What is Adventure Inception?

Adventure inception is a phrase I coined to describe an adventure within an adventure. When it gets gritty, gruelling and down-right challenging. Something unexpected could make a mockery of your plans, forcing you to deal with a situation you are not fully prepared for. It will make you push beyond your limit, until the adventure takes on a life of its own. This is adventure inception!!!

It Can Happen at any Time

Miles from civilisation and your phone just died. Clouds roll in, and with them, a freak storm. You open your backpack to get your coat, bracing for the worst, only to find that it has been soaked in coffee because your flask was not shut properly. You pick up your pace to get off the trail and back to your car, but you slide on some loose rock, landing right on your tailbone. Ouch!

Welcome to Shit-Creek!! We do not have any paddles for you here.

Embrace the Unexpected

When you are in the wilderness, you are never too far away from being vulnerable to the elements. Anyone can roll an ankle on a protruding tree-root or have an invaluable piece of equipment break at the worst possible time. Sometimes, shit just happens. You try and limit yourself from the inconveniences and dangers of nature. But, even the most meticulous of planners cannot account for everything.

When a big steamy shit, hits the fan and stinks up your preparation, you are left to rely on judgement. Forged from a combination of common sense, and past experience, you have to deal with this predicament. The good news is, you will have a killer story by the time you get home. The bad news is, it will suck … a lot!

Go Big or Go Home

If you can get out of this situation by simply cutting your losses, you can consider yourself lucky. Perhaps on a bike ride, your chain snaps. The bike shops have closed, and you do not have a spare. It would be costly, but you could bite the bullet, and get a cab, or call that great friend who owes you a massive favour.

Know Your Limit

There is no shame in taking the easy way out. The great rock climber, Alex Honnold, known for some of the boldest and courageous climbing feats, said, Discretion is the better part of valour, some days just are not your day. Caution is no bad thing. It would be foolish to let ego force you into doing something reckless. But on the other hand, there is an acceptable level of risk that is not just worth taking, it is undeniable.

Push Beyond Your Limit

Loitering on the fringes of your comfort zone, you have an opportunity to find out what you are made of. Highly engaged without being overwhelmed, you are in the adventure sweet spot.

Gang of One

Adventure inception found its way into my life in January 2020. At 32 years old, I lived in the French Alps, working a ski season as a chef. I had been living an almost solitary lifestyle. The regular lifestyle choice for seasonaires is to ski hard, then drink hard. I loved the ski portion of this was awesome, but the drinking lost its appeal for me a long time ago. This meant I was left to do my own thing when I was not at work, or when the ski-lifts were closed.

My nights out did not involve drinking enough Absinthe, to make me barf in the snow (I had to interest in pushing beyond that limit). My preference was a moonlit hike up the mountain, finishing at the peak to watch the sunrise, over the valley.

A breathtaking view of Val D'Isere, at night. Taken with a long exposure, I was able to capture a lot of detail despite it being quite dark. The moonlight reflected from the snow and the street lights make the town look golden.
View of Val D’Isere, at Night – Adventure Inception – Pushing Beyond the Limit.

Building Confidence

It started out easyish. Walking up mountain pistes using snowshoes and ski-poles to aid the accending. Some gradients were steep, but as far as walking up snow-covered mountains go, this was beginner level stuff. Perfect to learn and grow confidence.

It was challenging and got me pumped to do it again and again. But I knew I could safely push myself a limit further each time. The buzz was moreish. Not only was I seeking out awe-inspiring views, but the physical sense of achievement also made me feel like a machine.

I worked 6 day weeks, and my spare time was tight. I became obsessed with squeezing in mountain hikes whenever I found the chance.

Preparation

On this particular day, I finished work at 2200 and did not have to be back at work until the following evening, at 1700. This was an opportunity for another adventure.

I wasted no time. Out the door 30 minutes later, my bag was packed, and I was on my merry way. For the night I had my snowshoes, a camera, a tripod, ski poles, 2 litres of water, 2 baguettes, 4 chocolate brownies, a banana, dried apricots, my phone, headphones, 2 pairs of gloves, a spare coat, an extra pair of ski trousers, a power bank and a head-torch.

The Journey Begins

Setting off, I was in high spirits. On the phone with my girlfriend, who was back in England, she would keep me company during the first 5 miles of my journey. A leisurely walk from the resort town of Val D’Isere. Taking me past a waterfall, round Lac du Chevril and to the Tignes Dam.

A shot of the barage du Tignes with a mountain illuminated in the background. A car has driven over the road that is on top of the dam. It creates a light trail that draws your attention to the foreground.
Tignes Dam – Adventure Inception – Push Beyond the Limit.

The sky was breathtaking, dotted with billions of stars, with The Moon illuminating the vast snowy carpet. Although it was dark, I could see perfectly well. Describing it as best I could to a sleepy girl on the other side of the phone before she went to sleep. She joked, reminding me of an earlier promise I made. I was not to die before I taught her how to snowboard.

A night shot, capturing the vastness of the stars above. The mountains have a magical white glow which provides a contrast to the night sky.
The Beautiful Stars – Adventure Inception – Push Beyond Your Limit.

Go Time!!!

Now on my own to embrace the frigid -20C temperature. I had an adventure ahead of me and a promise to keep. The goal was to find a lake near the Italian border called Lac de la Sassière. I figured it would be frozen over at this time of year. A beautiful sight to savour with my own eyes.

The Plan

To follow the road as much as possible, by using the GPS on my phone. The winding pass eventually became buried under snow and would stay that way until the spring. Snowploughs only cleared the road as far as the last house on the trail. Meandering up the mountain, I was unsure if I was still on the road. That was until I spied the top of a road sign that read, AVALANCHES DANGEROUX.

A screenshot of my route. It measures almost 30km.
Find out More About Val D’Isere – Adventure Inception – Push Beyond the Limit.

Live Risk Assessment

Clearly, it was dangerous territory. Was I being stupid? Taking some time to assess the situation, I needed to weigh up my options.

By judging from the angle of the slope, there was a good chance that there would be no sudden avalanches heading my way. It was more likely I would cause one by my movement on the snow. All my attention would have to be on what the surface of the snow was like.

Adventure Inception

I decided that I was going to proceed with extreme caution. No unnecessary risks. If it looked like I was out of my depth, I would turn back. I was entering an adventure inception.

Onward and upward, going deeper into the dead of night. For a long time, I walked across an almost blank canvas, occasionally disturbed by animal tracks. I noticed an icy river of frozen boulders that appeared to have tumbled and settled on a slope to my right. They served as a stark reminder of the consequences of poor judgement or bad luck.

Bizarrely, it did not take long to find something unexpected, only this was not a deathly hazard. A fun surprise, I found a man-made snow den carved into the side of the mountain. It was only right I went inside.

A Turn for the Worse

Temporary sheltered from the cold, I sat down and got the water and a baguette from my bag, both were frozen solid. The water was useless to me, but I can still eat the frozen mass of bread. A setback, but I could go on.

That was until I reached a section of road where the drifting snow became too deep. To the left, was a cliff edge, with a sharp drop which leads down to a river. It looked sketchy, and I wanted no part of. If the snow began to give way, I had no chance of stopping myself sliding to a probable death. To the right was a staggering mound of powdery snow. A change of plan was needed.

It involved turning around to walk up a steeper part of the mountain. The road doubled back on itself, meaning I could skip out a large section, by taking a more direct route. The trees would stabilize the snowpack, and I could also use them to help me wade through the thigh-high snow.

Pushing Beyond the Limit

Where excitement and wonder once had centre stage, now resides tenacious grit and some hyper-focus. The shift in mindset served as the transition to the adventure within an adventure. It was a different kind of extravaganza, and I was loving it.

Reaching the next plateau felt like a massive achievement. I could afford to relax a little, letting a grin return to my face.

The downside was that it had taken much longer than I had anticipated. I was still 2 miles away from the lake, and tiredness was creeping up on me like a vulture, patiently waiting for its moment to pick me off. Luckily the rest of the way was relatively flat. I did not come all this way to turn back now, I thought to myself as I summoned up more energy.

Defeat

I would love to have a picture of a frozen lake to share with you. Disappointingly, there was no lake there. Only a large empty space where it should have been. If I wanted to see it, I would have to come back when all this snow has melted and fills that lake shaped hole in (DUHHH!). It will have to stay in my imagination for now. And to add to that, the sky had turned overcast and grey. There was no glorious sunrise to be admired either.

This is my striking a pose in the darkness. You can see much detail. It was an empty creator where the lake should have been. I was still upbeat enough to have some fun.
The Empty Lake – Adventure Inception – Push Beyond the Limit.

Time to turn around and set my sights for bed. Hungry, thirsty, cold, tired and I still had a long journey ahead. Fatigue became a real danger as I traced my footprints back down towards the valley floor in a zombie-like trance.

Returning home with no celebration, no emotions, no anything. I was depleted and desperate for some much-needed sleep. 7 hours later, I was back at work. I could only muster an inward smile when a colleague exclaimed, you missed out on a cracker last night mate, you shoulda been there.

Reflection

At, first, I was bummed-out when I did not find the lake. However, thinking back, I had a remarkable night regardless. At times I struggled more than I thought I could have ever endured, I came up against problem after problem and came through the other side with a story to share. No, it did not go to plan, but the real prize was to have an adventure and push beyond my limit.

The old chiché rings true in this case, it is about the journey, not the destination.


To read more of my adventures CLICK HERE. If you have enjoyed this content, and are able to do so, please consider buying me a coffee to help me provide you with more, by hitting the button below.

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