There are 82 peaks in the European Alps that tower above 4000m of elevation, scattered between France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Margareth Voide-Bumann was the first woman to climb them, a feat that took her over 20 years to complete. In Salomon’s latest feature film, LIV Along the Way, French athlete and two-time world climbing champion, Liv Sansoz attempts to summit all 82 peaks in under a year by her own means; without the assistance of cars, ski lifts or helicopters.
Growing up in the adventure mecca of Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps, Liv grew up with two feet planted firmly on a snowboard and backcountry skis, or in mid-air. Inspired by her dad, she took her first paragliding flight at just 11 years of age. After perusing the beautiful Callanques region in the South of France, Live found a newfound love in climbing; sport, lead or bouldering, she wanted to do it all. Liv took the sport climbing world by storm in her youth by making the French national team by the time she was 16, and winning the World Cup in 1994, aged just 17 years old. Alongside the likes of Lynn Hill and Ines Papert, she led a strong movement of exceptional female breaking new records and imposing themselves in the world of climbing. She was crowned Lead World Cup champion in 1996, 1998 and 2000, and was one of the only women to climb a 8c/8c+ route. Despite her love of competitive climbing, Liv still remembers her heart yearning for the wide open alpine spaces that shaped her childhood.
In 2001, Liv suffered a terrible climbing accident after being dropped by her belayer, resulting in her fracturing several vertebrae, but even more importantly, injuring her psychologically. The incident left her with a fear of climbing that she couldn’t shake. Unable to climb for an extended period of time, and with the desire to train dimmed, Liv turned to base jumping, of all sports. She says “after my accident, I wasn’t able to climb like I used to. I wanted to do something different and learn something new. At the time, I was jumping with people who admitted that it was a dangerous sport, but if done right, it was safe. Unfortunately, it’s not really how it went” In December 2009, Liv was performing a base jump at night when she crashed, shattering her sacrum and pelvis, and for the second time in her life, her athletic career came to a grinding halt. The next few years of her life were peppered with injury, broken bones, and the struggle to get back to the mountains she loved.
Liv rekindled her passion deep in the stunning wilderness of the Bernese Alps, and it wasn’t long before her adventurous spirit and thirst for a challenge were once again titillated. Inspired by her close friend and fellow mountaineer Ueli Steck who had launched his own 82 Summit Challenge, Liv set her sights on climbing, self-propelled, every peak in the Alps exceeding 4000m. Hiking, pedalling, climbing, paragliding and skiing, Liv battled through treacherous conditions, injury, frostbite and grief at the unexpected death of Ueli Steck midway through her project. The sheer physicality of the project, which demanded she scale a 4000m peak every 4-5 days for a year to complete the feat on time, was one of the primary challenges Liv faced. She says; “the only way to not burn yourself is probably to go slow and steady. We never went super-fast, but if you go at a slow and steady pace you can go forever without getting too tired. More than the physical aspect, what I found the hardest was the lack of sleep. When you get up at 1am every day, at the end of the week all your body wants is sleeping and eating.”
Follow Liv’s undertaking in Salomon’s latest feature film, LIV Along The Way, for a breathtaking insight into the challenges she faced in her mind-blowing attempt to scale the Alps’ 82 highest peaks.
See Liv Along The Way at the 2019 Radical Reels Tour of Australia. Get your tickets here: https://www.radicalreels.com.au/tickets/