On a Saturday morning in August, sitting on the terrace of Pain Quotidien in Ixelles, I met up with Guillaume to talk about Paralpine. Over a cup of coffee, and in the Cimetière d'Ixelles neighbourhood bustling with the annual Braderie, we reminisce about his career and the incredible project he has just completed.
Chloé: "Before you tell me about the Paralpine, I'd like you to go back over your sporting background: how did you get into mountaineering and how long have you been paragliding?"
Guillaume : "I've been climbing since I was a kid! It all started with my parents, who took me up to the mountains twice a year: skiing in winter and hiking in summer. But the real trigger was Passion Passport.
Passeport Passion is a youth movement a bit like the Scouts, but the days organised are mini-trips: climbing, kayaking, hiking in Belgium. And the summer camps are 'raids' a little further afield. That's what gave me a taste for the outdoors.
I'd say I've been doing mountaineering since I was 13. On the other hand, I started paragliding about 5 years ago.
Chloé: "To continue on your journey, what made you end up where you are now?"
Guillaume : "I studied engineering, and as well as my studies I was involved in "Kap Expé" - it's a Kot A Projets in Louvain-la-Neuve, linked to the French Ministry of Education. Cap Expé. I've always kept a link with the outdoors throughout my career. After my studies, I started working for Air Liquide as an industrial engineer. I quickly realised that something was missing. I quickly decided to quit my job, take a sabbatical and do something that was more my own.
Chloé: "Is that when you decided to create Paralpine? How did you come up with the idea for this project?"
Guillaume : "I wanted to do something different. I love mountaineering and paragliding. I thought combining the two would be great. Crossing the Alps would be incredible! So I looked for a route that would take me right through them. There are lots of possibilities, and I decided to start in Slovenia and end up in Nice. I think there's something very symbolic about arriving at the sea".
Chloé: "How did you finance this expedition?"
Guillaume : "I've been lucky enough to have sponsors! The two biggest are Petzl and BGD. They've given me equipment and funding. In particular, BGD provided me with two sails and given the price of the equipment, frankly that's a pleasure. But as with everything, it was mainly contacts that played a part. At Petzl I knew someone I'd met on another film project. And at BGD, I knew a trainee who put me in touch with the boss. In situations like this, networking helps!.
Chloé: "To get to the heart of the matter, what were the most memorable moments?
highlights of your trip?
Guillaume : "First of all, I'd say the Grand Capucin (Grand Cap' for friends - 3838m) in the Mont-Blanc Massif with my friend Lolotte. I was disappointed not to do the Mont-Blanc that was originally planned, but it had snowed too much the few days before. We started the climb alternating in the lead but after 5 pitches I had to admit that it wasn't my day. I was tired and already shaking, even though there were 20 pitches to go! Luckily, Lolotte took the lead and she managed!
Chloé: "Do you have another happy moment to share?"
Guillaume : "I loved taking off from Piz Bernina and avoiding an interminable descent! The place was crazy, it was magnificent and in a few minutes I was at the bottom, where it took my rope-mates 9 hours to descend. What bliss!"
Chloé: "And any frustration you want to share with us?"
Guillaume : "It was at the very beginning of the expedition. We'd just arrived in Slovenia, with the idea of climbing Triglav via the North Face. When we got there, all the locals told us that the face wasn't practicable. In June, the conditions were still wintery and it had snowed a lot. Given that we had just arrived and that the Slovenians knew the place better than we did, we preferred to listen to them. But when we got to the foot of the summit, we realised that it was clearly feasible. Too late, we didn't have the gear..."
Chloé: "That's the mountains too... Are you planning to make a film about the Paralpine if I'm not mistaken?"
Guillaume : "Yes, and it's going to take some time because I want it to be as professional as possible... I've got the footage, but I'll also need help with the sound and editing - that's not my job. When the film is ready, I'd like to show it at mountain and adventure film festivals.
Chloé: "Any other plans for the future?
Guillaume : "Paragliding! I'd like to keep improving in this sport, because I feel that's where I have the most room for improvement.
Chloé: "I don't know anything about paragliding, is there anything to do in Belgium?
Guillaume : "Well, actually, yes! If you want, you can do a 200km outing in Belgium. But I actually live in Grenoble, so I've got the mountains next door. It's a real playground!
Guillaume will soon be making a film about his expedition. We'll be sure to share with you the festivals where you can watch it as soon as it's released! We wish Guillaume all the best for his future projects and much success for the film!
If you too want to go on an adventure, then don't hesitate to have a look at what we have to offer, such as shipments !