Season 2016/17 is officially the worst since i arrived in chamonix in 2005. People do ski and have fun but i would need the same inspiration than when I ski in August or July. It isn’t there so i work. My seasonal job this year is transfer driver. It translate into probably 30 000 Km since i started. I like it, i like the road. It unfurl the mind with its load of oddity and glitches. Like a Lynch movie. It is a good recipe to clear the brain up. or at least for me . Everything seems to make sense. almost.
no damn snow so i beheaded a donkey.
It is currently very dry in chamonix and the Alps in general. Although the high mountains are skiable, anything under 2500M is grass. It is of course not necessarily due to the global warming trend but if you add it to the arctic being 20c warmer than it should be.Over 61 millions americans voted trump and believe global warming is a chinese hoax-we should keep drilling everywhere-keep using as much fossil fuel as possible and fuck the research for better energy sources. This is worrisome . Meanwhile in chamonix , we breath the most polluted air in France, we have no snow in december. Oh well!
This past 20 days i haven’t skied at all but the conditions were all time and i watched the history of steep skiing unfold …it was very entertaining. The cult of self providing 3 min bad video footages and mostly bad pictures of everyone’s steep descents all over the social medias. While it was all bad quality it was showing a nice view of the steep skiing phenomena …I was baffled by the amount of good alpinists and skiers tackling 5.4 and 5.5 runs all over the mont blanc massif. I lived in chamonix for 10 years , not an alpinist, it took me 4 years before i could get on the north faces of the midi or runs on the argentiere basin north faces. I never heard of anyone skiing the north faces of the midi or the col de la verte within my first 4 years. Today with the new gear technology, every alpinists can ski and every skier is better. It takes less than a season learning skiing for an alpinist to tackle a 5.4 run which on an alpinist point of view is just a easy descent they usually run down on crampons. I saw young skiers skiing the mallory on their first season in chamonix (with a friend alpinist or guide) . So, anytime things are good (global warming helping), people line up on every run. This past 20 days was the biggest so far with every ski runs in the argentiere basin north face skied by minimum 10 people, sometime 20 people or more , the aiguille du plan north faces , pain de sucre, frendo, all the runs on the aiguille du midi skied by many. Most with huge G.S turns at mack2. Amazing. If, people were less competitive, less self centered, the medias/industry more unifying, interested and honest, the best ski movie of all time could have been made this steep season including rock star pros as well as struggling sponsored dirt bags and all the other passionate freaks. Instead, we will hear about some privileged prefabricated super hero athletes skiing whatever something in the alps or exotic location in a fabricated story with all sort of superlatives and logos claiming first decent of a 30 meters variations … I randomly stumbled on the descent of the Nant blanc by Alex Pittin, tony Lamiche and Hélias Millerioux. The nant blanc face is the most impressive, intimidating , steep and exposed face visible from the valley. The climbing is a D+ the skiing a 5.5. It was first skied by J.M Boivin in june 1989, repeated on snowboard by Marco Siffredi in june 1999. repeated again by Pierre Tardivel and Stephane Brosse in june 2009 and then by 2 of the T-crew and more (?). This mid April, Pittin (ex world cup skier) with tony Lamiche (guide, 9A rock climber , alpinist, skier) and Hélias Millerioux (guide, top alpinist, hangs out on Nupse with colin haley and ueli steck) were the first on this face, arguably the most beautiful face visible from the valley. I enjoyed the descent with Alex pittin’s father who was a little stressed and I took some photos. It was very nice. A very clean descent from first bin grand montet on sight. I’ve never been interested in skiing that face myself. I would need an alpinist for partner on that one. But you never know, 5 years from now, that face might get good from january on, until then , this face will get skied a lot more in the next month or so…
This is the argentiere basin north faces , All those approximate red lines show the ski runs, in the past 20 days , each one of those receive between 10 to 30 skiers.
this is the top of the aiguille verte, on the top left you can see 3 skiers going up. they skied down the couturier (i saw 9 skiers that day going that way). on the right of the calotte, you can see helias millerious,tony lamiche, alex pittin getting involved in the Nant blanc face.
this is Alex father watching the descent a little stressed.
Dusan benes on the entreve
a wing suiter off brevent
Black crows ski entertainment apres ski party at grand monte
I also had a memorable christmas celebration night with amazing friends— ending at 12 noon the next day…
and then the epic new years 3 days party marathon at Berghain club in Berlin
Back when i was introduced to freeriding , it was all a punk rock-death metal-greg stump-blizzard of ahh’s ode to hedonism sung by all sort of interesting human-characters-mutant-animals. Today, the “incorporated” idea of alpinism sort of took over (ruined it all), trading the emotionally heretic disordered poetic expression for the technical cold ultra light gear-carbon-time A to B-how many verts/day -angles/airbag and whowhat blah blah- orderly talk , mostly conservative boy scouts on a very expensive pee contest in an exotic location…boring. SO, I miss the wilderness…where is Greg Stump? take me back to the zoo !. I haven’t been to a hedonist party with a proper sound system, fascinating freaks and tribal tekno since november moontribe 2011. The idea of being in a dark room in the middle of a 4 corners Funktion-one stacks of bass and the legendary industrial dark and dirty tekno berghain is known for, makes me horny. seriously. i would trade a night with Charlize Theron-johnny depp for a night at Berghain. Berghain’s door policy is almost as famous as its A-list roster of DJs. The club’s main bouncer, Sven Marquardt <-link to brilliant sven photography, a bearish East German photographer with a face covered in barbed-wire tattoos, is a celebrity in Germany and referred to in newspaper headlines as “the lord of the night.” resisting gentrification is awesome but I am not into that 2 hours line to -maybe- not get in -thing….
My old time socal-desert party debauchery friend Francis kirigin -HERO_ who is currently working on a phd in computational biology in Berlin told me she could get me on Alessandro Cortini (Nine Inch Nails music designer playing berghain as SONOIO for NYE ) guest list. I booked my ticket in the next minute.
I knew i was gonna get good sound and good tekno in a dark room. I was not expecting the full religious experience i got. i was immersed in a concrete nave of darkness, brutal techno holds you by the throat , parties tangles over several days .
In the past two decades, the city’s tradition of sexual permissiveness, lax drug policing and left-wing, anarchist politics blended together to create the most sexually adventurous, unconventional party scene in Europe.The city’s historical poverty meant high unemployment and large numbers of people with no reason to wake up early on Monday, fueling the appetite for marathon-length parties and a dislike of closing times. “It’s a fuck-off to the rigid capitalist version of time that is enforced in any other city in the world , They’re truly saying that money is of secondary importance, that it’s the experience that matters.”
This stands in contrast to the big-business barcelona /ibiza/vegas/miami EDM scene and events, which have introduced a new generation of young (or not) people to electronic music, albeit without the sense of danger and edginess that characterized the rave scene of the Nineties.
By contrast, Berlin is scrappy, grimy and chaotic. Cover charges and drinks are still cheap, the venues look run-down and authentic, and you’re less likely to see a celebrity than you are two people fucking at the bar. For people hungry for a taste of underground tekno culture, the lure of this seemingly unspoiled scene can be hard to resist. “There’s the legend of Berghain,” DJ Harvey says. “It’s a cross between The Lord of the Rings and the Stonewall Riots, and then there’s the stories about the guy who turns up with frozen shit and uses it as a dildo.”
the club is located in a former power plant near the Berlin Ostbahnhof railway station. The building is distinguished by its enormous dimensions, and accommodates an 18-meter high ceiling dance floor The interior’s minimalist design is dominated by steel and concrete.
The construction is similar to that of a cathedral of the Middle Ages
There’s something almost spiritual about the atmosphere.
The club contains a “cavernous” main room, as well as a smaller upstairs space called the “Panorama Bar”, which is decorated with large-scale Wolfgang Tillmans photographs
the décor is spare, the walls are mostly empty. the slightly less Dante’s Inferno-esque upstairs space, makes use of cages that formerly housed electrical equipment.
It has the look and feel of an abandoned building.The building is so large and maze-like, you can discover new stairways and rooms even after spending a few days in the club.
first absorbed in the cloakroom ,a huge room where stands a huge mural of Polish artist Piotr Nathan called “Rituals disappearance “.
On top of the grand iron staircase to the dancefloor , i was struck by the onslaught of tekno escaping the huge function speakers as by the beauty of the place: in its 18 meter ceiling , the club of the cathedral-style concrete, in which throng around 3000 clubbers every weekend . Shrouded by darkness , there is a choice between melt into the sweaty body waves rippling on the dancefloor Berghain tekno or join the Panorama Bar, mostly playing tek-house.
Photography is strictly forbidden inside Berghain, and no mirrors or reflecting surfaces can be found anywhere in the club.As many leathermen chaps strutting in the aisles of the club as hipsters chewing imaginary gum , kissing couples in the corners, ravers licking on ice creams , girls sprawled on swings, dready Erasmus students stuck closer to the speaker, and even at certain times, old coked up bankers at the bar.
Everything happening at berghain stays at berghain “. This tacit rule let you flow into the party without fear of tomorrow, the absolute prohibition of taking pictures and no mirrors inside the club is the promise of an enclave cut off from the outside world and its standards. .In the shallows of the building is home to a third club : the Lab.Oratory, a maze of narrow rooms reserved for men. Lab.Oratory, is known as Berlin’s most extreme sex club. The club hosts regular nights called “Yellow Facts,” ” Sewer System” faustparty ….
Anyway…i had a blast. A real routine breaker, an absolute trip challanging my daily normalcy….the only pictures i have are the one of Fran taken fast on the 2nd while going to catch my train and plane after I exit the club where i was since the 31st…very standard almost dull pictures in contrast with the Lynch-Felliniesque place i was in for 35 hours. but this is why i like them……
worth noting: Sven, the door curator at berghain is a brilliant photographer. You can see his work and maybe a little of berghain…http://marquardtfotografie.com/galerie/
I lost my North
In the past week i finally plunged into instagram. I always thought it was too hip/a poor support for images. I am fine in the underground. Damnit. The past months tragic events left a bitter taste . Well. Skiing. . .that bitch. 3 years ago i was officially labeled ced ” the photographer” . in cham that is. Since then i watched friends go down for ever, survived one accident , lost 7 good friends. I made some of the most beautiful powder turns ever, went heliskiing and travelled in a few ski paradise, scored a few timeless beautiful shots. .. Skiing bitter sweet. Cabanilla, Fransson , Daley, Rosenbarger were my first and only door into the “paid photographer” zone . Per say. i am not skiing these days. Absolutely unmotivated, working night shift , sketchy conditions, uninspired. i am using instagram as an exuse to rewiew my old photos and maybe sooth that heavy bitterness. Search and rescue that motivation and go ski. Because skiing is beautiful. Or at least it is photogenic. Most of my bomber shots are of dave rosenbarger which sums up perfectly who he was to me in my 10 years skiing chamonix. He was one of my engine. All i had to do was enjoy apres ski with him and he would tell me about the 5 runs he just skied , the conditions . I had my plans for the next 5 days wether with him or following his path. A true inspiration. Andreas Fransson was the turbo, he would come back from huge heavy and rarely skied runs and tell me in his strong swedish accent” it is a beautiful run, i highly recommend it, you must go tomorrow. ” and there i was on the top of my game, at the limit of what i thought i could ski , gutted. All the runs of my life. Dave and andreas influenced my skiing 1009%. Loosing those 2 feels like i lost my North. I am desoriented. The end of an era. Chamonix goes thru eras. The boivin era, the Siffredi era and for me there is definitLy the fransson/ rosenbarger era. I dont know what is coming next. I shall see. Find the north again? I miss those 2. Happy b day Mr Rosenbarger…
I first met Dave 10 years ago, he was in turn fast talking dave or dave the brave depending on the days. We connected after we randomly -surprisingly stumbled on each other on the streets of the black rock city in 2007 (*maybe) . We had that in common. Dave was really strict on whom he was skiing with and at the beginning i probably did not fit his standard. We were not skiing together. I would just hear or see the stories of his impressive everyday skiing.. He was out every day, tagging big heavy lines every other days . His nose for powder patch was unrivaled . I followed his boot pack many times. He called that bad etiquette. Following boot pack gave me confidence and strenght. I became stronger so later i was skiing with him every now and then . This is how i realized how smooth and stylish of a skier he was no matter what type of slopes he was on. He could ski the steeps and exposed the same way he would ski grand montet. I bought a proper lens camera to document skibuming in the cham valley. His skiing and lifestyle fitted perfectly my vision. I thought he was a good rep for skibuming. His style and comitments deserved stories and covers in magazines. He landed a few sponsors so we spent a season skiing and shooting together. My pictures were not good enough to make it anywhere…Later i got into my share of mountains hell meanwhile Dave surrounded himself with the most bankable photographers friends and well…. pretty much the same day he died he scored an article in powder magazine.
the la Palud lift takes you on the best lift access terrain on the planet. This is why we go there. There is also a nice small family village atmosphere feeling that is completely lost in the industrial disneycham junkfest . This is why we keep on going there.
The marbree is arguably the most beautiful lift accessed run i have skied. It just doesn’t get any better than that if you like freeriding.
Skiing south facing huge powder face is “extremely crazy” by any standard. Many people never go there on powder days. NEVER. I used to not go until i started seeing my friends numerous posts on social medias bragging about the best powder day ever with no crowds around. So i started going feeling i was doing something very crazy . I met with many “not so crazy” regulars there including guides and pros. The “extremely crazy” became just “crazy” . I started going regularly on powder days. You can’t beat the atmosphere and the terrain on the ” italian side” . I could see guided group dropping into the marbree on big days, all kind of people, pros , guides and punters dropping into the exposed Cable runs on huge days or stormy days . Into the entreve. So the “crazy” slowly became “normal” . David loved the marbree . Every thing was normal that day, he took the first lift he could. People skied the run the day before, guided group were ahead of him and guided group were behind him. when he dropped in , he triggered the weak point and the entire face went down on him. Bad luck. Some say it was too late. Maybe so they feel better next time they drop in at 9.30 . No, it is “extremely crazy “ to ski south face powder. period. It is not “normal” . I could stop going there. But in this “instagram-facebook” era we are in , how many posts about the good uncrowded time there from friends-pros and guides is it gonna take me to go back? “another spectacular day in the best terrain of the world with friends and no one around” …1000 times. It is a little like trying to quit heroin whilst doctors are sending you videos on how good it is…
And then again, this type of layers also happens on north facing slopes.
powder Skiing is extremely crazy then. It is not normal. We tend to forget about it in this “dolce cabbana” type advertising ski universe we are in…
That same black friday, brendan o sullivan died sliding down the north face of tour ronde. I didn’t know him well, i just skied a few good runs with him. His resume of achievement in cham and the world can rival any of the big “pro” guys, he was at the top of our game. His list of lines skied is nothing less but impressive. Yet he was not sponsored and people barely knew who he was. He was a true gentleman, discreet and a real skibum . He always told me he would rather work , buy his own gear than bend over to get gear he didn’t choose and have to lie about it. He would rather work and buy his own trips than have to deal with cameras ,instagram, hashtags . I liked that. One of the most underrated snowboarder around.
it is a sweet delicacy to dive neck deep in fluffy snow after such a dark and heavy period where the French were hit at the very heart of their laic culture of blasphemy and irreverence towards the rich-powerful sacred and not , they were hit deep in the altar giving us corrosive and offensive humour targeting the absurdities of our world. The leftists French laic will remain impertinent and insolent against power , tyranny and intolerance sacred or not …hopefully.
One classic grand montet storm day followed by one classic la palud blue bird day were perfect to forget this absurd world. Powder all the way.
A shameless storm day At Grand Montet
Irreverent face shots
An Offensive day in la Palud, Italy
As skiers we dream when we see those beautiful pictures in Svalbard or Baffin Island. The climate change and global warming is about to change everything about it. From oil rigs to world trade arctic new route is about to destroy all of it faster than we think. Sooner we will look at pictures of skiers skinning up black ice on baffin island with oil rigs as scenics. When we buy stuff made in “slave world” we agree with that status quo . BUY made in “local”
“”It’s not going to be me revoutionizing any new tech for lower emissions or sustainable energy. But I can be mindful of my own impact and do what I can to reduce it when possible and make smart decisions. But as a consumer I don’t know where I am allowed to stand. When I fill up my car and plug in my computer, or buy toxics clothes, I don’t feel like I am part of the solution. Everyone’s some part of the status quo. But that absolutely does not mean we forfeit our agency to change the situation. ”
When we buy stuff made in “slave world” we agree with that status quo .
this is the results of sending our dirty industries and toxic trash in china. because it is far and cheap “the age of stupid” …
BUY made in “local”
Si vous voulez voir la nature belle et vierge comme une fiancée, allez là par un jour de printemps ; si vous voulez calmer les plaies saignantes de votre cœur, revenez-y par les derniers jours de l’automne ; au printemps, l’amour y bat des ailes à plein ciel, en automne on y songe à ceux qui ne sont plus.
Le Lys dans la vallée de Honoré de Balzac
[ Balzac ]
Every autumn i go on a work/meditation retreat off the grid deep in the california woods. it is always a very good time to think and ponder. After a couple of weeks my friend Huevos rushed to me with what he could get from a one bar connection on his phone about a very bad news concerning my friends JP Auclair, Andreas Fransson and Bjarne Sahlen. We couldn’t get more than a random page announcing briefly the confirmed death of Andreas and JP. Frustration was high as we couldn’t get anymore info than that. what happened? Bjarne? what the fuck. A month prior i was at a bbq at Fransson with Bjarne and they talked about their chilean project. There was no immediate plans to get down to connections so i just swallowed the news , deep. From deep , there is a howling of sadness… the tears… The tears have not yet been on the outside. I am around people, and I don’t want to be comforted. They don’t know them . Not letting them out. They might come later, the tears. But for now they stop inside, leaving my eyes glossy. Moments come in my mind, those times spent with fransson at the top of the aiguille du midi waiting for windows, remembering his advises and betas on huge runs then rarely skied, remembering the west face of mont blanc and the eugster i would not have skied had he not told /encourage me “you should go you can do it” .
It is so unfair.
Fransson is known as a punk ass skier for his descent of denali or other “no future” type endeavor. Since he started his guide program and met his girlfriend Ali he was tamed. Cautious. Extremely experienced.Focused on details. safe. more conservative in his choices.
i remember meeting jp 5 years ago in cham during the shoot of “ordinary skier” . He was the most unusual pro skier/park head jibber i met. Not looking the part: discreet, smart, well travelled, intelligent, artsy, well read, creative , humble. I remember him telling me how scared he was of alaska and powder, avalanches. I saw him many times after: cragging in cham , I was there on his first descent of the mallory…Later I waited for him when he skied the frendo with fransson in a white out whilst we skied the eugster that day and we all met at the bottom drinking beer.
he just had a baby.
Later, My friend Huevos said it looks like something happened to a “liz “ as well. We couldn’t get more on the short connection. just someone posted ” bye Liz” on Facebook. I immediately thought of Liz Daley but i knew she wasn’t with Fransson. she is in cham climbing “spliiiitttttters” with her newly fiance and good friend of mine Davide Demasi AKA Diamond. I saw them 20 days ago, at a welcome to cham Liz BBQ.
We all decided to go eat pizza in town. Alleluya, connection. I couldn’t wait any longer. The first post i see is the one from Diamond announcing Liz daley’s death. I couldn’t hold it anymore and bursted in tears for a minute in the rough neck scene i am in. pretty. …fuckin hell.
Liz Daley. really?
This is beyond fucked up.
She was so conservative in her choices , she was so safe. I always enjoyed the contrast with her girly manners in a brutal environment, she was always so pro. I was angry when she told me she had to switch from patagonia to Eddie Bauer because patagonia wouldn’t put her on payroll. Why?. She was so good at advertising , her numerous post on TGR were brilliant LINK, full of life, fun. Her few videos were so lively and funny. She was no Peterson but heck, most of us can identify with doing our toe nails at the base of denali more than G-s-ing massive faces in AK. Anyways.
It doesn’t matter. She is dead now.
I am crushed.
3 good people are gone. Again. it is redundant . too many. The usual “ he died doing what he loved” gets me pissed off. it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Andreas said” there are no good reason to die for but the mountains gives me a reason to live for” Ok, fine. My parents who see the numerous dead people post on Facebook dont understand at all. They are worried. I am confused. It is snowing now in cham . I am not excited . whatever. yes . it is snowing. The only thing that keep me skiing isn’t skiing anymore .per say. It is just the people i meet. Without skiing i would not have met such unique characters like JP, Andreas and Liz. This is about the people, those moments. What i remember most are those times spent with people before and after skiing. the skiing is always good, it is just skiing. I am pissed off at skiing right now. …
In La Kesh
A FEW PICTS
I don’t have pictures of JP but here a video he made whilst skiing the frendo/ eugster. It shows his creativity and what he could do with just some go pro footage. So much richer and elaborate than what you usually see coming from the usual ski hipster- pro-park-freeride-facebook-instagram crowd nowadays …
i build more cairns at the signal every time we loose someone…