“Oh, god. This is why I hate slab climbing.” I thought.
Three meters (10 ft) above my last bolt and 30 meters (100 ft) up, I have one quickdraw and one locker left. I see one bolt three meters (10 ft) above me, and another five meters (17 ft) after that. And that one has a “leave’er biner” where someone escaped this nightmare.
Almost at half-rope, there are no anchors in sight. The move to the next bolt is a 6a (5.10) mantel on a seeping muddy, mossy sloping ledge. It would be a safe fall. But it would be a painful, cheese-grating fall.
I am terrified.
Below, I can hear my boss and belayer, Giovanni, chatting up his team. He bounces effortlessly from English to French to his native Italian, depending on the audience. Is he watching me?
“Uh…watch me here G.” I whimper. No one notices.
As a team building event, the entire Blue Ice office came to this idyllic sport crag buried in the Haute-Savoie called Ablon. As the new American employees, we came to Chamonix to meet the rest of the team, talk product, and play as much as possible. Two weeks ago, we were climbing The Coffin Crack in Little Cottonwood Canyon, with Robert our Aussie softgoods developer. Now, we are in a dreamy valley, with idyllic views. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
Our global team is truly global: An Aussie, two Canadians, three Italians, six Americans, eight Frenchs. I am Canadian by birth, with a French-Canadian mother, and English father. Together we encompass every possible international climbing perspective. Now we have a Salt Lake City, UT office along with our Global HQ in Les Houches. Product design and development will happen on two continents, so we like to say, ‘it is one office, with a really long hallway.’ Unlike many other European brands that expand into North America with Sales and Marketing only, we are striving to break the mold; to do something different.
A unique vision
Our diversity of opinion is our strength. We are not “French” or “American”. Those are labels we impose on ourselves. We are all climbers and with that in mind, we will find a new path. After all, our hardgoods team is among the best in the industry. This includes five Black Diamond Equipment expats, like Bill Belcourt, 20+ year former Dir. RND, and engineer Pete Wilk who designed iconic ice equipment at BD. Now here at Blue Ice, idealism is again important and passion is again an absolute priority. We know that “style matters” as much in business as it does in climbing, and so we remain on that mission for good style. This is foundational to us: pursuing our ideals and passion above all else, and making the best equipment for the sports we love.
Our odds are good.
But here I am now, 30 meters up and scared. I have immediate problem: Don’t freak out on day-one with new coworkers. Committing to the mantel, I search for the tiniest holds and the driest parts of the ledge for my feet… there! Camouflaged anchors two meters to my right!
Two steps, and I grab the chains. Safe, I exhale. One draw. One locker.
“What?” Giovanni says. “Oh- hey. Good job. You got it.”
I did get it. Just.