In 2013, Jérôme Para and Arnaud Bayol dreamed of repeating the Bérhault/Boivin rope party's 1981 achievement: successively climbing Aiguille du Fou and Les Drus, then flying off their summits – not hang-gliding, like their predecessors, but base-jumping.
On reaching the top of Aiguille du Fou, they had to abandon their plan: too dangerous. And so they chose another way to share their passion with the public: enchaining ascents of legendary Alpine summits and exceptional jumps, under the discerning eye – and filmed by –mountaineer-filmmaker Bertrand Delapierre.
3 months intermittently
NOT STEEP ENOUGH!
In early 2013, Jérôme Para and Arnaud Bayol were keen to embark on a “fun” project in their home region. These two high-mountain guides and para-alpinism experts dreamed of a wonderful enchainment combining their twin passions: speed climbing (of advanced technical level) and base-jumping. Which is how they devised “Double dose”: they wanted to climb Aiguille du Fou and Les Drus, two mythical walls overlooking the “Sea of Ice”, then jump back down. They would thus be following in the footsteps of their elders: Patrick Berhault and Jean-Marc Boivin! An ambitious project...
“We went for a recce one day in late April. We reached the summit of Aiguille du Fou, at 3501m, after a long and demanding traverse. And then, we had to face facts: the famous south face of ‘Le Fou’ wasn’t as steep as all that! Jumping would be dangerous, and we preferred to give up on the idea. It was a wise decision, but slightly disappointing too, because that was the starting-point of our project. The theme of our trip and its historical roots took a knock,” explains Jérôme.
“Not doing the jump was a wise decision.”
The two buddies then thought about another enchainment. “We bore in mind what had motivated us up to that point: climbing, jumping, sharing our passions and thrilling the public. So we decided to show what we do day-to-day, and make a video record of a sequence of ascents and jumps. The sequence begins at our usual training spots and gradually builds in intensity right up to the high mountains.”
The thread running through their adventure? The rope-party spirit. “We wanted to highlight the pleasure of operating in superb surroundings, but above all the notion of calculated risk. For our image as mountain professionals, it’s very important for the public to understand that nothing is left to chance.”
“The public must understand that nothing is left to chance.”
IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT JUMP
Jérôme and Arnaud thus went in search of the perfect jump – the one that best combines great climbing and a long freefall – under the expert eye of Bertrand Delapierre.
On day trips, their ascents included Rateau (3809m) and Olan (3564m) by the traditional route, in the Ecrins Massif; Pic de Bure (2709m) overlooking the resort of Super Dévoluy; Croix des Têtes (2492m) in the Maurienne region; and Grand Capucin (3830m) in the Mont Blanc Massif. And on the return leg, they always took the aerial route, using tracking suits for greater comfort and mobility.
And these birdmen certainly got their thrills!
Jérôme looks back on the 40-second, 1600-metre descent down Croix des Têtes, or the jump from Pic de Bure: “It had already been done by Benoît Paquet back in 2003, but on the other side, with a 280-metre descent. This time, we took off from the highest point, without any abseiling. That’s a vertical drop of 550 metres, tracking for 15 seconds – all above the two Desmaison routes.”
There were also stirring moments such as the 1500-metre jump off Olan, facing the setting sun…
On 28 August, the two guides completed their programme on Grand Capucin. They scaled it via the Bonatti route: their jump spot was right at the top. “We spent five hours in the clouds, waiting for a gap... Five hours of uncertainty, then a gap appeared and off we went!” The business!
A NOD TO HISTORY
Jérôme and Arnaud’s initial project referenced the history of mountaineering. On 14 August 1981, the Bérhault/Boivin rope party opened the way for multi-sport enchainments. The two men scaled the south face of Aiguille du Fou (four hours) then, at the top, took off beneath a two-seat hang-glider. They landed at the foot of Les Drus. They then enchained with the “Directe Américaine” route up the west face of Petit Dru.
27 BREATHTAKING MINUTES
This original enchainment by the two Hautes-Alpes natives yielded, as promised, a film packed with great shots and thrills that are sure to give audiences goosebumps – a hallmark of filmmaker Bertrand Delapierre. “It’s 27 minutes long, with terrific footage of the mountains – though I’m not objective,” says Jérôme. “Multicolour tracking suits, alpinism and climbing.”
The film – entitled Pour une poignée de secondes” (“A fistful of seconds”) gives an account of what is still a little-known discipline but which, in its own way, is writing a new page in the history of alpinism.