April 14, 2017

Play, push, reconnect: the mountains are intensely varied

It’s Saturday, and time to bounce out of bed. What’s on today’s program?

? Lacing up your trail shoes for an intense run-and-hike session? Packing your quickdraws to tackle a south face? Or jumping on your mountain bike to go kick up some dust! And why not seize on the news of a late snowfall to schedule a day’s ski touring?

Yes, spring is coming – and bringing some dilemmas with it.

Estelle and Yann have worked out how to resolve the impossible equation. It’s simple: they don’t choose.

Enjoy nature and its beauty, take a full breath of intensity.



I do lots of different sports, although they have to be in the mountains,” says Estelle. She’s a broad-minded person: as long as the action is happening at altitude, there’s a (big) chance she will enjoy it. This native of the Beaufortain region (“the most beautiful mountains in the world”) in the French Alps has a taste for skiing and trail running but also hiking, climbing and, with her boyfriend Antoine, slacklining and its more aerial and extreme version, highlining. The adrenaline will flow! It’s fair to say that if it happens “up there”, there’s a high likelihood that Estelle has tried it.

"For me, the mountains are above all a place to be savored"

"For me, the mountains are above all a place to be savored,” she explains. “I need the intense sensations I get from the mountains. When I ski, you’ll often find me on the runs – partly because I’m an instructor, a job I find very rewarding because I love to pass on what I know. But I increasingly feel the need to escape, far away from the lifts, and experience the mountains in their pure state.

« I need the intense sensations I get from the mountains.»



As for trail running, I enter races occasionally, but I’m not interested in performance for its own sake. I run to find my limits, and because it helps me to reconnect with myself – like yoga, which I enjoy too. Being in the mountains helps me to see more clearly, and to refocus on the person I really want to be. It may sound corny, but being up there helps me to be a better person with other people.



Always going further, to better find yourself.



Talk to Estelle for a while, and you soon realize she doesn’t just do mountain sports, she actually lives the mountains, whether in contemplation or action. She also weeps there, out of joy. “Sometimes, when I look at the mountains, the tears well up. They’re so beautiful, and I feel incredibly fortunate,” she says, with stars in her eyes and in her voice.

Yann, an “all-rounder” from Paris who never passes up a chance to explore the mountains, is convinced that when you love something, you love it unreservedly – and, above all, unselectively. He digs the mountains every which way. And although it was discovering mountain bikes that first drove him onto forest routes and steep single tracks, he now goes trail running and ski touring with the same intensity, whenever he gets a moment’s free time.

Intensity and freedom

Running trails, Yann has found a sport that lets him live the mountains at full throttle while being both alone and in (good) company.“My first trail running race, in the Aubrac area [of France’s Massif Central], was a revelation,” he jokes. “From the off, I loved the feeling of being alone in nature but also having a bond with the other participants.” He has since taken part in plenty of ultra-trail events. He enjoys the sense of sharing, on the starting-line or for a few miles along the route, in a pack of runners who encourage each other.

« I loved the feeling of being alone in natrure »

Then there are the more reflective moments when, after running for hours, he finds himself alone with the mountains and the weak sun of early morning – moments he savors just as much, and maybe even more. Lastly, he loves these races’ physical demands, and the overarching mental dimension: the mind leads, and the body follows. The mountains then become a place where, full of sensations but of emptiness too, you go on your own inner adventure and reconnect with essentials.



To play with its limits... 
Back to essentials
Back to essentials

Reconnecting with essentials… From a more prosaic perspective, this is also an obligation, dictated by a simple fact: in the mountains, you never set off with your house on your back! You must know how to leave surplus stuff behind and focus on the strictly necessary.

“When I did a four-day reccie along the route of the UT4M, a race that links the mountains around Grenoble, I aimed to be self-sufficient,” explains Yann. “I needed to travel light, but with equipment suited to intense exertion and potentially unpredictable weather. In two words: technical and versatile. Having good equipment means you can forget about it once it’s on your back and focus on your discipline, totally in the moment and in motion.”



Only think about movement, intensely. Credits : www.wandaprint.com





“Even when we head off in our van, it’s practically full up with the gear we need for our various activities – and our mattress takes up the remaining space,”, laughs Estelle. Her key items of kit for summer sessions at altitude? A pair of stretch pants she uses on footpaths, climbing routes and in the evening, back at camp; a technical tee that dries quickly after being worn on a trail run or rinsed in a mountain torrent; a waterproof jacket; and a lightweight puffa that’s warm enough to belay a partner high up a wall, or for watching dawn break outside the tent. Oh, and a short skirt, because in the mountains you can do the business while also fully embracing your girly side!

The first time she entered the Trail de la Pierra Menta, Estelle arrived at the starting line in short-cut cotton shorts and a tee she bought because it was the cheapest on display. Two years later, the shorts have been replaced by a performance short skirt, but Estelle’s approach to the mountains is unchanged: savor, push yourself, and make the very most of a fabulous playground – the mountains, baby!



Hike. Stop. Breath. Admire. Savore. Restart.


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