Torchlight descent, Grand Tourmalet.
I’m working as an intern at the tourist office for a few months. Today’s assignment is taking me to Grand Tourmalet to share one of the highlights of the life of the resort with you: the torchlight descent.
Enthusiastic and well-prepared instructors
The descent is scheduled for 8.30 p.m. We have all arrived early to get the equipment ready. When we arrive, the head of the ESF (French Ski School) welcomes us into the instructors’ lair, giving us the chance to watch them getting ready. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. The head of the ESF finally takes the floor to explain the route:
“The instructors take the Sapins chairlift up to the starting point. Then, after weaving in and out off-piste, they head down part of the red piste before ending up in the middle of the crowd waiting for them near the Tremplin lift.”
It is now time for the instructors to get going, and every single one of them gets a torch to carry during the descent. We let them sort out the torches while we go to the Tremplin to set up the equipment. Once everything is ready, we eagerly await the instructors’ departure…
A descent combining fire and ice
Only a few minutes have passed when I spot the first torches in the distance; the descent has finally begun.
After a few erratic small turns, the instructors are soon sliding down the mountain in a uniform fashion. From here I realise just how many of them there are. Turn by turn, the flames get closer, drawing letters on the mountain: an “M” for La Mongie and an “S” which seems to crawl along the hillside like a fire snake. The shapes appear one after another, seeming to speak to my imagination.
One by one, the torchbearers finally pass in front of my lens to join the crowd to the sound of applause and bells.
I take the time to look up at the sky and see that the stars are now lighting up the mountain as if supporting us on this beautiful evening.
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