Category Archives: paragliding

Antoine Montant Dies in BASE Jumping Accident

Sadly, it’s been confirmed that Antoine Montant has died as the result of an apparent wingsuit flying accident. His body was found in the Collet d’Anterne area in Haute Savoie with his unopened parachute still inside the container. An article on JustAcro.com reports:

“Sunday morning at 5 am. Antoine’s girlfriend called attention on Facebook that he is missing since saturday afternoon after he went for a BASE jump in the area of Collet d’Anterne in Haute Savoie, France. Just a few hours later many people such as friends, mountain guides, paragliders, base jumpers got together for the search of Antoine. In the afternoon the terrible news hit the scene, that they found him dead in the mountains.”

Antoine was an accomplished extreme skier, one of the world’s best acro paragliders, multiple speed riding champion, and BASE jumper. Read more about Antoine on RedBull.com.

Among his many extraordinary exploits were the first speed flying descent of the Eiger and the original speed riding cable grind on the old Chamonix lift station. Antoine was 30 years old.

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xi85x1
Portrait Antoine Montant par AMontant

Condolences are being left on Antoine’s Facebook page. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Blessed are the dead

For they have been given wings to fly.

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Xavier de Le Rue, Andreas Fransson vs Aiguille du Plan, Face Nord

North Face, Aiguille du Plan, Xavier de Le Rue, Andreas Fransson

Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

“When I came off that last rappel, I didn’t kiss the ground, but I felt like it.” –Xavier de Le Rue, when asked about the best part of the route.

It’s one of those unusually perfect days when Mother Nature decides to loosen up the ol’ apron strings and treat the kids to warm temps, fresh snow, light wind and clear blue sky. Yep, stunner of a day and if you happened to be on the Vallée Blanche on the afternoon of 5 May it was impossible to look around and not see big lines being fired: The Ordinary Skiers on the Face Nord of the Tour Ronde and the Finnish Mafia in the Couloir du Diable, to name a couple.

North Face Aiguille du Plan Xavier de Le Rue Andreas FranssonOver on the north side of the Mont Blanc range, the sun worshippers in the Chamonix valley didn’t even need to take off their flip flops to bear witness to cutting edge freeriding. From the comfort of a well-positioned lawnchair one could kick back with a celebratory Cinco de Mayo margarita and see two big-mountain chargers making their way methodically through the junk show of hanging glacier and steep granite that comprise the north face of the Aiguille du Plan.

Face Nord, Aiguille du Plan. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

11:45 Xavier and Andreas complete the Midi-Plan Traverse and settle in to wait for the chopper carrying photo/video pros Tero Repo and Guido Perrini. [Bjahne Salén will also have amazing footage from his angle on high ground]. Despite the blazing sun, here at 3600m the temperature is -10˚C. Shivering in the cold makes it difficult to relax as they study the 2600m face below them. Andreas writes in his blog

“The north face of Aiguille du Plan is not really a ski, it’s more of a mind game where problem solving and keeping one’s cool is much more important than the actual skiing. I had already skied the face two years ago with Tobias Granath and that was probably the first descent in 15 years. This year it’s already had two successful descents. Last time I told myself I was not going to do the face again…”

Xavier de Le Rue. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

12:40 The heli arrives and Xavier drops in to the 40-45˚ snowfield. Within seconds he has a solid understanding of the snow beneath his board and rips five fast powder turns straight down the falline. Andreas traverses skier’s left and follows suit. The snow looks amazing, perfect. It’s an outstanding start – 200 meters down, 300 to go.

12:51 The boys have taken shelter in the shadow of a small serac where they can get a better look at the face below and evaluate their next move. The falline drops straight over several massive seracs before cliffing out to 300m of cold, clear air to granite. A snow ramp angles rider’s right to a corner that’s threatened from above by a 20m serac. From our viewpoint it looks like there may be a thin line of snow on the wall skier’s right and then a rappel to the next snowfield. Between the riders and the corner is a big fracture line. With three crowns.

“I was a bit nervous when the heli showed up because it was like, game on, but I had a really good feeling. There was no wind, perfect sunny day, the snow looked healthy and we just charged these magical turns, just this incredible stuff at the top. It’s funny because it didn’t really feel like we were hanging over the middle of nothing. But then, as soon as we got into exposure, there with this big crown in front of us that had just broken. It showed there was a lot of fresh snow ready to slide.” -Xavier de Le Rue

13:05 Andreas drops in, skis to the corner, then hangs left and disappears into a crack in the wall of the 60m overhanging serac. His head appears over the edge of the ice. He stops moving and we assume he’s drilling a V-thread in the serac to put Xavier on belay.

13:20 Xavier follows, joins Andreas at the belay. The crack in the wall continues for another 10 meters before emerging onto blue water ice.

Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport

13:40 Andreas rappels and rigs an anchor in solid blue ice. From here it’s difficult to see impossible to see how Xavier is going to follow without a top rope. Then again, that’s why Xavier is up there and the rest of us are watching from the golf course.

13:50 With his ice axe out, Xavier slips in and joins Andreas at the belay. Seeing how they make it past the ice will be another highlight in the TimeLine and Standard Films videos when they come out in September. Or ChamonixInsider.com if I can find a way to break into the vault where Guido stashes his hard drives…

Xavier: middle of the screen, in the shadow just near the sun where the granite wall meets the snowfield. Andreas: further right, directly beneath the 60m overhanging serac.

Xavier: middle of the screen, in the shadow just near the sun where the granite wall meets the snowfield. Andreas: further right, directly beneath the 60m overhanging serac. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

13:55 At an angle of 50˚+ the riders are now at one of the steepest parts of the route. Xavier traverses skier’s right towards the edge of the glacier where it meets the wall. Due to the massive serac threatening the route between their belay and the wall, moving quickly through this section is a clear priority. Xavier inches out slowly and to everyone watching, the worst case scenario becomes painfully clear: the snow here is total junk. Andreas later explained, “I couldn’t find the base with my ski pole, it was completely hollow. There was no base.”

14:00 Xavier makes it to the wall and sets a belay. Andreas, skiing delicately, joins him. The snowfield traverses left and down across a snowy shoulder, dips (if you were ski basing, this is where you’d want to point it), then crosses a snow spine, dipping further left to a rocky ridge that separates them from a rock cliff with an east aspect leading down to a snowy football field. Some of this section is protected by towers in the wall above.

14:15 A rider leads out and glides smoothly, confidently, over to the steep spine and links solid, controlled turns down the crest of the spine. The next rider does the same, skis out right to the rocky shoulder and out of sight to set a belay. Fully committed, fully controlled. I’m blown away by what I’m seeing.

Andreas crests the rocky ridge towards the east aspect as Xavier traverses. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDP Freesports.

14:26 Due to the east aspect we are unable to get a clear view of how they make it down the cliff to the snowy football field below. Andreas’s blog mentions a ‘hidden couloir … with great snow.’ They traverse right to an apparent belay high and skier’s right to steep turns down to the football field. The boys are far from being finished but they’re past the difficult skiing and the crew gathered in the Flégère parking lot breathe a huge sigh of relief. The only thing between the riders and a veggie burger is 150 meters of rappels down blank, compact slabs.

Xavier and Andreas opt to descend via the slabs on the right bank of the glacier. they traverse over and find Andreas’s anchor from two years before.He replaces the webbing and the rappelling starts. Protection is extremely difficult to find in the compact granite. On the second rappel, Andreas raps to within five feet of the end of their 60-meter ropes before finding a crack that would take two #7 stoppers.

“Yes, they were in the same crack, but that’s all there was and I backed it up with a half-good knifeblade. Still, there’s two big boys with ski equipment hanging from this belay and well … it was pretty intense.” -Andreas Fransson

16:30 The guys are kicking back with a coke and a smile at the buvette at the mid-station. In four hours of steep skiing on a variety of snow and heavily-exposed terrain the team had made a balls-out descent of the north face of the Plan de l’Aiguille in fine style.

Andreas Fransson, Xavier de Le Rue, face nord, Aiguille du Plan (3673m).

Andreas Fransson, Xavier de Le Rue, face nord, Aiguille du Plan (3673m), 5 May 2011. Photo: Mike Weyerhaeuser / JDPfreesport.com

In Mont Blanc et Aiguilles Rouges à ski, Anselme Baud rates the route TD+ / 45-55˚/500m (passages of 55˚). Laurent Giacometti and Jean-Marc Boivin were the first to ski it in 1977. Some may think that yet another descent hardly makes this ‘cutting edge.’ In fact, by calling it that, the thing to which I’d like to draw your attention is the outstanding style with which the two rode a heavy, heavy line. If there’s any criticism that can be leveled at the two it’s that they hung it pretty far out there. Yes, they did. They charged this beast with both barrels blazing and they stuck it. Full respect.

Kai Palkeinin, Chamonix Freeride Center, Andreas Fransson

Chamonix Freeride Center's Kai Palkeinen and a much more relaxed Andreas Fransson following the post-Plan, pre-AK repair.

“Taking my boots off in the parking lot I discovered something that explained the bad feeling I had at the top. Just before I took off I double-checked my boots and bindings like always, but this time there was a small gap under the left heel allowing me to lift the boot up and down 1 cm in the binding. I thought the binding was just getting old or something but taking the boots off I realised the boot was broken and the metal piece on the heel was gone. Skiing was fine without it as long as I stayed on the middle of my foot…” -Andreas Fransson, from his blog report.

“I drilled out the old screw, used a secondary Low Tech piece, put a bigger screw in, bit of Araldite. It’s 110% now.” -Kai Palkeinen, Chamonix Freeride Center, post-Plan, pre-AK.

“I think this is the first time it has taken me four hours to get down a mountain – normally it takes me 20 seconds. It was one helluva run. Done. Probably never again.” -Xavier de Le Rue.

5 May 2011 - The light shines on Andreas Fransson and Xavier de Le Rue

“The best part of the route was getting back to the lift station. This is not a run you do for fun because there is so much objective danger. It’s not like you go there to enjoy yourself.” – Andreas Fransson

Xavier de Le Rue, Nissan Juke, Chamonix

Everybody go out now and buy a slick new Nissan Juke just like Xavier's so they will continue their generous support of these kinds of shenanigans.

Check out these high-res images and loads more over at http://www.JDPfreesports.com. Photo mashup: ChamonixInsider vs Alex di Suvero.

School of Tongue: It’s Very Healthy Asking Questions by kzxc

Photo: Mic Devor / loopgraphic.com

Editor’s note: Received this contribution back in early autumn, been meaning to get it posted ever since. Man, where does the time go? English is the author’s second language. In order to conserve the original prose I have intentionally refrained from a heavy edit.

It’s Very Healthy Asking Questions

by kzxc.

Summer is taking its last warm breaths. Maybe the receding glaciers around us can get a break from their unstoppable retreat. Some went high and far, some went low and some are gone.

I’d like to think that we didn’t lose ourselves but that we gave ourselves away to the summer activities that we seek so much.

Seek and destroy, leave it in peace, let it go and pave a road behind you that the less fortunate can travel if their desire is to follow. Did you leave any rubbish behind or only sweet crumbles for others to taste and enjoy?

Make a track so gentle that others can feel the sensation of pioneering. Why would you have to do it in another way?! If your preference is to awake the crowds and get your 15 minutes of fame please become a footballer or a TV face.

If your goal is to become money rich, don’t worry. There’s enough out there that anyone could become a millionaire. There ain’t nothing there to stop you. It’s easy and it’s common, so all you got to do is to pick up the instructions that you can gather along the way.

It’s nice to be simple. It makes life easy. Life rolls on in the commuter lane. Time is at hand. You can almost control it.

Be rude, be nude, be prude you can even be glued to your 52″ HDV TV set. Roll a stone over and make some questions, keep it rolling and ask even more.

It’s very healthy asking questions. The answers might not be the ones of a microbiochemist professor’s latest cure for brain cancer but only a napkin to weep your runny red autumn nose with. Still quite satisfying.

Questions could be left unanswered. If this leaves a black hole in your soul don’t try to stop that stone. Let it roll and no moss will ever grow green on it again. It will stay young in its mind, ready to shoot another question at something that is bothering.

In the elements of the nature humans will always be exposed, so is nature to itself too. Not much growth can be found on the stones high above.

Unanswered questions can be revealed by the force of the challenge the elements have given us. They can disappear, diminish or be dissolved by a more concrete mind, focused on minimizing any forthcoming accidents.

When an accident becomes present and instant new questions occur. Those questions must be braced though answers might be hard to find.

Then again, it’s time to let the stone roll.

Photo: Paul Lang

It’s Very Healthy Asking Questions by kzxc is the first in a three-part series for School of Tongue.

Flight of the Felix

Felix Rodriguez

Felix Rodriguez

So I’m walking home from checking out the new Burton gear that just dropped at Zero G and I look  in the air and see a parapente overhead doing these crazy infinity loops over and over and over again. When they eventually ended it was straight into helicopter spins: first clockwise, abrupt stop, and then counterclockwise. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Now let it be known that I live in a place where there are days when you can look to the skies and see 30 wings in the air. And that’s a conservative estimate. What I’m saying is that although I’m a total novice when it comes to flying I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s extraordinary when I see it. And this guy was truly impressionant. So like the ace reporter that I am, I decide to hop on the Nouveau Style (Steam Punk had a flat) and mosey on over to the landing field to find out more about what this guy’s all about.

Turns out Felix Rodriguez is originally from a village in Spain between Alicante and Madrid and has been flying for 20 years. Needless to say, the guy’s witnessed the wild progression of the sport firsthand and has the medals to prove it. He’s been living in Chamonix for the past two years with his fine young son Horacio and his lovely lady Charlotte, an amazing pilot in her own right (stay glued to these pages for a future post on her).

Anyway, I ended up catching him on video the next day and mashed it up with a slammin guitar rock band  from Austin. Do not go a step further without plugging this into the big speakers and crankin it to 11.

Amazing or what? Wonder what it looks like from his perspective? Check out the lid-spinning felix-cam in this one …

No question about it, it’s a different breed of human that goes out and does that for fun every day. Big smile, a leg of Spanish jambon and a sharp knife, the smile of a young boy with his father and mother and her mother and peanut butter and nutella and a big black dog and friends with big smiles and warm energy.

Search Felix Rodriguez on Vimeo to see more.

“Live, live, live, live. Live while I can, yeah.”

Horacio and Felix

Horacio and Felix

Off Belay

Well, I got so much response from the last Chamonix accident report that I’ve decided to post another to hold us over until either Martial calls me back to fill me in on the Cervin or we get a better picture of the forecast which will determine whether I cover the Ultra Trail or go climbing in the next few days. Come on, sun!

Brrrr...

Brrrr...

Tasting the Void

Thursday, 20 August – A 35-year-old man from Bordeaux missed the last lift down from the top of the Grands Montets and, as you do when confronted with hazardous terrain and approaching nightfall, decided to walk down the glacier. Alone. Unsurprisingly the intrepid adventurer fell into a crevasse and broke his leg while descending. Astonishingly, he survived the night in the crevasse and was able to extricate himself on his own. He was spotted the next morning near the 4th pylon by a GM lifty who called PGHM who escorted him the rest of the way down.

Wings Over White

Wednesday, 19 August – For the first time since the epic summer of 2003, paragliders landed on the summit of Mont Blanc (4810m). After taking off at 13:52 Denis Cortella and Max Jeanpierre took one-and-a-half hours to fly from Planpraz to the summit of Mont Blanc. Although some were claiming this amazing feat to be a new record for summitting MB without mechanical means this seems to be a case of comparing apples to oranges when compared to the guy who took four hours to run from the centre ville to the top. I mean, we’re not 100% sure but we’re guessing the pilots used the lift – yeah, the big mechanical one – to get up to Planpraz at 2000m, right?

Anyway, congrats to the 11 paragliders who touched down on the summit. The crew included what I’ve been led to believe is the first tandem pilot Olivier Laugero as well as the first female pilot, former world-ranked pilot and Chamonix tandem instructor Caroline Brille, to paraglide to the summit.

The video I saw from this feat is pretty dull so instead of that here’s a great bit o’ footy of Steve Waining early August 2003, his first year flying, flipping out as he sails over the Dru. For those who wonder about the whole parapente thing, Steve-o’s voice pretty much says it all.


Accidental Tourists

Guy Martin-Ravel

photo: Guy Martin-Ravel

Wednesday, 19 August – Busy season for the PGHM as they began the day by rescuing a victim of acute mountain sickness at the Col des Dômes. Around 17:00, they assisted an apparent heart attack victim at the ice cave on the Mer de Glace (and cruelly ignored my own heart palpitations as I raced across the glacier to barely catch the last Montenvers train down). The boys in blue rounded out the day by evacuating two exhausted hikers, one older than 80, from the trail between Brévent and Flégère.

Japanese Death Rappel

Monday, 17 August – A 59-year-old Japanese man, accompanied by a guide from the Compagnie de Chamonix, died while rappelling from Point Gaspard in the Aiguilles Rouges. Initial reports indicate the guide had already descended when the client fell and early speculation is centered around the client’s daisy chain. To learn more about the dangers of daisy chains, check out this vid. Or just bring up the subject with Stian. Believe me, you’ll get an earful.

Guide Down

Sunday, 16 August – Alberto Noraz, a 53-year-old Courmayeur guide and member of the Val d’Aoste mountain rescue team, was killed on the Bernezat Spur of the Tour Ronde. Reports indicate he fell 200m as a result of ‘rupture du becquet rocheux’ (broken hold?). His Italian client received minor rope burns but was otherwise uninjured. Our sympathies go to the Noraz family.

Butts Afire

FireSunday, 16 August – A fire broke out beneath the 10th and 11th pylons of the Brévent–Planpraz gondola at around 11:15. Firemen originally planned to rappel from the gondolas but changed their minds when confronted by the wind-driven flames and toxic fumes. Plan B? Call Pascal Brun of CMBH and ask him to bring his extraordinarily large, 900-liter bucket. 38 trips were needed to dump 34 cubic meters of Lake Champraz water, extinguishing the flames in 13 hours. Four fire trucks from Chamonix, Saint-Gervais, Sallanches and Cluses were also used to secure the area and thoroughly extinguish the fire.

Many tourists who found themselves stuck at the mid-station simply walked down while around 200 others, who were unable or uninterested in walking, were evacuated by 4×4.

Firefighters believe the wildfire was started by a cigarette butt. Or a cigarette arse, as the case may be.

No Picnic at the Dining Room

Week of 10-16 August – A group of aspirant guides were on a training exercise to Dent du Geant with instructors and clients

Dent du Géant

Dent du Géant

when disaster struck. One of the aspirants was moving with his client across the ‘dining room’, the snowy mixed saddle that accesses the Geant, when a loose block caused him to fall pulling his protection and his client with him. The aspirant fell about 50 meters when, despite a fractured wrist, he was able to arrest his fall and that of the client who was suspended in air after falling over a rock wall. The 29-year-old Chambery woman suffered a fractured sternum and several fractured ribs. The ENSA professor overseeing the group called a rescue, which due to their location, was answered by the Italian rescue service who took two-and-a-half hours to make it to the scene of the accident.

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X-treme Armchair Adventuring

Picture11Wanna surf monster waves in Africa? Kayak extreme rivers? Speed fly from the summit of Aconcagua? Yeah, I do too but it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. So why not give the next best thing a shot and check out the best in this year’s adventure films at the first annual Adventure Film Chamonix. The event – July 15 & 16 from 19:00–22:30 at Le Majestic – will feature independent films showcasing each of these adventures and more.

Adventure Film Chamonix is an international stage for independent adventure film makers whose works embrace the roots of human experience, the power of emotion and story, and the importance of maintaining an environmentally conscious outlook. Each year an international selection committee handpicks the new lineup from over 200 submissions to present the best in films about risk, the unknown, and those experiences that will bring us to the edge of our seats with our hands over our eyes and our fists in the air.

This year’s films include:

Wednesday:

Lift – extreme paragliding. 28 min.

Seasons – the latest in mtn biking from The Collective. (60 min.)

Andy Parkin: A Life in Adaptation – ’nuff said. (28 min)

Fridays at the Farmorganic farming. (19 min)

Get Up Stand Up – surfing, kayaking, water sports (5 min)

Thursday:

Sourcewhitewater kayaking. (60 min)

Sliding Liberia – surfing (48 min)

The Sharp End – climbing (60 min)

Aconcagua Speed Flying – holy smokes! (6 min)

Running Down the Man – fly fishing (15 min)

Adventure Film Chamonix Tickets are €10/day or €15 for both days and will be available in advance. Food and drinks available during the show with after parties at MBC on Wednesday and Le Vert on Thrusday. Check www.AdventureFilm.org to learn more.

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