Moods of La Meije

Last Chair: February 2003

Men can become obsessed with a sport, a fast car or, of course, a woman. Photographer Colin Samuels is obsessed with La Meije, a mountain located in the Oisans range deep in the French Alps, and in view from his home in the farming village of Les Terrasses. Samuels has documented the peak during overnight ski journeys, casual hikes, technical climbs and cold, early mornings with a café crême in hand. Locals refer to the mountain as "La Reine Meije," or The Queen. "In my eyes and in my heart, she remains the most beautiful mountain in the world," Samuels says.

La Meije's 13,140-foot summit was thought to be unclimbable, until farmer Gaspard Pic conquered the peak in 1872, famously bringing along French cognac for fortitude. Gaspard remains a local hero, with boys still being named after him. Samuels has spent a decade photographing "this magnificent tower of snow, ice and granite" and says that "never, not for one moment, have I become bored with the graceful and majestic Queen."

In howling high-mountain storms, in dead-calm dawns, in fiery alpenglows at dusk, Samuels continues to capture the mountain's changing moods. "Like the true love affair that it is, my attraction to La Meije grows all the time," he says. "When I put my camera down, reverse our roles and let her take hold of me, the more I learn and the closer we become."