Swiss-Canadian not interested in matching record, has moved onto other things
April 10, 2003
LES DIABLERETS, Switzerland — Records are made and broken almost every month in the outdoor adventure world. Those who have their record broken usually go back and try and break it again. This endless petty contest, though, bores Jean Troillet. And his record stood longer than most.
In 1997, the Swiss-Canadian snowboarded down the North Face of Everest, starting at an elevation of 28,500 feet and setting an unprecedented altitude record. On May 25, 2000, Frenchman Marco Siffredi descended the same route but started from the actual summit of 29,035 feet.
However, there is one main difference between the only two known snowboard descents of the world’s highest peak.
“He did it with oxygen,” Troillet quietly pointed out during a conversation at the Congress Hall on March 18 in the town of Les Diablerets in the Swiss Alps. “I don’t care about records. Right now, I have other things to do in my life.”
Even if Troillet returned to Everest for a sans-oxygen descent from the actual summit, Siffredi will never have another chance to match it. On Sept. 4, Siffredi died while attempting an unrelenting 55-60 degree line in the Hornbein and Japanese Couloirs on the North Face of Everest. He was 24. Searches for his body revealed the last snowboard tracks at an elevation of 28,380 feet, less than a thousand feet below the summit.
But there are two other distinctions between the two records. Siffredi, who was known as the world’s foremost extreme snowboarder, was 22 when he broke the record and didn’t carry his own board the entire way. Troillet was 49 and his Salomon never left his pack.
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Now 55, Troillet lives with his wife, Mirelle, of five years and 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Gustine, in the Swiss village of La Fouly, which affords its residents views into both Italy and France. When Troillet set his record on Everest, one of the last things he did before dropping onto the North Face was call his current girlfriend, Sivonne. Troillet, now happily married, has gone through several women because none of them could adjust to his gallivanting around the world.
“That was the first test she had to pass before we could get married,” Troillet joked as he raised his glass with his bulging forearms and took a sip of red wine. “She’s wonderful.”
In May, Mirelle will watch her husband lead a 10-member Swiss team on an attempt of 26,401-foot Broad Peak in Pakistan. Troillet has already climbed nine of the world’s 14 highest peaks, including Everest in 1983 and K2 in both 1987 and 1989. But mountaineering, the sport he has become most famous for in his native Switzerland, isn’t at the top of his to-do list anymore.
In the last decade, he has developed a special appreciation of sailing and other exotic sports. Obviously that interest only intensified when Switzerland’s Alinghi became the first ever European country to win the 152-year-old America’s Cup on March 1. In 1999, he was aboard ‘Foncia’ when the boat attempted a record traverse of the Atlantic Ocean. A year later, Troillet and close friend Laurent Bourgnon, who was with him during his Everest snowboard descent and K2 climb, attempted the traverse of Greenland along the Arctic Circle while being pulled by kites. Bad weather prevented the expedition’s success but the duo are planning a repeat attempt. Troillet also dreams of trekking across barren stretches of the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa.
Basically, there isn’t much he doesn’t do. One time in an effort to raise money for handicapped children, he traveled from Zurich to Geneva via the Alps, using 13 different sports as modes of transportation.
“I used to ski as a child, so I did something new,” said Troillet, who began snowboarding 25 years ago when he worked as a mountain guide in Canada. “I like to ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, whatever. I like everything, I’m always changing.”
As are records.