Mother Mary and me on the summit of the Dent du Geant, Alps
I have been thinking of the Eiger Sanction a lot these past few weeks. Partly because I finally saw it, after hearing the same quotes hundreds of times from my husband Freddie (I suddenly understand him much better!). But mainly it is because of the scenes where Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) goes to the desert to train for his climb of the Eiger. Those scenes made me realize I have never seriously trained for an expedition.
Hemlock and his coach Bowman on top of a training climb in the Eiger Sanction:
Ben Bowman: Wanna Beer?
Jonathan Hemlock: You gonna call room service?
Ben Bowman: We got beer.
Jonathan Hemlock: If you hauled beer up this rock you're insane!
Ben Bowman: I may be insane, but I'm not stupid. I didn't carry it, You did! It's in your pack.
Jonathan Hemlock: Christ, I outta throw you off this pillar! Besides, It's warm.
Ben Bowman: Sorry, just knew you'd draw the line at haulin' ice.
I seem to instead have a cycle where I have a balanced life of work and play, then once I commit to a trip, I work way too much leading up to it and leave feeling not at the top of my physical game, disorganized and tired, and then come home to start it all over again.
With a meeting and a wedding within a week of eachother in Chamonix, France, just before our expedition was to get underway in India in early July, I decided to be like Hemlock and spend a few weeks 'training' in the Alps. I was lucky enough to have my work load so light by the time I left that I didn't bring a computer, and didn't even post an autoreply away message for my email account. So it was with an uncluttered, open mind and 140 lbs of luggage (!!!) that I left the states a few weeks ago.
There really can't be a more perfect place to be a climber than Chamonix. The culture is so steeped in climbing that there are more climbing museums, guide services and climbing shops than there are banks, grocery stores or convenience stores. Everyone who lives here seems to be a climber or at least understands climbing beyond a superficial level. There are telepheriques, trains, lifts and huts crisscrossing through the deepest parts of the mountains, lending unprecendented access. I told my mom in a postcard that it feels glamorous and intimidating yet home-like here, like when we would go to the Kentucky Horse Park, the hub of the elite equestrian world, for horse shows when I was growing up.
My version of the beautiful silent woman who is assigned to Hemlock to whip him into shape in the movie is a mulletted, laughing Coloradan, Kelly Cordes. He was here for the Polartec meeting as well, and is also getting back in the saddle with climbing after injuries.
Mix master Kelly Cordes, back in action in the ALPine
I've had ample time on rock, snow, snowy rock, ice and glacier while getting to know my gear, learning how to use my new camera and refreshing my climbing systems. There has been enough good weather to match the bad weather ("Good weather, bad weather, anytime's good for climbing!") and since I am away from home and work, the rest days have been truly restful, reading books, cooking, eating and enjoying great views and conversations with friends.
Climbing around Chamonix, photos by Kelly Cordes
So as I wind down my time here in France I am feeling excited and, for once, prepared for the expedition to come. The only problem is that now that I took the time to get fit and feel relaxed, I seem to have no excuses for not stepping up to the plate when the time comes in India!
Thanks to friends and hosts in France including Ruthann and the Polartec crew, Zoe, Max, Caroline, Adam, Kelly, Henry, Eliza, Patrick, Brittany and JT. Fun times all around!
More favorite Eiger Sanction quotes:
Woman Journalist: Tell me, Mr. Bowman, in your opinion do these men climb to prove their manhood, or is it more a matter of compensating for inferiority feelings?
Ben Bowman: Lady, why don't you go get yourself screwed. It would do you a lot of good.
Anderl Meier: You're very good. I have really enjoyed climbing with you.
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: We'll make it.
Anderl Meier: I don't think so. But we shall continue with style.
Jemima Brown: Is this hotel always so crowded?
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: Only when there's a climb. Then the Eiger birds start flocking in.
Jemima Brown: Eiger birds?
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: Yeah, jet setters, assorted zombies, come here to watch a climb. If they're lucky, they get to see a man die on the mountain.
Jemima Brown: That's grim.
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: So's the Eiger.
Newlyweds Zoe and Max have a first dance on the train to the reception
Caroline George on the Contamine Route, S. Face of the Ag. Du Midi
More photos from France are here