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French travellers head south on epic Rockies traverse

Nelson Defreyman and Thomas Punty stopped by the roadside for a photo near Bull River townsite on Saturday. The travellers, from Barcelonette, France are just completing the Canadian portion of their north to south 3,000 km traverse of the Rocky Mountain range and were headed towards Jaffray, before crossing the U.S. border.  - Arne Petryshen Photo
Nelson Defreyman and Thomas Punty stopped by the roadside for a photo near Bull River townsite on Saturday. The travellers, from Barcelonette, France are just completing the Canadian portion of their north to south 3,000 km traverse of the Rocky Mountain range and were headed towards Jaffray, before crossing the U.S. border.
— image credit: Arne Petryshen Photo

One month ago two French friends began a four-month journey to travel the Rockies north to south. This weekend they made their way from Wasa through Bull River towards Jaffray, ultimately hoping to make Eureka in the next couple days. Thomas Punty and Nelson Defreyman wanted to get  a real sense of the landscape of Canada and the U.S. so they decided to do the trip on foot, supplemented by ski touring and paragliding along the way.

"We want to cross all the Rockies without any motors, without anything, just paragliders and our feet," said Punty, who is in business school back in France. Defreyman, who is also his cousin, is a skiing and paragliding instructor.

Punty said they decided to embark on the Rockies trip after a trip to Central Asia.

"We were coming back from Kyrgyzstan," he said. "We wanted to climb those big mountains. It was fun, but the thing is we didn't see that much landscape."

That trip was more about summiting, but because of that they didn't get immersed into the culture and landscape. They wanted see a mountain range in its entirety and meet people along the way.

"So that's why we wanted to do another trip like this," he said. "That's why we took four months."

They began their journey in MacKenzie, B.C., ski touring until Jasper where they sent their ski equipment to their end destination: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

On skis they followed along the highway or logging roads, with the goal to take the shortest route. Punty said they sometimes got lost on the back roads, but still had a great time, even with the weather being what it was.

"It was very cold," he said, adding that those were some of coldest nights they've ever felt. "You are always cold. It's sometimes hard, but always very interesting."

He said it is also tiring, because when out in the wilderness, they don't eat much. It's only when they get to a town that they have a big meal.

He said travelling here is a lot different than in Europe as well. There, if you're on a mountain and have trouble often you can just descend into the valley and there will be a town or village. Here everything is much more secluded, but they seem to enjoy that.

"It's very nice to see the wilderness," he said. "Compared to Europe it makes you adapt a lot."

Punty said the two of them make a good team. He's good with the planning and logistics part of the journey. Defreyman has the hands on knowledge and training. Both of them have been paragliding since they were teenagers.

Punty said they are very complementary in that way, rather than both having the same set of skills.

"That's why it's always worked," he said. "We've done a lot of expeditions together."

They update their website from the field by way of a video camera and an iPhone connector. They post the updates and videos along the way so you can follow along at www.xrockies.com or at www.facebook.com/XRockies.

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