Patrick Gabarrou is a mountain enthusiast who never lets a chance to share his passion pass him by; a passion he has shared with us since 1980.
« Basically I'm a dreamer and a contemplative, but I'm also passionate about action, practicality and being in contact with the elements. First I look at a photo of the rock face and imagine a route on it. Then I get to work. It has to be a really good route up. The dotted line on the photograph, which shows the way up, should be like an arrow pointing towards the sky. »
To meet Patrick is to become immediately seduced by the mountain. His unwavering enthusiasm as he describes the routes he has climbed is nothing short of contagious. He gives regular lectures about the mountains, which are always well received. He preaches tirelessly about mountains, which he finds to be not only a universe in themselves, but also a place of encounters and shared experiences.
Patrick has been an athlete of ours for very many years. From the very start of his studies in philosophy, he realised that his love for the great outdoors would soon take over. The student became an aspiring mountain guide, settling in the Mont Blanc area.
He specializes in mixed routes (which combine ice and rock climbing). Today Patrick Gabarrou can be credited with more than 300 first ascents in the Alps and other mountains all over the world, from Alaska to the Himalayas and to Patagonia.
In the Mont Blanc massif alone, he and his companions have opened up 20 incredible new routes, for example “Divine Providence", "Frêneysie Pascale” and “Ciao Walter”, as well as six new routes on the world-famous north face of the Grandes Jorasses.
His latest achievement was “ Padre Pio, a ladder to the sky ”, a fabulous 1300m line on the south face of Matterhorn which he finished opening up in 2016 at the age of 65.
July 1976 – aspiring mountain guide Patrick at 25 wearing a pair of round glacier sunglasses
Having spent so long in the mountains, this mountain worshipper has become a fine observer of developments in technology and equipment. For example, the mountaineering boots he used at the start of his career were twice as heavy as those he wears today. His collection of ice axes is just as impressive. The initial ones he used had straight wooden handles and heavy steel blades. Those he carries today, made of aluminium and carbon, are extremely light and comfortable to use.
«I am not the world's best mountaineer, but I have been fortunate enough to be able to tackle the big walls with a fresh, curious perspective and to benefit from improvements in the gear that have helped me to open up new routes. When I see the tools that pioneers like Lionel Terray, René Desmaison and Walters Bonatti climbed with, I am full of admiration. »
At Camp 2 of the Nepalese route up Everest in 1992 wearing “Eric Escoffier” glasses, a fluorescent-coloured high-altitude model which would be rather hard to miss... The “mono-screen”, which offered better protection from the sun as it covered more of the face, made its first appearance in our catalogue. This pair is probably one of the heaviest models. These were the last models featuring “curled” temples.
Patrick Gabarrou has also witnessed many changing styles of high-altitude sunglasses. He has worn all the models from the 1970s to the present day, from metal to plastic-injected frames and from mineral to NXT photochromic lenses.
Near Mont Blanc in 1995 with Micropores, featured on the “Vermont” model and others in the “Yannick Seigneur” collection. These glasses were gifted to all the French guides and guides-to-be, as well as the teachers, at the French National Ski and Mountaineering School (ENSA), where Julbo was the official supplier. This model can still be seen on the trails and mountainsides today. The curled temples which featured on the “Eric Escoffier” have been upgraded to adjustable temples, which make it much easier to take the glasses on and off. Incredibly, it was the first time you could put these glasses on using one hand!
In Flaine in the early 2000s wearing the “Surf” model, which were among the first frames in injected plastic. This is probably one of Patrick's favourite models. They provided good cover, were light and came in all the latest colours!
Plastic works well at high altitude because it withstands the cold effectively.
The temples keep their metal core coated with cellular foam, meaning they sit comfortably and firmly on the face, as with the Micropores.
With Julbo "Nomads" in 2002, which have a streamlined appearance, removable protective side shields and frames made entirely out of plastic. Plastic is a very useful material because it can be curved into different shapes which offer higher coverage, and is less likely to bend than metal. The wraparound temples are well adapted to different face shapes.
Patrick is well known for his exploits as a mountaineer, but is also an excellent skier and was once the French skimo champion. He never misses an opportunity to go skiing. We saw him descending Mont Blanc with a certain Laetitia Roux. Epic.
This video was filmed in 2016 by the search giant Google. It shows magnificent images of Patrick at the top of Mont Blanc. Notice the “Dirt” and “Pipeline” frames with photochromic Zebra lenses, which appeared for the first time in 2006.