05.07.2021

Yves Ancrenaz, an athletic team

Guiding as a profession has a strong connection to mountain traditions, but is not restricted to only one uniform or conventional profile. Just like the playground in which it keeps evolving, there are many guide profiles, and just as many ways to work. Whether they are specialists in ice climbing, ski touring trips, remote expeditions or multi-pitch climbing, each guide shapes their profession as they desire to do so. Millet ambassador Yves Ancrenaz chose an ‘endurance’ version of his profession. This is what seduced Daniel Schafer, a sportsperson looking for experiences and challenges in the mountains. Welcome to this third episode of HI(GH)STORY!

A LOGICAL PATH

From his living room, Yves Ancrenaz can see Mont Blanc. A picture postcard view which can be contemplated from the couch, or a call to physically surpass yourself if you want to climb the highest mountain in Europe! Yves has had his mind made up for a long time now. A mountain guide at the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix since 1993 and a ski teacher in winter, he was born in Upper Savoy and considers the mountains as a typical playground when you grow up there. Progressing in high altitude and technical environments is only a matter of perspective, if you listen to him. ’I, for instance, took my son to the Cosmiques Ridge when he was only six. Some might think this is behaving recklessly, but this is practically normal for us. And by starting at such a young age, he will undoubtedly become familiar with this type of environment faster than others. I was educated in the same kind of way,’ confides Yves.

When becoming a member of the two-hundred-year-old Compagnie, which Millet has been supporting for many years, Yves gave himself an obligation to achieve. Not in completing some specific routes, which would be presumptuous and depend on too many factors, but finding the right recipe for his clients to enjoy themselves to the utmost while leaving them with the urge to come back.

’There are different phases in a guide’s life. You cannot be and have been,’ says Yves in a modest way. ‘I am not adept at highly technical routes, but as years go by, I have branched into and specialised in endurance projects.’ This is the type of project in which Daniel and Yves share a remarkable chemistry.

MOUNTAINS AT A FAST PACE

Daniel and his wife met Yves during a ski touring initiation they booked with the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix. After this initial introduction to the mountains far from the groomed slopes, multiple days with various types of activities would follow such as cliff climbing, mountain routes on ridges and ascents on snowy summits. Very soon, Daniel’s past resurfaced. A 50-year-old former alpine skier competing at a European level, then mountain biker and mountain runner, living in Geneva, Daniel decided to try out his exceptional physical skills in this new playground. With Yves, they started compiling ski touring excursions, some days culminating in more than 2500 metres of positive elevation, often escorted by Claudine, Daniel’s partner who has also stood out as a high-performance athlete competing in triathlons and the like.

‘Equipment evolution allows us to go further and faster than before,’ says Yves. ‘But these clients, who became friends, showed me that gear is not everything and that you need to keep training to be in good shape for those days when moving at a fast pace.’ Finally, this mutual stimulation encouraged Daniel and Yves to take part in ski-mountaineering races together. Starting in a few national races in Switzerland, the pleasure to compete together and the complementarity of their original guide-client relationship made them want to go further. The Pierra Menta, the Tour du Rutor, the Patrouille des Glaciers are competitions, some of which are among the hardest in the world, they have taken on together, some more than once, and always within a professional relationship.

Competitions aside, Daniel admits being motivated, above all, by ‘spending beautiful days in the mountains’, regardless of the activity or weather. ‘This is actually the conclusive philosophy of our team,’ confirms Yves. And the guide adds: ’In the mountains, you can find everything you want. Only fear or fatigue can get in the way.’ This unveils the endless possibilities of experiences offered by the mountains as a playground.

I have learnt
so much with Yves.
Thanks to him,
I was able to learn
how to progress
on my own in the mountains.

A LIMITLESS AREA OF EXPRESSION

Although the Mont Blanc range is an environment of unparalleled value offering endless possibilities, the Ancrenaz-Schafer team regularly went further than this ‘semi-comfort zone’. Both admit that their most enduring memory in the mountains is of their trip to Chile. ’We had organised a little expedition to tour fifteen volcanoes by ski. This is a vivid memory, where the change of scenery, the feeling of being alone in the world, on your skis, on active volcanoes stays very present in our minds’ explains Daniel. But even if their playground gets bigger, and adventure takes over a normalised daily life, the guide never forgets that ‘in spite of having a friendly relationship, when in the mountains, the second on the rope will always be the client’.

Their trips in the Andes or the Alps regularly took them as well on classic summer routes, such as Mont Blanc, or the Mittellegi ridge from the Eiger. ’From the very first step, you are on the ridge. You progress above huge steep walls all the way, enjoying the view. This is a wonderful route,’ reminisces Daniel. ‘Being roped up is very significant on this type of route’ he follows. ’The rope represents security, but is also synonymous of our friendship. I have learnt so much with Yves. Thanks to him, I was able to learn how to progress on my own in the mountains.’ Taking your clients to discover new routes to express themselves and experiment, and then helping them become autonomous; is this not one of the first missions of the guide? This energetic and faithful team has certainly found the answer to this question.

This concludes HI(GH)STORY, a series of ‘guides and clients’ portraits. Stories and history, to be discovered thanks to pictures and a podcast, on this blog and our social network. Meet us at La Plus Grande Cordée du Monde, on the 10th and 11th of July 2021, in Chamonix. Let’s get roped up with Louis, Claude and Yves!