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Showing posts from 2013

Valmiana (WI3), Cogne

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Our initial plan had been to climb a WI3+ called Thoule but we found ourselves behind a group of six on the trail who were all intent on climbing the same route. We quickly aborted plans and headed further up the Valnontey valley with no real back-up objective. The prominent icefall on the first pitch of Valmiana soon caught our eye though.

We broke the trail to the base of a route for the third time this trip. The deep snow was no less unconsolidated and we progressed at a rate of about half mile/hour. Every foot was hard work. Anna admirably insisted on breaking the trail for for the first part despite the depth of soft snow being half her height at times. Midway between the valley path and the route was a prominent step, above which the snow underfoot suddenly became firm with the exception of the top foot of powder. It became apparent that we were standing on top of a huge avalanche field, which extended all the way to the base of the climb. Presumably it had slid from much higher…

Cascades de Lillaz (WI3), Cogne

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We were feeling a little tired after yesterday's long approach and late finish so opted for Cascades de Lillaz today. We were first on the route - something we were keen to achieve after seeing five pairs of climbers in the vicinity of the initial pitch two days ago. As with yesterday there were sections of thin ice and sections with running water below but overall the ice consistency was much improved. Maybe due to the route having been better swept clean of the fresh dump of snow, unlike routes further afield.

We split the first pitch into two halves. Water was pouring down the centre-middle-left of the icefall so we opted to climb the right side, which involved a steep curtain of ice to a bolted belay to right of the main cascade.

The right-hand side of the upper part of the icefall consisted of transparent chandelier ice. It looked as though it would fracture easily so I traversed slightly left towards the centre where tiny snow ledges were visible and the ice looked more dens…

Gran Val, Valnontey (WI3), Cogne

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It had been a hard slog through deep powder snow and over boulders to the bottom of the route but Gran Val in the Valnontey Valley looked an excellent objective for Anna's first day of water ice. The second and third pitches looked particularly enticing with the latter's ice couloir looking characteristically 'Scottish'.
The first pitch was very easy apart from more deep snow wading to reach an ice screw belay on the right. There was probably a bolt belay somewhere but it was lost beneath the snow.
The second pitch provided some enjoyable climbing up the impressive icefall but the ice quality was inconsistent. What's more the temperatures felt above freezing and there was water running beneath the ice in multiple locations. Many of my axe placements were soft and sometimes unreliable. Often a top layer of rotten ice needed to be stripped from beneath the snow coverage to find more reliable placements. My mono-points felt equally insecure but most of the time I was…

White Goods

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With an ice climbing trip to Cogne a matter of weeks away Anna and I drove to White Goods for the weekend in order to get some mileage with the sharp bits. My closest experience to dry tooling until now has been the chalk routes at Saltdean and the indoor routes at Swiss Cottage. The style of chalk is not strictly the same as conventional dry tooling venues so I was unsure what grade I was capable of climbing. I wanted to gently ease into the grades for this reason and also offer a pleasant introduction for Anna, for whom this was her first time climbing anything harder than Scottish II. A massive step-up for her.

We warmed up on Cenopath Corner (M4), which was most memorable for the amount of mud at half height. Then Adams (M5), which was far more pleasant and maybe slightly easier due to it being a cleaner route.

Things got more interesting with Left Wall (M5+), which involved some steep, exhilarating moves through overhung roofs near the base of the climb. I needed to pause momenta…

A New Route in Coire an Lochain

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There was plenty of activity in Coire an Lochain on Saturday with teams on many of the classics. Plan 'A' had been The Hoarmaster but there were climbers already gearing up at its base. Instead we turned our attention to a line left of Oesophagus that was missing from the guidebook. It looked a strong enough line with a clean corner distinguishing the first pitch. Too good not to try we thought.

My partner Michael led the first pitch up parallel grooves with sparse protection. Some strong pulls on turf at the top of the grooves confirmed that it was totally frozen solid. Then the left-facing corner, which offered up plenty of bomber hooks and gear. A further short step brought Michael to the belay above an excellent first pitch.

I led the second pitch, which continued up an obvious off-width crack. I considered that maybe I had a potential fight on my hands were it able to fit my girth. 'Fortunately' this was not the case and I managed to largely bridge my way around t…

Cote d'Azur, France

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I had plenty of annual leave to take during the second half of 2013 as a consequence of being out of action through the first half of the year. Trips to Ariège, Bregalia, and Lundy had started the ball rolling. Even with an ice climbing trip to Cogne booked over Christmas and New Year I still had a week to play with. Where to spend a week in November? Wadi Rum appealed but was maybe too long haul for a week. We considered the Alps but concluded November might prove too much of a gamble. There was always the UK but the wet weather did not overly inspire us to stick around.

In contrast the South of France sounded appealing. Particularly in light of the great trip to Ariège earlier the same year. There would be sunshine, cheap wine and good cheese on offer and hopefully some good climbing, albeit with weak fingers. Most of my prior training had focused on winter. Lots of chalk climbing and weights. Not much time at the wall pulling on plastic and one very wet weekend at Portland where I…

It's Not Sport Climbing Folks...

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I was falling… My hip crashed into the cliff three bolts below my high point. I looked down to see blood dripping from my fingers and a bulldog and quickdraw dangling from my rope. The last piece of in-situ gear had blown during the fall. I had fallen a good five metres. Fortunately the bolts below the bulldog were sound enough to catch me. My hip felt sore from the impact. I had been only a few moves below the lower-off of Cold Front (C5+) at the Eastern end of the cliffs. Almost close enough to reach out and touch the lower-off ring with an axe. I was clueless as to what had caused the fall. I had done the hard moves out right above the roof and seemed to have it in the bag. The composure and tension had felt controlled. The last thing I remember was trying to get my feet set above the roof. But then I was off. Maybe a foot hold broke off? I have no recollection.

A second attempt was out of the question. Blood was running down my fingers and my hip was sore. The main problem though …

The Real Harrison's Rock

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Mike and me passed the 'Nudism is not Allowed' sign at the top of the cliff... wrapped up in warm clothes and Goretex to keep out the rain.

There were rain showers across the whole of the UK over the weekend... Obviously time for chalk climbing.

Last year's winter season was a write-off for me after post-appendectomy abdominal pains kept me side-lined until well into spring. The psyche was overflowing to make up for the disappointment and lost time. Mileage was objective of the day. I was looking to get some forearm pump.

High tide put the East side off limits so we climbed some of regular routes on the West side: Back Off Back On, Back Up (the start feels much harder this year), Strangeness and Charm of the Quark, and then Back to the Future. It took a couple of routes to find the flow and relax the axe grip. Gradually the weather improved.

Then we set about trying the recently erected 'Hawk', a C6+ to the West of 'Fulmar'. And what a route! 30m of relentl…