July 2018 was a very adventurous and exciting month in my life! I have been a given the chance to conquer my fear of heights and developed a new skill: mountain climbing!! All this wearing my Polaris Memovox as my companion for the 10 days trip!
Few months back, I was sitting with the team at Jaeger Le-Coultre discussing the new Polaris line introduced this year and how it fits the essence of a sporty elegant man who has the spirit of exploration and discovering in him. From there, an idea emanated: Why don’t we showcase the real spirit of Polaris in a real life adventure that tales with discovery, conquest, exploration and life changing experiences.
If you remember, back in 2015, I climbed the highest peak in Africa, Kilimamjaro; and I was wearing at that time the Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Compressor Chronograph.It was only logical, to continue the story we began but this time in Europe among the highest peaks in the continent. However, the twist this time is I would be actually climbing the mountain and not trekking – it was an entire new territories for me and totally different technical skills to learn
And so the adventure began! I flew to Chamonix where I set my base their for the first week. The idea was to spend 3 days learning about the climbing techniques on smaller mountains where we can practice and learn before we hit the summits of the Alpes.
Luckily, the weather was fantastic at that time which made it slightly easier to practice the rope techniques and to handle the many little gadgets you need to have for a safe climb. I had a dedicated guide throughout the training days and we were a team of 5 guys that I randomly met and became teammates for the trip.
The big challenges started from Day 2 where we took the train to a Glacier region to practice walking on glaciers, wearing crampons and using axes for climbing on ice. That was totally another world for me – I have never done any of those before in my life and never been exposed to such landscape before – in all honesty, it was amazing to walk on glaciers despite the fact that I tear off my trousers serial times with my crampons – felt like learning to walk all over again. The axe climb on Ice felt somehow safe just because in my mind, I had the feeling that if I ever fall on ice, I will be just fine and nothing will happen to me versus falling on rocks ( silly me of course!!!)
Once all basic techniques have been mastered – almost!!! Our guides decided to take us to the test on the rocks and start with our first climb the next day –
We took the telephonic up 3,000m to reach the station of L’Aiguille du Midi and climb what they call the Cosmic Ridge. Basically, it was an hour walk on ice downwards – then we had to climb up a ridge of crazy steep rocks the summit up ~2,000m and climb to the station where we end the day.
When we started the walk , I was a bit hesitant and not comfortable using my crampons on a very high mountain already with only a small path to fit one leg at a time going downward. My feet were trembling and my brain had all sorts of insane ideas popping up ( Will I fall on the left and drag with me my guide and attached colleague? will my crampons keep ripping off my trousers on each side? When will we start climbing? When will this end!!!) But soon enough, I got used to the terrain and started enjoying the walk until we reached the ridge.
When I saw this massive combination of steep rocks somehow attached one to the other to make up a mountain , I freaked out! How on earth am I going to climb this? there is no space for my feet to climb up!! What’s going to happen if I slipped? Will I break a neck or a back? Few minutes later, I found myself already 100s of meters above ground following the path and the steps my guide is performing to climb up. It seemed too easy watching him go up; but when it was my turn , that was another story!!!
For the next 3 days, this was my daily routine and same thoughts going into my head – however, I got more confident by the day and also the different locations we have travelled too. It seems we were a bunch of talented climbers and quick learners, so our guides decided to take us across the borders to Italy to sleep in a Hut and climb two superb peaks. I must admit, they were intimidating and quiet challenging to climb up and go down with a repel technique and not walking.
On another hand, the views up those mountains were breathtaking!! I never thought snow, and mother nature could hide such beauty and serenity until I reached the top of those mountains and looked around me – 360 degrees of calm, pure, untouched nature and peace of mind!! That feeling even momentarily was worth all the hassle and difficulties of the trip.
The training part has ended and my time in Chamonix had to come to its end; however this was not the end of the adventure of course! I had one final task to accomplish before heading back home – I travelled to Zermatt and settled down at their amazing ZermatHoff Hotel at the center of the village. As you know , Zermatt is the home of the MatterHorn, the toughest mountain to climb in Europe. At first, my initial aim was to go on that climb and conquer the MatterHorn, however several factors prevented me from doing so; among which: several people die from this climb because they went unprepared and technically not confident ( which was my case – it was too soon to do this climb); the weather conditions on the day of the climb were not favorable and the guide had to take the decision to cancel it anyways. We decided to summit the BreitHorn which is at 4,164m and is a very nice glacier and ice climb.
By far, this was the most enjoyable climb I have had in the trip and the most exciting one. Once up, I felt such a relief to have accomplished my goals for the trip and reached the top. At that summit, all peaks were visible, of which of course the mighty MatterHorn starring right back at me and waiting for me to conquer it next.
This experience was life changing and one of the most challenging ones that took me out of my comfort zone all throughout the expedition. I have met some great guides, great friends and enjoyed stunning scenery along the way. For all those who have a hunger for change, to challenge themselves and push their limits, this is one thing you definitely need to try.
Having the Memovox with me on the trip made it also a great conversation started and an ice breaker. Everyone looking at me wearing it versus a Sunnto or Gshock were not expecting to have such a mechanical watch on a wrist in those conditions. I must admit I thought I might get mugged a few times!! But then again, I needed to have with me an exciting watch for such a long trip; it’s part of the essentials to create great content along the way and enjoy a great watch on my wrist throughout the adventure. The best time to look at the Memovox was when it was pitch black in the Hut with nothing else but the indexes and the markers lume. I was the Master of Light in the dark 🙂