Relative to most sports, ski mountaineering (the steep kind) is very small. The history is well documented. There are really just a few French grandmasters that invented the sport and have since taken it to successive levels gnar. There are strong communities elsewhere in Europe and North America, but because of Chamonix, the French have always ruled the sport. So when one of these guys dies while skiing, it’s a big deal (even if the ski media doesn’t realize it).
But our sport isn’t about who’s best. There’s no quantifiable glory. No bullshit gold medals. That’s the beauty of it. Why it transcends mere sport.
Remy didn’t have the flash that many of his contemporaries had. He just skied an endless number of descents.
I’m ok at what I do skiing-wise. But when people ask me for advice on skiing the steeps, I shrug my shoulders and tell them to go watch Youtube videos of Remy Lecluse. His steep technique was efficient, effortless and flawless. You got the sense that he was so competent, he could never fall. In the end it was an avalanche while tent-bound.
I’ve only followed his career for the last 5 years. His early days were featured in Pierre Tardivel’s book, Memoiries de pleine pente, with the other masters. He’d been actively skiing the steeps since the mid 80’s, and more recently him and Plake formed a partnership and headed to places like Peru and India. Fransson states in his tribute to Remy, that he had over 500 firsts . . . crazy!
As far as Manaslu is concerned, from the pictures I’ve seen the peak seems to have significant objective hazards. The week prior to the avalanche, after hearing about the 50cm of fresh snow that had fallen on a previous 50cm of powder, I remember thinking out loud about the risks those boys were taking. But you can’t judge these things. The Himalayas is totally unique in the world of mountains, where the general rules we try to follow in Canada don’t apply. From my own experiences I know the mindset changes after a month or so of acclimatization and thousands spent on transportation and porters. High-altitude wears you down, decision-making becomes affected and priorities relax. But the massive serac-fall that created the avalanche, seems to be a freak occurrence separate from the snow conditions.
Another legend gone.
R.I.P. Remy Lecluse, Gregory Costa