ELINE LE MENESTREL
COMING TO THE DOLOMITES
In April 2019, I came to Bolzano for the first time to visit Salewa. There were lots of meetings, but a whole day was set aside to go to the mountains. While I was there, the impression I got was that going climbing in the Dolomites was a key priority. Climbing with my potential future boss. I was delighted.
The people here are mountain enthusiasts. You see this in so many different ways, from the architecture of the headquarters, to the bouldering wall where the employees go at lunchtime instead of sitting in the canteen. It really struck me how they place so much importance on spending quality time in the mountains. They see it as the right way to start a partnership. I also like how they question the status quo and look to explore new ways of doing things. You can really feel how the mountains shape everything in South Tyrol – including the way that people have lived here over the centuries.
I have to admit that I didn’t know that much about the Dolomites. It’s pretty far from where I come from in the South of France and not many of my close circle head over here. We tend to climb mostly in the Western Alps. At the Salewa headquarters, I saw images of the Tre Cime everywhere. Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of them. That evening, I sent a text with a photo of them to my Dad. He called me straight away: “You’re in the Dolomites? That’s great! One day, I hope we can climb the Tre Cime together, in honour of your grand-père.” For the first time, I heard how my grandfather came to climb in the Dolomites 60 years ago – when he was exactly my age. Maybe I could follow in his footsteps – right up the Hasse-Brandler. This would give me the chance to learn about the climbing here and find out more about my grandfather’s adventures at the same time. My dad said he’d come along too.
I had a lot of questions: What is this place? Why are style and ethics so important here? Is this where big wall climbing started, well before Yosemite? Why did my grandfather choose to come here? What was he looking for? How did he feel climbing these routes? Was he scared? Did he lead them?
Due to Covid, the project was hit with a lot of uncertainties; it wasn’t clear if I would be able to come to Italy at all. My Dad couldn’t get here. I thought about staying in France. However, we scaled things down and in August 2020, together with one of my best friends, I loaded up my van and set out to spend a month in the Dolomites.
Normally, when I visit a new area, I like to learn the names of the mountains before I arrive. But in the Dolomites, it seemed impossible, there were just so many of them (ok so maybe the German names didn’t help). In addition to the general logistics and orientation, I had to select the routes I wanted to climb, understand the (German) guidebooks, deal with the changing weather conditions (scary summer storms), learn how to climb (chossy) rock with rusty pitons, find descents in the sketchiest of terrain and remain friendly so my various climbing partners would have a good time, and fit in with the film crew’s schedule…
I feel at home when I can just be myself: when I’m climbing, when I’m playing music, with family and friends, when I’m in nature, when I’m in the mountains.
I’ve always climbed. I was born in Fontainebleau and grew up in Barcelona. My mum and dad decided to move there with my sister and I because of the amazing rock in Catalonia. From the age of 14, I spent a lot of summers at Céüse in south-eastern France. It’s the best limestone in the world and has so many big lines, and it’s a great place to meet up with old friends. Although I grew up in a climbing family, my Dad never really coached me, he didn’t want it to interfere with our relationship. He gave me the following advice though: be open and friendly (like a good climbing partner); listen to your body (not just your head); follow your passion (and tend those fires inside to keep the flames alive).
The days were very full. Many of the questions I considered when I originally thought about my grandfather in the Dolomites got swamped by more pressing day-today issues: Is this route too hard? What does Schlüsselstelle mean? Can we abseil from the belay? What if the rope gets jammed? Is this hold going to break as soon as I pull on it? How long has this piton been here? What if I fall here?
Eline climbed a number of hard routes onsight in the Dolomites last summer. While attempting Attraverso il Pesce (The Fish) on the Marmolada South Face, she took a fall. She’s currently working hard on her recovery, doing lots of handstands and looking to come back stronger.