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Showing posts from January, 2014

Out there... Andromeda (IV,4), Coire an Lochain

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The relentless headwind during the walk-in to Coire an Lochain on Saturday was wild - as though subjected to a giant Dyson hand drier. We walked with our hoods up and heads down to shelter our eyes from the horizontal snow. A grouse flew past me, flying lateral to the direction it was facing. White-out conditions made navigation ‘challenging’, particularly with the path being buried in snow and any proceeding footprints having been scoured. I had visited the coire more than half a dozen times previously but was struggling to identify any landmarks.
Something felt wrong. The coire I knew to be slightly bowl-shaped with a ridge butting its right-hand side. Instead the ground felt as though it was subtly falling away either side of us as though we were on higher ground. The boulders that littered the coire were also absent and there was no sign of the loch. We had been walking north for too long and my altimeter suggested we were too high. I had my suspicion that we were either too far …

Another route lost at Saltdean

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With Scotland still looking a bit buried under snow, and my body politely requesting an easy weekend after Cogne, I popped down Saltdean on Saturday with Laurence for some axe pulling practice. I we caught the tide at just the right time to do some traversing along the Eastern end of the cliffs - always a good opportunity to pump the forearms out.

A short route climbed to the right of the Thunderdome up a mildly overhung wall to gain a steep slab to the lower-off. I made a quick ascent of this to round off the morning activities. The placements were small with arrows scratched into the chalk to identify them. Some of my foot placements were no bigger than a monopoint width. It swung right at the top towards the lower-off. Having led the route I quickly scampered up a more direct line to the lower-off on top-rope and immediately followed this up with another top-rope ascent via the line of protection. Three consecutive ascents and my arms were feeling a satisfying burn.

The rain has be…

Pattinaggio Artistico (WI3), Cogne

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Our flight was not until 9pm so there was time for another route - provided no epics. It had snowed for much of yesterday and also during the night so it made extra sense to stay close to Lillaz under the circumstances. I thought I had seen climbers on the upper pitches of the 3 star WI4+ Sospiri Ibernati during our descent from E Tutto Relativo yesterday so I was keen to take a closer look.

There was another six inches of powder to contend with today. The trail up the hillside was still present and there was a hard crust beneath the fresh layer of snow to aid ascent. On closer inspection it became apparent that we had yesterday been looking at an icy couloir further right called Pattinaggio Artistico as the first pitch of Sospiri Ibernati was absent. The former route now seemed the best option for squeezing another climb in without drama. Pattinaggio Artistico Direct incidentally looked in top condition.

We wasted a lot of time trying to find the correct rising traverse to the start …

E Tutto Relativo (WI4), Cogne

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After yesterday’s long day out we were happy to try something a little closer to home again. Particularly given that there was a large amount of snowfall forecast today. We knew that E Tutto Relativo was in good condition having spoken to other climbers and the 10m vertical ice section looked a good progression on previous routes we had climbed on the trip. Temperatures were hovering around zero but they had been minus numbers in the night so we anticipated good ice conditions again.

It was another busy morning but everybody was suitably spaced out so that there were no delays. Anna led the initial 70 degree ice pitch, which was a little wet, with water running out of one screw placement. Axe and front point placements easily bit into the ice as a consequence though.

The main pitch looked impressive but was surprisingly easy due to the amount of traffic that the route had seen. A series of deep hooks led all the way to the top of the pitch with barely need to swing the axes more than …

Patri de Gauche (WI4), Cogne

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After yesterday’s relatively short day we were keen to explore further up one of the valleys than previously ventured. The freezing level was predicted to rise to around 2000m today so the sensible thing was to aim high. I was keen to stick with WI4s, now that Anna was finding her feet on ice, so it was time to try one of the Cogne classics Petri de Gauche. Maybe Petri de Droite if I was feeling in good form.

The longer walk up the valley felt a stroll compared to previous outings due to the firm path that had formed in the snow. This continued all the way to the start of route. There were already two groups climbing the first pitch as we approached with two more teams gearing-up lower down. The guidebook described the route as being the most popular in Cogne, which seemed hard to believe given busyness of Cascades de Lillaz. We waited our turn whilst more climbers approached the route from the valley. The guidebook was evidently right. This route really was a honey pot.

Anna led the …

Lillaz Gully (WI4), Cogne

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After resting-up on New Years Day we were ready to hit the ground running. Anna’s leading was improving so swinging leads on Lillaz Gully now looked possible. For the first time on the trip we were able to follow an existing trail through the snow to the base of the route, which made for a remarkably easy approach compared to the preceding ones.

Anna led the first pitch, which climbed an aesthetic ice gully. The ice was in good condition with first-time placements but the climbing was made easier by the existing ice screw holes and stepped-out nature of the ice. Two rope lengths of easy snow slopes then led us to a short gully of ice, which Anna also led. This pitch was less steep but the ice was thinner to counter this.

The guidebook described the fourth pitch as “40m, 85 degrees” so I was expecting some sustained ice climbing. In reality the ice was relatively easy to climb but it tapered out towards the top of the pitch, which meant some tricky mixed climbing to substitute. Exitin…