“I Knew It was already dangerous enough alone, but let’s face it, that extra kick of Adrenaline was worth it!”

Icarus Project, the day I flew too close to the sun.

Most people would say that climbing Western Europe’s highest peak is a great thing. To me the problem about it was that everybody could do it.

I am one of those types of people, who just happen to get crazy ideas. That’s why, when, a morning of December 2016 I woke up with the idea that I wanted to climb the Everest. I didn’t question it. I planned it, a plan very simple that looked like that:

Step 1: climb (5) 4000-6000 meters peaks

Step 2: climb (5) 6-7500 meters peaks

Step 3: climb (5) 8000 meters peaks

Step 4: climb Everest, Annapurna and K2

Now this plan looked great on paper, but the truth isn’t that simple. For instance, the Kilimanjaro is a 5000m peak that is an easy climb, it’s high altitude hiking, but not comparable to the Mont Blanc who is 1000 meters lower.

But anyways, I could still remember being a kid and hearing in the news that some alpinist were lost there and found dead days after when we were at ski holidays, so to me it made perfect sense to go towards that mountain first.

For the next 6 month, I trained daily, changed my nutrition to actually get what I needed -and not just cookies, convinced my dear friend Yurri to join the adventure, grew an Instagram account to 8000 followers, found sponsors and watched alpinism videos, courses and booked a local high mountain guide. On June 17th 2017, it was finally time to leave for the Alps.

We joined the city of Chamonix with both the TGV -High Speed Train, and a bus.

The mood was great, we were super excited, made videos, talked, and studied on a social media marketing course we had.

When we made it to Chamonix, the mountain, looked like a Giant, a Giant we would confront in two days. Thinking about that was both intimidating exciting and felt surreal. I slowly started understanding that feeling Alpinists have when they’re about to climb. All of those mountaineering movies now made sense to me. I was entering a new world.

  • Movie playlist I recommend: Everest 2015, K2, The Summit, Vertical Limit- 

Our guide picked us up on the first day, checked our gear, lended us some extra, and gave us the rendez-vous point for the next day.

The first day, we went for our acclimatation and test day, a climb to the « Aiguille du midi » (3842m) on the « arête des Cosmiques ».

Everything about that climb was dope. We had, breathtaking sceneries all around us, the air was fresh and pure, our guide was a badass ultra humble former mountain rescuer who talked little, but acted BIG I’ll now call him by his name: Bernard.

Resting after finishing our first climbing day with our guide Bernard Guérin © Elias Neil B
View from the Arrête des Cosmiques ©Elias Neil B

It was impressive to see the rescue operation helicopters moving so much, we could just see how the mountain was treating disrespectful climbers. I learned a lesson that day: ALWAYS RESPECT THE MOUNTAIN, in the end, it’s up to her if you make it out alive or not. Between helicopters, rockfalls and avalanches, the Mountain was saying a big Hello to us.

Yes we heard words of people getting injured the previous day because of rockfalls, and yes we also learned that a guy died the previous week. But how many car accident kill people? And yet, we still use the car right? SO I wasn’t going to let the motivation fade away just now. I wanted it so badly, I was there, and I honestly never doubted making it to the summit. It was going to be my first huge life achievement a few days after turning 20.

Everything seemed fairly simple, until one moment that I struggled with, and even failed to climb when I say failed, I’m not saying that I quoted, I’m saying that I fell. Fortunately Bernard was always putting safety nods on milestones and when I fell, It is what held me in the void. I asked that he did not help me to climb back, to which he responded « Oh No! I’m certainly not helping you, use your head, not your arms only and trust your supports ». I tried again did it, and learned a lesson.

When climbing, being trained is good, but trusting your body and thinking clear is essential.

Bernard taught us a lot of lessons, and only said a few compliments, so when in the end he said that the next day we will be attempting the summit, and said he gave us 60% chances of making it up there, well we felt proud and happy.

We stayed up on the Aiguille du Midi until the last gondola to the valley to make sure our bodies were acclimated to high altitude low level of oxygen.

During that time, we went to the labs were they explained everything about Mountain illness, how to prevent it, and how to know you have it. We were excited but we were aware of the dangers and we took good notes of all of the reflexes we should have. That same day, three people died, a guide amongst them. 

The next day started by a special training. That training was a mountain emergency survival training in case we fell off the mountain, how to “not let ourselves die”.  We wouldn’t stop until the drills became reflexes. 

When we were finally able to stop an accidental slide down and climb back up easily. He said that we were done.

After that, we climbed the Arrête à Lolo without our crampoons to keep them sharp for the ascent. On the top of the edge, we heard rockfalls and got inside a cloud minutes before making it to the refuge.

We had dinner at 7 p.m. and by 7:40 p.m. we were already in bed.  Although the breakfast was set at 00:30 am, I couldn’t sleep, I was way too excited to do so. After eating our breakfast we left at 1:30 am being the last group to leave the Refugee.  On the way to the top we could see the other groups lining up like a light snake climbing on the mountain but the more I looked at it and looked up at the sky, the more it felt like if some fallen stars were trying to climb on the mountains towards the top to go back to reach the sky where they belong.  What a poetic view of a chaotic situation, from under an invisible 30 m tall ice serac. On the second mountain, we had an 80m ice wall to climb with the ice axe. This made our legs burning. The rest of the climb was only going up and down again and again, from times to times go around or jump above huge crevasses all of that in the complete darkness. In this dark misery where we could not see the danger I started questioning myself on my goal of doing the Everest would I actually be able to do it but then by looking up at the stars I had one of the most wonderful sceneries that I’ve ever seen in my life, I could see the stars shining above the Summits and from times to times some shooting Stars would show up. Even today I can still remember the Milky Way up does the mountains not as well as if it had been a photo with a long exposure but really enough for my eyes can engrave this onto my brain.  The final climb was painful,  especially the last 300m to the top.  At this point I was completely drained out of my energy and even though we could see the summit the more we would advance the further away it would feel just as if  each step forward I took the summit would take one step backward  keeping the 300m gap between us. That is why I shut my brain off to the extreme minimum and thought as long as Bernard  would take a step forward I would do the same and that is how we eventually reached the summit.

 We can just see how exhausted I was and what’s funny is that right after reaching the summit and realising that we made it, the euphoria grew my strength back again. Yurri sat down on the summit with a big smile on his face right after Bernard hugged and congratulated each one of us. 

On the summit, I finally did my Aerial flip, -I picked the easiest one to realise due to how exhausted I was.

After an hour on the top of  Western Europe’s Highest Peak we left for the valley.

Now we had to go down in one of the most dangerous place of the whole adventure.  The “Gorges du goûter”, where 2 days earlier, 3 alpinists where struck by rock falls and one of them died.  When we reached the place, we hurried up to go through it in order not to receive any rocks on our heads, right after us another group did the same, seconds after them, huge rocks fell down and we felt how close we were to the last great danger. 

From there, the hike down was a lot more chill, everything went perfectly fine for us. We were happy, we did something crazy, and that was just the start of my life as an adventurer.

Sunset on the Mont Blanc © Elias Neil B

What about now? What after that? Was that it?

Well, I’ll let you be the judge 😉

Link to Youtube Video

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