K2 Training, Vedrines-Style, in the French Alps

“We don’t do all this just for sport. We don’t do it just for the numbers. The mountains are much more than that.” So writes Benjamin Vedrines.

Vedrines makes his astonishing feats sound like contemplative walks in the wild. But when Vedrines pairs up with Nicolas Jean, their sporting achievements and numbers matter. A lot.

In the last two weeks, the pair has put in two impressive ski-mountaineering days in the Ecrins Alps where they live. First, they raced up and down the five faces of Les Agneaux. A week later, they chain-climbed a trilogy of well-known peaks in the area — Ailefroide, Pic Sans Nom, and Mont Pelvoux — then skied down.

For Jean, this is a great way to make the best of some down time. For Vedrines, there’s no better training for K2, which he intends to climb this summer without oxygen and in a non-stop single push.

Les Agneaux

On Feb. 18, the two summited and skied down the five faces of 3,664m Les Agneaux, racking up 6,000 vertical meters in 15 hours. They left at night from the village of Le Monetier-les-Bains, and by dawn, they were already on the summit ridge. There, friends Thibaut Blais and Malo Girard — who had bivouacked on top to wait for them — shot the only photos of the day.

From the summit, the pair skied down, and then climbed all the other faces of the mountain.

One week later

Happy with Les Agneaux, Nicolas Jean quickly came up with an equally challenging idea, climbing and skiing the trio of Ailefroide (3,954m), Pic Sans Nom (3,913m), and Mont Pelvoux (3,946m). Vedrines signed on, despite admittedly being not very enthusiastic. Forecasts predicted high winds, and he was still tired from Les Agneaux and a hard week of guiding.

Three peaks with their names marked.

The three summits of Vedrines and Jean’s latest trilogy. Photo: Benjamin Vedrines


Vedrines and Jean started at 2:30 am, climbed to the western point of Ailefroide, and skied down the south face. They stopped below the Selee refuge, attached their skins, and then headed to Pic Sans Nom. Here, they skied down its south face (1st repetition).

They were skiing the Sialouze Glacier on the way to Pelvoux when they realized they had forgotten one of their ski skins somewhere on the Pic Sans Nom.

Vedrines didn’t reveal whose ski it was, but he used the old guide’s trick of tying a piece of webbing around the ski at the binding. (Check the photo below). It allowed them to skin up to Pelvoux’s summit.

A piece of rope or webbing tied to a ski.

How to climb without skins. Photo: Benjamin Vedrines


All the faces they skied included 50º sections, a reason they called their feat “Raoul’s trilogy.” The former caretaker of the Selee Mountain hut, Raoul served Genepi, a local liquor that is 50% proof. The young guides had spent many evenings in the hut with Raoul and his Genepi. This was their tribute to the retired hut manager.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.