As Tim and I huffed and puffed up the final 55 degree snow slopes, the sun beating down on our backs, we crested the summit ridge and were rewarded with one of the most remarkable views I have ever seen. I had just accomplished an objective Sophie and I have had since we first came to Chamonix on our own, 4 years ago: to climb the Aiguille du Chardonnet. We were rewarded with a view across the whole Mont Blanc Massif with the north faces of the Droites, the Courtes, and the Aiguille Verte, each over 1000m, towering in front of us.
Hanging from a piece of gear, in full view of every alpinist on the Col du Midi, I gave up. I swallowed my pride, accepted my ego took a bruising, and I shouted down to Mark that I’d had enough and he can have a try. I felt completely shattered physically, and felt a complete failure mentally. This was supposed to be well within my climbing grade but I had had enough.
You’ve worked hard for months leading up to that moment and it was everything you thought it would be; the triumph, the enjoyment, the excitement, and even the fear. But, as quickly as they came together they are gone again. A massive void opens up and you feel unsettled, alone, and lost. Welcome to the comedown after a big climb.
The blues after a achieving something at your limit and unwinding after events is difficult and something that I have struggled with on a number of occasions. Even when I know it is going to happen, I can’t avoid that crash and feeling of being adrift.
Standing at the belay, I see ice coming down from the party above. Sophie finishes tying into the belay and looks at me. She can see what is going on behind my eyes.
I’m psyching myself out. We know it but what do I do?
“You can do this”, Sophie says, “just remember, take it one step at a time”. I nod in consent, take a deep breath and step out onto the 85 degree ice of the crux pitch on the Chèré Couloir, a classic alpine ice climb just under Mont Blanc.
On the 25th May 2013, I married Sophie, aka Challenge Sophie, in a beautiful ceremony on the Seine, up in Normandy. After a wonderful couple of days, we set off on our honeymoon – two months in the outdoors Mecca, Chamonix. In a not so typical turn, we were going to be starting our honeymoon with a week at the Chamonix Mountain Festival, a brand new outdoor meetup for climbers and mountaineers.
As of June, Sophie and I will be in Chamonix. In part, as preparation for the Alpine Coast to Coast but, also, to realise a dream I’ve held for the last few years: