Summertime and everyone I know is packing swimwear, suncream, and sandals before heading off to sun-drenched shores. Never one to follow the trend, I spent my first summer holiday of the year kitted up with alpine gear at the 6th annual Arc’teryx Alpine Academy.
Set up to help people advance their mountain skills, I stumbled across the event last year ahead of my Mont Blanc accent. At the time I was gutted to have missed out, so it was an easy decision to head back to Chamonix for this year’s program of events.
After managing to snag some tickets, I took to the Alps at the end of June, joining over 400 other alpine enthusiasts from over 25 countries for a weekend of snow, altitude and mountain education.
With so many choices on offer, trying to decide which clinics I wanted to do wasn’t easy. My aim was to push my skill and knowledge level on that bit further. I hate the idea of being dragged up a route by a guide and not having the ability to do it myself, so any opportunity to progress that bit further is great.
I ended up going with Mountaineering Level 2 and High Altitude Medicine. Both were based on the glacier below the Aiguille du Midi, which is fast becoming one of my favourite places to be when in the Chamonix Valley. There’s nothing quite like making your way down the Midi arête with the sun beating down and the snow underfoot. Although, a bit too much snow melt had seen some of the crevasses on the arête itself start to appear, so it certainly made for an interesting descent.
I also signed up for this year’s mountain clean up day – something I feel we should all be taking responsibility for and incorporating into our mountain adventures as much as we can, especially if we want to keep enjoying these incredible wild places. Together with guides and Arc’teryx athletes we ventured out collect as much rubbish as possible from the mountainside, it was almost surprising how much we gathered in just a couple of short hours.
After pottering around at lower altitudes, I was stoked to be back in the snow when it came to my first clinic of the weekend. Mountaineering 2 focused in on crevasse rescue and safely moving on a glacier, both areas I had covered before but always beneficial to revisit and practise. After all, there’s nothing quite like being lowered into a crevasse so that someone can rescue you! Unfortunately, our day was cut slightly short due to one of the team suffering from the altitude part way through. Thankfully day 2 faired much better, High Altitude Medicine was hands down the most interesting and useful session I attended all weekend. Under instruction of mountain rescue, guides and a doctor we dug snow shelters, stabilized ‘injured’ patients, crafted makeshift stretchers, rehearsed calling for a helicopter and learned how to manage someone with altitude sickness using a Gamow Bag, which when the casualty is placed inside can be pumped up to create a false altitude.
With only 7 weeks to go until my Matterhorn and Eiger trip, having the opportunity to spend the weekend back in the Alps, learning from all the amazing guides and athletes was invaluable.
Big thanks to everyone involved in this years Arc’teryx Alpine Academy especially the amazing guides who kept us safe and taught us new skills whilst out on the mountains.
Video courtesy of Arc’teryx. Photo courtesy of Hugo Vincent Photography