Record breaking ascension of Mont-Blanc

Mathéo Jacquemoud beats the existing record for climbing Mont-Blanc

Mathéo Jacquemoud

Mathéo Jacquemoud

Ski mountaineering champion Mathéo Jacquemoud set a new record of 5 hrs and 6 mins for the return climb of Mont-Blanc on 14th May 2013.

He set off from the church in the centre of Chamonix (1,037m) at 5h45 in the morning carrying all his gear as the first hour was on foot before reaching the snow. He took 4 hours to cover the 3,773m of positive elevation to the summit. The ski down took 1 hour and six minutes, back to the centre of Chamonix!

The previous record of 5 hours and 15 minutes was established in 2003 by Stéphane Brosse and Pierre Gignoux . Stéphane, triple world champion in ski mountaineering sadly died on 17th June 2012, at the age of 40, when a corniche gave way near the Aiguille d’Argentière. In a statement, Mathéo says of this new record that it goes way beyond the personal sports achievement “its a sort of personal homage to Stéphane Brosse who was a great friend and a childhood idol who inspired my dreams”.

At the age of 22, Mathéo is definitely the up and coming champion of ski mountaineering with already the world title to his name! This year he also won the prestigious Pierra Menta race which takes place in the Savoie. He regularly runs in the mountains with Kilian Jornet, several times winner of the UTMB (Ultra Trail of Mont-Blanc) and resident to the Chamonix Valley.

Some of you will remember having seen Matheo Jacquemoud, the incredible chamois, in Seb Montaz’ recent film “A Fine Line”. This is the first film of Kilian Jornet’s project “Summits of My Life” . Follow these two champions if you can, but you’ll need to be a fast runner!

Matthéo Jacquemoud is a member of the French National Ski Mountaineering team. He was accompanied on the Mont-Blanc climb by Thierry Galindo, team trainer and stopwatch holder!

An exceptional Winter !

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According to the locals, the total snowfall measured this winter at 1400m was 12 metres! Last snowfall to date in Chamonix on 29th May 2013! Surprisingly snowfall at higher altitudes (2,000m) was 12.5 metres, so not much more than in the villages of Montroc and Le Tour. A very long, very snowy winter which has extended well into spring.

The quantity of accumulated snowfall is greater than winter 2011/12, which was already a great season (11 metres at 2,000m), but considerably more than previous winters where the average total snowfall was 7 metres at 2,000m.

We asked local glaciologist Luc Moreau whether these two successive long winters were likely to have an impact on the receding glaciers… “Over the past two years, we have had winters resembling those between 1970 – 80, when the glaciers were very healthy. If the glaciers are to benefit from this snow, the summer needs to be neither too hot, nor too long! For the past 20 years summers have been hotter and 80% of  the snowfall above 3,000 metres has been melting, hence the regeneration of ice is considerably diminished. Ideally we need lots of winters like this one, and summers that aren’t too hot”

So far, so good… we didn’t suffer from the heat in May :) !

Another well known figure in the valley is Joel Devouassoux. In winter his days often begin well before dawn and finish when the job is done, as he snowploughs around the clock to ensure that skiers can make fresh tracks elsewhere than in the lift car parks ! Joël has been clearing snow  for 43 years and he proudly exhibits his customized jacket at every occasion!

43 years of snow clearing and it's not finished yet!

43 years of snow clearance and it's not finished yet!

43 years of snow clearance and it’s not finished yet!

A consequence of this long hard winter is that there is still snow above 1600 metres (particularly on the north facing slopes) and many mountain trails are not yet accessible to walkers, or require specific equipment for crossing snowy couloirs. It is strongly recommended to visit one of the Chamonix Valley tourist offices or the OHM (High Mountain Office) in Chamonix to find out where one can walk safely, without taking unnecessary risks.

Whilst out walking, you may encounter one of these hardy Ibex, looking for something juicy to chew on!  The mountain fauna are hungry and the vegetation is later than usual, so they are grazing quite low! If they are blocking your path, give them a wide birth, they can be agressive if they feel threatened, but otherwise they will ignore you.

Ibex on the col des Montets on 26th May 2013

Ibex on the col des Montets on 26th May 2013