I left in the footsteps of my father

Christophe, 43, was 13 months old when his father killed himself in the mountains. For years, he was satisfied with the idealized image that was given to him. Until he leaves on his tracks.

Interview by Valérie Péronnet

"I grew up with two mothers: my mother and my father's, I lived in Paris with my mother, French, but twice a year she put me in a I was the only child of their only son, the apple of their eyes, and the heart of their lives, with them, and with all my family over there, to Krakow, where my Polish grandparents were. It was impossible to talk about my father: his simple evocation turned to tragedy, I knew that my face was like his, that he was a brilliant student, a remarkable engineer, an exceptional spirit, and that the least I could do, it was to equal him in every respect, my mother did not ask me so much, I thought she said little about him, but it would not have occurred to me to subject, and when she did, I was embarrassed and dumb, I gleaned small pieces of him without anyone talking to me, except sometimes friends mountaineers, who stayed in touch with us. He was there everywhere, but he was abstract, disembodied, sanctified.

Between France and Poland

When my grandparents died, shortly after I was 18, I went with my mother to get my father's business back in the Krakow apartment: books, photos , letters and notebooks. We filled cardboard boxes without detailing what was put on them; We put everything in the car and we went back to Paris, where I stored them in a maid's room. I thought I'd open them someday, maybe. My grandparents missing, I took the liberty to choose "my" Poland to me: Warsaw rather than Krakow, friends more than family ... I recaptured this country and I asked for dual nationality. Ten years ago, I found a position in a European bank based in France, where I'm in charge of the Polish file: half in Paris, half in Warsaw, I continue to live between two lives ... At the adolescence, I did a mountaineering internship, to see. I liked it a lot, but I felt, with a certain relief, that it was not enough to let me fall in love with this passion: I would discover the high mountains in my own way, not that of my father. I became an altitude hiker, especially not a mountaineer. That's how, five or six years ago, I ended up in the Vallée Blanche with a friend.

In the mountains

One night, we were camping in a shelter and suddenly I realized that the top that was visible from the window was the Peuterey Black Needle.Where my father was gone. It upset me. I immediately felt the urgent need to know everything about this needle, that I was told what had happened, the route my father had taken, the places where he had slept and the circumstances of the day. 'accident. I realized that I did not know anything about it. I found the details of an Italian guide who had participated in the research, and a month later, I went to meet him with my mother. He gave us all the information he had on this mountain, the help and the accident of my father. It made me feel good: everything became concrete, finally. I went back several times there. I got closer to the glacier where his body is probably engulfed. I traveled the paths he traveled to get to the place where he began his ascent. I turned around this glacier, its burial, as much as I could. And then I went to sleep in the shelter where he spent his last night. When I got up there, everything was drowned in the clouds. At one point, they scattered and I saw a chamois appear. We looked in each other's eyes before he disappeared.

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