As I was cruising up yet another stunning crack splitting a 300m granite face up high off the Aiguille du Midi, I felt truly in my element. Recent life events have really knocked my mental strength and the first thing to suffer is my ability to climb, or at least feel comfortable climbing.
I’ll be fine. I don’t need to eat at the moment. I’ll eat in a bit. It’s ok. Then.. it is suddenly not. I crash. I start to slow down first, then my concentration starts to waiver, then I just fall into a crabby and irritable mood. If only I had had eaten when I needed to!
What better way to start your day than with a proper espresso and two scoops of real Italian gelato? As we fled the poor weather in Chamonix, driving through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Courmayeur, it never fails to amaze me how different this side of the mountain can be.
It’s only 10 minutes until my first kettlebell class in Chamonix and there are already over 10 people here – not bad for a debut! Fine, the class is free and the weather is glorious but, hey, I’m thinking this is a win!
David Göttler is an IFMGA mountain guide and professional athlete who splits his time between Spain and Chamonix, France. He has been on a massive 31 expeditions and is currently camped out at the South Face of Shisha Pangma with Ueli Steck, waiting for a weather window to attempt a bold new route. He kindly took a little time to answer my questions.
Yep, after going on about feeling stronger and the benefits to being stronger in the mountains, I headed out and got firmly put back in my place. And it’s not a bad thing at all.
I headed up to climb a stunning but very challenging route here in Chamonix, the Supercouloir, with Graeme – mentally, physically and technically this route pushed me, harder than any other route before.
As I sit on a lift going back up for another ski run, tie onto the rope for another lap, or catch my breath before running up another hill I can’t help feeling like I’m cheating, that I’ve given myself an advantage over myself in previous years. Strength has given me a capacity to do just one more route, one more lap, and these extra efforts are what are allowing me to improve. Step by step. Is it cheating?
“I can’t work out if this was a good idea or a bad one..” said Matt. Tomorrow the Cabane des Dix, high in the mountains above Arolla would have a full staff, prepared food, and be a hive of activity as a key stop on the Haute Route, a classic alpine ski tour. Tonight, however, we were tucked away in the winter room, burning wood to stay warm, heating boil in the bag meals, and we are completely alone.
What are you training for right now? What is on your wish list that, maybe, you’ve not started training for yet? I’ve been ticking along recently, which has been a much needed gear to be running in but I’ve recently been feeling the need for something more. For picking an objective and committing to the work that will be required to get from where I am now, to where I need to be then.
I have dreams to climb big mountains, via big routes, over big days in the hill, and that means I need to get in shape.
Ski touring in Chamonix is mandatory and not having a touring set up limits not just where you can go but who wants to ski with you. It might sound strange but I now fully appreciate where this comes from. The phrase ski touring was completely unknown to me just a few years ago. I remember watching from ski lifts, people slogging their way up mountains, completely unable to grasp why they wouldn’t just get on the lift and save themselves some trouble. Now, however, I am a total convert, with my eyes opened to not just the health benefits but the scope that getting yourself up a mountain provides.
Fear. The persistent feeling that I’ve not been able to shake for the last week but we’re here now and there is no way out. It’s the night before we set off to climb the Comici on Cima Grande, one of the classic Great North Face routes but it isn’t the route I’m scared of, it’s letting my partner down.
In June 2015 I officially launched The Mountain Foundry, my new business that is working with everyday athletes to elites by training them in strength and conditioning for the mountains. Training both face-to-face in Chamonix and remotely via the magic of the internet, my goal is to make people stronger, more confident, and safer in the mountains by providing their bodies with a suit of armour.
Climbing the Frendo Spur is high up on many alpinists dreams when they arrive in Chamonix. A striking line that towers over town, rising right underneath the Aiguille du Midi telepherique in full view of all the camera happy tourists. Described as a mid-grade classic, I’ve had my eye on this route for several years and finally had my chance.
The weather in Chamonix is typical early summer weather – amazing sunny mornings then, between 1pm and 2pm, the clouds come in and shortly after a storm kicks off. It is pretty much like clockwork. Jesse and I set off on a rock climb up high that would easily get us back to safety in time. Until it didn’t.
People travel from all over the world to come and climb in what is now my back yard, Chamonix – it is truly exceptional with so much variety; from sport climbing to ice, to alpine mountaineering to alpine rock climbing. It truly is a climbing Mecca.
One thing I’ve missed, however, is single pitch rock climbing in the Peak District – the sort of climbing where you can go and experience so much variety, really challenging yourself both physically and mentally. Nowhere – well, at least according to most Brits – is that more true than in the heart of England on grit.