Truth is, Joe Grant heads into the mountains for a lot more than running. And what he finds out there, high among the craggy peaks, is what he likes to call rhythm. With filmmaker and climber Cheyne Lempe, we set out to capture Joe in his element, doing his thing and searching for that rhythm, deep in the heart of the Alps. Enjoy.

Video: Cheyne Lempe; Images: Chris Parker; Words: Joe Grant

Cheyne Lempe pensively asked me, “So ... um ... dude ... tell me about that feeling you get up there in the mountains … what’s so compelling about it to you?”

Joe on a scenic ridge

We were sitting at a cafe in downtown Chamonix on a late-summer afternoon. I was hopped up on coffee, and a little stressed. We’d arrived in the valley three days prior to shoot a film on Mt. Blanc, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, we had to rethink our objective. On top of that, my lost luggage still hadn’t arrived. I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic in the hustle and bustle of the high tourist season in the Alps.

Cheyne, on the other hand, sipped his cup of tea seemingly unperturbed by the dwindling days remaining in our short trip. Neither did he seem concerned by the chaotic forecast expected for the rest of the week. I wanted to point out to him that the feeling he was asking me about, couldn’t be better represented by his current demeanor—a go-with-the-flow, things just are what they are kind of attitude. That was the type of ease and relaxed state of mind that I go looking for in the mountains. But, the conversation would have to wait as I got a call from the airport saying my bag was finally on its way.

Joe running at sunrise in the mountains

We had settled on the Dôme du Miage as our new objective. The location was recommended to us by some local friends who knew we’d find the spectacular views we were hoping for on Mt. Blanc, but without the crowds. The place sounded promising, but even after looking at photos, it was hard to get a real sense of what to expect, and the chance of good weather still remained uncertain.

Joe on a farway snowy ridge

In the morning, we got out to a late start, scrambling to get all of our gear organized. We were cautious about our planning, anticipating potentially tricky conditions on a mountain that might get us in over our heads. We set off with heavy packs on the long, circuitous climb to the Refuge des Conscrits, our intended basecamp for the shoot. We arrived about an hour before night fall, drenched in sweat and exhausted from the accumulated commotion of the past few days.

Side profile of Joe on a ridge run

Instead of settling in for the night, however, I dropped my bag in the bunk room, slipped on my running shoes and took off up the hill. It may seem counterintuitive to add more hard effort to an already long day, and at first even I questioned my own reasoning.

I started out with a labored stride, heavy, dragging the weight of the day up the climb.

Joe trekking up a snowy field

My breathing was erratic and choppy, consistent with the clatter of busy life. Yet, I could only fight for so long before I surrendered to a more organic form of movement and my breath followed. The tension began to dissolve as I ran along the glacier, the wind at my back, soaking in the copper and steel tones of dusk. My thoughts became fleeting as effort collided with attention. And suddenly, nearly unexpectedly, everything came into focus. I felt a part of my surroundings. I found that feeling, the rhythm, and knew we had come to the right place.

Joe on a peak as a tiny speck in front of a large snowy mountain

--Joe Grant