Miha Valic on the summit of Les Droites (4000m), France, Alps. This ascent marked Valic’s completion of every 4000-meter peak in the Alps over the course of 102 days. The eighty-two peaks have never been climbed in eighty-two days or fewer in summer conditions–a still-coveted European challenge. Valic’s project was the first 4000-meter Alps marathon attempted in winter. [Photo] Miha Valic collection
Between December 27, 2006 and April 7, Slovenian alpinist Miha Valic ascended every 4000-meter peak in the Alps. The official UIAA listing includes eighty-two peaks; Valic set out to climb them all, during winter–an attempt never before tried–in eighty-two days. During his planned time-period, Valic climbed seventy-four peaks, and twenty days later he completed the marathon.
Blaz Grapar approaches the top of Aiguille Jardin (4035m), France, Alps. Grapar accompanied Valic in winter conditions twice during his 2006-7 marathon. [Photo] Miha Valic
Multiple parties have attempted the same goal in spring and summer conditions, without success. Before the official 4000-meter UIAA list existed, Martin Moran and Simon Jenkins of England completed seventy-five peaks in fifty-two days. Another attempt in 2004, by Patrick Berhault and Philippe Magnin, ended with an accident after sixty-five peaks. Last spring, Franz Nicolini and Michele Compagnoni took on the challenge until bad weather shut down their operation after twenty-five summits.
Fifteen friends accompanied Valic throughout the winter, keeping him motivated and uninjured. Valic said that the logistically-complicated project became much more demanding in the winter, as “the mountain huts are closed or not taken care of, and the snow makes it extremely tiring to reach them.” Some of Valic’s individual winter ascents were not serious alpine accomplishments, but a few of his winter traverses were, among them the Aiguilles du Diable, Rochefort and Grandes Jorasses, the Mischabel group, Schreckhorn-Lauteraarhorn and the Brouillard ridge of Mont Blanc.
Climbing these peaks–sometimes linking multiple in a single trip–with few hours of daylight in harsh conditions required psychological endurance, Valic said. “But the challenge of climbing eighty-two peaks in eighty-two days in the winter still remains.”
Tadej Debevec joins Valic on Liskamm (4527m), Switzerland, Alps. Of the winter conditions encountered on the 4000-meter Alps, Valic stated: “The combination of a short day, extreme cold, strong winds and complete wilderness gave a sense of magnificent high mountain ranges on other continents.” [Photo] Miha Valic