Christophe Peray

26 | 02 | 2023

Alpine  |  Quartz  |  Fluorite

A Special cristallier

In the scene of the Chamonix cristalliers, one name in particular stands out: Christophe Peray. For decades, he has shaped collecting in the Mont Blanc massif and recovered countless good finds.

With his teacher, the great Roger Fournier, Christophe started in the late 60s in the world of minerals. It quickly became clear to him that this should be more than just a hobby and that he wanted to pursue this profession full-time. Through Roger, he developed a very particular style for blasting in the Mt. Blanc massif. Instead of the usual base camps, Christophe works with many small bivouacs that he has placed in the big walls of famous peaks such as Les Courtes, Les Droites or the Aiguille Verte. In each one there is usually a sleeping bag, tools, climbing equipment and also canned food. Thus, he usually spends several days in the walls and can act freely and flexibly, searching the extremely steep walls during the day with a light pack. It is always fascinating to search for crystals in these extreme walls.

Happy after a long day in the mountains (F: Monica Dalmasso)

Happy after a long day in the mountains (F: Monica Dalmasso)

His equipment is also special: In addition to his typical clothing of vest, jeans and the toy plastic rake, what stands out the most is his slope limiting rod, which he always has with him. He uses it to check snow bridges over crevasses or loose stones in tricky terrain. After he is often alone on the sometimes extremely crevassed glaciers a very safe way of mountaineering.

Over the years Christophe has opened many special crevasses. Besides fantastic morion specimens with ankerite from the Tour Noir, he could also find wonderful smoky quartz specimens in the area of the extremely rockfall endangered Les Rochassiers. Impressive Gwindl from the area of the Glacier de Talèfre but also the probably best amethyst scepters from Les Courtes are successes of his long career, to name only a small selection of countless fissures and finds.

But he became famous especially with the find of “Laurent” in 2006: In this impressive specimen an approx. 18cm large smoky quartz crystal is framed by raspberry red up to 6cm large fluorite octahedrons. A combination, which has sought its equal in this beauty and aesthetics so far. He named the specimen after his best friend Laurent Chatel, who died in an accident during a joint tour in July 2005. The step is now on display at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris.

With advancing age, Christophe is still an integral part of the active Chamonix spotlight scene and will hopefully make many more great finds.

With Christophe on the hunt for fluorite

How it is to go on tour with Christophe describes the following story:

In the summer of 2002, I was once again in the Mont Blanc massif for some blasting, and bad weather forced me to take a break. Christophe offered me to wait out the bad weather at his chalet in Vallorcine. After there had been quite a lot of fresh snow, Christophe had the idea to tackle again an old crevasse of his in the north face of the Aiguille Verte, which can only be reached in these conditions: the fresh snow prevents the otherwise constant rockfall in this wall area and so it was possible to reach the site safely in a quick ascent, then work in the crevice during the day and start the descent at dusk, when the wall freezes again and the rockfall stops.

Working on an old pocket in the lower areas of the Glacier d‘Argentière

Working on an old pocket in the lower areas of the Glacier d‘Argentière

We started at 3 a.m. on the Refuge d’Argentière and entered the steep ice couloir below the Col de la Verte at dawn. Through the fresh snow, we first went through the ice gully before leaving it and traversing into the pillar. From there, we rappelled the first pitches to the crevasse, which we reached early in the morning. Safe from the slow onset of rockfall, we began working in the crevasse. We worked our way through the chlorite sand at the bottom of the crevasse and after a short time were able to recover the first smoky quartz and pink fluorites. They were small sharp-edged, very nice pink colored crystals, sitting together with small smoky quartz on the typical albite matrix. For an alpine collector simply a wonderful sight when these raspberry red crystals come to light. In the early evening we opened a small crevice at the top of the fissure where a perfectly formed Fluorite together with small Smoky Quartz was recovered on specimen. The perfect ending for us and the beginning of the long descent. After 11 rappels, we reached the base of the wall at nightfall and climbed back to Refuge d`Argentière, which we reached late at night, exhausted and happy after 17 hours on our feet.

Autor / Author
Matthias Benz / Germany