Winter 2005, my first year in Chamonix, a complete rookie in anything alpinism-glacier. A classic February storm day lapping the top grand montet staying within the resort. On the last bin to the top, 10 pax max, i see that tall agitated guy wearing a back pack and a harness , talking to the lifty excited about a weather window and how he would be first track down the pas de chèvre . All i know about pas de chèvre is i can see it from my balcony , it looks sick and somehow finishes in Chamonix. I waited and watched him disappear into a sun-setting with fluffy snow flying around. I followed his track to realize he wasn’t going into my balcony view. I felt stupid and worry . i kept following the track until i could see what i was about to ski . The rectiligne. “Jeezing my pants” . Spectacular run all the way to where i met with Luca at the mottet hike . He immediately asked me if i’am a mogul skier because i followed his track . I admitted it is my first time and i have no clue of where i’am . He realized i didn’t have a back pack just free riding , he laughed . A friendship was born.
This is pre internet and smart phone. At that time for low income mountain plébéiens like me and Luca, to progress anywhere in Chamonix, without the red lines on runs all over the internet-go pro and a 1000 post per days , required a sense of adventure , a fair bit of stupidity or ” innocence ” and a huge amount of faith. So that day we both realized we’d be a match . I love his other motto “chi va piano, va sano e va lontano” which is very frown upon within the ski -alpinist-royals and elite scene . He sure was taking this to some annoying extreme at times . But this allowed us in years that follow to have many days bivying in the mountains to achieve climbing or riding goals. This is what our companionship was built on. Laugh-tranquillo-good times . The mountains are not an olympic stadium. We are the leisure class .
We both acquired a lot of experiences playing in the chamonix valley/italian mini golf riding zones and climbing . The climbing was by far the most comical but where I gathered the most knowledge. We were both 5c max so our days spent on aiguille de L’M north face , stuck in a lighting storm on the moine integral or climbing the frendo are some of my fondest memories.
In 2007 I had enough confidence-knowledge and along with other friends we started to tackle the bigger chamonix/alps extreme -steep skiing classic test pieces. Many of the north-east faces of the argentiere basin often sleeping at the top of the grand montet station Luca had the keys for , drinking wine , eating good food and having an amazing time . The couloir du diable. the yager. mont blanc west face . Monviso coolidge, of course still keeping it stupid/epic/faithfull with regularly storm riding the Marbree, cosmique , the eugster and anything in between. This period until 2013 is the most epic unreal intense skiing experience i’ve had . I cherish it .
Meanwhile we also lost some of our ski partners and/or influencers: Felix Hentz , Arne Backstrom, Remy Lecluse, Kip Garre .
In 2012 I invested into bigger camera equipment and Luca started to be seriously sponsored . I very fast was getting attention from brands and magazines and in 2013 I was booked on an heli trip to canada for 2 weeks and then in Haines Alaska where i would be the house photographer for a month , taking industry standards photo of pros and possibly work along sherpa cinema whilst they were finishing their movies “into the mind” shooting in Haines . This was a huge step up. Unfortunately , a cornice broke in Haines after 5 days and took all those projects with it. I lost a friend in the process . And this is where i started to loose my faith.
The years that followed , Luca’s professional snowboard career was launching, he skied Layla peak in Pakistan, big mountains in Peru. The shangri-la in Nepal, some first descents in the alps. I was trying to recover among a cycle of tragic accidents which was taking our friends/ski partners one by one sometime 2 by 2 each year for the next 5 years . I also went thru a couple of close call myself, getting beat up one too many times . The result is I lost my faith entirely but most importantly the trust in myself , in my decision’s and others’s . Including Luca.
Since, we spent those years after a bit frustrated. He kept on calling me for every mission he had or every powder days to go out with him , telling me how good it is and how fun it would be. He never understood how loosing faith and trust (in me and other) could block me from skiing anything fun.
Luca was also a big believer , he believed in fate . Everything is written on stone somewhere in the universe . The day we die is written . This is very symbolic that he died during covid restricting all the freedom he based his lifestyle on. The climate crisis is also making us guilty for any travelling, the series of mediocre winters and of course aging is limiting that freedom too. So. Evidently. If there is one guy who is now one of those free choucas up in the high mountains it is him. Give him some pizza .
For a guy like Luca Pandolfi who started snowboarding at 18 without any alpinist/snowboard royal/elite lineage guiding him , no internet red line , working night shift at the tunnel, to get to the very top professionally, riding the Shangri-la in Nepal with the biggest snowboard legend Jeremy Jones is so impressive . His resume of achievement and fun is epic. No matter how corporate he got , he was still the jester, never bending to the corporate elitism and conservatism. His video riding skyway got 100K at his death. He is happy 😉
The Alps under high pressure, we can’t breath in Chamonix. Skiing can still be fun , sometime finding pockets of ancestral cold powder, some fun days out here and there with good company…
At the top of a powder face , binding broke. Luckily the snowboarder Davide Capozzi comes to the rescue with a spare toe binding in his pocket and a screwdriver . pretty unusual-random. saved the day.
the refuge des grand mulets is one of my favorite refuge. Sitting on a rock at 3000 meters in an ocean of chaos. It is on the original itinerary of Mont blanc summit and now is used mostly by skiers in spring. I may do a trip there this year. most likely.
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.
Back in Chamonix , My friend from San Fransisco was at my flat for another day so i took him down the cosmique back to cham via the junction. The cosmic had been tracked and was OK but the junction was all time …what a beautiful way to come back and a memorable last day for my friend.
next day 10 of us took a heli up the petit mont blanc to ski the super classic bonatti couloir to celebrate our friend lionel hatchemi aka so-connard birthday . A classic day. so-local. next morning was hang over day.
we went with tof henry to try to shoot something nice but it wasn’t in the way we wanted.
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/
9am hellbroner on a mission with Luca Pandolfi , strong wind and cold at 3500M. I am delighted when i see Francois Thevenet and Arthus on their first beer at the bar up top. It is easy for me to call it off and start chillin’ . That is until we see Tof Henri, Seth Morrison and Nate Wallace annihilating the entreve face. Every body/Luca freaks out and in less than 5 mins all my cozy plans of hanging out at the bar by the fire place with cigs the cat and beers vanished. I am now braving the minus 50c (-1) wind and climbing M6 (M0) to get to that face. It is all great, i am dreaming of those big big turns in perfect champagne powder all the way… Well, those top gun riders made it look like perfect champagne snow , the reality was more variable than that and with sharks. SO those big 5 flawless turns turned into 15 maybe…im floating 98 underfoot these days. that is. Good fun. The rest of the descent to the mid station was on refrozen stuff mostly which made the all day seems/feel big…
A lot of good skiing to be had up there. Big and steep or not. We chose not. Wandering.
Back to La Palud , Coffee with luisa and straight into the little tin can. The only skiers are me , ben, francois and Casa…It is still summer on the entire lower part , chamois are happily getting fat and we hope the second half will have enough snow to get a few free ride turns. Not. It is thin , too thin to even try. There is surely 2 or 3 good turns. that is it. We go on a stroll to look at the higher world. It is white and red . Everything. beauty. If you enjoy ice axes, crampons and jump turns…it is your season!
between the rain and the job; Some climbing, biking…
I am working night shift so I am waking up to this everyday…
A little hike, amazing views and great powder. I was testing the movie part of my camera so I didnt get good action shots. Just one frame whilst filming …i am torn sometime between video and pictures…
to any astroman-niac climbers , the aiguilles rouges are just a pile of shiat. It is. However , this is also the best leisurely not committing- sunny side -with a view -sport climbing- alpine-cragg- in the world- that i know of. Also, a lot of the routes out there were open by Piola himself and the rock is at times surprisingly good. This round however, for my 2 days off, i had 2 goals: stay away from the crowd, get confident in placing gear without being scared of falling head first on a sharp flake . i chose to go on the tour des crochue and the aiguille de perseverance. 2 easy routes on nice looking pillars, almost un-equipped (a few 1920 charlet pitons here and there) . The route finding was fun and placing gear in grassy crack pretty entertaining. (does it work really, i dont know , i didnt fall) , but best of all, aside from a couple of chamois and marmottes , we didnt see anyone.
That is all my job and the weather are allowing me to do these days. the patterns are as follow: days off= unsettled weather. work days=sunny and warm. I watched 3 seasons of “breaking bad” which I highly recommend. I drunk a few bottles of red wine. got fat , unfit and lazy. I went on nice short walks-climbs and witnessed radical climbing at the world cup, the chamois habitat, clouds and mountains, dog fight. I also took a co-worker on the cosmic ridge….
A nice morning walk before work. Taking Miguel on his first trip outside the cave.
world cup and dog fight
the spring weather patterns are making the weatherman look like a hysterical junky who took a bunch of acid before writing his forecast. However, we found a window big enough for a kaw-aw-wing crowmonkey, a growling goat, a punkviking a few frenchies some yankees ..later followed by more vikings and one south african.