion, physical exhaustion, and fears of what next.
With our move to Chamonix, France, people often ask us ‘What do you do for work?’ and I have struggled for a concise answer, replying with ums and ahs. Our recent adventure gave me plenty of time to think and I am forming a new philosophy for myself; an analogy for the stage of my life I am in.
I am munching.
Sophie is on the final stretch of an adventure we started 31 days ago, the Alpine Coast to Coast, an epic journey from the eastern end of the Alps to Monaco via the summits of the highest mountains in each of the 8 Alpine states. Sophie has cycled nearly every mile alone, in rain, wind, cloud, and sometimes even sun. Upon reaching the feet of the mountains, we have then teamed up and tackled 7 major climbs in what has been the worst weather the Alps has seen in decades.
At 8.50am on 25th August we stood at 4810m, the summit of Western Europe and leg 6 – to climb Mont Blanc – of the Alpine Coast to Coast complete. After our unsuccessful attempt to a few days ago, we headed back up to give it a second attempt. This time we we’re really ready; the right gear, mentally set, and physically prepared – though Sophie had the beginnings of a cold kicking in. We got it right this time.
This morning, at 2.30am, Sophie slipped in the toilets of the Tete Rousse hut and badly knocked her thigh. The shock and pain forced us to rethink our Mont Blanc summit attempt. A worry at the back of both our minds was ‘what would everyone say?’. Thank you for being so understanding and supportive.
The little fingers on both my hands had gone numb an hour ago, I tried to warm them up as we came over the final section of the summit ridge but it was too cold. As we stepped onto the summit of the Dufourspitze, the highest mountain in Switzerland at 4638m, I saw Sophie was shaking. We needed to get down fast.
It’s raining. More than it’s rained thus far but also, most importantly and worryingly, we are at the foot of the second biggest mountain of our trip – the Dufourspitze. At 4,634m, our next objective is the second highest peak in the Alps and a serious undertaking.
But anyway, what about the last 6 days, hey? I am being rather honest here, it has been tough. Sophie and I have had some ups and downs but it really feels like we’re making progress.
We’re back in Kals am Grossglockner after what can only be described as one of the best alpine climbs I’ve been on, climbing the Stüdlgrat on the Grossgockner. 4 hours of stunning alpine rock climbing takes you up to the 3798m summit of the highest point in Austria, the second peak in Challenge Sophie and my Alpine Coast to Coast.
Here is a video of our climb: