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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Andreas Fransson and J.P. Auclaire are no more

I was hit in the gut when I found this out. I met Andreas a couple of times in Chamonix during the 2012/2013 season and he was probably the most centered, calmest big mountain skier I ever met. A gentleman and an athlete... It hurts just thinking about it. I can't even begin to imagine how hard this must be on the loved ones.

J.P. and Andreas were climbing a couloir up the on the Argentine side of Monte San Lorenzo (12,159 feet) when an avalanche carried them in excess of 2,000 feet downhill. Their two camera carrying collegues made it. For the ESPN news on this click here.
One thing that gnaws at me is that often in our sport (as in this case) it seems dangerous even when you don't do particularly dangerous stuff. Andreas and J.P. got peeled off the mountain in climbing mode, Doug Coombs died looking down a couloir he skied a ton of times before. Remy Lecluse and Gregory Costa got taken asleep in their tents. It doesn't seem to me like these guys were being particularily reckless when they got caught.Sometimes I think that just the fact of being present in the mountains in winter is enough to get you. 

I do struggle with the way I often feel we rationalize the accidents. In order to reassure ourselves I feel that we often seek the preventable reason why the accident happened in the first place. Something along the lines of "if they only had paid attention to this, that or the other predictable factor it would never have happened" and therefore I can go on into the mountains under the illusion that I can make myself safe. More and more I feel that premise is as false as prevalent. These were absolutely expert mountaineers, they sure would push the envelope but incompetent they were not. Neither were  Remy Lecluse, Gregory Costa or Doug Coombs and so many others. I can only dream of getting to their level of competence let alone skill. However they still got caught. 

Not that the sedentary life seems to be all that safe, it only takes a cursory glance at health statistics in this country to realize that. I guess that at the end of the day it is all about figuring out what we want out of life for our loved ones and for ourselves.  I do feel a tension between my love for my loved ones and my love for the mountains. That's probably why I would love to believe I can be safe out there and so make sure I'm there for my loved ones too. It's just that as time goes by and one of these accidents comes after the other, I feel it's getting increasingly hard to believe that. 

To leave on as positive a note as possible here are some words from Fransson:
"Society has an absurd general belief that life is about hanging on as long as possible. So people [are] often hanging on for the sake of hanging on and not for really living. I can go on for days about this, but the important things in life are unsayable, so let's just live it out and see what we find behind the curtains in front of the big game we are all playing."
I'm pretty sure I mostly agree but it still hurts to know they are gone. Here is to hoping they are in a better place.


The pictures (click to enlarge):


Monte San Lorenzo (12,159 feet) straddling Chile and Argentina


Andreas Fransson

J.P. Auclair



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