After the world did not end back in 2000, I found myself in France. In the midst of a raging downpour in the Pyrenees National Park, I ran into a group of fellow Americans who were also trying to find shelter. That night as we sat around in the safety of the hut, they informed me that in a few days, they were going to attempt to climb Mount Blanc, and they were looking for another person for their rope team. Once they learned that I had attempted Ancongua the year before, they demanded that I accompany them. Even though I was leery of going 0 for 2 on the seven summits, I agreed, and a few days later, I found myself heading up the highest peak in Europe. Although I don’t remember the climb well, what I do remember is that on the final approach, we were going slow; and as we were slogging up to the summit under clear blue skies, a voice behind us broke the silence. With a French-English accent, the voice said, “Out of the ze way, American pigdogs!”
It was a wonderfully outrageous statement straight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with a slight modification. It was also a risky statement. If none of us had seen the movie, or understood the reference, chances are someone would have taken offense. As it was, we moved off to the side, caught what breath we could, and laughed as much as we could as two French climbers sped past us. A few minutes later, we were on the summit with them, slapping backs, and enjoying the camaraderie that only the sport of mountaineering can provide. Before I left the summit, however, I took a good long look at the vista that I was provided, because at the time, I didn’t know when – or if I would return.
Some fourteen years later, I find myself fortunate to return to the shadow of Mount Blanc, the town of Chamonix, France. A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Salomon about attending the launch of their new much anticipated X-Alp mountaineering product line. Since gear-testing mountaineering trips don’t come along often, I gladly accepted the invitation, and from October 5-7, 2014, I will be doing something in Alps with the X-Alp gear. As someone who has used mountaineering gear for years, I'm looking forward to reporting back to all of you on what the future of mountaineering gear looks like; how the gear performs in actual conditions in the mountains; and about my experiences in France. In the meantime, check out Salomon’s X-Alp website here to learn more about the gear I will be testing this weekend.