- 14 March 1976
- Céüse, Hautes-Alpes, France
- CAPES degree in modern literature, currently working on climbing instructor certification
- Professional climber, French teacher
Life on the wall is a great source of personal enrichment and self-knowledge
«I have had the good fortune to be a part of some beautiful expeditions and wonderful trips with Arnaud. I have powerful memories from all the big walls I have climbed, especially the bivouacs that are often so incredible. I want to give my best in order to be successful at something I am passionate about. In learning how to open big routes, I have noticed that I appreciate more and more a certain ethic that, in my opinion, keeps the game of climbing on the right track. Without taking risk too lightly, I really like routes that demand a certain level of commitment, that require you to focus and give 100 %. I don’t get a whole lot of pleasure out of climbing chipped routes, very little in fact. I don’t think this is elitist because regardless of your level I think anyone can hold this opinion. In Céüse, I sometimes climb with the young, new generation of climbers. It’s great to see them motivated by the same things and to see that ethics is not something that only older climbers are concerned about. On the contrary, they are often tougher than us on some points.»
Don’t be afraid
«I like all kinds of climbing but most recently I’ve focused more on big wall climbing. I never dreamed that one day I would be living my passion. At the same time, as a child, I dreamed of becoming a shepherd or an Egyptologist. I was attracted to the unknown, adventure and wildlife so my current lifestyle does not surprise me that much. When I climb, I’m focused on the present, the future is limited to the next hold. I forget my worries, I forget myself and at the same time I have the feeling of being one with the rock. This is something I love and which is indispensable for me. I find it in other activities as well like yoga, writing and gardening. Life suddenly seems so simple. I feel good when I climb. I love to be outside in nature where I can find balance. What feeds me is the extraordinary richness of the sport from bouldering to sport climbing to leaving on an expedition. It’s pretty rare to find a different culture just as it’s difficult to find new walls. One lifetime is not enough to explore all the different aspects of climbing. Climbing is a great way to get schooled in humility. I try not to focus my attention on grades but more on how this or that route is going to challenge me or what I will learn. I am attracted by the climbing styles that I have not mastered and that make me feel like a beginner each time I try them. This renews my motivation and my curiosity. In the end, it is often the dreams of children that are actualized, or more simply, that dreams become possible once we accumulate enough experience to make them happen. That was the case for me with Trango Tower. As a young competition climber I already had dreams but it wasn’t until a few years later, after I had taken the mountains seriously and climbed a lot of granite, that the dreams became reality.»
«I often go for walks where I take the time to observe nature, watch birds and identify animal tracks in the winter. I am fortunate to live near Céüse in the Hautes Alpes. I admit that it’s my favorite place for climbing of course, but it’s also about the quality of life you find in the Gapençais valley. This area has remained wild with very little development and the countryside is really diverse. These are the same things that I love about Verdon. Each spring in Céüse, I marvel at all the activity around the cliff. This crag is a great home for birds and I love to watch them. I believe that, like other animals, we are only tenants of the earth. It’s not a problem to skip an 8a route that is in a place where birds are nesting. It’s interesting to watch a chough with her red beak feeding her babies in the nest, or to enjoy the dance of swallows as they build their fragile earthen nests in the holes made by the waterfall or on Biography wall. Elsewhere in the world, I love Taghia in Morocco because of the scenery and the people who live there. I’ve been going to Taghia every year for the last eight years. I’ve made some close friends and I have learned to speak a bit of Berber, which makes the trip even more rewarding.»
Literature as well...
«I’ve enjoyed reading since I was very young. My literature studies have led me to explore different authors. I have read many classics, contemporary novels and for the last 10 years, I have specialized in travel literature (Ella Maillard, Bruce Chatwin, Alexandra David-Néel…). I especially like the stories of the tribulations of Sylvain Tesson. These days I don’t read as many novels because I find myself more interested in poetry: Valérie Rouzeau, Philippe Jaccottet, Michel Jourdan, Yves Bonnefoy, Bashô, Emilie Dikinson, Henri Michaux… The book that affected me the most is without a doubt “l’Usage du Monde” by Nicolas Bouvier. His style moves me and I love the way he writes about the countryside through which he travels and of the people he meets. It’s a book that makes me want to turn myself into a balloon so that I could fly across the world. This year, I have resumed my studies and my work on Bouvier but I have also wandered from the prose of Giono to the philosophy of Nietzsche, gone through the memoires of Simone de Beauvoir and ‘Essais de Montaigne’, Henri Miller and Kenneth White… In the end I have not written a line but I’ve got some great memories. I have no mentor, the closest to that for me are the writings of those who sometimes disappear for thousands of years in which I find the questions that are close to my own, but written more beautifully. This gives me the sense of belonging to a community spirit.»
I don’t really have a motto, but…
«When I feel too hyperactive or unsatisfied with a day, I love to remember this beautiful phrase from Montaigne: “I did nothing today. What? Have you not lived? It is not only the most basic but the most illustrious of your occupations.»
- First place, Bouldering World Cup 1999
- First place, lead climbing, Climbing World Cup 2000, Chamonix
- First place, bouldering, 1999 X Games, San Francisco, USA. “My best memory from competition. The boulders were high and it was really fun to climb on the waterfront facing the Pacific.”
- Saint Léger (France) “Dis Moi Qui Tu Hais” (8a/8a+ onsight) 2000. “A very beautiful route on a wall I really love. My father belayed me and he was so afraid I was going to fall that he wouldn’t feed me any slack. So I was even more stoked to have climbed the route while pulling the rope the whole way.”
- Saint Léger (France) “Le Nabab” (8b+) 2000
- Rocklands (South Africa) “Nutsa” (8a/8a+) “The Hatchling” (7c+/8a) 2009. “Two really serious boulder problems.”
- Tsaranoro (Madagascar) “Gondwanaland” 1998. “My first big trip, first big wall and first improvised bivouac.”
- Trango Tower (Pakistan) “Eternal Flame” (6240 m / 7a+ / A1) 2005. “With a bivouac at 6000 meters on a small snow ledge facing the Himalayan giants. Magic.”
- Salto Ángel (Venezuela) 2006. “My most significant and difficult expedition. Spent 15 days on the wall with 10 haul bags at 30 kilos (66 lbs) each, and difficult climbing on rotten rock protected with nuts. I was injured and not very well prepared and it took me awhile to get over it.”
- El Capitan (Yosemite USA) “Free Rider” (1200 m / 7c free) 2007. “I loved having my own personal project even if Arnaud was at my side for logistics and belaying. I learned so much and faced my fear of chimneys and big cracks.”
- Taghia (Maroc) “Babel” (800 m / 7c+ max) 2007, opened with Arnaud Petit, Titi Gentet and Nicolas Kalisz. “My first experience putting up a new route on a big wall.”
- Madagascar “Tough Enough” (400 m / 8b+ max) 2008. (Freed the route as a part of the team that included Laurent Triay, Sylvain Millet and Arnaud Petit). “This is a magic face. I led the “easy’ 8a+ pitches.”
- Grand Capucin (Mont Blanc range, France) “Voie Petit” (450 m / altitude 3838 m / 8b max) 2010. “Even if it didn’t go it was nice to try to free this route at the top of my limit, and especially this route.”
- China “Lost in Translation” (150 m / 8a+ max) 2010. (Four unbelievable pitches on stalactites in a surreal cave. Opened with Arnaud Petit).
- “Parois de légende. Les plus belles voies d’Europe.” Published by éditions Glénat, 2006.
Complement to the first edition by Arnaud Petit, beautiful book with image and topos showing 57 routes from 5b to 8a+ in the Dolomites, Riglos, Mont Blanc, Verdon, and Calanques.
- “Salto Ángel.” Published by éditions Guérin, 2008 (updated in 2010)
- “Parois de légende.” Published by Glénat, 2011. (Compilation of two volumes with 26 new routes).
- Paris Match, December 2006 (eight pages on the Salto Ángel). Photos by Evrard Wendenbaum, Nicolas Kalisz, Arnaud Petit
- VSD, February 2009 (six pages on climbing big walls as a couple). Photos by Arnaud Petit
- Lotus Flower by Benoit Robert, edited by Guillaume Broust/Petzl, with Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell, 2003. (600 m wall in northern Canada).
- Amazonian Vertigo (Salto Ángel). Directed by Evrard Wendenbaum, 2006. www.amazonianvertigo.com / www.migootv.com
- Autour de Babel by Fred Ripert with Arnaud, Stéphanie, Nicolas Kalisz and Titi Gentet, 2008. (Story of opening an exceptional route at Taghia). www.videalise.com
- Tough Enough by Laurent Triay with Laurent, Stéphanie, Arnaud and Sylvain Millet, 2009. (Story of the first successful completion of the 400m route ‘Tough Enough’ considered to be one of the most difficult in the world. Extreme climbing on vertical, practically featureless walls). www.triaylaurent.com
- Grand libre au Grand Cap by Bertrand Delapierre, 2010. (Attempts by Arnaud and Stéphanie to free “Voie Petit’, thirteen years after it was opened).