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Photographic Credits © Marc Daviet

Logo Samaya Expedition

THE COMBE MAUDITE – MONT-BLANC – 2020

The world’s greatest mountaineers and climbers – gathered in the Samaya® Family – meet up in the Mont-Blanc massif for an out-of-the-ordinary experience with the two-star French chef Jean Sulpice.

Climb aboard with us for the Samaya® Five-Star Basecamp.

Logo Samaya Expedition

At Col du Géant next to Helbronner cable-car, a dozen of mountaineers all members of the Samaya® Family are getting busy around a big blue case. Equipped as a Himalayan expedition, they are trying to fix the maximum of voluminous bags on this impressive chest and on a narrow pulka. Attached by meters of rope, the two crafts are being shaky, drifting away and sometimes overturning – going away from the track at the first opportunity. Little by little, a swarm of ropes and mountaineers organize themselves to hold, pull and push the two sledges as much as they can.

But where are those mountaineers going and what are they planning to do with so many people and equipment?

That is the question they can see in the eyes of all the people they meet along the way, but there are only a few who actually dare to ask. Some of them recognize each other and know that such climbers are usually accustomed to alpine style, fast and light ascents with 40-liter backpacks rather than enigmatic sarcophagus, especially in the Mont-Blanc Massif!

 

The reason of this abundance of energy comes from a crazy inspiration: recreate a real high-altitude camp with Himalayan colours in the Combe Maudite, with the best French and international mountaineers gathered around the Samaya® brand, herself at the root of the project.

It would have been possible to solicit the backup of a helicopter to transport the hundreds of kilograms of material and food needed to the achievement of such a bet. But the path value, the effort and the complicity necessary to reach the purpose contribute in the end as widely to the global achievement. The “by fair means” approach, so important for Samaya®, through which the end does not justify the means. After the cable-car assistance, which has already filled the mechanical part of an adventure voluntarily praiseworthy, time is now at the perspiration.

A micro-community emerges and comes to animate a landscape of monochromatic colours.

With difficulty, the mountaineers caravan goes through some of the most beautiful monoliths of the Massif. These rock sentinels, which keep watching over the quietude of the Combe Maudite, are attractive and frightening at the same time. The Samaya® Family members’ eyes are sparkling. Frequent visitors to summits which compile three times the height of the peaks around, it is not anxiety that we can see on their faces but rather greed. Hammered into ice gums, sharpened as rock canines, they attract the eyes and command respect.

It is in this spectacular setting, at the same time close and accessible, just as much as unfamiliar and wild, that the base camp place is decided. The surrounding must be breath-taking, the surface flat and the crevasses discreet to limit the risks and ensure the security of all the protagonists. In the centre of the glacier tongue of this valley, damned for some, blessed for others, a pole is hammered. After a few bites on the frozen epidermis of the glacier dispensed by a sharpened probe, the signal is launched. The ground seems free of sneaky traps.

In a few minutes, an ephemeral micro-community emerges from the ground. Born from a blank page, its layout is at the discretion of its creators. On the surface of the Mer de Glace several hundred meters deep, the Samaya BASECAMP of the 8K range comes to light to serve as a “mess tent”. It will be the heart of this small company that is just coming to life. Surrounding, domes, as if tinted by magic in the colours of the ALPINE, 8K and ULTRA ranges of Samaya®, bloom in the snow, illuminating and enlivening a monochrome coloured landscape.

Luxury is not always where you expect it.

For Samaya®, this gathering is a celebration. The one of mountaineers and Himalayists who associate their advice and their image to a company of passionate people. Accustomed to carrying their own tents and eating freeze-dried food, few of them are aware of the surprise that awaits them at the base camp. This time and in an environment that is nevertheless familiar to them, Samaya® has thought of everything so that they will only remember this bivouac as a five-star souvenir! Like them, Samaya® is convinced that luxury is not always where you expect it and that nature, especially in the high mountains, can offer invaluable experiences.

For this exceptional event, taking place in an exceptional setting at an altitude of 3,400 meters and imagined for exceptional guests, Samaya® offered chef Jean Sulpice to join the Samaya® Family. Double-starred by the Michelin guide and elected best chef by the Gault & Millau in 2018, he shares with all the members of the Samaya® Family a passion for the mountain and honoured all the guests with his presence and his performance at the summit!

In this improvised gastronomic restaurant – where the floor has been largely dug up – snow benches have been created and covered with insulating blankets. All around this famous blue trunk, which empties to the rhythm of the tasting, are comfortably seated mountaineers and himalayists of the Samaya® Family who come from the four corners of Europe and even across the Atlantic, and for whom Chamonix often becomes the main residence. They all discuss their latest or next expeditions. Side by side, Hélias Millerioux, Symon Welfringer, Lise Billon, Matteo Della Bordella, Jordi Noguere are on the same wavelength. Both ambitious and modest, they are among those who do very serious things without really taking themselves seriously. Most of them work as mountain guides to subsist and self-finance their projects. No star shines brighter than the others, but the constellation formed by this cheerful team is impressive.

Champagne’s corks jump as the first delicious pâtés en croute appear, majestically followed by the rabbit ravioli al plin with capers and lemon, cheeses that have been aged for a long time and finally sweets and other delicacies whose memory is still vivid today. This base camp meal seems like a hallucination. The bio-dynamic wines set fire to the powders and do not help lucidity. Tasting such nectars in stemmed glasses with the South face of Mont Blanc as a backdrop is a unique experience that leaves a lasting impression. Accented by the contrast of the heights, it is the dinner of all the superlatives. The smile that lights up on the chiselled faces of each of the guests is the same as the one at the summit of a remarkable ascent: unfailing. For dessert, the American Colin Haley and the Englishman Tom Linvingstone emerge by surprise. With their hands still full of magnesia, they arrive from the Grand Capucin, which they have just climbed. Neither of them expects such a welcome, nor such a feast!

A strong act which will sustainably nourish the Samaya® Family complicity.

If the evenings are lively, the days are even more so. Around new rope lines, formed for the occasion, several ascents are made on the stone obelisks that border the glacier. The Combe Maudite is a profusion of granite delicacies for the angry lions that the Samaya® tents can no longer contain. Choices have to be made; they won’t be able to taste everything. In the same day, some offer themselves ridge races at dawn, big routes for lunch and even a third ascent for an afternoon snack. Some ascent schedules are divided by two or even three and it is only the arrival of the storm that puts an end to the climbing. From the top of the routes, each of the ropes nevertheless takes time to contemplate the mandala formed by each of the ten tents which, together, participate in a harmonious design. The rock in this corner of the massif, a compact red protogine with perfect cracks, is one of the most beautiful on the vertical planet. The accessibility of the place, the beauty of the setting and the quality of the lines make it a destination not to be missed.

 

This high-altitude base camp is also the perfect opportunity for Samaya® to present its new finalised models to its athletes in the continuity of the reflections and tests carried out in a close collaboration with them on the prototype versions. Full-size tests which are no longer tests when the elements are unleashed and when thunderstorms and lightning strikes are involved in it. A nocturnal sound and light in the shape of a final bouquet enlivens the last night and closes an event that will definitely not be comparable to any other.

 

This type of event could, like mountaineering, raise questions. What is the point of spending all this energy on activities that some would describe as useless? The Samaya® vision is that bringing together, with particular attentions, exceptional people in the flesh and blood to celebrate in altitude this relationship with the mountains is a strong act which will sustainably nourish the Samaya® Family complicity. It is this closeness that allows to push the excellence of Samaya® and its products ever further, and by that means the intensity of each of the experiences associated with them. 

© Antoine Mesnage

Long live to this type of celebrations whose ingredients are now known, but whose proportions will be kept secret by Samaya® for a while!