“the hero of Petit Dru,
the pioneer of speed climbing and enchainment”
Christophe Profit was the protagonist, in the ‘80s, of the season in which the rules of mountaineering were revolutionised, with undertakings which were previously unthinkable both for their conception and speed. His climbs were supersonic, they were rock climbing solos. He was one of the pioneers of speed climbing and the champion of enchainment, in mountaineering of all time: from the solo free climb of Petit Dru in just 3 hours and 10 minutes in 1982, to the first solo winter ascent in one day of the Eiger Northface (in 10 hours in 1985), up to the splendid “solitary ride” on the integral crest of Peuterey (in one day, in 1989). And in addition, the winter Trilogy: the enchainment of the three North faces of Grandes Jorasses, Eiger and Matterhorn in 42 hours, in 1987, and the Himalayan masterpiece on the North-West crest of K2 in 1991.
Today he is a mountain guide in Chamonix and continues with his undertakings; he is also a mentor to those who would like to follow in his footsteps (and they are many!).
Christophe Profit: a legend at the Tor des Géants 2012.
“Last year I came to Gressoney to follow the performance of my friend Max Savio and I found the environment extraordinary. It was there that I decided: I would do the Tor des Géants
For me the Tor des Géants is something new. I’m not familiar with this kind of race, nor have I ever done it. In fact, I am a little nervous … I have faced many challenging trials, due to my profession as a mountain guide, but they were never anything like this.
It is a major challenge based on strength (both physical and mental): it is the type of effort that I like, it is similar to the efforts I make in the mountains, but the approach is completely different.
As a guide, I am used to doing tours of 10, 15, even 20 hours a day, but I believe that the differences of approach, compared to an intense and prolonged race such as the Tor des Géants, are notable. Even the climbing is different: you have time to stop and start. Here you don’t. I did my season as a guide, I wasn’t able to actually train in racing, but anyway my job requires me to be physically prepared.
Therefore, I am confident in facing the Tor des Géants, but at the same time I ask myself some questions. I say to myself: even if I am used to prolonged endeavours, this will surely be very special. There are a lot of variables to manage: sleepiness, fatigue and right refreshment- that’s what makes it interesting to me.
When I did my ‘Trilogy’ (solo enchainment of Eiger, Matterhorn and Grandes Jorasses), a very long time ago (1985), I faced a great challenge: it is an intense memory which I maintain of those days. I hope that the Tor des Géants proves to be an experience just as strong as that one.
It will be an individual challenge, but I will experience it alongside friends such as Max, Armando and also Renato (Jorioz). Because I have always believed that the mountain is a human experience. And it is an ever greater experience if you have good companions in the adventure.
The other ingredient is humility. For me in the mountains humility is so important that it is much more a necessary approach to face a race like the Tor des Géants
My dream is to complete the whole course … if I am able to, considering the length and complexity of the whole race. I will find this out whilst doing it. In my profession I am used to not taking anything for granted and to enjoy the mountains with humility. For example, I do not know the whole course: I am only familiar with the area from Valgrisenche to Valsavaranche. Each step shall be a surprise, an opportunity to get to know the area.
And what’s more, in a race like this you can measure your limits, getting right to the bottom of your resources and discovering many things about yourself. It takes a lot of intelligence: the mental aspect and motivation are fundamental. To arrive at the finish line, to be a finisher, would be the realisation of a beautiful journey in the mountains and inside myself.
I really understand what they call “Tor Sickness”, the effect of melancholy after the race upon returning home. I have always experienced it in the mountains. When you finish your adventure, on the one hand you experience great joy because you were able to carry out your undertaking. On the other, however, a real emptiness is born within your soul. All good things that come to an end leave a little sadness behind them: you get involved, you give it all you can and then, all of a sudden, it is over. It is always like this. But then you set off again for new adventures.
The difference between my approach and that of those younger?
It’s simply that over 30 years of experience I have built my philosophy of approach to the mountains, in three points, which should work together:
1 – get out of your comfort zone and get involved,
2 – be brave and chart your own paths,
3 – “tame” the mountain.
The marvellous thing is that the limits of the mountain are endless, you can always go further. And above all, everyone can try to open up their own paths. This is what is important for me. People will never stop “going to the mountains”, because there will always be someone who wants to chart a new path. Make a new adventure, participate in a new challenge. This is why it is good to know your limits: to surpass them every time, experiencing moments of great intensity.
I wish everyone a good Tor des Géants experience and … we will talk about it again after the race”.
Christophe Profit participates in the Tor des Géants 2012
Interviewed by Sara Annoni, Gabriella Morelli, Silvia Basso
Valtournenche, 14th August 2012 (25 days before the race)