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Vertical dancing

Today in France there are more than a dozen of them – single climbers, whose ascents are akin to solo performances of dancers. And there is nothing surprising in the fact that these people are called “soloists”, but they are served by the sheer cliffs, reaching a height of more than half a kilometer …

And the beginning of such solo performances a little more than a dozen years ago was laid by the young French rock climber Patrick Edlenge, who became the hero of the world-famous documentary thriller Life at Your Fingertips (excerpts from this film the Russian viewer could see in the eighties in the television program Travelers Club )

What made the twenty-three-year-old Patrick Edlenge at one time abandon the traditional climbing techniques with the usual safety equipment and do what one cannot look at without a shudder — single ascent to the rocks, and even without any insurance at all?

“Only one thing,” the courageous rock climber admitted to his friend and namesake journalist Patrick Maya, “is the desire to achieve complete perfection, physical and psychological, and to prove that with a strong body and spirit a person can overcome not only fear, but also turn down any mountains … ”

Patrick’s movements, when he conquers the vertical, leaving scary meters of height behind him, are soft, plastic and impeccably accurate: in such a case, even a slightest miscalculation is unacceptable, for he immediately follows a breakdown – a fall into the abyss.

“Personally,” recalls Patrick Maye, “when I looked at the tricks that he wrote on dizzy plums with a heartbeat of horror, every time I got the impression that I saw a kind of phantasmagoric spectacle, a nightmare from which the blood runs cold and frost is rubbing on the skin, and the nerves are so tense that even this look will burst … ”

Phantasmagoria or a nightmare. Patrick Edlenge himself likes a different comparison – a bewitching virtuoso dance. A dance that requires daily rehearsals of many hours, where misfires and misses are only possible. On the “stage” this is ruled out.

Patrick polished his rare craftsmanship – and it really is akin to great art – on rocks that stretched a long ridge along the Mediterranean coast of France near Toulon and cut off right into the sea.

It was on them that he comprehended the highest art of dance on a vertical, learning the ability to focus all his thoughts, feelings and muscle strength on every centimeter of a rocky surface, on every movement of the body, while achieving a state close to deep meditation, in which fear as such ceases to be felt.

The equipment, if you can call it what Patrick climbs, is the most minimal: on his feet are durable rag shoes with soft rubber toes on a flexible rubber sole, and behind his back, on his belt, is a bag from where he scoops up talc from time to time and rubs his hands to improve the grip of his fingers with subtle protrusions on the rock, on which he performs his deadly dance.

“Watching him with binoculars from below,” recalls Patrick Maye, “with whom I didn’t compare him: then with a spider floating smoothly and gracefully, and not crawling, up the plumb line, then with the bird – because his fingers are so tense and twisted, which resemble rather the claws of a mountain eagle. At such moments, I was thinking about one thing: is he really a man, because what he does is simply refuses to perceive the human consciousness as a reality. ”

However, Patrick Edlenge is the most real person, such as everyone. The only thing that distinguishes him from other people is his passion for conquering the verticals with the help of his own skill developed and honed to the finest subtlety, thanks to which he was able to climb to heights inaccessible to the ordinary climber, and to those that undoubtedly separate the solo dancer from the whole dance troupe.

Patrick Edlenghe once demonstrated his record-breaking climb, or, as the journalists also called it, a death number, in Mali on one of the “fingers” of the Hand of Fatma, a sheer cliff formed by five peaks more than nine hundred meters high, resembling the fingers of a human hand. Then Patrick’s dance, which he performed in terrible heat, with bated breath, was watched by many. It was a truly unique, unforgettable dance, worthy of looking at him with amazement – of those that never repeat in an encore.

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