Putting years of effort in dreaming about the Icefield Parkways finally resulted in a visit to this incredible scenic road! At dawn, coffee was consumed in Lake Louise and with the first light, we went north. The rental car was packed with food, drinks, outdoor stuff, cameras and empty memory cards. The road through the valley of the Bow River and along the Athabasca River was so beautiful. Leaning over the dashboard of the car with our noses fixed to the windshield made driving uneasy, but for sure nothing was missed of this stretch of rocking beauty. But it was cold. Very cold outside!
Driving many miles through the unscathed Canada makes you often say ‘Wow!’ or ‘Awesome!’ And it actually makes you very thirsty after a while. I asked my map-reading best driver’s mate to have a zip of water to have some soothing relief in my throat. Cycling bottles are very handy when you’re on the road. Such a bottle has a very convenient small opening in the middle of the lid so you don’t have to unscrew the whole lid when cycling. You can easily take a zip without losing water or time in the process. My co-pilot saw I was very thirsty, and unscrewed the entire lid of the bottle, without me noticing this little detail. Being thirsty and driving at the same time, I took the bottle and a deep breath, and a zip of water. I emptied half the content on my shirt, mainly collecting all the fluid into my crotch before comprehending the unusual extra wide opening of the bottle… Being wet is acceptable when it’s hot outside, but it was freezing and the water which had been in the trunk was seriously cold. We also had scheduled two small hikes between Lake Louise and Jasper. It was fun but only for one of us. The only thing my best friend was doing was laughing as loud as she could and she couldn’t stop so after a while I overcame the cold shock and began laughing too…
We went out of the car along the road halfway the Icefield Parkways for having a fresh nose. The only thing I felt was a very fresh and frozen underpants. Walking near the Columbia Icefield, I looked like a small outdoor boy with a stiff diaper reaching the impressive tongue of the Athabasca Glacier. Nothing was left of my outdoor courage and the small piece of manhood I was carrying with me. Further north, my igloo underpants was a bit less unnerving reaching the whimsical frozen world of the Athabasca Falls as a second stop. A local beer accompanied with a vast bowl of nachos put us back at ease in Jasper!
After acclimatizing on the Mer de Glace in France and in the Aosta Valley on the other side of the big white mountain massif including the partly ascend of the Gran Paradiso, it was time to head for the Mont Blanc. After being used to the new glacier walking techniques and climbing instruments, and a well-deserved rest day in Chamonix, we parked our cars in Les Houches a bit west of Chamonix and took a gondola lift and a train to reach the starting point: Nid d’Aigle at 2482m. After all the work-outs, it was a pretty easy walk to the Refuge de Tête Rousse at 3167m. It’s a hut just down of the infamous and possibly incredibly dangerous crossing of the Grand Couloir. The views from the refuge were extraordinary. We rested most of what was left of the day in bed to prepare our minds and bodies for the Big Day! When traversing the Grand Couloir the next day, we received real evidence of falling rock and ice. It either passed us by inches or hit some of us. Don’t think about it too much! After surviving the most threatening part, we climbed to the Refuge du Goûter at 3835m. The climbing was done with all four limbs, we wished we had more and longer ones. I was so dead when reaching this place! I wished I could recover for hours with whatever drugs would be available up there. But no, a short break was all we got. Completely exhausted at a time normally suitable for breakfast, I still had to go up another kilometer straight to heaven! For most of us, from that point or a bit later, it all came down to just our mental capabilities. It was not about training anymore, or gaining muscles, or fancy diets, or whatever you’d have done back home. It was mostly the mind which was in charge the rest of the ascend. Our guides told us to enjoy and to look around whilst working our ass off, but enjoying yourself at that moment is so difficult. You don’t believe anymore you will come across the summit this day, or ever in your entire life… But, you go on! Honestly, I cannot tell you why. Actually, it’s pretty dum. A work-out of more than eleven hours during free time, just to reach the top of a stupid hill. At one point, I was getting so close, I even started to be aware I was going to make it. I saw the summit (at least this time the real one…). I felt the energy flowing back into my system. And most importantly, I was enjoying myself. I made it. We all did it. Standing there and seeing all these big rocks around you from the top was so amazing. Unimaginable!
We took the same way back and slept another night at the Refuge de Tête Rousse. The next day early in the morning, we came back to our basecamp in Chamonix. Finally a shower (with running water) and clean clothes. We had dinner altogether and started celebrating our experiences with great stories, of which some of them will be memories for life! In the end, we could not answer the question why we actually did it. Some of us detested the day of the enrollment for this trip, as it was so heavy. Anyhow, we all made personal history. We also drunk beer and wine in decent healthy amounts. And then we discussed ‘What’s next?’, even with the unanswered question of why we signed up for this one, still in our heads. Someone suggested to run a marathon rather untrained and as a reward if finishing the first one, we do another one but trained… Some of us have already subscribed to the coming marathon of Amsterdam. Please, where’s the wake-up call!?!?
I left my hometown three weeks ago. I had this unfulfilled dream to get Ultimate High by cycling to a mountain and ascend it. It’s done now. I added big memories to my brainy collection. Great stories to tell! Hundreds of funny and fabulous pics of climbing comrades and unbelievable landscapes! But it all started with me reading about this Swedish adventurer, Göran Kropp, who climbed dozens of mountains around the world and cycled to Mount Everest, just to climb that one too. Crazy guy with a great zest for life!
Two weeks were spent in the white French Alps when time changed from 2013 to 2014. This change of year was spent with friends, all adoring sports and a sheer load of fresh air! Les Deux Alpes saw our snowboards on- and off-pistes. What a great material snow can be! We had our camp based in the smallest apartment ever to be found in this mountain village. Cosy but smelly as only guys were around! The first couple of days, a blue sky accompanied us finding the best off-piste trip we could dream of. Extraordinary feelings came to us when cutting these virgin snow fields with our own tracks! It made decent memory! Few homemade movies were compiled showing grown-up kids having fun in the outdoors! You can find the videos on my Facebook page. Mesmerizing beauty!
After being exhausted in the grand Parc National des Écrins (Les Deux Alpes), the mountain range of Belledone was next! Snowshoe walking and again a bit of snowboarding were on the agenda. The ‘Espace Nordique du Barioz’ was extensively flattened by three enthusiastic female mountain goats (two of them you can find below!) and me. Starting the journey at the Refuge du Crêt du Poulet, close to Allevard, a circle was made with majestic views on the Belledone and the Chartreuse. Highly enjoyable for the eyes!