University students from Saint-Denis and Cannes climb the highest mountain in Corsica together

They had never wandered in their lives. And yet, 25 schoolchildren from Saint-Denis (93) and Cannes La Bocca (06) reached this Friday, July 8, around noon. 12.30, after more than seven hours of effort, the summit of Monte Cinto (2,706 m). the highest mountain in Corsica. Reportage.

One year ago, in May 2021, Marine Bourguignon-Trombini taught French at Dora Maar College in Saint-Denis. “This year I decided to get my students to work with the theme of adventure”she explains.

The following is simple. Marine Bourguignon-Trombini projects a day in her class “L’ascension”, the film that tells the story of the adventure on Everest by the author of her lines. The contact is made and with Ahmed Sylla, the actor who embodies my role in the cinema, we move to the college in Saint-Denis.

“The meeting was fantastic and we thought it was a shame not to move on”entrusts the teacher, transferred in September 2021 to another institution in Cannes, classified as Saint-Denis in a priority zone.

Together with his companion Loïc Preghenella, mountain guide, they then think of a project. Very quickly the two come to an agreement: It will be the ascent of Monte Cinto in Corsica, “Monte Cintu” for the locals.

“The idea was born in Saint-Denis, it was normal to take children from my old school on this adventure”, supports the teacher who has no problem subsequently convincing other teachers from the two institutions (the one in Cannes and the one in Saint-Denis therefore) to follow her in this adventure. Eventually, 30 students are selected, 15 from each school.

“Since we know the financial situation of some families from working-class neighborhoods, we had to find money to carry out this project.”explains Loïc Preghenella.

With their association “Des Quartiers au Sommet” Marine and Loïc go to coal. Financial support from the Alpes-Maritimes department, the Seine-Saint-Denis department, but also support from several sponsors, such as MAIF or Decathlon (which made all equipment available to university students). In one year, the budget is complete.

On Monday 4 July, ninety-nine university students (one drop-off) will therefore find themselves on the smiley face in Toulon for the first time to board the ferry. They are accompanied by their teachers, Marine, Camille, Lucien, Cassandra, Elsa and their CPE, Émilie.

The next day they are in Bastia, where they come by bus to Calenzana. And in the late afternoon, they finally reach the Tighjettu refuge (1700m), their new base camp, after a long test drive in the crushing heat, with a 10-kilo bag on their back. Then they thought they had done the hard part …

Summit Day!

Four days later, the sun was still asleep as 25 minutes, twelve girls, thirteen boys, departed from their refuge. The team is almost done. There are only four young people who preferred to stay at the camp, tired from the previous days of physical preparation. At 5 o’clock in the morning the mines are low, the crotch slow, the entrails tight.

Only the light from the headlight illuminates this road, which they will all pass again 13, 14 or even in some, 16 hours later. What they do not know yet is that they will all step on it a little bigger …

Today’s first goal for these budding mountaineers: to reach the Bocca Crucetta at 2,452 meters. Their slow ascent is slowed by the relentless flow of runners on the La Restonica Trail, a 110-kilometer mountain run. Each participant is encouraged by the children impressed by so much physical strength.

It takes 3h30 time for college students to achieve a first victory. It’s also their first real break of the day. We refuel, grain bars, water. We also try in vain to warm up. The first part of the climb took place in the shade. Already now some want to give up as the wind continues to cool the bodies of these young hikers in search of the top.

“It’s already good,” they dare. But the guide Jean-Luc keeps an eye out. “We’ll all go up there”, he promises calmly. Jean-Luc has experience: a guide for many years, he knows how to motivate his troops. Hardly arrived, it is already necessary to leave.

The ascent is difficult. To everyone. Like the riders of the Tour de France, all the mountaineers who encountered on the road, some breathless, our young masters cheer to encourage them to continue. “At that age, what you do is amazing”, loose in full effort a man of about thirty years. With such an audience, it is impossible to let go.

“Honestly, I’m not going to make it,” repeats a robust young boy who is not used to physical exertion. Hope is reborn for the less confident, as Monte Cinto is now available to the eyes. To see it is to believe it. It is no longer possible to escape him. We are suddenly happy, then we get angry. “The farther we go, the more he leaves”annoyed a schoolgirl.

The guides Jean-Luc, Louis and Loïc are stoic and make progress through the ridges and pass, with small steps, this lead of the working-class districts, with the many colors. The sun finally warms the bodies, but not the still doubting minds.

At Pointe des Éboulis (2,587 m), the second goal of the day, it’s too much: they go no further. Wallah! Lovet. swore. We discuss two minutes, we motivate thirty seconds and first everyone goes. Amen! It’s that simple. Some hide their tears. Others do not.

They all go. In a single file … They can no longer handle it: you can see it, you can hear it. It is nice. They radiate. Who said suffering was ugly? The end is approaching.

“You’ve told us 30 times we’m almost there, torment a mini mountaineer. I do not believe you anymore. ” Show who you are to those who tell you you are not capable »insists Loïc Preghenella. “Do it for yourself, but also for your family”engages Émilie, CPE of the Cannes-La Bocca College.

The lyrics stink. They go from there with closed faces. The peak is very close, but the last hectometers are painful. “We continue for our teachers”blows a schoolgirl who can barely stand. “Yes, they got us so full of it in a year”, laughs a student. Even sluggish, there is always a word to laugh about. “We are so proud of you”a teacher sobbed as she watched them reach the highest mountain in Corsica. “My mother and my father, they will not believe me”swings a young girl.

Photos taken, lunch eaten, the time is 13.30. It’s time to leave. The exhausted university students, demotivated after their arrival at the top, ask the guide if they can go down another path. Understand one faster.

The time is 21.42 as the last three arrive, in tears, at the refuge. They are welcomed as heroes. The tears dried, they hurried to the pasta dish. “The pasta is so good today”, announces a winner of July 8, 2022 of Monte Cintu. Well, by chance!

“Kilimanjaro, how tall is it?”, asks another student all smiles with mouth full. The day before she had regretted that she had come to the mountain …

To support the project:

Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune
Photo credit: Nadir Dendoune

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