Stone age

Felix Olsson went in search of essential questions, those which tap human feelings while facing the contempt of a dashed happiness. And, to overcome melancholy, there is nothing better than an insane quest.

Preface

We always have guests, staying at our house. I’ve been blessed with the biggest apartment, amongst my peers, in Chamonix, and one of it’s beauties is its ability to house friends and family without intruding on the daily lives of those who live here permanently.
In order to thank me for letting her stay, my mom once paid a visit to one of Chamonix’s local bookstores. Knowing that I’m a book worm, she rummaged around for something that might please me.
When the store owner inevitably asked if she could be of any assistance, my mom had explained my move from city to mountain, and my increasing interest in the outdoors. The owner had smiled, and handed my mom a copy of Etoiles et Tempetes by Gaston Rebuffat.
“This is mandatory reading” she’d said. “He’ll love it.”
I had been doubtful when I received my gift. An old book by some random mountain guide? Filled with testimonies of alpine ascents made, like, 100 years ago?
Out of courtesy to my mom I settled down in my favorite chair on our balcony, a breeze from the nearby Arve rising as I took a sip of my coffee.
“Not expecting to get very far with this one”, I murmured to myself as I flipped open the first page.
Before I realized it, an hour had passed.
And then another.
And then another.
And before I knew it, I’m writing this text.

Felix Olsson

Three days

“I can’t get over it.”
We have stopped for water and snacks at the Flegere mid-station, my gaze considering the void below Montenvers on the opposite side of the valley.
“I can’t get over it. He walked that distance with his buddy in less than three hours.”
From where we stand, it looks like attempting the same distance would take… Well…I don’t know. Three days?
Trying to grasp that the valley of nothingness between Les Drus and Montenvers was once filled with solid glacier ice is, as you can imagine, unimaginable.
“Maybe you should try to walk it as well, huh?” I am asked.

Felix Olsson

The other side

Montenvers is packed.
Filled, even.
Bucket-hats and medicinal face-covers.
It is a million degrees.
“This is where they started walking.”
I point to what no longer exists, a long gone bridge of ice and snow, and attempt a smile. “They just put their backpacks on and walked straight from here… To over there.” I make a gesture towards the other side.
We consider the base of the Aiguille du Dru, mysterious in the distance. Looking down towards Mer de Glace, it becomes clear to me that such a route is not even an option today.
I am in awe.
Even if I wanted to, I realize, I could not follow in their footsteps. Below me is a war-zone of boulders, gravel and dust. Beyond that, rockfalls and moraine. A steep concave wall that I do not wish to climb. Waterfalls and danger.
If I wanted to follow in their footsteps, I’d have to take a different route. That’s how far we’ve come.
Sign after sign after sign… 1935, 1970, 1992, 2005… Soon it will all be gone.
“Mec,” someone says, “you do realize that the route the two of them climbed technically isn’t even there anymore? It all fell down. It’s turned into nothing but dust and gravel.”

Felix Olsson

Close enough

Sometimes it is so warm it makes me unmotivated to do… Anything.
Let’s bike up to Le Tour, they said. It will be fun, they said.
I am about to go to bed, it is the night before. I am, so, not excited.
I’m thinking about granite and long-gone glaciers.
We make it to Le Tour and back.
Omelette au fromage.
L’Aiguille du Dru, always present at my side.
I probe my friend for information on the approach, constantly sending him messages.
How do I get to the base?
Is this a joke, am I naive, is it something one can even walk to?
Is the Montenvers-route even a thing anymore?
Do I have to go through Grands Montets?
“Hahaha” is his first response.
I am then told an encouraging story of crampons and gondolas.
Looks like going via the top of Grands Montets could get me close enough.
Im typing furiously at my keyboard. It is 02.32.
A million degrees.

Felix Olsson

Keep me awake

“But then you’d have to climb Les Drus!”, he points out, as I try to explain my impetus.
“Not necessarily.” I sigh.
“I don’t even know if what I want to do is follow in their footsteps. I just know that the contrast, between what they did and what would be possible today, is keeping me awake at night.”
He smiles at me, curious.
Well. Okay. It doesn’t keep me awake at night. There are thoughts that keep me awake at night, but they are of her – not of mountains.
I am, however, thinking about it every time I see the train, or the summit. And I see them every damn day.
“I just, somehow, want to process this”, I moan. “What do I do?”
My friend considers me for a moment.
Then he shrugs.
“Write the article.”

Felix Olsson

The North Face

It is summer in Chamonix and I am biking everywhere.
I have recently acquired a pair of Birkenstocks, and they’ve been life changing for my feet.
“Ya”, she wrote me. “Dream shoes.”
I am climbing the last hill between Plan de l’Aiguille and Le Signal, hoping to get a good view of the North face of that damned mountain.
“That was what I was going to get you for your birthday, you know.” she writes.
“Birkenstocks and Stance socks.”
I smile to myself, and shake my head.
She is too good for me.
I have brought this 200mm telephoto-lens and am calibrating it towards the face that Gaston climbed, trying to understand.
I guess the granite that he climbed really is not there anymore.
People are always asking me why I’ve been so obsessed with his short written testimony of that climb. I can’t figure it out logically. It is just an obsession. Just because it seems like a beautiful idea.
Most of us can’t use reason to figure out why we are motivated to do the mountain-stuff that we do.
And yet for all of us it will satisfy something in us – spiritually and emotionally.
If she was at my side now she’d laugh and beg to differ.
“It’s not spiritual, dude.”
But she had left.

Felix Olsson

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