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.

First pitch
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 dense. Unsurprisingly the ice was a little hooked and stepped, however the recent freeze-thaw temperatures had limited this. Water ran beneath the ice but I could confidently trust my axe placements and generally the ice was thick enough for screws.

Traversing left from the belay
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
A short walk up the gorge brought us to the second pitch, beneath which a large pool of water had formed. Water poured down the base of the pitch where a metre and a half of bare rock had been exposed. Fortunately it was just possible to skirt the pool on its right then gain the easy angled ice with a couple of high hooks.

The second pitch
The remainder of the pitches offered pleasant, easy climbing with similar ice conditions to previous. The strolls up the gorge between the sections of waterfall heightened the enjoyable experience, and it was as though we were slowly climbing up a giant wedding cake. We third icefall was busy due to the presence of a climbing school but we were able to climb ice on the left. The fourth pitch was often too thin for ice screws but the climbing was easy. We reached the top of the route before 1pm, which left plenty of time to relax and drink coffee, and contemplate Anna's first leading on ice (maybe tomorrow). 

Top of the third pitch
Top of the fourth pitch


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