On the 23 September a huge avalanche hit a group of climbers on Manaslu in Nepal. Eight died and three are still missing, presumed dead, among them the extreme skier and mountain guide Rémy Lécluse.
I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and below is my own tribute to Rémy read at a tribute to him in Chamonix on 30 September .
Thank you Claire, Bridget, Elise and Swan for asking me to say a few words about Rémy. I’ll do my best and I hope you can all follow my English.
Ironically, over the years, Rémy’s English got better as my French got worse, something he loved to remind me about. Fortunately my children are bi-lingual and Rémy loved the fact that they have Haute Savoie accents! My daughter Tara is studying in Beijing this year and sent me this text on hearing the sad news “Hey dad! Really really sorry to hear about Rémy, he was an absolute legend and well it just sucks! “
So how about i start by telling you how I first met Rémy.
Well it was on a bus in Les Houches. It was January 1991 and I needed some help. I was a new boy in Chamonix that winter, there to start a new programme of guided off piste adventure for Fresh Tracks. Off piste programmes with mountain guides are very common in Chamonix today but not so much then and well frankly the ESF weren’t too happy about us! I decided I needed an ally, a local mountain guide that understood what we were doing. Well the next day i was on this bus and found myself listening in to a conversation between a young French guide and a bunch of Brits. His English wasn’t that good but he had a certain Je ne c’est quoi so we went for an expresso and I outlined what we were doing.
From the start we spoke the same language; a love of mountains and especially skiing in wild places. Coupled with a wish to inspire others to ski or climb their dreams. Most importantly we had an immediate respect of each other as mountain guides.
That was the start of Rémy’s love affair with the “bloody Brits” Over the years that followed he has inspired, countless hundreds of them. Not to mention scare them and more often than not cream cracker knacker them as Roland Steiger would say!
It wasn’t just the Bloody Brit clients that Rémy made happy (if scared and knackered). Rémy was also a great friend and support to British guides. His encouragement to me when setting up Mountain Tracks was immense and continued every year. His steep skiing week have been one of our best selling courses, I was even all set to book myself on one this winter.
As we know Rémy was born with skis on, Dynastar’s, of course. Now some of us here today can ski a bit, but we all screw up from time to time, but I’m not sure I ever saw Rémy fall over. Realising I would never be able to match him on alpine skis was a big reason why I turned to telemark!
Rémy and I became firm friends, it was Rémy who decided to call me Guide de la Poche, which always amused me as he was hardly a giant himself! There was always a bed for me at his and Claires home. Always a warm welcome. He was always there if I had a problem. I even dragged him down to the tax office in Sallanches to help me once!
Appropriately it was Rémy that came to the BBC’s rescue one winter. In 2001 the well known survival expert Ray Mears asked me if I could find an Alpine refuge with single rooms and open in February for a BBC film crew to shoot an extreme winter survival show. Bit of a tall order and I was struggling to come up with somewhere until Rémy suggested La Roc de la Peche above Pralognan. It was perfect, though not exactly extreme we did enjoy drinking Cotes de Rhone in the Jacuzzi for 10 days!
My wife Niki, on listening to me talking to journalists about Rémy, remarked “the man you’re describing sounds like the most dynamic and fearless person ever”! Yes I like that… Rémy was all that and so much more.
He was very much his own man, he could be highly opinionated, often intolerant and there was usually only one way, Rémy’s way. He always took the lead. You didn’t really ever go skiing with Rémy, rather Rémy took you skiing! But mix in some Gaelic flair with his Anglophile nature and add the fact that he was one of the most graceful and talented skiers ever (period) then we’re getting close to describing this amazing man.
Rémy had an invincibility about him, despite all the serious places he went with his skis there was never a doubt, at least in my mind, that he would be ok. So it’s a small relief to me that he didn’t die because he blew a turn or, something within his control. Rémy was always meticulous in his preparation. His website says “people think i’m a nutter” as far as extreme skiing went I personally never thought that.
Driving cars on the other hand. If, as i suspect, he holds the unofficial speed record of driving between Chamonix and Martigny, well that’s nuts.
The simple sad fact is, he had no control over the avalanche last week.
So yes losing Rémy really sucks.
Only time can ease the pain of our loss.
Which means time now for me to reflect how fortunate I was to meet my guide brother on a bus in Les Houches 21 years ago.