The Chamonix Life

Two climbers are near the top of an alpine route, but in the distance they are only tiny specks on the side of the mountain. They are dwarfed by the 1000m north face. The sun is setting and, all around them, the mountains glow deep orange. The climbers begin to sort out their gear, and discuss the next pitch…

‘Bloody hell mate, I’m as dry as a dead dingo’s donger! Same as this route!’ one says to the other. This man is clearly Australian, although you can also tell this from his massive dreadlocked afro.

‘Well, we’re not here to fuck spiders!’ The second man replies, but with an unconvincing accent. He is clearly not Australian, but an apprentice - he aspires to talk like ‘a fucken Ozzy.’ 

The second man tries again; ‘the next pitch is gonna be off the shitter mate. I hope it’s easier than Ueli makes it look!’ He thinks this is good comment, known as talking smack, and it’ll make him sound more like a ’Strayan.

‘Don’t be a bag of dicks, you sandbagga!’ the Aussie replies, using some strong American language for extra effect. He knows the pitch looks tricky and the light is fading.

‘Yea mayte,’ the wannabe-Aussie replies. ‘Just go balls to wall, don’t traverse off left too early.’ The second man just wants to be at the top, getting into his sleeping bag.

The Aussie gives a gruff laugh. ‘I know, I’d be mad as a cut snake!’


Many days later, after being chopsticks and missing several return lifts down from Grand Montets, the pair sit in Chamonix and talk smack again. Over cake bar and beers, they agree: it was a good thing they didn’t go for the soft option.’ ‘Everyone else is just jacking!’ they say, their egos clearly over-inflated after their minor success. A low techno thud pounds through the walls - it’s the sound of Scandi beats at 10pm, and they’re just warming up for another all-nighter.

More friends arrive, and they all sit on sofas, chairs, and duffle bags full of climbing equipment. People of Chamonix are brought together by dinner, also known as ‘free food and wine.’ 

’What have you got planned for tomorrow?’ the friends discuss.

‘I’m pretty busy, I’ve got to do my washing,’ one replies. They all nod in agreement. Washing is a serious task which can be the main event of the day - but only if you put off enough life admin first. They agree to squeeze in a lap of the Vallee Blanc ski run (‘just another’ world class mountain descent!), so they can check conditions for the next weather window…


Note: the characters, events, routes and even places described here are entirely fictitious; this never happened and if such a place existed, it wouldn't be anything like this... Or would it?!

Note 2: Thanks to everyone I climbed with, skied with, crashed at, ate dinner with, and generally hung out with in Cham. I often mimic, copy or talk about something because I like it (for example, I really like accents and will quickly start to copy). I like the Chamonix lifestyle and could certainly get used to it. I had a great trip, cut a little short by the need to work, and I look forward to the next one!

Tom LivingstoneComment