From the lowest to the highest point in Switzerland in one day - Mammut Pro Team athlete Nicolas Hojac had heard many tales of people who had taken on this project but failed in the attempt. After some online research, he found out that there was probably just one person who had succeeded so far. His interest was aroused.
Text: Pro Team athlete Nicolas Hojac
I didn't simply want to reach the highest point, I also wanted to paraglide back down to the valley. Looking at the map, I quickly realized that shortest route was probably over the Marinelli Couloir on the summit of the Dufourspitze (4,634 m). I didn't actually know this route myself, simply that it is the longest couloir descent in Europe.
On June 29, 2018, I set out from Brissago on the banks of Lago Maggiore and traveled almost 100 kilometers by road bike over Italy to Macugnaga. This section went smoothly and I arrived far quicker than I had expected. After cycling for 3.5 hours and a leisurely break, I switched to mountaineering boots and strode out toward the Marinelli hut at the lower end of the Marinelli Couloir. Unfortunately, I had miscalculated my supply of liquids and ran out of water just after the hut. This was a critical error, as it later transpired.
"My poor acclimatization and the lack of hydration steadily became more apparent."
At the start of the couloir, the conditions were still pleasant, but this quickly changed. The higher I climbed, the more I sank into the increasingly slushy snow. I was forced to move to the crumbling rocks. As fatigue set in, I was finding it difficult to maintain my concentration. My poor acclimatization and the lack of hydration steadily became more apparent - I couldn't swallow and my tongue was sticking to my gums. It was a mental battle as well as a struggle against the worsening conditions. From the Silbersattel, I fortunately made faster progress and reached the summit after 12 hours and 57 minutes. After a quick breather, I climbed back onto the Silbersattel, unpacked my paraglider and flew the most direct route to Zermatt, where I landed after 14 hours and 2 minutes.
Although there were no technical difficulties in this project, I very quickly found the appeal. Road cycling is definitely not my great passion, but it was exciting to incorporate a new discipline in a project. As well as pushing my strengths, it was also a chance to try something new. One of my key priorities was not to leave any equipment on the way up to the Marinelli hut and instead carry my paraglider and climbing gear from the valley all the way to the top. Admittedly, things didn't go quite as I had planned, but I'm delighted that I succeeded.