Maxime Lainé and his group “les engagés” will definitely make you wonder – “can I also do it”?
If you think you could do “more” with your life; if you believe that your life may need a bit of spice; Maxime will inspire you. With “les engagés”, they do not pretend to be the next Mike Horn.
They are leading “ordinary” life but also decided to include their share of adventure.
They demonstrate that adventure does not have to be the luxury of a few individuals on this planet.
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Before joining “les engagés”
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in the countryside and spent a lot of time in the mountains during the winter seasons. My father was a ski instructor, so I started skiing at a very young age, and I also started climbing reasonably early.
I put everything “on the side” for my studies. I went to business school in France and had the chance to travel to Australia, where I did a lot of surfing. Australia is a pretty outdoorsy country, so even though I wasn’t skiing, I was out there, in nature, quite often.
What’s your full-time occupation?
I work for our family business. We manufacture hygiene products and distribute them in health and care centres like hospitals, retirement homes, or pharmacies.
Before this, I started Weesurf, a startup in the surf business. It was an app combining weather forecasts and ideal surf spots. We had raised money, and the adventure lasted four years. Unfortunately, it did not reach our expectations, and we decided to wind down the business.
Maxime Laine, one of the founders of “les engagés”
How did your group “les engagés” come up?
With Weesurf, we were incubated at Station F – one of the largest, if not the largest Startup incubator in the world. We had an internal chat with more than 1,000 people. One day, one of the members (Thomas, who is part of “les engagés”) posted, “is there someone keen to go with me, for an expedition, in Greenland?”.
I responded straight away, “yes”, without even telling my girlfriend, thinking that I needed to be the first to react as tonnes of people would be keen – I ended up being the only one (laugh).
I went for a drink with Thomas, and, in May 2018, we went for our first expedition in Greenland. It took us six months to organise, and in the end, we were a group of five and a guide.
Greenland was not very technical. Thomas and I met Valentin during the journey. We decided to form “les Engagés”.
What is the vision behind les engagés?
Two common things drive us. The first one is envy to discover the world. The second is the wish to demonstrate that adventure is not something “extraordinary”. We want to show that it be part of ordinary life.
Most importantly, we want to demonstrate that by committing as a team, you can achieve a vision that is greater than ourselves.
After you decided to create “les engagés”, where did you go?
In 2019, we decided to climb the Aconcagua without a guide.
Isn’t it considered dangerous?
Not really. You need to prepare for sure, but there is no glacier, which means no crevasses, it’s one of the biggest dangers with high mountains.
Now we’ve done it; I think that the Aconcagua is an excellent way to start high mountaineering. It’s an “easy” one.
What did you do in 2020?
We wanted to go somewhere cold, so we chose to go to North Cape, north of the Arctic Circle, in the middle of winter. It was a challenging mission as you spend three weeks in the night. It becomes very tricky to navigate and find your route. Sometimes, you literally don’t see anything, and you are on moving lands.
The expedition took us three weeks, and we came back in January.
What the future hold for “les engagés”
Do you know what your next project’s going to be?
Yes! We plan to go to Narranjo de Bulnes, in Spain. We wanted to get the experience of climbing a “big wall”. The route is not super technical.
Because we will sleep there, it requires a lot of preparation, particularly with the equipment, most specifically with the portaledge.
Did you follow any specific training to have the confidence to go on those adventures?
Not really. We’ve been very outdoorsy people, so we’ve accumulated some experience being out there, in the mountains, for example.
Other than that, I followed a first aid rescue training at the hospital in Chamonix.
How do you choose your expeditions?
We like discovering new places and new environment, so generally speaking, we are trying to find a diverse panel of things we will do.
In parallel, we also want them to be a challenge. We are not reckless, so we are not going to choose crazy challenging projects. We just want to ask ourselves the question, “can we do it?”.
If I had to give two reasons: one, it has to be a project that resonate with us and excite us, second, it needs to be something we couldn’t do alone and where we can only succeed as a team.
Do you have any sponsors?
For our first expedition, we raised a bit of money, but it did not cover everything. We then found brands and professionals helping us get equipment, like the Vieux Campeur.
Regarding financing, we would be thrilled to manage to find partners that could cover our expeditions’ costs because they are not cheap.
How much do you usually budget?
It depends on the project. To give you an example, we would like to cross Greenland with Kites. It would take more or less 40 days and represent a budget of c.€30K per person.
What’s expensive is not the stay on site. Once you are in Greenland, in the middle of nowhere, you won’t spend that much on bars and hotels (laugh).
What can cost a lot of money is the logistic. There is usually no airport where we want to go. It means we need to find ways to transport our equipment in a very remote area. For that project, for instance, we need something like 120kg of gear per person.
In addition to logistic and transport, we need to pay for permits and insurance. Those are not cheap!