Words and photos by Seth Adams.
I came to Chamonix with no plans and no partners. I was just hoping that it would all work out, and it did – I managed to get out climbing and skiing every day with old friends and new. I got lucky enough to get out climbing for the day with my old friend Nick Elson, and my new friend Mark Smiley (though Mark and I had met almost seven years earlier in the Bugaboos, in Canada).
Nick was in Europe to race in the Pierra Menta, but had to scratch because his partner got sick. This was supposed to be his race day, but getting out with Mark and I was to be his consolation. Mark is a full-time climber/skier/guide (whose wife, Janelle, was racing the Pierra Menta that day). I’m just a guy from Fairbanks, Alaska, who mostly only climbs a few times a year on vacations. It was my fourth day in Cham, and my fourth consecutive full-day out. I was out of my depth, and I was tired. These guys did a lot of waiting for me.
We roped up for the five-or-so minute walk back to the skis, which meant that I needed to walk the same pace as Mark and Nick. I was not acclimatized, and walking downhill through the punchy snow at the pace Mark was setting caused my heartrate to redline. I was too embarrassed to say anything, though, so I just gasped for air and stumbled along.
It always takes me a little while to get my systems dialled, and until I do, I’m slow as hell at transitions. This day was a particularly egregious example, for reasons that are too boring to explain, but that, combined that with fatigue and with my ultra-fit and organized partners, meant that I was definitely the weakest link.
Nick is an old friend from when I lived in Vancouver and Squamish, but I don’t see him much anymore. “This is nostalgic for Nick,” I explained to Mark as I changed boots (no one else needed to change their boots), “he spent most of his 20s waiting for me. This is a trip down memory lane for him.” Mark and Nick both smirked, but neither one laughed.
We started the ski back out the Valle Blanche, which still had enough snow in it that we could ski all the way back to Chamonix. Mark and Nick are faster skiers, too.
Seth Adams is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer from Fairbanks, Alaska. He dabbles in many outdoor sports, and excels at none.
Follow Seth’s adventures on Instagram.
Relate to Seth’s story at all? Mark Smiley will be at the upcoming Arc’teryx Alpine Academy in Chamonix to help anyone improve their skills in the mountains from June 29 to July 2, 2017.
While most clinics are sold out, the Arc’teryx Academy still offers plenty of free activities in the Alpine Village.