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by Paul Bonhomme

It was June 2021, and I’d just finished my “Project X”: the descent of 10 new steep lines in a single season, in three different countries (Switzerland, Italy, and France). I was happy, but not entirely satisfied. It’s a strange feeling that often comes over me at the end of the most challenging projects — as if someone were saying, “OK, Paul, you did something very difficult, but did you really achieve your goal?

When I first discovered the mountains as a child, I immediately understood that I could learn a lot from them. By experiencing and exploring them, I could absorb something essential and find myself an integral part of nature. This was missing from “Project X.” It was supposed to be an exploration of the wild places near my home, but outsiders viewed the descents through the lens of difficulty, distorting my idea. So that’s what was missing.

Thus, one evening, in a free-flowing conversation at home with my mom, the Écrins dance was conceived. The goals no longer included summits and extreme difficulties. Instead, there were mountain huts, bivouacs, trails, and the experiences that can be had day after day on the trails of the Écrins National Park, in France. I gave myself only one rule for this project: to connect all 33 of the mountain huts and shelters in the park. No checking my times with race-like obsession, no competition. Just the desire to experience the mountains in my own way, at my own pace, with my own style. While always respecting nature.


On August 20, 2022, at 3 p.m., I arrived at the Pré de Madame Carle chalet, five days and 11 hours after setting out from Ailefroide. In the end, I reached 31 of the 33 huts and brought home a rich human experience.

Yes, I still checked the clock, my times, and the elevation gain. It’s part of my nature as an athlete, but I didn’t feel the pressure. For this experience, I chose to be completely self-supporting, taking the food and water I would need on the route, as well as a 30-meter rope, two ice axes, crampons, and a harness — essential gear for tackling the mountaineering sections of my journey on the trails of the Écrins. An itinerary of over 300 kilometers and 27,000 meters of elevation gain, with a 9-kilo backpack on my back, taking one step after another.

I must say that the experience was anything but easy. Physically it was very demanding, but not to the degree that it seemed impossible. And that was exactly what I wanted to demonstrate: that anyone can imagine an experience like this. No more steep slopes, no great technical difficulties, just wonderful days to be enjoyed crossing the mountains.

My dance through the Écrins is something I will carry with me for a long time. On the trails I met more goats than humans, my skin turned to leather under the scorching sun, my spirituality was enriched, and my body grew tired. I was fully immersed in the mountains. I became part of nature.




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