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Inveniam viam aut faciam

- Hannibal Barca

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Adventure Travel

Jun 14, 2017

Discover the True Meaning of ‘Made in Chamonix’

Chamonix, France, is one of the most prestigious places on earth for outdoor sports.

WRITTEN BY

Alyssa Fowler

Located at the bottom of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, it offers a rare spirit to the visitor—a sense of adventure that you just can’t live without once you’ve had a taste of its grandeur.

This article was featured in the Destination section in our very first print issue of The Outdoor Journal, Summer 2013. Stay tuned for our exclusive story by Krissy Moehl, two-time champion of the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, about this life-changing race.

You know you’re hooked on a place when all you can think about is your next trip out there. Chamonix, France is one of those places. It is the cradle of many adventures in alpinism, paragliding, BASE jumping and extreme skiing. “Many thrill seekers have been coming to live in the valley in the past 40 years and have helped that place radiate over the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland,” says Dominic Simoncini, our columnist and mental coach, who lives there now. “Chamonix is at the crossroads of extreme sports and extreme passion for the mountain.”

Aiguille du Midi. Photo courtesy of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Municipalities

Skiing in Chamonix is great, but it’s not among the best in the world. The mountain is so wild and steep that the slopes haven’t yet been successfully connected. As a result, serious skiers end up chasing the best spots on one specific side of the mountain in the morning, going all the way down to where the road stops, taking a short bus ride and going up again to another side of the mountain for more cliffs and untouched powder. Other than the steepness of some mountainsides, it’s not the best for avid skiers. However, for beginners and even families who are on holiday, it’s perfect. The only hassle is that you can’t go anywhere with a chairlift.

“Chamonix remains the alpine capital of the world because of the Mont Blanc mountain and all its glorious history, but it is also very alive thanks to a lot of small startups acting in the outdoor segment,” says Sébastien de Sainte Marie, The Outdoor Journal Brand Ambassador and an avid steep skier with many stories in the mountains. “This has mostly been supported by the English tourist colony coming here every year and making possible the existence of a true ‘made in Chamonix.’”

In the summer, it’s another story. Chamonix is the place to be for trekking, trail running, paragliding, base jumping, climbing and hard alpinism. “Chamonix is a very special little town stuck in between mountains, offering perfect spots for all kinds of sports, but also for more family-oriented time with a lot of great infrastructure,” says Sébastien Nain, ultra runner from the Vibram Europe team.

Mer de Glace. Photo courtesy of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Municipalities

There are some major sporting events in Chamonix that you shouldn’t miss as a spectator or a participant, from international climbing competitions to 24-hour mountain biking. And don’t forget the gruelling Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), one of the best 100-mile (170-km) ultra running races on earth.

“I have loved my time in Chamonix around the race every year,” says American ultra runner and Patagonia athlete Krissy Moehl, who is also a two-time winner of the UTMB race. “Each time, I have spent a minimum of nine days playing in and around the town. The daily adventures up in the hills are an incredible playground for any outdoor enthusiast. My favourite time was in 2010, when I took a four-day turn around the Mont Blanc massif. The access from Chamonix is what makes it any adventurer’s dream, any time of year.”

Thinking about going there? The best place in Chamonix (believe me, as I’ve stayed in each of the top boutique hotels and fancy chalets) is The Résidence Quartz Mont Blanc. Yan, the owner, inherited the building from his grandparents and decided to quit his job to turn it into luxury apartments with his wife, Mimi (aka “Mimi the witch” if you’re a close friend). It’s located just by the edge of this very small town, and you can easily walk to nearby shops and restaurants. The farmers’ market right below your window on Saturday morning will make you feel like a true Frenchman.

“On race days, our large group of runners from Patagonia is easily accommodated in the comfortable rooms, providing everyone ample space and a great common area to connect and share home-cooked meals—all with the flair of Chamonix and the Mont Blanc massif standing guard out the window,” says Moehl.

During my childhood and teenage years, I used to go skiing twice a year in Courchevel, in the Alps, in the greatest resort of all: Les 3 Vallées. But since I grew up and became a real outdoorsman, I just can’t live without my Chamonix fix.

Chamonix makes me happy; it’s as simple as that.

When I can afford it, I stay at Yan’s and just forget about the rest. And when I look at the Mont Blanc summit from my window, I feel pushed beyond my limits. If you’re a surfer, Chamonix is like Tavarua in Fiji, or Grajagan in Java, Indonesia. If you scuba dive, it compares to the Great Barrier Reef or Tahiti. For skydivers, it ranks up there with Eloy.

This isn’t hyperbole: if you love the mountains, Chamonix is the top of the world.

Feature image by Henry Iddon.

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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