The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Friday, 27 January 2012

Thoule today

We finished up the week climbing Cascade Thoule today in Valnontey, a short walk from La Barme, which worked well as we were heading back to Leysin in the afternoon.

It was he coldest it's been overnight this week at La Barme with a low of -10 degrees last night.

Cascade Thoule's a great route, the guide book gives it WI3+ which I thinks a bit mean as the 2 pitch always forms a short, but very steep curtain of ice which I'd at least give WI4 to.

It was the guys last opportunity to climb today. They'd come so far since Monday, which was the first day they'd ever swung an ice axe! to a point where we'd covered so much & had built such a solid foundation Emil & Mathias were ready to lead there first pitch on their own.

I felt that the first pitch of Cascade Thoule would be a great venue for it.

Mathias doing a great job leading his first pitch totally on his own & in style on Cascade Thoule

Emil leading his first WI pitch on his own, in control & really working that technique we'd talked so much about - Cascade Thoule, Valnontey

The boys were stoked!

Jennifer did a good job belaying & then seconding Emil on Cascade Thoule, Valnontey

The 2nd pitch of Cascade Thoule which definitely feels more like WI4 when you're on it!

Another team heading up the first pitch of Cascade Thoule - fantastic views down the valley to Valnontey & the peaks beyond.

We had a great week - the boys are already talking about going on their own to Rykan in Norway for a long weekend icefall climbing in the next few weeks, which is fantastic & Jennifer's heading back to Scotland & hoping to get in some winter action there.

Me, I'm now going to enjoy a couple of weeks at home, before I head out to Sovenija which I'm really looking forward to.

Stay safe


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Valaille today

It was a lot colder here at La Barme last night -10 degrees, so we headed into Valaille today.

There were teams on E Tutto Relativo, which looked good.

Pattinaggio Artistico WI 3 marked here looked good with teams walking up to the start of it.
Pattinaggio Artistico Direct wasn't quite formed
And Hard Ice Direct seen here on the right was just touching down & very thin at the bottom!

Tuborg seen here looked good, with teams walking into climb it

There were teams walking into Candelabro del Coyotte as seen here, but I thought it looked a little thin & patchy on both pitches & wouldn't have liked to have been on it when the sun came around at midday.

There were a couple of teams on Stella Artice seen here. The first pitch looked a little patchy but its not steep ground & lays back up to the base of the steep pillar which looked great. The top pitches looked fat enough to.
Inachevee Conception to the right of Stella Artice also looked good but didn't have any teams on it.

There were a good number of teams in Cold Couloir today & the conditions looked fantastic - good ice from bottom to top & stable firm snow in between - great, better than a lot of other years.

Chandelle Levure WI4 180m

We climbed Chandelle Levure today - the first pitch was thin & patchy but the gully lays back & it felt fine. The upper pitches were great if not a little sun bleached in places. There was one team in front of us & they continued on to the top of the route & said the final steep WI4+ pillar was in great shape & fat.

Emil leading the steeper pitch 4 on Chandelle levure

Mathias having a great time seconding Emil on pitch 4 - Chandelle Levure

Jennifer doing a good job seconding pitch 4 on Chandelle levure.

It was super warm in the sun today & it needs to go cold again to really firm up the lower pitch of Chandelle Levure as there was a lot of water running under the ice in places. The final steep WI4+ pillar doesn't get much sun & the suns off the steeper lower WI4 pitch just after lunch, which worked very well for us as it wasn't anywhere near as wet as when its in full sun mid-morning. 

Very warm everywhere & we need some colder weather to fill in some of the gaps - conditions a lot leaner this year here in Cogne with many routes not formed, but still plenty to go at & much more than else where in the Alps, but take care!

Safe climbing


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Valsavarenche today

I had a change of plan this morning - the plan was to head up into Valaille the parallel valley to Valnontey 5mins drive from Cogne, but with overnight temperatures of only -3 degrees here at La Barme & with many people around climbing only a handful of routes, I decided to head over into Valsavarenche & up to Pont which is around 2000m in altitude where I hoped it would be colder & quieter.

We got both!

It was -6 degrees when we arrived at the parking, at the base of Antares & were the only climbers in the valley today, only 1 or 2 cars passed us during the whole day! - it was so quiet, we had the whole valley to ourselves 

Antares was in great shape.

Antares WI 3+/4 110m, Valsavarenche

Emil leading the first pitch of Antares

Teaching leading - Mathias doing a great job leading the 2nd steep pitch of Antares WI4

Emil enjoying leading the 2nd steep pitch on Antares today

Emil working his technique on steeper more technical ice on the Hose Over!

We found a 30m pitch of ice by the side of the road on the way down from Antares. I called it the 'Hose Over'. It was a great pitch of ice, very steep & technical lower down, which meant that we could really work the technique & have a great finish to the day.

We passed Rovenaud on the way out of Valsavarenche which wasn't in condition, nor was Placche Di Rovenaud the ice routes up & right.

Valaille tomorrow?

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Valnontey today

We're staying at Hotel La Barme this week at the entrance to the valley of Valnontey in Cogne. It's such a great venue for all the icefalls, with a friendly family atmosphere & run by the Herren brothers Stefano & Andrea who have become very good friends over the years.

This is THE place to stay if your over in Cogne

We headed up Valnontey today - as you head up the valley the routes on the right such as Lauson & Ingnegneria weren't formed.
The first pitch of Thoule looked good but the upper pitch was very lean and as the pitch lays back the slab looked very thin, patchy & delaminated - it gets alot of afternoon sun up there.
Thoulette & Crolla di un Mito weren't formed.
There were some guys just starting up Valmiana but the first(main) pitch looked thin & patchy near th top & didn't look that inspiring. The upper pitches didn't look much better either.
There was also a team on Sentiero dei Troll which looked alot better & in good shape with fatter ice all the way up the route - there's very little snow around so even though the route gets alot of sun conditions looked good.
Gran Val further up the valley & on the same side looked very thin & out of condition with very patchy thin ice & water running behind it.

Erfaulet WI5 140m - its a great route & looks in great shape

A team high up on Erfaulet

There was a team on Di Fronte al Tradimento WI5 which again is a great route and looks fat & well formed.

We had a great day climbing Patri today, giving the guys a chance to lead some more, looking at multi-pitch techniques, anchors, belays, abseiling.......................

Mathias at the top of the first pitch he led

The upper pitches of Patri - Patri Gauche et Droite are formed but the central line doesn't touch down

Teaching leading on the upper pitches

Emil on one of the upper pitches, which was in great shape

Just be a little careful as conditions are fairly dry at the moment & the snow is firm so any ice knocked off from above, rattles all the way down to the bottom of the route!

Looking forward to heading into Valaille tomorrow.

Safe climbing


Monday, 23 January 2012

Cogne this week

I had a great time last week exploring the icefall climbing in Grindelwald for the first time.

Conditions were pretty lean with warm temperatures & many of the routes not in condition, but the potential there was amazing, you could see the lines partly frozen - a venue I'll maybe try to go back to later in the season if it gets colder & conditions firm up.

While in Grindelwald I ran a weeks introductory icefall climbing course for Petroc, an Outdoor Education College in North Devon. We had a fantastic week, with the kids really enjoying icefall climbing for the first time and being super motivated at just being out in the mountains. It was also part of a work experience module at the college & it was interesting for them to hear about my work & what I do throughout the year.

I've been working with Petroc & running this week for a number of years now introducing the various student years to icefall climbing & I feel it's been such a great, worthwhile module within their course, which I really enjoy teaching.

Last year they were staying in Morzine, this year Grindelwald - I look forward to hearing about next years plans!

I'm now over in Cogne & checked into La Barme for the week - conditions look pretty good here.

Today we had a great day climbing above the tunnel on the way up to the village of Cogne - It was a great introdution & at the end of the day I managed to get a couple of them leading for the first time which was fantastic.

Emil on his first lead - day 1!

Heading up Valnontey tomorrow & looking forward to being up in the mountains again.

Safe climbing


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Around the Sella Ronda

We had some great adventures in the Dolomites last week, climbing & skiing around Corvara & the Sella Gruppe............

The picturesque village of Corvara in the Alta Badia region of the Italian Dolomites, with the fortified limestone summit of Sassongher towering behind.

The icefalls of Colfosco close to Corvara on the way up to Passo Gardena.
La Spada di Damocle - grade 4+ 120m on the left
Solo per Pochi - grade 5 110m in the middle
Brivido Sottile - grade 5+ 135m on the right

Solo per Pochi on the left & Brivido Sottile on the right

The Classic - La Spada di Damocle

Enjoying the steep 2nd pitch of La Spada di Damocle

Abseiling the 2nd pitch of La Spada di Damocle

Me walking out, back down to Colfosco with my new Grivel Matrix ice tools strapped to my sac - I'm loving these tools this winter, the balance & feel is just right, with good clearance even on the most featured ice & a generous heel spur accommodating big gloved hands comfortably.  

A view back up to the ice routes of Colfosco on the left & the Passo Gardena on the right 

Having some fun skiing the Sella Ronda

The skiing & views on the Sella Ronda are some of the best in the Alps

Icefall climbing in the Sottoguda Gorge

A view back down the Sottoguda Gorge with oe of the 1st routes you get to the sunny & classic Cascata del Sole grade 3+ just visible.

The icefalls of La Catterdrale in the middle of the Gorge de Sottoguda
Ramo Sinistro - grade 5+ 100m on the left
Ramo Centrale - grade 5 in the middle
Ramo Destro - grade 4+ on the right 

Enjoyng Ramo Centrale in leaner conditions than normal on the classic La Catterdrale in the Gorge Sottguda

 Lean conditions on the classic Cascata delle Attraversate - grade 4 100m 

The super classic in Sottoguda is Excalibur - grade 4+ 110m 

The beautiful villae of Pieve di Livinallongo perched on the side of the hill with the summit of Piz Pordoi & the Sella Gruppe behind.

The stricking limestone cliffs of Sassongher behind Corvara in the Alta Badia

A great week climbing & skiing, but just not long enough!

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Kandersteg conditions yesterday

I passed through Kandersteg yesterday looking at the ice conditions...........

Very lean conditions on a classic grade 4 just at the top of the valley

The bottom pitches of Pingu

The bottom pitches of Arbonium

Rattenpissoir - a lean and very wet newly formed first pitch

Some newly formed, thin & lean looking bottom pitches of Grimm

A very wet & newly formed 1st pitch of Namenlos

A view of Baretritt on the right with a thin but formed 1st pitch & an unformed top pitch, then a formed but very lean looking line of Blue Magic far left

The most ice in the valley is up on the Brietwanflue

Hope that helps!

Safe Climbing