Like all good ideas, it came to him during a meal with friends: “34 hours walking, a 5,000-metre climb and 10 to 15 kilos of equipment to carry”. The challenge is on. A tremendous challenge too because, in his daily life, Julien is no mountain climber: he’s a purchasing manager.
The physical and psychological preparation begins some months before the ascent, and even now the pressure begins to rise: “I was afraid of being tied on to someone less prepared than me and, above all, of suffering altitude sickness. I was frightened of not being to make it all the way”.
On 8 July, he sets off. With his seven childhood friends, he leaves Greater Paris and crosses the Burgundy region before entering the Chamonix valley. Before the great ascent, there are three days of intense preparation with the four guides who will support their climb to the roof of Europe. On the fourth day, all twelve of them jump on the Mont Blanc tram to go to the first stop at an altitude of 2,400 metres. “As we gained height, the adrenalin was kicking in. Once up there, looking at the Aiguille du Midi, I finally realised what was about to happen to me. I was amazed, but I found myself halfway between awe and apprehension as I saw the extent of the really steep and hazardous areas that awaited us for the first time”.
Julien (right) with one of his friends, almost at the top
It takes them 24 hours to reach the summit, at an altitude of 4,810 metres. Equipped with ice axes, lathered in sun cream beneath their hooded Gore-Tex jackets and roped together, they advance in four groups of three climbers. Between the strenuous effort and wonderment, the immaculate terrain provokes a whole range of emotions as they ascend. “As I had imagined, the hardest thing was the lack of oxygen. We had been over some very difficult ground, we were at the hard part, I saw my friend fall every five metres and crawl along on his knees. But it’s an unforgettable memory. Once you are at the summit, when all of your efforts are rewarded, that’s when the emotion takes over”. Then there is a 7 or 8-hour descent “with no let-up in the pressure, because you have to go back down via the hazardous spots again”.
Because he has to get back to work, he swaps his fleece for a suit. In Paris, he goes back to his daily life, that of purchasing manager for hybrid vehicle batteries. A strategic role, to which he brings as much passion as he brings to his physical challenges. And his next climb? “Kilimanjaro, I hope”.