What is really cool at BLUE ICE is that when our US and European teams meet to work together, it always ends up by epic mountain climbs. The proof, with Leanne Thomson and Branden Michelkamp, reporting after their first trip to Chamonix.
Exchanging about alpine cultures
Late October we had the opportunity to visit the BLUE ICE headquarters in Chamonix. This was the first time either of us had been to France. Our goals while there were to meet the entire team, collaborate on projects, and climb! Our favorite part of working with European BLUE ICE team was the time we spent discussing current and future projects. We quickly learned there are many differences between the European and North American markets, especially in mountaineering.
A night at the Midi
During our stay, we were lucky enough to spend one day doing a route on the Triangle du Tacul with Manu, Maxime, and Clem. During this day we learned about the European climbing technique and history. One of the most striking differences we found was in how people learn mountaineering. In the US it is very common to learn skills from mentors you find through trusted friends. However, in France, it is very common to hire a guide to teach you these skills and continue a relationship with this guide as your skills progress. The access to mountaineering is significantly different as well. It was amazing to hop on the téléphérique (cable car) from Chamonix (1035m/3396ft) to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m/12,605ft) within half an hour. Travel to similar areas in the US requires much more planning and time. Once at the Midi, we stepped out into an alpine wonderland. Neither of us had much experience on glaciated terrain, but we followed our expert coworkers (two of them being mountain guides) and had an amazing day. To cap it off, we missed the last cable car down and spent the night at the Aiguille du Midi! After watching a spectacular sunrise the following morning, we headed back down to Chamonix and returned to work a bit later than expected.
Sport climbing… under the snow
Work life in Chamonix was very similar to our work life in the US. The team would hit the climbing gym after work and then head to dinner. Weekends were full of adventures as well. One of our most memorable climbing days was spent at Emosson Dam. Despite a less than ideal weather forecast, we headed out for an alpine multi-pitch sport route. We started the route in good conditions, but it quickly turned into climbing 6b in a snow and hail storm! Instead of backing down, the entire team embraced the challenging conditions and laughed all the way to the summit. During this climb, we realized our coworkers are just as stubborn and committed to climbing as we are. After descending the route and thawing out in the car, we headed to a bar for dinner and drinks. Turns out, whether French or American, the best way to celebrate a good day in the mountains with friends is over drinks.
After two weeks in France, our coworkers were now also our friends and climbing partners. We learned a lot about the culture and history of climbing in France and had some amazing adventures. Now back in the US, we are continuing our close collaboration on projects and returning the sharing of culture by hosting Aude, Maxime, and Manu in the North American office.