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Jerome, you have been travelling to the most remote places in the world for many years now!

"Yes, I just turned 40, and I feel enormously grateful to have survived 20 years of mountaineering. I've been through some good...and some bad: I've been on incredible trips with great friends, sometimes I've risked a lot, too much, and I've climbed some amazing mountains that I've dreamed of since I was a boy."


When, why and how did you start?

Growing up in Bordeaux, France South West, I had no mentors and so I had a long learning curve where I pretty much did all the possible mistakes. It's a great way to learn...if you survive! I've always loved travelling, even before being obsessively passionate about climbing, and they both originate at the same source, unquenchable curiosity. The less I know about a region or a climb the more appealing it is, so very naturally after the Pyrenees and the Alps, I felt a hunger to travel to more remote mountain ranges.


12 years of expeditions: what has changed in your way of travelling? What has stayed the same?

"Good question, I think I have maintained a certain consistency in my approach to mountaineering. I have not needed to change something that has filled my life with joy and satisfaction since the beginning.

I have always been extremely optimistic, perhaps too much so, according to what friends have sometimes told me. If a mountain, or a route, seemed attractive and safe enough, I was ready to invest all my energy into climbing it, without ever thinking that it would perhaps be an impossible task. To attract me, a mountain must be vertical enough, but with a line of weakness. The rock must be good, the location so remote as to make the approach an adventure in itself, there must be no objective high dangers.
Oh, and the rope team.
The rope group must be made up of trusted friends, of necessity. This is the most important thing for me. In the end, with the right companions, every adventure on any piece of rock becomes wonderful.
That's what I thought when I started climbing and in these respects I haven't changed."

"What has changed instead is the way I climb. I've had a few accidents and lost some dear friends. Now I am more careful in choosing my goals. I try to keep a greater safety margin and I have less trouble turning around and going back.
I fail more often, perhaps I have become wiser."


Are you telling us that you are older than the Jerome who climbed Fitz Roy (route Royal Flush, 1000m 7c) in alpine style in 2011?

"Eh yes, of course. Years of wandering around the mountains leave their mark, especially in the body. Mentally, however, I feel the same as when I was young: I have always felt admiration for old climbers who keep their motivation high even as the years go by. Many in fact slowly fade away. Fellow adventurers are crucial for keeping motivation high: life tends to become more complicated as you get older. I do my best to stay as free as possible, and I must say that I am pretty good at it, even if commitments and responsibilities always try to imprison me!
I actually feel now that I want to spend more time climbing close to home, carrying out various local projects. Expeditions really take up a lot of time..."


Looking at your CV it seems that Patagonia was a special place for you, especially at the beginning of your career. What has Patagonia given you?

"I could talk to you about Patagonia for hours, I don't know if you have enough time!
It is such a rugged place, the forces of nature are as hostile as ever. In the space of a few kilometres you go from desert to mountains, endless expanses of ice, jungle, fjords... I think nowhere else there is such variability in such a small space. Nature shows all its strength, while anthropisation is minimal: perfect ingredients for a great adventure!
Except in the El Chalten area, where there is a village at the base of the mountains, climbing is only a small part of the journey. The approach is often a big unknown, not easy to solve, unlike elsewhere.
In the Himalayas, in fact, there are porters and local guides who accompany you all the way. Base camp is a fairly comfortable place, with a cook, mess tent and so on. If the weather is not good, the adventure of the trip remains quite limited. You have your equipment carried around and you wait in a tent while someone cooks for you. The good thing about the Himalayan approach is that it is nice to learn about the local culture and contribute to tourism, but the spirit of adventure is somewhat lacking. Sometimes I wonder if the term 'alpine style' is appropriate in this kind of expedition...but that's another story...I'm lost away! I am not saying it is good or bad, only that this approach does not give me full satisfaction.

In Patagonia, on the other hand, the approaches are an adventure in themselves. I remember many trips where I did not even climb, sometimes I did not even see the mountains, and yet I had memorable experiences because of all the hardships we had to overcome. Jungles, glaciers, river crossings and many challenges that make the journey very adventurous. Climbing then is demanding: there is no helicopter rescue, in case of an accident no one will come to pick you up. This variable makes it a truly remote place....
In Patagonia, there are also the magical lights of sunsets and sunrises on the Hielo Continental, the lenticular clouds with such absurd and psychedelic shapes in the blue sky, the infinite horizons... It is truly a unique place. Ah, I almost forgot, the climbing is amazing!"


In Patagonia you climbed Fitz Roy, Cerro Murallon, Cerro Riso Patron, Cerro San Lorenzo, Cerro Adela. What memories do you have of these expeditions?

"I climbed the Ferrari and Royal Flush route on Fitz Roy during my first trip to Patagonia, it was 2011. I remember the terrible bivy of the slopping ice ledge, it was terrible! Me and my buddy Ponpon had teamed up last minute with another guy, Remi, which we barely knew at the time. He would tell us stories about how CIA had invented modern art at 4:am.
I remember Remi always asking, "guys do you smell weed?" and us answering "I don't know what you're taking about Remi, we're just smoking tabacco...".
We were young, reckless and very very motivated. After a night of rapelling, we were so tiered we all fell asleep on a hanging belay right above the bergshrund.

El Pillar del Sol Naciente (1000m, 7b, A1, M6, WI6) on Cerro Murallon, in 2012, is probably the most beautiful route I have ever climbed: a remote wall, 5 friends, 3 weeks in total autonomy and a 1000m pillar of amazing rock. We had no weather forecast because the satellite connection was not working properly.
That was one of the reasons why we succeeded in the climb: there was never a real window of favourable weather, but we didn't know that and went ahead. If the stars shone in the morning, we set off: "Patagonia old school style!" After a week on the wall, we reached the last pitch: 30 metres, a tongue of bad quality ice, white and unglued. It was the only chance we had to pass the otherwise completely smooth and vertical wall. We tried to climb it at midnight, but the attempt ended in a long fall and a rope almost sheared off. So we stopped and spent the night shivering, only to make another attempt the following morning.
At dawn, Ponpon climbed 30 metres of vertical ice, with no protection, only a small nut at the base of the pitch. He disappeared from our sight, and we continued to give rope for what seemed like an eternity. A metre before the rope ended we heard him shout: “Belay!” What a relief! When you invest so much energy in succeeding at something and miss so little, you sometimes lose sight of the boundary of reason...for better or for worse.

At Cerro Riso Patron (Hasta las webas, 1000mt, AI5+, M5, 90°, Piolet d'Or 2016), the Patagonian rain gods went on holiday, in that September of 2015. It normally rains an average of 360 days a year, in the fjords of that part of Patagonia's west coast. Well, we had a good six days of sunshine! The fisherman who ferried us across the fjord told us that he had never seen such a window of good weather. Obviously it was our second attempt. The first time we had three weeks of constant rain, and my shoulder broke out falling into a crevasse. It took me a week to reach a hospital and put my shoulder back in place.
I remember that when we came down from the summit the wind was strengthening, and the sun was setting over the ocean to the west. The Hielo Continental to the east glowed that electric blue colour that anyone who has been to Patagonia remembers well. On the descent we had to do a series of rappels from an overhanging ice was like being in a video game! I felt so insignificant...all it took was a stuck rope and no one would ever find us again. Those ice mushrooms were incredible things, they looked like clouds, but they were solid, as big as skyscrapers.

At Cerro San Lorenzo in 2018, we lost our cooker on the first day! We decided to continue despite our thirst, because without a cooker we would not have been able to melt snow to drink. When we came down from the summit, dehydrated, with still 24 hours ahead of us before we could find water, we saw the cooker, miraculously intact and poised on a tiny piece of ice.
We called the route 'la Milagrosa' (1200m, A3, M7, 6a), the miracle. Another beautiful memory I have of that expedition is Martin's face, lying safely in his tent in the valley. He had such an expressive, relaxed smile of happiness as he listened to some Argentinian music.
Satisfaction for something well done, and a dream come true.

There is a funny story about the route Ballas Y Chocolate (900mt, WI5+, A2, M6+), which I climbed on Cerro Adela in 2015. At the base of the wall we met two Spaniards, Santi and Dani, whom we didn't know at the time. It was absurd that two rope teams, one French and one Spanish, found each other on the same day, to climb the same route! Obviously we joined forces and shared a beautiful climb. We felt like we had known each other forever. The best way to make friends!"


In 2014 you were in Alaska. How did the expedition compare to Patagonia and the Himalayas?

"Climbing in Alaska is the exact opposite to Patagonia. It is really strange because a small plane drops you in the middle of nowhere, and in a few hours you go from civilisation to total isolation. The Revelation Mountains are amazing to climb. We wanted to climb Pyramid Peak, an untouched peak that had an interesting ice and mixed wall. We ended up climbing two fun routes during two weeks of good weather. It can get really cold in Alaska, it was the first and last time I found myself with fresh frozen eggs at base camp."


Greenland 2018: kayak approach and total autonomy. Such a long and tiring journey to climb just one it really worth it?

"Absolutely! Before leaving for this trip, I had never paddled. The ingredients at the start were 300 kilometres by kayak through the fjords for 1700 metres of big wall. On paper it sounds cool, but when I got home I swore to myself that I would never paddle a kayak again.
Now, after a few years, I can think about it again.
It's funny how the mind tends to remember only the good things and erase the rest! Of course, sailing was the main part of the trip, and luckily for me, I had more experienced companions than myself. After a couple of days paddling I was completely disintegrated. I really pushed myself over the edge.

Without a shadow of a doubt, these 'by fair means' expeditions are incredible experiences, in which climbing really becomes secondary. The most beautiful thing is to have the time to be completely absorbed by nature, to be completely disconnected from the daily routine. Each paddle brings you more in harmony with your surroundings, and gives even more value to each metre of climbing.

After a week of continuous and intense sailing, when we arrived at the base of the wall we wanted to climb, the Apostelen Tommelfinger, we felt like Shipton's crew when they found land after being lost at sea for so long. It was a real liberation!
Of course after the route we also had to go back...very tiring, but it was worth it."


Failures: we always talk about successful expeditions, but things don't always turn out as well as we hope. What lessons have you learnt?

"Failures help us to do self-analysis and get to know the mountains around us better. They are a dark and intricate part of our experience and getting to know ourselves as mountaineers, especially when we take the time to reflect and talk about them.
Like all mountaineers who have done many expeditions, I have had my fair share of failures. I have learnt that it's not really about failure if you go back in one piece and all together: in this case it's more about an experience that makes you grow, as a mountaineer and as a person. I say that because often when something goes wrong it is because of relational problems in the group, and that's even when you are in the company of your best friends. The real challenge is to be at your limit and still remain open and aware of the people around you who are going through the same intense experience as you. One thing I have found to be very dangerous is obsession. Being obsessed with a climb, returning and returning, never taking a step back and looking at it from the outside, can potentially lead to disaster. I experienced this situation in 2012, trying to climb Cerro Torre. I survived, but I learnt that when things go wrong, there is often human error behind it.
That time it was too much motivation, which led to underestimating risks. I would say a classic!"


In 2020 you opened a new route on the east face of the Grandes Jorasses. There were travel restrictions due to covid and you stayed in the Alps. How was this experience?

We actually wanted to try to free climb a route that had been opened artificially, still on that wall. However, everything was wet, so we changed plans at the last minute. Climbing in the Alps is very different from climbing in the rest of the world, of course. For example, a big difference is the possibility of having access to information. About the route, the approach, the weather, the history of the wall...everything becomes much easier. But that doesn't mean that you can't have great adventures right outside your door!
Now I have just moved from Chamonix to the Ecrins, where the mountain approaches, in winter, are a real expedition!"


We come to your latest expedition to Pumari Chhish, another climb that earned you the Piolet d'Or for the Crystal Ship route (1600m, M7 6b A2)

"It was my third trip to Pakistan. The first time was a failure, but the good ones we were talking about before, from which you return home enriched. Then in 2021 I climbed K13 West. The village of Khor Kondus had not seen any climbers in the last 20 years, we were very lucky to get a permit to be there! Pakistan is unique because of the huge number of walls that have yet to be climbed, but also because of the endless kindness of the inhabitants.
The adventure at Pumari Chhish was perfect in every way, we had fun and I feel that even if we hadn't made it to the top it would still have been a wonderful trip. The aesthetics of the mountain fulfilled all my criteria that I mentioned at the beginning: although there were some high objective dangers created by the dangerous snow mushrooms that surrounded the summit. We had to do a lot of thinking to find a strategy and a route that would allow us to climb in relative safety.

We decided to climb a harder route than we had originally thought. We thought it would be better to fail because the climbing was too hard, rather than run the risk of being blown away by a rush of snow and rock. Our rope team was tight and well balanced, which really helped us a lot. When you think about it now, it seems obvious, but after crossing the world and overcoming many adversities, dreaming of climbing a mountain for too long, your head can play tricks on you and you don't evaluate the risks properly!
Success seemed truly hopeless until the very last moment. It's always nice to have an emotional rollercoaster, adds more spice!"


Thanks for your stories that made us dream! However, we didn't understand what you like to do most in the mountains, whether rock, ice, or what?

"I really like to change following the course of the seasons. At the end of an ice season I am really happy to switch back to rock with renewed motivation! I think having breaks and changing motivation is good for me.
The question you asked me is a bit like me having to choose between a blonde and a dark one... Why do I have to choose if I can have both? Each type of beer is great!"


Leaving beers aside, how do you train then?

"During the winter I train for climbing. It's an unforgiving activity if you forget about it! For mountaineering on the other hand...I simply go to the mountains! I think working as a guide allows me to keep a good level of fitness.
As for mental training...just being together with my wife is enough for me!"


Ahahah! We realised you don't want to talk about mountains any more! What do you like to do differently?

"I play the accordeon! I often think that if I had invested the same energy in music as I did in climbing, I would have had a future as a musician! Music is beautiful, and it saves me especially when I am injured and cannot climb.
I also like playing chess, and then making lists of things to do, and putting a cross on them when they are done.

How satisfying!

These days I am building a house, in the Hautes Alpes, near Briancon.

Good work then and happy adventures!



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