Stéphane Husson, a 47-year-old French mountain guide and climber, died last week after a fall in Beaufort, France. On June 20, he was guiding a group of around 20 teenagers during an event put together by the French Alpine Club of Albertville, when he and one of the teenagers, aged 16, fell 20 meters from the top of the crag. The pair was roped together. Husson was taken to a hospital in Grenoble in critical condition, and died the next day. The 16-year-old, whose identity has not been made public, also passed away, dying on site before help arrived. The circumstances surrounding the fall are still under investigation.
Husson’s childhood friend and fellow climber Arnaud Petit told Rock and Ice by email, “Stéphane was my age and we were at school together most our time. We both started climbing very young (7). At the time French Free was the game, but as soon as we were 13 we were going by bicycle and equipped as much rock as we could, hand drill first, around Albertville. It was funny that it was 2 teenagers that were creating the new spots. We learned by ourselves, and I have to say we were quite safe on the rock.”
Interestingly enough, Petit noted, this safety did not extend to the road. “I remember that each time I was behind Stéphane on his motorbike was frightening,” Petit wrote. “Later, it was the same with a car. He had this incredible ability to reach the extreme limit of what is possible. I think this helped him a lot on ice climbing, to be light on the fragile tubes he would climb later.
Husson was a powerhouse in the ice climbing competition circuit in the early 2000s. The Frenchman placed second in two Ice Climbing World Championships, in 2001 and 2002. He also won the 6th Festiglace du Québec in 2003.
He also made the first ascent of the classic Delicatessen, with Petit, in 1992. The 120-meter multipitch, in Corsica, contains difficulties up to 8b (5.13d). It has seldom been repeated.
In a Planet Mountain article about the climb, Petit, who returned for the first free ascent of Delicatessen in 2001, said, “In 1992 we had little experience at establishing new routes and we couldn’t on-sight harder than 7c+ (5.13a), which generally meant that we couldn’t equip a pitch adequately if it was harder than 7b+ (5.12c), but nevertheless we attempted the route ground-up. We needed numerous days to climb six short pitches and, apart from some sections on pitch 3, the route was established using aid, climbing from one bolt to the next. The difficulties were such that we simply couldn’t do anything else.”
Though the climb was originally six pitches, Petit returned to rebolt, and the route now consists of five pitches. Husson became “really involved in ice climbing after we made Delicatessen,” wrote Petit. “For this, we were 21 and none of us has the ability to climb 8b (5.13d) on granite, but the long arms of Stéphane helped a lot when putting up the bolts.”
Husson was not only active as an athlete, but also as an emissary of the sport. He was instrumental in creating the first tower for ice climbing in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France. “It was he who started climbing competition ice in France,” said his friend Damion Souvy in a La Savoie article. “It is with him that was born the first team in France. He liked to discover climbing, to train the next generation.”
“As does everybody,” Petit said, “I remember his deep laugh and immense energy.” -Owen Clarke