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Interviewer: Anna Piunova, Mountain.RU
from Katya and Jean-Christophe's family album


Instead of epitaph...

Jean-Christophe Lafaille.
Interview for Mountain.RU (2002)

Part 3
(Part 1 here)

Jean-Christophe Lafaille's "8-thousand" mountains:

1992: Annapurna (8091m) South face direct first climb attempt in a two-man team (with Pierre Beghin). Pierre was lost.

1993: Cho Oyu (8201 m). The first "8-thousander" in a team via the Polish route

1994: Shishapangma (8047 m). A classical route and solo - climb Shishapangma North Face (Cristal FFME for the best Himalaya ascent of the year)

1995: Annapurna (8091m) South face solo attempt. (Climbed up to 7400/7500 m)

1996: Gasherbrum II (8035 m) and Gasherbrum I (8068 m). Solo - double for four days. New route on Gasherbrum I Northeast face.

1997: Lothse (8511 m). Classical route from the West. An ascent with an Italian team and a group of researchers. Dhaulagiri (8172 m) Winter Solo attempt.

1998: Annapurna South Face again (in a small Italian team). And failure again.

2001: K2 (8611 m) South Face ascent via the Cesen route in a two-man team (with Hans Kammerlander)

2002 Annapurna via East Ridge in a two-man team with Alberto Inurrategui (the route was first climbed by Erhard Loretan and Norbert Joos in 1984) As a whole, eight "8-thousanders", four from them - solo climbed.

In plans: Broad Peak (8047 m), Dhaulagiri (8172 m), Everest (8868 m), Kangchenjunga (8586 m), Makalu (8515 m) and Nanga Parbat (8126 m).

(M.RU comment:
2004: Shishapangma (8036 m First solo ascent ), Makalu (7668 m), a new route: "Katia and Tom".
2003: Broad Peak (8051 m); Nanga Parbat (8125 m), opening a new route on North Face; Dhaulagiri (8167 m) normal route, solo and without oxygen.)

M.RU: You frequently climb solo, why?

L.: I like it. I have already climbed solo many summits and I like this style, first of all because it is more difficult. It is very dramatic to stay alone at 8000 meters, even climbing a classical route: everything around seem greater and more significant than you are. And the loneliness compels you to be of much more technical ability. There is nobody to lean on for support, nobody to arrange belay, nobody to lead a hard pitch even if you are already very tired. And at last, nobody will break trails instead of you Solo is almost an illness, but also the truth is that I have still never met a man I can enter into the feeling of Mountain with. It is no easy matter to hear your own self in the Alps, but that is absolutely different - in the Himalayas.

I want to tell that your desire to conquer a mountain should coincide with mountain's desire, its choice of you. It is not just an abstract idea to climb weather 2 or Annapurna next year, but you should arrive and live together with the mountain together during two months.

In 1992 Annapurna played the certain role in my mutual relations with mountains. Since that it is rather difficult for me to motivate myself on a joint project in the Himalayas, I know the decision payoff, two my Annapurna attempts ended with death of my friends In the plan of sport a solo is always a challenge. Nobody has soloed K2 yet. It's a beautiful dream.

Pierre Beghin made a brilliant passage on 2, but had to bail and descend from 8000 meters. His most difficult experience - to lose the loneliness - appeared not such a significant thing on the route. The huge temple based on hopes, dreams, forces, trust and ambitions can fail in some hours owing to bad weather. And 2 is reputed as a very whimsical girlfriend.

M.RU: Can you tell that there is your own style - style from Lafaille?

2 -

L.: No. If to tell in general, I like polyvalence. My routes can be absolutely opposite on style or on trainings: both cascades, and rocks, ascents in the Alps and the Himalayas, but every new route is a huge attachment for me. I like performance; I like to extend myself up to the end on each of my ideas.

   (    -

Everything that I like at the present stage is variations. The role of the super expert in the same narrow sphere within all the year is a cheerless prospect for me. If I have style it is in searching for new routes: interesting and hard. It is the solo style, even I would tell first of all it is the solo style.

When it comes to the ethics: it is a choice. Not a choice of any mountain. On 2 I was working out the style, though, originally, I, really, had a desire to make something else because this mountain is really worth of that. I would like to pave a route corresponded its ego. It would be my way to express my deep-rooted reverence to the mountain of such class. Finally, I remained pleased that we had managed to climb with Hans Kammerlander, but Trying to make things that have had no existence before or to repeat a really hard and beautiful already climbed route is a real dream and it is very difficult to retreat from it There is a magic intrinsic line on K2 near to the Chinese route, on Everest - there are two lines rather attractive to me. These are the rules of my game - a choice of an "aesthetic" route and total, as far as possible, autonomy.

M.RU: You were the first mountaineer solo-climbed Manaslu?

L.: I suppose that it is so. Manaslu - the mountain "opened" by Japanese team (Comment: the first ascent was done by a team of three Japanese climbers Minoru Higeta, Toshio Imanishi, Kichiro Kato and a Nepalese Gialsen Norbu in 1956. Later Japanese teams made some new attempts, but all of them ended in failure). Manaslu (the eighth highest mountain in the world) became the second 8-thounder for Reinhold Messner in 1972. The first French climbers succeeded to summit it were Pierre Beghin and Bernard Muller climbed West Face in 1981.

I did not manage to open a new route on Manaslu: at some moment I understood that I was playing in Russian roulette and decided to recede. I console myself with the thought that it was the first solo in Alpine style - an ascent, practically without tools and without installation of intermediate camps and fixing the rope.

M.RU: Is there anybody to have an effect on your achievement of becoming a climber?

Yes, certainly. First of all, my father and grandfather. They imparted to me the love and interest to mountains. They were not professionals but keen mountaineers. I used to have regular rock-climbing trainings and to go simple routes in mountains at weekends since I was six-seven.

I was deeply read in books about climbers. My "spiritual masters" were Desmaison and Bonatti, "Himalayans" Reinhold Messner and Pierre Beghin.

1990 became the year of Divine Providence and beginning of my serious ascents. In winter 1990-91 I solo-climbed a lot of routes: Grand Capucin Bonatti route, Mt. Fou South Face, American Direct on Dru The following important stage was my knowledge of Pierre Beghin. In 1992 Pierre invited me to Annapurna expedition, whence I came back already alone Now I became a teacher, and I try to get one common truth across to my students - young guides: it's very important, remaining professional to keep fresh feeling, heart and spirit of amateur

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