Téléphériques get you there faster than walking, and other lessons from the French.


Gosh, it's been a while since I've updated this thing. Sorry to leave you all hanging. Though, it's not like you were pulling your hair out waiting for another ridiculous update from Sarah Leanne Hart. And, heck, I'm on Instagram now, so let the over-exposure begin. Sarah on Instagram, Sarah on Facebook, Sarah on Blogger. Who would have thought that when I added my first blog post to my new blog, that two years later I'd have my hand in every freakin' social media pot there is out there.

Regardless, a written update is due, if for no other reason than to satisfy my mother, and the rest of my family.
My mom, and pops. Aren't they cute!

I should really have a picture of my brother and his whole adorable family here, but I just had to post this one. Here's Callie, my niece. Isn't she just the most precious little flower ever?!
A while back I mentioned that I'd be taking off to France, for my very first visit to Europe. EVER! Indeed, I went, and indeed, I can confirm that everyone is correct when they say in France, a climber of any kind is sort of a celebrity. Here, in North America, the climber is often labeled a social deviant, and a burden to society. Mountain sports are viewed as dangerous, and a good way to get yourself into trouble. But, in Europe, if you really want to get all the ladies, you become a mountain guide. Seriously! 

That's not to say that in Europe climbers don't get themselves into trouble. If fact, in my opinion, seems like someone's getting hurt or killing themselves accidentally in the mountains all the time! But anyways, that's besides the point. What I'm trying to get at here is that climbing in Europe, whether, limestone sport climbing, or gnarly alpine climbing, is a pretty darn easy pursuit. There are paved mountain roads, tunnels, telepheriques, and trams all over the freakin' place. You can be having a biroche and espresso in town at 10:00 am, and then be skiing a 700 m couloir an hour later. Seriously!

The proof is in the picture. Your typical gear shop in Chamonix. Well, actually this isn't just any gear shop, this is Snell Sport. Which according to Colin is mostly regarded as the Macy's of outdoor stores.
Here in Squamish, a day in the mountains almost always follows at least 4 hours of arduous trail breaking, or bush wacking, or driving. It can be pretty miserable sometimes. So, the access in Europe is pretty darn swanky for the climber.

On April 25 I boarded a plane bound for Geneva. Dale, my new boss, kindly gave me two and a half weeks of holiday time after only having worked for him since February. Very generous indeed! Colin was already in Chamonix, he'd been there since Mar. 11. I was just about pulling my hair out after such an extended absence. He'd only been home for two weeks between Patagonia, and France! I think he was getting a little sick of hearing me blubbering on the phone.

As my shuttle drove me from the airport, an hour away to Chamonix at the base of Mt. Blanc, I was practically jumping out of my seat as we passed castles, and fields full of cows will bells around their necks! Oooooo!

Finally we arrived to the cozy alpine apartment Colin called home, and, just like that, there he was. As is our tradition now, which I love by the way, he had some hand picked flowers waiting for me. 

Some French flora, and a few pieces of Colin's dirty clothes of course.

And, this, was our little French abode. Is that not the cutest little apartment you've ever seen!
The plan was to do some skiing, and mountain climbing, with a little bit of limestone sport climbing thrown in, while I was there. And, in typical Colin-Sarah style we crammed a lot into a very short amount of time, and I returned home exhausted. Live Hard. That's my moto, and I don't mean that in a crack-snorting-sort-of-way. You get the point. 


No, really, what...?
It was so lovely to spend two and half weeks shredding the "pow" by day, and walking the streets of Chamonix by night with Colin. I want to go back. I will go back. 

Alpine pow' by day...
Quaint French rue's by evening.
I figured a good place to start was a wee comparison of mountain sports in Chamonix, versus, our beloved Coast Mountains. So, here you go...

The French alpine Chough. Looks at lot like this guy...

...Raven, who inhabits all the high places in British Columbia.

Here's a French mountain hut. Actually, it's like a small city with room to hold something like, 400 people. It includes a museum, an elevator, and is pertched atop the Aguille du Midi at 3842 m!

Here's the Midi's British Columbian counterpart, the Snowspider Hut. It's got room for maybe 6 people if you're lucky, and you're even luckier if you can locate the enterance to the hut from under the metres and metres of snow that usually burry it each winter. Ha!

A very gentil top-out from the classic Arête des Cosmiques. You literally climb a ladder and build your anchor on the railing of the deck. Mt. Blanc du Tacul is visible in behind.

And here Regan and Saar are just trying to get to the top of the god-damned Vantage Pk. so we can ski it. Jeez!

Italian mountains have madonna's on the summit.

British Columbian mountains have torpedo-like radio towers?!

Here I am starting out a day to go climb on La Tour Ronde. The bathrooms are heated on the top of  the Aigulle du Midi!

And, here's the view at the start of a typical day of skiing on our beloved Coast. Ya, it's like 12 km of logging road or something before you even get to the lake at the base of the ski lines!

Ski resorts in France throw big, loud parties at the end of the ski season...

OH, but wait...what is this? Whistler does too!

The Argentière Glacier is the home to some really big mountains, like Aiguille Verte, Les Droites, Les Courtes to name a few. And look, what's this, there's like a thousand people on the glacier. Seriously, there were like old people, and kids and stuff!

OK, and here's a photo of a typical ski day on the Coast. Just you, your friends, and a lot of snow!

So, there you have it. Squamish and Chamonix are kind of like "brothers from another mother", except, I have no idea if that really makes any sense?

A few days into my trip, and after we, or rather "I" had sufficient time to hang around town, oggle at all the little goats, patisserie's, and cheese shops in town, while dragging Colin with me, we decided to head to Cëuse...that's right folks, you heard it. We went to Cëuse! The forecast wasn't looking so good for Cham. so, just as we'd pack up on the Coast and head to Skaha, people pack up and head four hrs. away to Cëuse.

Now, don't get me wrong, the climbing was incredible. The hunk of limestone that we climbed on was literally a gift from god to climbers. No joke! But, the best part of Cëuse just might have been the adorable little village at it's base, Sigoyer. We actually saw a man riding a horse down the street...with a beret on!

Yours truly getting her first glimpse of French limestone. It also just so happens to be the most iconic hunk of limestone in all of sport climbing!

Team stoked!

This is me, climbing in Cëuse. The angels were practically rejoicing as I toped out my first pitch out!

...OK, one more shot.

This is how they dirt bag in France. Kind of the same thing, except we were eating baguette and cheese.

We had espresso in that pink building there, and on the way out, that's when I spotted this man. Walking his horse down the street. With a beret on!

Oh how provincial...

And then it happened. Colin heard a pop that was the undeniable proof that he'd just blown a tendon in his finger while cranking on a pocket. His trip was over. So, I took one more day to have some fun, and then we went back to Cham. to go skiing. Something one can easily do with a bumbed finger.

Alright, maybe just a few more pictures of the limestone first.

Oooo, and here's one with a waterfall in it!

We returned to Cham. after just a couple days, Colin with a bumbed finger, and me with a perm-grin after finally getting to experience provincial France. Oooo, it's so lovely. But, lucky for us the weather had turned for the better in Cham. and it was time to do some skiing. For my very first day out, we did a tour off the Argentiéré Glacier. How classic. And, how classic indeed, it was a true Alps experience. There were probably at least 200 people on the glacier with us that day! Surely it was the most I've ever seen trouncing about in truly big, burly mountains at one time. But, in France, it's a day just like any other day. 

Colin's favourite Technique Extreme poles on the Argentière Glacier.

Leaving the piste and heading up the Glacier to find some sweet turns. I've already mentioned, but there were like 200 people also seeking the same adventure on this day. It was crazy!

Colin pointing out one of the gajillion huts hidden away in the Alps. 

Skinning up the Argentiére valley.

That tall peak right there is called Les Courtes. Colin wanted us to ski the snowy colouir that starts just left of the summit. My stomach went into toes when he said that, and that is how I knew I wasn't going to ski it! 

Skiing back down to the valley bottom.

The following day was time for classic Cham. experience no. 2. Riding the telepherique to the top of Augille du Midi. It kind of blew my mind, because at one minute you're waltzing about town eating pasteries, and the next minute you're at 4000 m and feeling like you've just landed on the moon, except with 400 of your best friends. Ha!

We climbed the classic Voie Normale on La Tour Ronde. 

It was my first ride up the Midi Telepherique, and I was super, super stoked. Mostly because I was riding a tram to 4000 m. Let lazy people all over the world rejoice together!

We were indeed very high off the ground.

The tram pops you out in outer space effectively, and then you walk through an ice tunnel and magically find yourself on the side of a mountain. At which point you don your skis and ski off into a crevasse or something. I mean, that's really just the point. You could, for all the French care, ski off into a crevasse. They just want you to do whatever you feel like. If you get into trouble, have the PGHM emergency no. close at hand -- you have cell reception pretty much anywhere in the Alps -- and give them a call. They'll be there in like, 5 minutes.

Yup, ma' first ski off the Midi!

Some guys climbing on a peak near the Grande Capucin. 

My first time in the Vallée Blanche.

Colin was stoked too. That's a quiche smile!

I've got a bit of a thing for the Grand Capucin. That's it. I'm pointing at it!

Heading up Tour Ronde with my radical headband, and sunglasses on. Apparently, I resembled Mark Twight in his 1990's hay day?

Colin doing his best...something, impression? 

The obligatory girl power selfie with guy struggling in behind. Hehehe...

Colin following me up the final snow ridge to the summit...

...and on the summit, Madonna was waiting for us. She made a perfect hand hold.

Colin doing his best hail Mary, or something like that?

And, yes, the obligatory summit shot with Colin, Mary, and me.

After that we skied down the Vallée Blanche and past this big ice fall. That's where everyone skies though , so  I guess that means it's all good?

And then you get to the bottom of the Vallée Blanche, or at least the snow covered part. Then we strapped our skis on our packs and followed all the other skiers up the 150 m of stairs to the train station, where a cute little train was waiting to return us all to Chamonix. Seriously, you ski off a giant mountain, down the glacier, past a giant ice fall, and on to a waiting train?! WTF!

Here's an artsy shot from inside the train station of the north face of the Grande Charmoz. It's like, right there!

Then, another classic, the Arête des Cosmiques on the Aguille du Midi.

Waiting for the first bin that morning, I experienced my first powder induced stampede as 200 powder hungry locals pushed down barriers and ran over tourists to be the first on the bin that morning. It was entirely ridiculous...

...but kind of funny at the same time. I think that poor guy behind us, who surely was just a tourist, didin't think it was so funny.

We soloed most of the route, which is a testament to how easy it is. Because this girl wouldn't be caught dead soloing something unless it was stupid easy!

Colin setting a short rappel half way across the arete.

That's an Alpine Chough hanging out there with us, and Mt. Blanche du Tacul in behind.

Another short rappel.

A party that was behind us.

Apparently, there is some 5.13 crack on this little piece of granite?

You might call my outfit for the day, OG, or original gangster.

Me popping out on the final ridge to the deck of the Midi station where you top out.

A new friend, and another Alpine Chough, or maybe the same one?

And here you have it. This is where you top out the Arête des Cosmiques!

In the Midi station they don't allow any cramps! 

Doing the tourist thing with Captian Safety on the top of Aguille du Midi.

And, for the final hooray, we headed back up the Midi, this time to do a little tour to Brèche Puiseux. It was a blast to see some new places and we even found some creamy pow'.

Skiing up the Glacier des Périades for one last adventure before I got back on a plane.

We skied two laps on a slope below Brèche Puiseux and even passed a party...twice! North American's -- 1, French -- 0. Hehehe...

Kicking steps up to Brèche Puiseux.

Bam, selfie!

Creamy turns down the other side of the pass.

OH, and creamy turns in front of the Grandes Jorasses.

....yes, THAT Grandes Jorasses!

Captain Safety and Sarah with El Grandus' Jorassus.
Before going to Cham. for the first time, I watched this video repeatedly. Colin introduced me to it, and I kind of had it in my head that in Chamonix everyone skied like a ninja, and did so wearing totally killer outfits, just like in this video. This is in fact, true. And, everyone is, as it turns out, "so freaking extreme". Figured  I might as well share it with all of you too.