What is the success of a very high altitude climb? Sometimes just a few centimeters, according to the fascinating documentary Nuptse: the absolute inaccessible by Hugo Clouzeau. Released this summer and touring for another two months as part of the festival Mountain in scene (see the box below), it follows the adventure of four French mountaineers, Hélias Millerioux, Frédéric Degoulet, Benjamin Guigonnet and Robin Revest, determined from 2015 to open an extremely difficult route on the south face of the western summit of Nuptse (7,742 m) in Nepal.
“What drives me is the beauty of the mountain, its height, the grandeur of the face and the aesthetics of the line,” explains Hélias Millerioux. On the Nuptse, all this came together. » But this summit located southwest of Everest is worth it, as evidenced by the different expeditions of these four high mountain guides, who in 2014 became the “mustachio gang” during a previous shared challenge at Siula Chico ( 6,265m in Peru). “In 2015, we cleared the line and realized that it was climbable, but the risk of rock falls was far too great given the heat on site at that time,” summarizes Hélias Millerioux.
“Our life is put on hold for two months”
The quartet is therefore back on site in 2016, but this time they give up 300 m from the summit. “We had underestimated the difficulty of the top of the mountain,” remembers the 36-year-old mountaineer. We had to dive back into cold photos to understand and resolve our errors. » And therefore set off again for a new quest for the Nuptse the following year, proof of the almost obsessive relentlessness of this group of friends, from which only Robin Revest withdrew for this third attempt. Although his partner is pregnant, Benjamin Guigonnet is on the other hand very present in 2017.
“Having to give up in 2016 was very difficult to accept,” says Hélias Millerioux. We must see the financial investment, of time, all the sacrifices in relation to our families. Our life is put on hold for two months on such an adventure, when we take into account the necessary acclimatization. When we attack the Nuptse, we leave our daily life in France in a box at the base camp, and we come to collect it afterwards. »
Four ribs and three vertebrae broken after falling large stone
The latter almost never recovered this imaginary box. Because after having this time successfully climbed, in six days, the 2,200 m of altitude difference to the summit of Nuptse, the team of three mountaineers experienced an immense fear when abseiling down. However, the trio had launched at night, so as not to be exposed to falling rocks. But at 9 a.m. and around 7,200 m above sea level, a stone “the size of a small melon” fell on Hélias Millerioux’s backpack and seriously injured him.
“For the record, it broke four ribs and three vertebrae,” confides the person concerned. Without the backpack, it could have been much more catastrophic… I had a huge hematoma full of blood on my back which prevented me from moving an arm, I was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but we had to go down . » Thanks to the help of his friends Frédéric Degoulet and Benjamin Guigonnet, he managed to reach the base camp, and therefore symbolically give the name “the French Way” to this part of the Nuptse, then to return home to Chamonix, not without asking questions about his passion.
With the commitment we make at more than 7,000 m, we know the consequences of such an accident: it is very complicated to be rescued at this altitude. This collision with a stone is never a trivial event. I will live with this all my life, it is part of my individual construction. It weakened me mentally because I was very scared, and at the same time I am more alert and I now know how to anticipate situations that may be similar. »
“One of the hardest routes ever done in the Himalayas”
Rewarded like Frédéric Degoulet and Benjamin Guigonnet with the prestigious Piolets d’or in 2018, Hélias Millerioux has, despite this accident, continued to pursue a series of adventures undertaken in total autonomy. Crossing Mount Logan (the highest point in Canada, at 5,959 m) then Denali in Alaska (more than 500 km covered in total!), on skis and kayaks, ascent of Rakaposhi (7,788 m in Pakistan), while probably waiting that of Masherbrum (7,821 m in Pakistan, next to the legendary K2) next summer. “So this accident didn’t stop me,” he says. I still have the love of mountaineering to go back. » A love of expeditions shared by his friend Charles Dubouloz, admiring the exploit of the French trio at Nuptse: “What they did there is enormous. It is undoubtedly one of the hardest routes ever done in the Himalayas. Already it is extremely committed, they have shown all their pugnacity by going there three years in a row.”
A character trait that corresponds perfectly to Hélias Millerioux, according to Charles Dubouloz: “In adversity, he is extremely strong. It’s a backhoe loader, it always moves forward without asking questions. It is nicknamed the Kurd for its very rustic and resistant side. A “Kurd” who grew up and lived… in Paris until the age of 25. Although he spent his summers in the mountains with his parents and developed a passion for climbing while training on the boulders of Fontainebleau, nothing predestined this young Ile-de-France resident to become a high mountain guide. And even less to write his name in the history of mountaineering, via this improbable route opened in the Himalayas.
On display in Montagne en scène until January 26
The mountaineering film Nuptse: the absolute inaccessible with Hélias Millerioux is currently programmed as part of the Montagne en scene festival, as is Via Sedna in Greenland (with climber Caro North and skipper Marta Guemes), The Silent Escape (with Polish skier Bartek Ziemski) and Rise (with skier Juliette Willmann). Among the Mountain on Stage sessions, which are at a single price of 17 euros, there are still places available in Strasbourg on December 1, 4 and 11, in Rennes on December 4, in Lille on December 5, in Nantes on December 5, in Lyon on December 5, 8 and 12 as well as January 18, in Annecy on December 6, 7, 14 and 19 as well as January 9, in Bordeaux on December 8, in Montpellier on December 8, in Grenoble on December 8, in Marseille on December 11 and 12 as well as January 11 and 25, in Nice on December 12 and 13 as well as January 16, in Chambéry on December 15, in Toulouse on December 15 and 18, in Paris on December 18 and 19 as well only on January 17 and 26, or in Lille on December 19.
All ticketing information is here.