October 2007. Riva del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy. Morning coffee in the square.
Paul and I met at secondary school. In the beginning we occasionally paired on the rugby field as inside and outside centres. He was bigger and stronger so played on the inside, punching holes through the defence while I was the more agile sprinter waiting for the ball to be offloaded so I could run it in for the glory. It was the start of our life long friendship.
In our first year at school we were lucky to go on a ski trip to Italy. After a few days of hot spring sunshine many of the resorts closed for the year. That night it snowed a metre and the teachers gave us strict instructions that off-piste skiing was banned. We weren’t that familiar with the concept of off-piste, Scotland had fences to hold the snow which was seldom deep enough for grooming machines. You simply skied where the snow was. Back in Italy the trees beckoned and we soon got caught by a teacher up to our necks in the snow looking for a lost ski. The lesson Paul learned from this was not that we disobeyed the teachers rules but he needed something bigger to be able to float on top of the deep snow. Paul bought a snowboard straight after that trip and took the sport up with passion. That incident along with a few other mischevous misdemeanours would go on to define our friendship and adventures long into adulthood.
We grew up sharing the love of the outdoors through mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding. Adventures together throughout the Alps to as far as Alaska followed, but it was Chamonix that became Paul’s adopted home where he was able to leave behind all the mental baggage of modern life and express himself freely on skis or snowboard. He became legendary amongst his friends for his downhill speed and full commitment (going up hill was another story).
Paul was a true Gentleman and maintained a stanch respect of tradition that would often put me to shame. The partnership between a Frenchman and a Scot was fitting, it mirrored the Auld Alliance agreement that had been honoured between our countries for Centuries. He had exceptional manners, a kind heart and all the time in the world to talk and listen to people from all walks of life.
He left sooner than expected, I always thought I would go first and envisaged Paul with a greybeard enjoying Talisker’s fine single malt whisky in front of the fire. We had a pact to go easy so that we could heli ski the velvet powder in Alaska in our 60s once we could no longer get to the peaks under our own steam.
Paul had just decided to make a home in the mountains around Chamonix and was part of the tight knit community of mountain people. Here the people believe that the black birds (choughs) are the souls of dead mountaineers. I will always look out for him, soaring high in the sun above the summits and performing amazing arobatics.
Before he left he had a secret to share with me. Why does a google image search of Paul Van Lamsveerde come up with images of loads of beautiful women next to his profil picture? I wanted to know how you did that Paul.
He left behind a wonderful family and many many friends around the World. My heart goes out to them all. The pain we all feel will gradually dissipate, I know he wants everyone to be happy. I will remember Paul with a smile and love him always. He was the brother I never had, my oldest friend. Thank you for the time you gave me.
2008. Rectiligne Couloir, Grands Montets with Louisa Marshall and Mel Cash.
On the infamous 601 path from Monte Baldo. Slippery beach leaves over slimestones polished to a fine sheen by soldiers boots during the World Wars.
Waiting on weather to fly. By now we had each gained a stone in weight from the enthusiastic American hospitality and lack of exercise. Bored, irritable and over caffeinated. A dead arm contest usually burnt up some energy and time. Evan eventually pushed me through the bedroom wall which the repair cost the same as a day’s flying.