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Is the pen mightier than the ice axe?


Footage of his most recent major project, « Touring around France by the border. »


Born during the tumultuous year of 1968, in Northwestern France’s peaceful town of Saumur, Lionel started his education in the physical sciences, before focusing his energy on an uncontrollable growing passion for the mountains. The never-ending search for creativity and originality continues to keep him on the go and light up every single one of his vertical endeavors.

Following several noteworthy ascents through his mid-twenties, in 1994 he decided to circumnavigate the planet via some of the world’s most obscure and difficult summits and big walls. When the adventure came to a close, he had made 12 solo ascents, including several first ascents of routes in Kenya, Uganda, Southern India and Zanskar, as well as Patagonia. Lionel followed up with a 1.5 year « Vertical Odyssey, » leaving his ephemeral footprint on big walls in Greenland, the United States, and Mexico to name a few. Since then, the list of faraway summits, new routes, forced turnarounds, and new attempts continues to grow. After having 8 frostbitten toes amputated on an attempt to solo the three major north faces of the Alps (Grandes Jorasses, Matterhorn, Eiger) by their « direttissima, » in 2004 he embarked on another adventure much closer to home, a skyline tour of the Oisans (aka Ecrins) range of the French Alps. In 2007, he circumnavigated the Hautes-Alpes via the department’s administrative border, a warm-up to his more recent « Tour of France via the border, » where he followed as closely as possible the land, river, and costal border of France. This superbly original 15-month adventure mixed a wide variety of non-motorized activities with a whole host of unbelievable encounters. In addition to these backyard adventures, he has also ventured south several times, traveling on the famous supply ship the Marion-Dufresne to explore the Kerguelen Islands, as well as sailing to the South Georgia Islands and Antarctica with skipper Isabelle Autissier at the helm.

His motivation for joining the project

« A combined sea-mountain expedition has now become my preferred form of exploration; I like the idea of not knowing if the adventure will be more rope-mate or crew-mate focused, whether we’ll be tying more knots in « lines » instead of ropes. One thing is for certain, this type of « off-beat » expedition equals the sum of something different plus something truly unique, and constitutes the freedom I seek above all else.

This is why, when Erwan first told me about his project to sail around the world, mixing in vertical adventures whenever possible, it was clear and without question that I would join the team! »

Dod on a boat in, « No Man’s Land, by Lionel Daudet. »