Mountaineering: the day when “I climbed my first 8000”

It’s a story of 8,000 meters that begins with a 4,000. Moreover, during our meeting, Sophie Lavaud weighs the two dates. 2004 and his first 4000? Or 2012 and its first 8,000? Her life really changed in 2004, when this financial event pro climbed on a whim to the top of… Mont Blanc.

“It was then that my future path to great heights took shape. Until then, I had been hiking, much like everyone else when you live in Geneva, after having studied in Lyon. Up there, at the age of 36, I felt a kind of click, love at first sight for the mountain which led to everything else. “ After the 4,800 meters of the roof of Europe swallowed without difficulty, here is the time of 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, but always within the framework of organized holidays. A sort of risky and expensive hobby, nothing more.

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Until the financial crisis of 2008, which put the company that she had set up with her brother on the flank. A blow that leaves her stunned and allows her to wake up… different. “ I had time, no obligations, so I wanted to give myself the gift of going to see higher. “

A lady all-the-world of the heights

Towards these famous fourteen summits of more than 8,000 meters which dominate the world and haunt the dreams of professional mountaineers, a species in which the fallow top executive finds himself a little, but in the place that she gives herself, that of a madam everyone of the heights. “I fully assume my status as a mountain follower, I am not a guide, nor technically very strong, I surround myself with trustworthy people, I climb, I think. We don’t say it enough, but it’s by following that we get to the top. “

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So here she is in May 2012, a few days before her 44th birthday and… Hagia Sophia, at the foot of Shishapangma, the smallest of the 8,000 and one of the easiest too, even if the matter remains relative. “To those who speak of Himalayan tourism with contempt, because of the multiplication of expeditions, I propose to get down to it, they will see that even within a powerful expedition, with oxygen, it remains very difficult. “

The path begins in Kathmandu, with the procedures to obtain the necessary permit for the ascents, in the base camp where nationalities and ambitions come together, faced with a reality of patience and modesty. “I have seen seasoned mountaineers consume themselves with anguish at the idea of ​​not succeeding, I have always put forward the notion of pleasure, of adventure, privileging the present moment to stay within the perimeter. accessible. “

Passionate about the Himalayas

The first days at the foot of Shishapangma were not, moreover, very glorious, occupied in fighting against a little heroic diarrhea of ​​the mountains. The winter was dry, the crevasses are dangerous, the days of waiting for endless weather clearing. And then comes the “Go” long awaited, towards camps 1, 2 and 3, then the summit.

“I don’t know if it’s the happiest day of my life, in any case, this May 11, 2012 is a culmination”she said, searching for the exact word to describe how she felt at the time. Ecstasy? Euphoria? “Uh … it’s a bit like that”, she says. Before sending an email the day after our interview, just before flying to Nepal, to correct: “I would say wonder. “

Which does not stop there, since she decides to link up a few days later with another 8,000 neighbor, a little higher up, the Cho Oyu. This time, the virus is caught, the Himalayas will not let go. As the guide and filmmaker François Damilano, who has dedicated two films to him (1): “There are three categories of Himalayas; those who return home happy to have made an 8000, those who want to push to Everest and those who want to do them all. Sophie now belongs to the third category. “

New heights in the sights

“We often talk about the ego of mountaineers. It takes some, that’s for sure, but it’s not my main engine, she says. I’m not a collector, I don’t care about stacking tops, I just want to empower myself to make my own dreams come true. ” Now that she is a licensed Himalayan, making a living from conferences in companies when she returns to the cow land, her latest dream is to become the first among the French (one of her three nationalities, with Switzerland and Canada) to pose the challenge. foot on the 14 peaks over 8,000.

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He’s missing three. In reality four: his May 2012 ascent on the Shishapangma was not approved, because it was not carried out on the summit ridge but a few meters below. She will therefore have to go back there one day. A perspective that does not destabilize her more than that, on the contrary. “If I didn’t find pleasure in all this, I would have stopped a long time ago, it’s too hard to force yourself if the desire is no longer there. “


Three more summits to become unique

Starting off as a solid hiker, nothing more, Sophie Lavaud is on the way to becoming the first French Himalayan, men and women alike, to have climbed the 14 peaks over 8,000 m. Nicknamed the 88,000 Lady (eleven times 8,000), she is currently approaching the twelfth, the Dhaulagiri, and will try during the season, weather permitting, the Lhotse and the Nanga Parbat. Thus ending the loop started in 2012 by climbing the Shishapangma, where she had earned a nice nickname in the Sherpa language: Didi Sophie (big sister Sophie).


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