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Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route Speed Record attempt, 15 April 2013

By admin - Posted on 16 April 2013

Since 2010, when I helped Yann Gachet and Laurent Fabre to beat the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route record, I promised myself that one day, I would try to do it.

The Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route is an amazing challenge with +-115km and 8300m D+. But what really attracts me is the fact that this is a high mountain route, with several passages above 3000m  and with some of the most amazing panoramas and views of the Alps. You start in Chamonix Mont Blanc, and you finish in Zermatt with the Matterhorn as a background.

After 3 years of huge progress in terms of skiing and fitness level, I joined 3 friends (Yann Gerome, Nicolas Estubier and Lionel Claudepierre) in this project. After checking the conditions, we decided to have a go on Monday, 15th April 2013.

We left from the Chamonix church at 01h15 and we ran to the bottom of Grands Montets in Argentière in 48 minutes where we had some friends waiting for us with supplies. This first ascent was the longest one of the entire route, from Chamonix to the Col du Chardonnet with 2300m D+. At 04h56 we were at the top of the Col du Chardonnet.

After down climbing on the other side (crampons were mandatory), we skied down the Glacier de Trient to put back our skins and head up towards the Col de la Grand Lui (550m D+). At 05h59 we reached the Col de la Grande Lui.

Then was a very long descent towards La Fouly in Switzerland (1800m D-). At the beginning the snow was so and so, very hard with the tracks from the previous day making the skis vibrate a lot. After 5 minutes of crap skiing, the snow became excellent: a hard and smooth snow lawyer that made us feel like skiing on a slope. When there was only 300m D- to reach La Fouly, the nightmare arrived. The snow changed completely and we probably had the worst crusty snow of our lives. Doing big traverses was hard and almost impossible not to lose you balance and fall.
After some falls and a lot of fight back, we finally reached La Fouly and our first relay point, 06h15.

We did a 15 minutes stop to charge the batteries and headed off to our next stage: +- 02h30 and 1150m D+ to reach Bourg Saint Pierre.
After a flat part of the route (+- 20 minutes), we turn left to climb a steep couloir where there is no option, you need crampons otherwise it's too dangerous.
Heading to this part of the route, I felt that my backpack was weird and too light and when I double checked if I had all my stuff, the world fell apart: i had lost my crampons in one of my falls down La Foully. With no spare, that was it: the Haute Route Chamonix-Zermatt record attempt was finished for me.

Even if i tried to go back to the 'ravito' and get a new pair of crampons, my partners would have +-30 minutes ahead of me. No chance I could catch them. And also I didn't want to adventure myself alone in this part of the mountain. It was a wise decision, the only one to make, but I must admit that after 24h, I regret it a lot.

At the end, our objective was a huge sucess. We beat the record and we setup a new time for the the Haute Route Chamonix Zermatt: 18h35m. The only deception is that from our team of 4, only 1 reached Zermatt (Lionel Claudepierre). Yann Gerome abandoned in La Fouly with a knee injury, and Nicolas Estubier abandoned in the Glacier d'Otemma due to pain in his feet.

At the end, I want to congratulate Lionel Claudepierre for his amazing performance and persistence.18h35 is the new time to beat!

A huge thanks also to all the friends that helped us with the 'ravitos' and the logistics:
- The family (Mimi and Tiago), Fabien Meyer le coach, Nicolas's parents, Stephane Sclavo, Marion Maneglia, Theo Camp, Bastien Fleury, Toff Engrand, Toff Imbert, Didier Molli, Ionel Siociu, Julien Woznica, Lionel Veuthay, Jules Henri Gabioud and all the people from the PGHM Chamonix. Thanks to all.

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