The team or the top?

Max

It’s a cold, golden morning when we exit the Elisabetta hut, found at 2200 metres among the peaks of the Aosta Valley. Today we’re taking on a challenging climb towards Punta Lechaud: we’ll need our crampons, ropes, and a bit of courage.

While we gear up with boots and backpacks, Martina reads out the groups that we’ll be climbing in.

I lock eyes with Max when my name gets called out together with his, and his face brightens up with his characteristic smile: it’s impossible to resist and not respond: I know I’m in good hands.

Il team o la vetta? Max

Max is one of those people that emanates genuine positive energy, the kind of person that manages to stay calm even when the game gets serious and you want to give up. Altogether an ideal team partner.

Especially because he’s a real team player. I’ve never seen him leave someone behind during our hikes. He has a natural way of never weighing down on the group, but always staying behind, taking on the role of “guardian” of those who – for one reason or another – get left behind. I don’t often see him reach the top, but from his lean physique and the way he chats with ease even during the most difficult hikes that it isn’t physical difficulties that slow him down. I’m curious, then, why does he do it?

Il team o la vetta? Max

Maybe it’s because of his past. He tells me that he used to do social work, designing adventures and activities for people with various difficulties. “Instead, today, I do activities that help adults change,” he says, laughing, as we walk. I smile: the definition is spot-on, seeing as what Methodos often does to help their clients through a change process is to create situations that are challenging, that are adventurous, and that push people out of their comfort zones.

And, as I quickly discover, he is a mountain man at heart.

He manages his way though the forests and knows how to choose the best path, how to dose his effort, and when to slow down because a colleague is in difficulty.

“I’m a mountain man, since I was a kid the sea always kind of bored me. Leave me on the beach and I won’t last long, throw me in the forest and I’m full of joy! When they told me about M4810 it was like Christmas morning.

I think it’s a one of a kind occasion to start seriously hiking again – which I haven’t been doing for a while – but it’s also a really visionary project. In the mountains, physical training isn’t enough – above all, it requires mental preparation. That means everything from the attitude towards the challenge, the group, to overcoming limits without forgetting about the safety of the individual and the team. It’s the same message that we try to send our clients every day, especially when we bring them out to “play” in contexts far out of their comfort zone. Applying it to ourselves is genius.”

He recounts some episodes while we climb, speaking with a level of ease that would make you think the climb was effortless, making me realise that he could easily be among the first to get to the top at any outing. And still, this is the first time that I don’t see him at the end, closing the road with a walkie-talkie in hand.

I test my theory, asking him what he thinks about making it to the top of the Mont Blanc. He gives me a sarcastic grin, “My dear, at a certain age you can have the luxury of not worrying about it. I don’t have that desire to win when I play, to show off. I don’t feel like I need to get to the top, I have nothing to prove, I don’t mind staying behind. I hike for the pleasure of hiking, because I like doing it and experiencing the mountains, because I love this project and the way that it challenges me personally and professionally, but I could never leave a colleague behind just to do it my way.

So, if you ask me about the Mont Blanc, I can only answer: I’ll get to where I’ll get to. Each step will be a test for the following step. The Vallée Blanche for the Rosa, the Rosa for the Blanc, and so on. Today is also an important test – the first time using crampons at high altitudes, and it will tell me a lot about my capacities. If my body allows me, I’ll try. We’ll see how far I’ll get.”

Then he stops for a moment to reflect on it, before adding, “Of course, I hope I don’t arrive just below the peak of the Mont Blanc and have to give up just steps away from the top!”

In the meantime, while we talk, the climb gets harder. Green fields turn to snow, the environment is completely different as the altitude starts to play tricks on our lungs. It’s difficult, and I can see that my climbing partners are just as tired as I am.

We cross “pieces” of other ropes – people that slowed done or chose to stop – and our guide, Arnaud, who is grouping them up for the way back down.

Il team o la vetta? Max

“You know, I was prepared for the team dynamics that would have come out of this project, but I didn’t expect them to be so strong,” Max tells me, “We’re modeling every choice, every decision, on ourselves and on our relationships, because there is something profoundly personal in what we’re doing. Every time that a person stops or forces themselves to push forward, they have an impact not only on themselves, but on the group.”

I don’t understand exactly what he’s referring to but I take it as an autobiographical cue, an attempt to explain his motivations in other words.

When we arrive under the spur of rock and ice that is Pointe Léchaud, we collapse on the snow, tired and hungry. I start eating, hoping it would restore my energy for the final stretch.

We quickly eat our sandwiches and we barely have time to rest when it’s time to put on our crampons: it’s time to climb to the peak.

While I fumble about with my boots, I can see that Max isn’t getting a move on and that he has no intention to. What’s happening?

“I think I’ll stop here,” he says bluntly. I’m surprised – we’re almost there! There are just a couple of hundred metres to the top, and I don’t understand why he would stop now. But I can see something beyond fatigue in his gaze.

I try to push him, to convince him that he can do it, but he just smiles, shaking his head.

“I told you, Ila: if I thought that I were able to do it and that it was the right thing, I would. Don’t worry, I’m fine. I’ll wait for you down here!”

I don’t insist, it wouldn’t make sense; I say goodbye as we take off for the top.

As I turn to do so, I notice three tiny coloured figures climbing along the valley of the mountain…

It’s Arnaud, Sabrina, and Carlo, the people that we had overtaken and that had decided to stop. They’re making their way, slowly but surely. At their own pace, in the end.

Looks like Max will have company!

Getting to the top is like Mother Nature’s prize for our hard work. We look around us with smiles that stretch from ear to ear, exchanging hugs and high-fives. My group is the last to arrive, and we run into the others on their way down, wearing the same satisfied grins.

When it’s our turn to go back down, after getting an eye and lung full of the mountains, I see someone still climbing. Strange – we should have been the last ones.

I take a better look and see them! Arnaud, Sabrina, Carlo, and Max.

When we cross each other and we compliment them on their hard work, I lock eyes with him, and he gives me a knowing smile.

I smile back: in the end he made it to the top without leaving anyone behind, nothing short of his signature style!

Il team o la vetta? Max

The journey

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3061

Mont Fallère

Methodos - M4810 - Mont Fallère

It is the first peak over 3.000m of our project

Mont Fallère is found in the Grand Combin Alps in the Aosta Valley.

Found between the Gran San Bernardo Valley and the Valdigne, it’s a great introduction to the magical world of the 3000s. Mont Fallère, situated in the heart of the Aosta valley, proposes a 360° panorama of all the Aosta valley peaks. Its layout is not the be underestimated, but overall it doesn’t present great difficulties, even if we need to be really careful in the final part of the ridge.

We go up in two stages: the first day up to the Fallère Hut; the second day we arrive at the summit and then we go down to the valley.

Read the story :)

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3128

Pointe Lechaud

Our first alpinistic climb to a summit

Pointe Léchaud (3.128m) is located along the borderline between Italy (Valle d'Aosta) and France (Savoy).

It is located south of the Col de la Seigne (2.512m) between the Veny Valley and the Savoy Valley of the Glaciers.

We climb in two stages: on the first day we walk from La Visaille to the Elisabetta Soldini Hut (2.195m); on the second day up to the top and back to La Visaille.

From the hut we go up to the Col Chavannes (2.603m); from the hill we have to leave the marked path that begins to descend into the Chavannes valley, following a path on the right that crosses the very steep eastern slope of Mount Lechaud. The trail continues on the right, again not far from the crest of Mount Lechaud and crosses a small valley of stones or snow, reaching the wide basin where the Chavannes Glacier is located. Once we have put on crampons, we set foot on the glacier going diagonally to the left. From this point we gradually turn to the right pointing directly to the top, which can be reached by overcoming some easy rocky steps. What we see is a vast and spectacular panorama on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.

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3842

Vallée Blanche

Methodos - M4810 - Vallée Blanche

Crossing the Gigante glacier towards the Aiguille du Midi

Although it may seems like a "scenic walk", the Vallée Blanche should not be underestimated, as it is an itinerary that involves crossing the Gigante glacier. It is always necessary to be accompanied by an Alpine Guide who knows the itinerary very well and knows how to avoid the dangers.

We go up by cable car to Punta Helbronner (3.462m), we wear harnesses and crampons and we tie ourselves together.

The first section makes us lose altitude and then we start to climb towards the Aiguille du Midi. The last section includes the ascent of the snow-covered ridge of the Aiguille du Midi, reaching 3.842m.

The return is with the panoramic cable car which takes us back to Punta Helbronner.

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4061

Gran Paradiso

Methodos - M4810 - Gran Paradiso

The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory

The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory. A classic and fascinating climb: after a first part on ice, to be able to reach the peak marked by a statue of the Virgin Mary, you must pass some simple rocky crossings.

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4559

Monte Rosa

Methodos - M4810 - Monte Rosa

2 full-immersion days of technical alpine skill training on Monte Rosa

The Monte Rosa is a mountain range that is found in the Pennine Alps, along the watershed line between Italy (on the border of the Aosta valley and Piedmont) and Switzerland. It gives name to the Monte Rosa Alps supergroup, which in turn is composed of various important groups and subgroups, east of the Cervino and south-east of the Mischabel range. It is the most extended range in the Alps, and second in height after the Mont Blanc. It is the highest mountain in Switzerland and the second in Italy, and has the highest average height, containing 9 of the 20 highest peaks of the chain.

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4810

Monte Bianco

Methodos - M4810 - Monte Bianco

Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) is a mountain situated in the North-occidental Alps, in the Graian Alp range, on the watershed line between the Aosta valley (val Veny and val Ferret in Italy), and Haute-Savoie (the Arve valley in France), in the territories of Courmayeur and Chamonix, which give name to the Mont Blanc Massif, belonging to the subsection of the Mont Blanc Alps.

It’s 4808,72m (the last official measure was taken September 13, 2017) make it the highest mountain in the Alps, in Italy, in France, and in general in Europe if we exclude the Caucuses. This is why it’s called the King of the Alps. It shared a spot on the list of the highest Seven Summits with Mount Elbrus in the Caucuses.

Primarily granite full of peaks and crests, cut by deep glacial valleys, it is internationally renowned for its climbing and, from a historical point of view, the birth of mountaineering coincides with its first ascent: August 8, 1786.