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a fascination, two men and some failures

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a fascination, two men and some failures

The multicolored prayer flags floating in the wind, at the entrance to the garden, on the banks of the Isère, deliver a first clue, quickly confirmed by the titles under which the library is awash. Jean-Michel Asselin is seriously in love with Everest. This “tectonic erection”, as he likes to call the highest point on earth (8,848.86 metres), has inspired the 71-year-old journalist and writer to write hundreds of articles. He told the story on the boards of the Théâtre du Rond-Point, in Paris, drew autobiographical novels from it, and finally, in April, A story of Everest (Glénat, 190 pages, 25.95 euros), between historical guide and love dictionary.

« 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 et 2003…, he says. In five expeditions, I spent more than a year of my life on this mountain on the sides of which I slept eleven nights at more than 8,000 meters, without ever reaching the summit. » The native of Saône-et-Loire, son of a worker and a tobacconist, admits not having “never been a great mountaineer”. “Everest was like the Moon, it was not part of my universe”, he said. But his quality as a journalist specializing in the mountains gave him access to the peaks of the whole world.

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It is to a report at Kala Pattar, a Nepalese belvedere of 5644 meters overlooking Everest, that he owes his introduction to « Roof of the world » . “I then swore to myself never to spawn with this large mass which lacked the beautiful momentum towards the sky that the Drus, the Aiguille Verte [à Chamonix] or the Matterhorn [sur la frontière italo-suisse] »he recalls.

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In 1989, however, the desire to impress a lover prevails. The beauty is the former companion of Jean Afanassieff, author, with Pierre Mazeaud and Nicolas Jaeger, of the “first” French ascent to Everest, in October 1978. “I doubted my power of seduction, so when two French guides who were setting up an “expé” within the framework of the bicentenary of the French Revolution offered me to work there as a photographer, I jumped at the chance, he says. And it took me nearly ten years to repay the bank loan taken out to pay for my trip and my expenses. »

“The Declaration of the Rights of Man in ice axes”

From this trip, “Jean-Mi” Asselin also hopes for a form of reconciliation with his parents. “I was a hippie, I had worked for The Open Mouthan environmentalist and pacifist weekly, he explains. In their eyes, I missed everything, so I wanted to offer myself and offer them this unique experience. »

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