Dom is aged 57, and besides his work as an entrepreneur and creator of IT start-ups, every year, he accompanies numerous adventurers, often younger than him, into wide open spaces, both horizontal as well as vertical. He set up the association Cap Expé, a community of adventurers, both male and female, in order to encourage the dream of adventure and especially to realise them independently. His main motivation is teaching and knowledge transfer. That is also why he is now launching into film production.
Simon, aged 26, is an industrial engineer, who is passionate about sport climbing and mountain climbing. He has already organised a mountaineering expedition in Tian Shan Kirghize and a number of outings in the Alps. Climbing the Lotus Flower Tower brings to an end his sabbatical year in Canada, during which he has familiarised himself with climbing big walls on nuts. Simon loves action and performance sports.
Joachim, aged 25, has been working as a physiotherapist for two years. He is passionate about sport climbing, which he has been practising at the gym since he was a teenager. He started cliff climbing with his uncles at the age of 10, but he only has limited experience in the absolute. What attracted him to this expedition is being submerged for a whole month in all this virgin countryside of the Canadian far north, away from all civilisation.
Matthias, aged 23, loves mountains, and he has just completed his civil engineering degree. He has already taken part in several expeditions, such as skiing in Lapland, cycling in Mongolia, and hiking in Canada. He has already accompanied Dom on a challenging climbing trip in the Dolomites. His dream is to get closer to the mountains, and this expedition will, no doubt, be the start of a long series of eventful mountaineering experiences.
Antoine, aged 23, is a medical student. Like Joachim, he has been climbing at the gym since he was a teenager. Just recently, he has started doing some serious cliff climbing, but in terms of big pitches, he has only limited experience. However, he is quite adept at hiking and mountaineering, as his family and friends have trained him in this since early childhood. He goes hiking every year, or goes conquering summits in the Alps. For him, this is a first major expedition given its length and its physical and organisational complexity. What attracts him most to this adventure is the wide open spaces and the peace and quiet, whilst at the same time keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the summit.
Intentions de l’équipe
Why and how?
Everything first started when we received news from Simon, who was in Canada in December. He approached me with the project to go and climb the Lotus Flower Tower in a park in Canada. At the time I did not give it much thought, and I told him that I was up for it. In the following weeks I came to realise what I had let myself in for. Little by little the extent of the expedition unveiled itself. Right up to June it just continued to grow in magnitude. Making discovery upon discovery, I really realised that what I was preparing myself to do was, compared to everything I had done up until then, a colossal project.
I did have a few moments of doubt with regard to my ability to complete this expedition without risking my life. For me, the risk of getting hurt in the course of the expedition would have been disastrous for my future career. Given that I am a self-employed physiotherapist, it would have left me without any income. However, I took the decision to just go for it and do it. Looking back, this has been one of my best decisions ever. Joachim
What were your fears?
Beyond the physical risks and what this would have involved, my main fears were about living as a group of 5 in the middle of nowhere for a whole month. I only knew Simon and Antoine before starting our preparations. I was committing myself to spending a whole month confined with four people, and I was afraid of what that might involve.
However, the atmosphere was great, and even the awkwardness with regard to Dom’s age was quickly forgotten about. During the first four days, Dom taught us all there was to know about the practical aspects of living in the wild. Day after day, we repeated the same little routines of installing the camp and preparing dinner, which he had drummed into us. After one week, I was starting to feel more comfortable, and I took ownership of those tips. I even started to create some for myself. I became independent, and this experience will be useful for any projects I may undertake in the future. Joachim
The film project
When we all first met at Dom’s house, he told us his project was to film the adventure and to produce an amateur film. He then asked us to help him produce it by us also doing some of the filming on location. That worried me because this would mean that we would not really be making the most of things as they were happening, that you are already projecting yourself into the future after the expedition. I was worried that that would prevent me from really making the most of being immersed into the deepest countryside by clinging onto civilisation.
I have never been the one to take photographs whilst out hiking, but I quickly got a taste for it. The fact that everyone was taking turns filming quickly made us forget about the cameras, and everything soon became natural again.
One or two months after the expedition, Dom told us that the amateur film project had turned into a semi-professional film with all the investment that that would entail for him as he was responsible for the film. I was surprised and happy to learn that our story was so popular. From my point of view, we were only five amateurs (even if Dom has 30 years of experience), a far cry from what I have always seen in the documentaries about mountains and mountaineering, which I so like to watch.
I am now motivated to help produce this film as much as I can. And that also includes promoting it because I really believe that this story can touch youngsters of my age and even younger people. Inspiring them to want to accept this offer of a project from this friend, which you would never even have dared dream about. Joachim
How was the project presented to you?
Initially, it was Simon who suggested this project to me in March 2016. It took me aback at first, but it did not take me long to decide to accompany them on this expedition. I know Simon and Joachim very well, and the only ones I hardly knew were Dom and Mathias. This was not a problem to me because of all the weekends we spent together preparing, which gave us the opportunity to get to know each other. Antoine
What were you fearful about?
I mainly climb at the gym, which I have been doing since I was a teenager. As I had not done a lot of cliff climbing, this 800 m high rock to be climbed on nuts was going to be my 5th cliff outing. That was my only ‘fear’. However, this being the case, the level of the pitch was more than feasible, so it did not put me off for long. I was not worried at all about the rest (packrafting, the hiking to gain access, etc.). I was in good shape, from a physical point of view, and I have never really had any ‘limits’ as such. Antoine
What were you looking for?
What I was really excited about was the isolation and the fact of being completely away from any civilisation for a whole month, and to do everything completely independently from the very first until the very last day. I have been going on trips to the mountains every year ever since I was a young child. When I graduate as a medical doctor, I intend to go abroad to the Swiss or French Alps. My dream would be to settle somewhere where outdoor sports are more accessible than in Belgium (cross-country or downhill skiing, hiking, mountaineering, climbing, etc.). This expedition suddenly really appealed to me, and now it is motivating me in my pursuit to go abroad. Antoine
So, where are you at now?
I can’t pretend to have ‘changed’ as a result of this expedition. It was truly incredible, but you have to keep your feet on the ground and tell yourself that this is not the first and certainly will not be the last. We all face challenges each and every day, and even outside of such expeditions you can create new projects every day. I see this story as a trigger, which I find re-assuring, and I tell myself that with determination and daring, we can all achieve really great things with our friends. Antoine