Showing posts from March, 2015

La Tour Ronde North Face (II D, 350m)

Two hours in bed, one hour playing cards.

That was the approximate ratio of events other than mealtimes, which formed our third category of activity for Friday.

We only knew one card game and even then we only half knew the rules, which at least meant we could alter them subtly with each game.

Friday morning's weather was quite frankly abysmal but at least the bunk beds in the Torino hut were comfortable. Very comfortable in fact.

Winds were expected to be high during Friday but optimistically we had hoped it would be less than forecast and allow a modest ascent of some sort. Plan A for the trip had been the Ginat on the North face of Les Droites. Reputedly in great condition but frustratingly without a weather window to make an attempt. Our only fine weather day had been during our first climb on Modica-Noury when we were not sufficiently acclimatised to try much beyond this. Currently the North Face of Aiguille de Toule was under consideration, a fifth of the height of les Droit…

Rebuffat Gully (D+ / II, 4, 350m), La Tour Ronde

I simultaneously chopped at the snow with both axes like a preying mantis to bring it to my level. The soft snow was deep and needed partial clearance before I could advance my feet. Climbing the initial slope to the Rebuffat Gully of Tour Ronde was proving to be laborious task. The other parties below clearly seeing it better to wait and follow in line rather than burrow an alternate route.

The walls closed in and somehow I missed the belay bolts to my left, instead continuing up a short snowy step that lacked much substance to latch my axes onto, or to sink an ice screw.

Rebuffat Gully seemed a suitably modest objective to match the forecast, which had predicted light snow but it had looked to be our best opportunity amidst an otherwise unsettled week. As it happened the morning was proving to be a beautiful one with clear skies, little wind, and cloud still lurking in the valleys.

The second pitch, which fell to Rob, was totally bare of ice. What it lacked in ice it made up with in…

Modica-Noury (TD+ / III 5+, 500m), Mont Blanc du Tacul

My Monday morning work alarm sounded beneath the East face of Mont Blanc du Tacul. I promptly switched it off and continued to gear up beneath Modica-Noury. Falling into a small crevasse a short time earlier whilst approaching from the Cosmiques refuge had probably been more of a wakeup call but with a tight rope between me and my partner Rob I had clambered out with relative ease. With so much drifted snow spotting all but the largest crevasses was impossible.

We had tried to climb Burnier-Vogler Gully the previous day but the expected 20km/h south-westerly winds had proved to be well in excess. We didn't even make it to the abseil point on the Cosmiques Ridge before signalling the retreat. Relentless spindrift over the North side didn't bode well and by this point much of it appeared to be plastering to my eyebrows as well. We beat a hasty retreat but only after butterfingers Rob let his belay jacket slip from his grasp whilst trying to don. Promptly it whipped over the Nort…

Hydalsfossen (WI4+), Hemsedal

The weather on Saturday morning was perfect. Cloudless blue skies, no winds and sub-freezing temperatures. Payback for the bad weather days.

With a trip to Chamonix commencing the following weekend this was certainly the last ice climb in Norway for this season and so it deserved a suitable finale to wrap-up what has personally been a great winter. Hydalsfossen had long been pencilled-in for March, when the moderately long approach would hopefully be easier. It looked a classic outing and similar in appearance to Hydnefossen, only milder in difficulty.

Magnus used cross-country skis for the approach, whereas I took snowshoes. Using nothing would have been perfectly adequate given the hardness of the snow. In such fine weather the approach was a joy. And again payback for all the trench digging though deep powder earlier in the season.

We approached from the parking near Vavatn, over point 1256m to the top of the route, where the lake that forms Hydalsfossen was totally frozen. Time to…

Vinstradalen, Oppdal

Passopp was too good to pass by. It looked in fine condition and not particularly intimidating for a WI5. We were making our first visit to Vinstradalen and there seemed little need to explore beyond the first handful of routes, given their close proximity and quality. Ice conditions, as with the previous day, would prove to be excellent.

The first pitch of Passopp was sustained, following a vague groove, with nothing overly steep. Plus the placements had been softened from previous ascents. Maybe closer to 4+. The second pitch, finishing up the top tier, was possibly harder than normal due to the right hand end not having formed. Instead the taller ice towards the centre offered the only passage and proved steep for the first few metres before it gradually eased back. Not much easier than the first pitch and probably Anna's hardest lead. Good effort. A really fine route.

It didn't look as though we were going to top Passopp but neighbouring Skila (WI3+) looked potentially a f…