The Sentinelle IV.
Hotel le Buet

Bruno Compagnet reviews the fourth Sentinelle, which was initially planned to be between Italy and France on Mont Viso, and which was finally relocated in extremis to the massif of the Aiguilles Rouges on the Franco-Swiss border. Otherwise known as the art of changing tracks to stay on course. A fourth act which smacked of good spring snow, hot sun, complicity in effort, sharing and, of course, good wine, dried meats and Swiss chocolate.

Layla Jean Kerley

Viso, a dead end.

We had just passed Turin. The tolls, dense traffic and the sporty driving of the Italians were not the only reasons for the unease mounting within me with the increasing kilometres. The pyramid of Viso which rose in the distance in the twilight of that day’s end seemed to us to have a terrible blackness. The end of the journey left us doubtful about the place chosen for the next edition of the Sentinelle. Loyal to the charter of the event, we choose places off the beaten track and resolutely away from mass winter tourism. The occitan valleys situated at the foot of this southern alpine giant totally corresponded to our remit.
Roberta’s warm welcome and good humour softened the evening, loaded with questions. What we could see of the slopes facing the refuge Pian de la Regina would not allow us to start off straight away on skis.

Ville Niiranen

React and rebound.

We had walked for quite a while with our skis on our backs and our morales in the doldrums in an attempt to reach the snow-line. The snow had been ravaged by the wind was packed with pebbles. Even the most motivated would ask questions. Layla asked no more questions and simply said : « We’re cancelling ».
I was speechless. The Sentinelle, is kind of my event and it is supported by a good team those who are all virtually volunteers or brand-names. Reorganising the event in three days by moving round about fifty people , to find a site with snow, accommodation… But the Sentinelle, is above all a community, almost a family and , after several phone calls, it seemed that a solution had begun to take form.

Layla Jean Kerley

The man with foresight.

François-Régis Thevenet is a guide, crystal hunter and runs a very good bistro in the Rue des Moulins, Chamonix. He is incidentally a father to four magnificent children and a good steep slope skier. The organisation of his schedule is for me an opaque mystery. When I called him I was at the bottom of a deep hole. Two hours later, he called me back with an elegant alternative as a solution. With that, we can say, that he saved the event.

Federico Ravassard

Chamonix’s hidden face.

Vallorcine, the last village in the Chamonix valley before the Swiss border, was going to offer a plan B, which in many respects, was going to exceed our expectations. This time once again, we were welcomed with open arms by the two sisters who run this family institution which is well known to hikers. Their kindness is matched only by their guts, and woe betide any one who does not respect the place or its occupants. They would surely get their arse kicked. The participants who discovered the area were pleasantly surprised by the calm and authenticity of this village..

Layla Jean Kerley

A 4-star recce.

As ever, François-Régis had set his sights high and, just as at his table, as for his projects in the mountains you would have to have the stomach to follow him. With Ross and Laurent, he suggested a great traverse of the Aiguilles Rouges, the Chamonix valley’s wildest balcony trail. Leaving from Buet passing by the Emosson dam and finishing in Switzerland at Finhaut, then returning by train. The recce was fun with nice weather and good snow… … François hadn’t forgotten to to add a magnum of white to his pack to accompany the salami and cheese…

Federico Ravassard

Old and new acquaintances.

We were there ! The event began and the tension and efforts of the last few days evaporated transforming into smiling faces, hand-shakes, kisses and accolades. Exchange of experiences. We had so much to say since the last time we had met…

Layla Jean Kerley

The group’s energy.

As usual, we had started off a little fast, plenty of energy and enthusiasm… … I watched this heterogeneous column of men and women of different nationalities and backgrounds stretched out … I listened to their stories along the route or at table in the evening and, of course I participated. I love that ambiance and energy which arises from conversations linked to a passion. Even if we broached subjects such as climate change and its impact on our practice, the tone was still positive because each of us is trying, at our humble levels, to do something.
The day was to be long and very physically intense for most of us … But it is also, and above all, that which makes the event interesting. The intensity of the route which tips us to the exceptional or, at least, into that type of day which marks a winter.

Ville Niiranen

A vibration in the night.

It is something which I have wanted to talk about for a long time. When I gave the start of the Sentinelle by blowing a big shell, I was inevitably inspired by the Barkley Race, that horrible endurance and orientation race which takes place in Tennessee. This shell, was one which I found on a Yucatan beach in Mexico. I had afterwards travelled for weeks to get to the north of the country. I had sanded it down so that I could blow in it and create a sound, a vibration which comes to us from the depths of night. I made it resonate during a physical and astral journey to the land of the Hiuchols, those Indians who consume peyote and are able to travel phenomenal distances. It is a rite that is part of their religion and probably one of the strongest and deepest experiences I have had. That was almost thirty years ago. Since then, I no longer believe in chance. I have learnt that water, wind, snow and the rain are all the doors through which you can find your way…

Chamonix France

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