A life of adrenaline and contemplation, the two sides of Mathieu Maynadier

Mathieu Maynadier is a mountain guide, a climber, a skier, a paraglider, and world traveler. 

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Mathieu Maynadier

Photographed by

Guillaume Broust

Mathieu Maynadier is a mountain guide, a climber, a skier, a paraglider, a world traveler who is endlessly curious about the world around him. He likes to stretch his abilities to the limits, and his natural talents, combined with dedicated training, have taken him to the top levels of his sports and some pretty extreme places. But adrenaline-fueled challenges are only one side to this Frenchman, known as Mémé to his friends. We talked to him about climate change and the things that motivate him to keep going. 

Photo by Guillaume Broust

Tell us about where you grew up and the climate changes you see at a local level?

I grew up in a ski resort 1400 metres high, and we always had snow. My school was down in the valley below, where they often had rain in the winter, so we used to laugh about that but not anymore, now it rains in the winter as high up as 2000 metres.

As an ice climber and alpinist, skier and world traveller, you have seen more than most people the changes that POW is fighting to protect. So what can you tell us from your own experiences of climate change and what their organization means to you?

A good example is the largest glacier where I live is now half the size. It was the first time I saw it as a child. I saw it as a 12-year-old on a school trip, and it took maybe one hour of walking. Now it is more like two and a half to reach it, and you have to go 100 m higher, and every year it’s getting worse.

The melting is faster, and the rock is decaying. POW is personally important to me too for the help they have given me and my friends on our projects in Pakistan to give back to the local community by teaching them how to ski and climb and getting them the equipment they need to enjoy the winter sports of their own landscape.

Ten days ago, outside my house it was minus 15; now it is above freezing again, and in the sun during the day, it was ten degrees. That’s not normal. Those rapid changes and the extremes are getting more. 

Photo by Guillaume Broust

Photo by Guillaume Broust

Do you feel that outdoor sportspeople have a responsibility to take action?

Definitely yes, but at the same time, personally, I feel in a tricky position because to do what I do, I need to travel, and that’s not about to change. However, since Covid, things have started to change. Apart from my personal passion for it and the commitments I have to brands that sponsor me to travel, I have made changes, and I think everyone has. So, for example, I would no longer fly to the US to climb if it was only for ten days. And I think brands also understand that now. In my regular home life, I have a much lower carbon footprint than the average French person in the way that I consume on every measure except for travel, so I do what I can as this level of travel won’t last forever. 

Photo by Guillaume Broust

When we talk to our ambassadors, we always ask them to give us three words that describe them or their passions. The most popular answer is always nature as a love of the outdoors is what unites people who are part of the BUFF® world. Would that also be your first word?

Ha, actually no! My first word absolutely would have to be travel, since I was a child curiosity about unknown places and that desire to see the world has always been the biggest passion of my life. Naturethough for sure, is right next as I have spent most of my life outdoors and have seen so many incredible places, and that connection to the mountains is vital to me, but it’s not just what I see it’s the people I meet along the way. That gives me the third word, People. I am fascinated by how people live differently and the massive cultural changes you experience when you travel. Also, the differences in how people climb, say in France, compared to the USA or Nepal. Every place has something unique that people can teach you- Making connections with people in new places is the best experience. 

Photo by Guillaume Broust

In your films and your projects in Pakistan, we see how meaningful human connections are to you, with your climbing partners, with the locals wherever you travel and with the landscape itself. The outdoor flag you are holding in the images was designed for BUFF® by an outdoor artist called Jessa Gibert and is called Humans, so it’s a good symbol for your story.

For sure, human kindness is the thing that stands out from all my travels. So many people have offered me incredible hospitality all over the world, people in Pakistan and Nepal. They, by our standards, have very few material things but are the first to provide you with tea or food and invite you into their homes. I have been so well looked after and supported, so I have reached a place in my life where I have to give back now. So that’s what started our project in Pakistan, where we saw that the local young guys wanted to do what we were doing, so we decided to make that happen, and it’s been amazing to see it succeed.   

What does the future hold?

For five more years, I want to continue to be a climber first and pursue more challenges though I will keep on with my personal projects and commitments for the future; I do see myself becoming more of an activist and trying to make a difference. One thing that has influenced me is that they have less media bullshit in their lives than we do. Still, for sure, my experience is that the people I met in Pakistan have a more contemplative life than we do, they have time to be philosophical in a way that I admire, so maybe I will try to live more like that. 

You can follow Mathieu on instagram @mathieumaynadier

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