Showing posts from December, 2013

Valmiana (WI3), Cogne

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

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

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

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…