Anselme Baud at 8,5000 meters, first descent of Yalung Kang, Nepal in 1983
It's in the Blood
When Christopher Baud was a child he wasn’t aware he had a famous father. Christopher is the son of Anselme, a 71-year old ski pioneer from Chamonix, France. Of all the extreme descents in his career, Anselme is perhaps best known for being the first (along with Daniel Chauchefoin and Yves Détry) to ski the Mallory Line off the north face of the Aiguille du Midi. He has been an alpinist, guide, and teacher for over forty years, dedicating his life to the mountains. His son has followed in his footsteps and it’s not hard to see why.
Now, at 34-years old, Christopher is an elite mountain guide and instructor, and a new father himself. This season, Christo, as he is known by his friends, will be wearing Aztech Mountain’s Hayden 3-Layer shell jacket and pant on the Mont Blanc Massif and the other mountains that surround Chamonix. We caught up with the charming Chamonard on our most recent trip to the Alps to talk about the state of the sport and growing up ski famous.
Christopher Baud in Chamonix, France
What was it like to grow up with a legendary ski mountaineer father?
When I was a kid, I never realized my dad was a ski legend. I became aware of it later in life, in my teenage years, as my dad took me out with his clients mountain guiding, backcountry skiing or even traveling… These moments turned out to be beautiful lessons for my future occupation as a mountain guide!
Looking back at it, it is only now that I realize how lucky I am. Unconsciously or not, people tend to expect more of me, specifically because I am the son of “Anselme Baud.”
Anselme and Christopher Baud at approximately 7,900 meters on Cho Oyu, Nepal in 2007
How did you come to the sport yourself?
As a kid, I was ski jumping and cross-country skiing before focusing exclusively on competitive alpine racing. I was a FIS competitor for four years until I was 19 years old. It was a great school for teaching important life values, but I started needing more freedom and exposure to the great outdoors which I couldn’t satisfy anymore while competing. As I was living in Chamonix, I felt the urge to explore our mountains, getting to know them better and opening new horizons for myself… Naturally, I slowly started climbing up and going down mountains, in every season of the year, until it allowed me to pass the mountain guide test.
In my opinion, alpinism is greater than a sport. There are no grounds for competition. It is a deeper connection with nature.
What do you think about the evolution of lightweight gear? How has it changed the sport?
More comfort allows for greater distances and longer expeditions—as long as the idea of lightweight doesn’t come at the expense of efficiency! I am convinced there is a limit to the notion of lightweight! At a practical level, it is easier for us today than it was for prior generations. Lightweight gear helps us go faster and, therefore, allows us to beat records… Globally, lightweight gear has expanded possibilities for more people.
Tell us about the crystals. How did you get into crystal hunting?
In the Mont-Blanc massif, quartz crystal hunting is an ancient tradition. The alpinism pioneers went chamois hunting and “crystal picking.” I have always loved minerals, but I was 19-years old when a friend brought me crystal hunting for the first time. It instantly became a passion. Looking for a 13- to 18-million-year old geological treasure hidden on granite walls is a different way to experience the mountain. As we take unconventional routes, go through places where sometimes no humans have set foot, it is a way of connecting with the primitive adventures the first alpinists once experienced.
It is a childlike quest for a fabulous treasure. With one difference: it is a game for adults only as it can quickly become very dangerous! Despite the obsession, the concern of survival is real. It is always with great joy that we pick these gifts the mountains present us and carry them down without damaging them. They are the mountains’ heart!
When the Baud’s ski together, where do they go? Do you have any special places or traditions?
When I was younger, I would often go backcountry skiing with my dad or my family. We would do the classic, but, nevertheless, incredible Vallée Blanche, with a stop at the Refuge du Requin (Shark Hut) to eat our picnic…
Today, we are still able to get out together with clients who became family friends. It is always a pleasure to listen to my dad’s stories and lessons and to enjoy his unique and flawless style.
Like that beautiful powder day last winter, when we were on the Vallée Blanche together with our family friends. On our way down, I was taking some pictures of them when I suddenly noticed that my dad had been skiing with touring boots, wide open, in walk mode!
However, neither the quality of his tracks nor his control and pleasure seemed to be hampered by it.