Pics; 1st- Me on the first pitch of “Le Cigare”
2nd – Damo on the last pitch of “Le Cigare”
3rd – “Dessous Choc” WI 6, in the eary fog
4th -Me on the first pillar of “Dessous Choc”
5th – Damo on his way to the traverse on “Dessous choc” before he got arm problems
6th – Me just after the crux traverse of Dessous Choc
Today Damien and I headed over to Switzerland to climb some ice falls that we had heard were in condition. We drove to Chatelard and went to Secteur du tunnel, this area was home to two amazing looking three star ice falls. Both routes were very different to one another. The first route we climbed was called “Le Cigare” WI 6, which consisted of a 15 meter thin vertical pillar into 30 meters of grade four Ice for the first pitch and a 15 meter steep bulgy section on the second pitch. We rapped down to our bags and had a quick bite to eat but we were both psyched to get on the second Ice fall called “Dessous Choc” WI 6, so we ate half our lunch , put our head torches in our pockets (just in case) and started climbing again. It was Damien’s turn to climb the hard pitch which was the 2nd, so I made my way up to the bottom of the route and started up the first pitch. The only part of the Ice fall that was touching down was a thin 8 meter pillar so I climbed up, with some help from bridging on a hanging icicle to my right. I then moved up the easier (but still not easy!) Ice to a small recess and belayed Damien up.
Once he had arrived at the belay we both looked across at the technical traverse (crux) that was still to come. He would have to climb up on to a hanging Ice bulge then bridge across onto a massive (heavy) hanging pillar. We exchanged the kit and he headed off to get stuck in. Looking psyched he was making the climbing look relatively straight forward until he leant on a huge piece of ice to the right of the hanging bulge, with no warning it became detached from the wall and crashed into him smashing him in the shoulder. He was out of site from where I was belaying at this point and before I knew what was going on a 50kg chunk of Ice came hurtling towards my feet, I jumped out of the way and shouted to Damien if he was ok. He said it hurt but he should be fine, so he continued to climb on. When he got to the changing Icicles section he was getting an excruciating pain in his left shoulder when he tried to removing his axe (not what you want when you’re about to cut loose on a hanging ice pillar). Not feeling the psych anymore because of the pain he decided to lower down to the belay. It was starting to get dark at this point so we quickly exchanged the kit back to me and I headed off to get stuck in!
I got up to the Hanging bulge and clipped a very old and rusty peg in the roof, it was probably useless but it made me feel good to clip something that was well and truly attached to the rock. I bridged out between the bulge and the pillar and swung my right axe into the hanging Ice. That was the easy bit, the hard part was committing to getting both feet and my other axe onto the other pillar. After some heavy breathing and a quick stern word with myself I completed the traverse, which included a lot of locking of with my right arm and both my feet blowing from the ice at one point. After this I moved up to the more stable Ice and placed a good screw, I think the next words to myself were “thank F**k for that”. I moved up another 20 meters of fairly steep Ice to the belay and shouted to Damien that he was ok to start climbing. By the time he had reached the belay it was totally dark and I was glad I had brought my head torch. We set up the abseil which was also a bit interesting as the ropes had totally frozen over due to water running over them from the Ice and the large drop in temperature as night moved in. We made the 60 meter free hanging abb back to our bags and swiftly headed back to the car.
Despite the few setbacks it was one of the best days Ice climbing I have had, and both the routes well deserved the three stars they are given in the guide book. I would recommend them to anyone who is looking to climbing hard but very interesting Ice routes.
Pics; Top- Damo aproaching the ice fall
Bottom- Damo leading “cascade de la stassaz”
I woke up this morning feeling like I had been hit in the face with a shovel! My eye had become swollen and puffy, but despite the fact I could only really see out of one eye I was still fairly psyched to go climbing again. After a strong coffee and some food we decided to head back up to Megève but to a different area from yesterday.
We headed to Stassaz area which looked really good when we arrived. There was only one other party there and the place was quite and peaceful. We put on our kit and got ready to climb “Cascade de la Stassaz” WI5, only to realise there was a guide on his way to the ice fall with 6 younger kids. The place went from quiet and peaceful to carnage (a chimps tea party springs to mind). We were going to do a couple of lines on the large ice fall but by the time we had abbed off our initial line the guide had set up top ropes on all available climbing ice up to half height. We hung around a bit to see what was going down, but the place became a nightmare once the younger climbers started ripping ice off left, right and centre so we decided to bail. Better luck next time!
Pics; 1st- Me on first pitch of Grand Cascade
2nd- Damo on the second pitch of Grand Cascade
3rd – Le Free Standing WI6 In the morning sun
4th – Me checking out the attachment point of the pillar
5th – Me leading the pillar just after the ice hit me in the face
6th – The pillar, showing how steep it is!
7th – My bust up eye befroe it got swolen
After our very lazy rest day yesterday, today Damien and I headed up to Megève to check out some of the less well known Ice falls. Despite the fact that it has not been mega cold the ice falls were super fat and longed to be climbed :-P. We leisurely put on our climbing kit and jumped on a WI 4+ called “Grand Cascade “ 120m. It was a good route with just enough steep ground to keep you interested.
Once we had finished the route we abbed back to our bags and checked the reading on the temperature gage on my watch. It read +1, much better than +4 which it had been when we arrived. As the temperature had dropped we decided to go for the route “Le Free Standing” WI 6, the name says it all! It was a 30m free standing ice pillar/fan that was only touching down on the right hand side. Feeling psyched to give it a go I headed up to the base of the route. The climbing was steep and the ice was technical due to the pillar being plastered in hanging icicles. I felt really good as I moved up the route until a dinner plate of ice smashed from my axes and hit me square in the face, this took the phrase “take one on the chin” to a whole new level! As the shock and the pain wore off I gathered up all my psych and headed for the top. Once on the snowy ledge above I shouted to Damo that I was safe and we sorted the ropes for him to second. The look on his face when he pulled over the top of the pillar reassured me that it was not just I who had found the route steep and hard.
Once again we abbed down to our bags and after willing our ropes not to get jammed in the surrounding trees, which thankfully they didn’t. (But it was touch and go for a moment when they were hard to pull) We then sorted out our stuff and headed for the car. It is amazing what awesome routes you can find if you’re willing to go to the less well known areas.
Pics; Top- Me having just passed the bergschrund.
Middle – Me on the mixed ground, neer the top of the route
Bottom- A very lucky person getting choppered to safety
Knowing that it was in ok condition, Damien and I headed over to the Petit Capucin to climb a route called “Chippendale”. This is an icy mixed line which is about 300m in length. The ice on the route was not as fat as the guide book suggested but it was still ok, there were some short tricky sections on the route going at around WI 4 and Scottish VI/6. Damien and I moved together on the route which made for a quicker ascent but also made the trickier sections feel a little out there! Once we had reached the top we made six fairly stress free abseils (apart from some dodgy looking pegs) down to our skis.
As we started to ski down the Vallée Blanche it was starting to get dark and by the time we had negotiated the mine field of crevasses and reached the Requin Hut night had fully set in. But as the sky was totally clear we skied down using our head torches and some help from the moon. As we were descending the last ice fall before the walk up hill to start the James Bond Trail, Damien and I were sure we could hear someone shouting for help! We stopped to listen and sure enough there was a man stuck high up on the right hand face calling to us. After some shouting back and forth we called the Helicopter service which arrived about 20 mins later and picked him off the steep icy face. Feeling happy with our selves for saving the guy from a chilly night out in the mountains and discussing how lucky he was as we were probably the last people descending that night we made a relaxing descent down to Chamonix.
Pics; Top-Damo abbing into the route
Middle- Damo coming into view from the hanging belay
Bottom- Me coming up the steep top pillar
Today Damien and I climbed a well known ice route called “ Nuit Blanche” WI 6. We skied to the top of the fall and made a very nervous abseil down the route. From below the route looked steep, intimidating and hard but we took some deep breathes and got stuck in. The ice on the route was the steepest ice I have climbed, very technical ice on the first steep section made the climbing very hard and delicate. With very little ice less than vertical on the whole route and some overhanging bulges it made for a pumpy experience.
As we did not start mega early, once we had topped out it was just getting dark so we made a very pleasant ski down to the car park and tuck straight into our “emergency car food”!
Over the past four days we have been skiing on and off the piste. We have been to Les Houches, Courmayeur and Les Grand Montets (where it was a mega powder day). Whilst skiing we have been scoping out ice routes that are in condition and getting well psyched to get on them.
Today Damien and I climbed an ice fall at Les Houches called “cascade saint-maire direct” WI 4+ 120m. It was a good line but the ice wasn’t really fat so it was a bit brittle. Despite this it was a good start to the trip and I’m looking forward to more ice routes to come.