Monday 6 May 2013

Will Eaton, 1974 - 2013

Some people are so passionate about what they do, so in love with their chosen way of life that it seems impossible not to follow them. Will Eaton was one of those people. I was always amazed that Will could have come across anyone in life and not convinced them to go skiing, such was his enthusiasm. It didn't matter how you felt, whether you were hungover or how tired you were - Will wanted to ski and you were going with him. When you did get out he was encouraging, fun, and he made it so obvious that he was enjoying himself and really happy just to be with you.

It never ceased to amaze me that after years and years of ski touring he still refused to buy a lift pass, prefering always the satisfaction of earning his turns to the ease of a chairlift. He loved Chamonix but his heart was in the Vanoise (his "backyard" as he referred to it) and his knowledge of the area, and his love for it, was the stuff of legend. I could kick myself that I only went over there twice - Will was forever telling me in hushed tones of some amazing line that he had scoped out, and it makes me so sad to think about all the adventures that we'll never have.

Will, meanwhile, had plenty of adventures over there, some of which he told me about and others that were just mentionned off hand; unfinished stories. I suspect that the tales I knew of - exploratory tree skiing armed with a rope, being rescued twice in a week, epic late night walks after navigation difficulties, were the tip of the iceberg, but that was the nature of Will. What he really sought was adventure and he'd never grumble when he found it, no matter how tough things got. He was incredibly competent in the mountains, and never seemed to run out of enthusiasm, regardless of the situation. In a World of glossy guidebooks and GPS, Will shamed me with his desire for a purer, more genuine experience. It would be great to go and ski one of his "projects" but it wouldn't seem right. Will found those lines by going out and looking for them - the search was always half the fun for him - and I hope someone with his spirit ends up finding them and getting the experience and the excitement that he craved.

Will and I often discussed our mutual lack of religious faith, so painful as it is I have to accept that he isn't looking down, and that all those future adventures will never be shared with him. I do think, however, that when I do go to all those places, and stand on all those summits, he'll be there.

I'll never see him again, but when someone dies I always think that they live on with the people they leave behind, and I know that the next time I'm half way down some terrible tight trees in awful snow I'll think of what Will would do. Everybody knows the answer of course - he'd grin, claim it wasn't actually too bad, ski it effortlessly and get up the next day and do it all over again. Inspiring, encouraging and fun, just like when he was here.

Bootpacking on the way to the Trappier Couloir, with the Chamonix Valley behind.

About to drop in to the SW face of the Aiguille Pourrie

And again, a second time.

This was possibly the best single powder run of 2012 - quite an accolade given the winter we had.

Heading home

Skiing down to Le Tour after the classic "3 Cols" tour. We'd been hoping to do the Y couloir on the Aiguille d'Argentiere but high temperatures put us off. The descent to Le Tour was one of the best of the season, which was a good consolation.

Heading for the Col du Passon

Breaking trail towards the Breche Porteta

Deep in it on the other side of the Breche. I'd had 45 minutes sleep the night before this day so Will kindly restricted the uphill to 1500m....

BBQ in St Bon

On the Aiguille de la Vanoise, scoping out lines for the coming winter

At the Col Superieure du Tour Noir, about to descend into La Fouly.

"We still believe in all the things that we stood by before,
And after everything we've seen here maybe even more".

Will died in an avalanche on the Grande Casse on May 2nd 2013. I miss him.