The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Lillaz & Gressoney

Very warm here in the Alps at the moment - when we left Cogne mid afternoon yesterday & headed over to Gressoney we passed through Aosta & it was a balmy 13 degrees!!

Even though it was super warm yesterday, we headed up to the village of Lillaz & had a great day climbing Lillaz Gully, a classic WI 4 - one of the best routes around at the grade & it faces north!

The classic 'Lillaz Gully' WI4, 250m - Lillaz, Cogne

Dave finishing up the narrows near the top of 'Lillaz Gully' - Lillaz, Cogne

Fantastic views directly up the valley to the South Face of Mont Blanc

'Tuborg' WI4+ has been in great condition this winter although its getting a lot of sun & warmer weather at the moment so take care.

'Tutto Relativo' WI4+ in great condition at the moment - Valaille, Cogne

'Patanagio Artistico' WI3+ in great condition at the moment

Left  - 'Stella Artice' WI5 & 'Cold Couloir' WI4 in the centre.
Both super classic routes - Richard Cross climbed Stella yesterday & said that it was in great shape with plenty of ice forming the main steep pillar.

With only a couple of days left until we needed to head back to Leysin, we decided to have a change of scene & headed over to Gressoney.

We new very little about both the ice climbing here and anything about the place in general. The first thing that struck us was the Swiss influence in this Italian Valley which sits on the south side & at the base of the Monte Rosa chain. (Looking North up the valley you look directly up to Lyskamm & the other 4000m peaks which make up the skyline)

The valley was actually first settled by Swiss-Germans or The Walser people who made their way over the passes from the Swiss Valais in the 12th & 13th Century's. The buildings/architecture are very much like those in the Swiss Valais eg a number of buildings sit on the classic 'stilts' capped by flat round rocks to stop animals getting into grain stores etc. The food even has a Swiss feel which has been very different to that which we've had elsewhere in Italy.....

Anyway, the potential here with regards icefall climbing is amazing, but just not at the moment!

Icefalls line the valley on either side, but in the most part are all washed out. It's just been to hot here this last week, coupled with the fact they've had very little snow, the change has been rapid. More so than in Cogne, where the snow it helping slow the change during this unseasonally warm period. The bare ground here has heated up so quickly it's under mind the ice & fast melted out many of the routes. 

We did find one great route though - Ipsilon WI3+4, 200m.

The line today of 'Ipsilon' WI3+/4, 200m - Gressoney, Italy
The route was in surprisingly good shape, considering the 10 degrees today!

The upper pitches of 'Ipsilon' WI3+/4 - Gressoney, Italy

It looks a fantastic venue when in condition & it's been a great short trip which has inspired me to come back next year & enjoy some of the many great looking lines here - another one for the growing list!

Back in the Lakes on Saturday for a couple of weeks.............

Stay safe


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Valsavarenche today & conditions

Fantastic weather again today but warm! -  it was 10 degrees when we got back to the car after climbing 'Rovenaud' in Valsavarenche today.

The temperature didn't matter though, as the ice was fat & in great shape, better still we didn't see anyone all day! I'm not sure if we even saw a car passing beneath us on the road heading up to Pont!

Dave entering the lower bowl of 'Rovenaud' after turning the initial chockstone

Dave seconding the 1st pitch on 'Rovenaud' grade 4, 150m - Valsavarenche

'Cascata Di Fenille' grade 4, 250m - Valsavarenche
A team can be seen here climbing the route, which looked in fantastic condition - just take care as there's a huge bowl above the route, which holds a lot of snow & the route avalanches frequently.

'Antares' grade 4, 110m - Valsavarenche
This classic route looks in fantastic condition, completely chocked full of ice

'Candalone Di Pont' grade 5, 70m - Valsavarenche
It's the best condition/form that I've seen this route in for a while, although it has seen a lot of sun & maybe looks a little thin in the upper section

'Chemins Des Tambures' grade 4+, 70m - Valsavarenche
This looked in great shape, well formed & thick ice

The classic 'Trip in the Night' grade 5/5+, 170m - Valsavarenche
The route's formed & complete although maybe looks a little thin in places - you'd need to go & have a look for yourselves!!

Dave seconding the 3rd pitch on 'Rovenaud' - Valsavarenche

Great conditions today & more ice in the valley than I've seen for some time - enjoy!

Safe climbing


Sunday, 27 January 2013


Amazing weather & a very scenic drive over from Leysin to Cogne yesterday.

The main roundabout when entering Cogne

The village of Cogne sits high above the Val d'Aosta at an altitude of 1,534m which is great when it comes to reliable ice!
Cogne's also know for it's 70km of Ski de Fonde trails which run up & down the main 3 valley's.
The ski trails are world renown here with many national championships held in Cogne every year.
Climbers are reminded to stay off the pistes & to stay on the walking trails.........

We stayed in La Chateau Royal last night before heading up in Valnonty today

La Chateau Royal Residence - self catering apartments in Cogne owned by the Herren family who also own Hotel La Barme in Valnonty 

Well known in Cogne & Aosta for his wood carvings, Giuseppe Ouvrier's work is all around the village with carvings such as this one outside one of the hotels close to La Chateau Royal in Cogne.

We headed up Valnonty today & climbed Gran Val, grade III, which was in fantastic condition.

Victor Saunders climbing the second pitch of Gran Val, Valnonty, Cogne

Dave arriving at the top of pitch 3 on Gran Val, Valnonty, Cogne

Great conditions in Cogne at the moment -

A great view across to - Repentance Super grade 6 on the left, Monday Money grade 4 & Flash Estivo grade 3/4 on the right.
A couple of guys climbed Repentance Super today & said that it was in good condition, Monday Money looks great.............

An unknown climber on Repentance Super seen from Monday Money

The bottom pitches of Patri grade 4/5 which we climbed a couple of weeks ago which was & still is in great condition

A busy day on Patri a couple of weeks ago - you can see the upper pitches of both Patri de gauche grade 4 & Patri de droite grade 4+/5
There were people of both these routes today & their still in great condition with Patri de droite fatter than seen here from a couple of weeks ago.

'Il Sentiero dei Troll' grade 3, 350m seen here today with teams on it & looking in great shape

'Valmiana' grade 3, 350m also seen here today & looking in great shape

'Thoule' grade 3+/4, 100m also looks in good condition although I didn't see any teams on it

Conditions improved a lot since I was last here a couple of weeks ago......&  most routes in great condition.

Looking forward to heading into Valeille tomorrow.

Safe climbing


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Kandersteg Topos & conditions

Beautiful weather here in Leysin today - the views are fantastic looking across to the Mont Blanc Massif.

Fantastic views today from the Grand Chalet here in Leysin

We finished the week yesterday climbing up on Oeschinenwald again just above Kandersteg village.

Colin pushing his leading again by climbing the first pitch of Namenlos grade 4+ - Kandersteg

Colin leading the 1st pitch grade 4 of 'Riese ins Reich der Eiszwerge' which continues up onto the upper wall grade III 6+M, 175m
You can just about see the steep hanging pillars above, which form the upper pitches on the upper wall of Oeschinenwald.

A climber above us tackling the crux pitch of 'Reise ins Reich der Eiszwerge' Grade III 6+M

A topo from conditions yesterday of the upper wall of Oeschinenwald
It's amazing how routes like 'Reise Integral' have been getting fatter & forming each day - fingers crossed the cycle continues & 'Riese Integral' touches down

Topo -
Green route - Reise ins Reich der Eiszwerge grade III 6+, 175m
Orange route left side - Reise Integral grade IV 6, 70m
Orange route right side - Grimm Haizahne grade III 6, 180m

The topo picture doesn't show the lower 50m pitches of ice which form on the lower wall  - You can see this though from the picture above with Colin leading' Reise ins Reich der Eiszwerge'

A topo from conditions yesterday on the upper Oeschinenwald Wall right side - Kandersteg

Topo with routes left to right -

Arbonium - grade III 4+, 180m
White Magic on Rock - grade III -6, 110m
Pingu - grade III 5+/6, 200m
Saule - grade III 6, 140m
Europussy - grade III 7+, 125m

Routes this week up on the Brietwangflue - the wall left of Crack Baby - Kandersteg
Spot the climber high up on the last pitch of Tsunamix grade IV 7M - we didn't get to chat to them but they could also have climbed Elementarteilchen grade IV 8M & finished up the steeper ice pitches of Tsunamix! - either way it's a great route & great effort.

My topo to this awesome wall, with conditions this week - routes left to right

Damokles - grade V 7+M, 315m
Tsunamix - grade IV 7M, 250m
Elementarteilchen - grade IV 8M, 300m
Beta Block Super - V 7X!, 295m

Me on 'Saule' grade WI 6+ - further up the valley from both the Crack Baby wall & the Beta Block Super wall.

In the huge cave behind 'Saule' is the super classic & awesome 'Flying Circus'

A team on 'Flying Circus' grade M10, 165m - Brietwangflue , Kandersteg

'Saule' the steep pillar on the left & the line of 'Flying Circus' on the right

Relaxing in Leysin today & then heading over to Cogne tomorrow for the week...............

Sounds like the UK's had plenty of snow & cold weather this past week. The Lakes looks pretty plastered at the moment - I'm sure I'll be missing some great winter climbing conditions there!! Although can't really complain!

Safe climbing


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Kandersteg today

We had another great day climbing in & around Kandersteg today.

-10 degrees first thing again this morning & a lot of the routes getting fatter & others starting to form. It won't be long at this rate that routes like Arbonium which at the start of the week weren't touching down are actually climbable!

Colin led Eggeschendfall grade 4+ this morning. 

Colin leading Eggeschendfall grade 4+, 2 pitches - Kandersteg

The route today had formed a lot thinner than in previous years, having been only formed during the past week. 
The single thin layer of ice gave us some great steep & technical climbing. 
The route felt safe to climb, as the ice was very relaxed giving many first time axe placements in soft & sometimes wet ice - the icefall gets plenty of mid-day sun. 
Opposite to that, if we'd have got there and the ice was very dry, super cold & under a lot of tension then we'd have probably have walked away as the thickness of the ice was to thin & wouldn't have coped with those temperatures & somebody climbing on it........

In the afternoon we headed back to climb on the main wall above the village.

Colin leading the 1st pitch of Grimm Haizahine - Kandersteg

Me leading the upper wall on Grimm Haizahine grade 6 - Kandersteg

Very steep, very thin technical climbing on newly formed thin fragile pillars & hanging bobs of ice!

The line at the moment (which is for-shortened) on the upper wall of Grimm Haizahine grade 6 - Kandersteg

We did some great climbing today. Our rest day yesterday consisted of us heading over to Brunnital to try & find some ice there. 2 hours of driving & 2 hours of walking up & down the main valley there....... we couldn't find any ice routes formed enough for us to climb! so we spun around & headed back to Kandersteg!

The journey was definitely worth while though, as I'd heard so much about the place...........

I took this amazing shot of a fantastic looking line - Hydrophobia grade 6 - which when it fully forms & touches down - awesome!

This beautiful 4 pitch route alone, will get me back there at some point in the near future!

Hydrophobia grade 6, Brunnital - Uri

Safe climbing


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Crack Baby!

Had an awesome day yesterday climbing up on the Brietwanflue high above Kandersteg.

Crack Baby was in fantastic condition.

The awesome Crack Baby grade 6 & 8 pitches
Brietwanflue, Kandersteg

Me tackling the crux pillar, very technical climbing on very fragile ice
Crack Baby - Kandersteg

A fantastic day on a route which doesn't always form - this year it's in great early season condition.

You've gotta love the ice!

Stay safe


Monday, 21 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New year!

Sorry it's a little belated.....I've had a few problems with logging into site, which has been very frustrating to say the least! Hence the lack of posts over the past few weeks.

Anyway, over in the Alps Icefall climbing at the moment - had a great day today climbing 'Pingu' a steep 5 pitch route in Kandersteg on the Oeschinen Wall just above the village.

'Pingu' grade 5+, 180m - Kandersteg

The Alps was going through a very warm period leading into the week when I arrived from the UK. Up until that point, Kandersteg being relatively low (around 1100m altitude) didn't have any ice formed at all. A week of colder weather & the routes are starting to take shape.

Pingu today was 'all there' climbing thin & fragile newly formed ice, which made the route steeper & more technical than maybe later in the reason when the routes filled out a little more.

A thin & newly formed 'Arbonium' not quite touching down & formed enough in the lower section to climb yet.

The temperatures in Kandersteg are for it to stay cold all week & routes like Arbonium will continue to fill out & form as we go through the week.

'Rattenpisoir' grade 5, 160m - Kandersteg

All the routes here are thinner than normal as the ice has all formed during the past week, even so 'Rattenpisoir' was climbed today. The route looks in similar condition to 'Pingu' which we climbed. It's been cold & the ice feels well bonded & with a little care these routes offer some great climbing.

Grimm Haizahne grade 5+, 160m - Kandersteg
The first pitch is thin grade 4/4+, but the upper pitches (on the upper wall, top right of picture) look disconnected & unformed still.

The upper pitches of Namelos grade 4/4+ - Kandersteg

We climbed 'Namelos' yesterday, it's a little further up the track but all fully formed but just a little thin in places. It was a warmer day yesterday & the ice was wet. Today it would have been better bonded to the rock & in great condition if not still a little thin & fragile in places.........

Namelos grade 4/4+, 180m - Kandersteg

The upper steep pitches of 'Pingu' today

Colin pulling around onto the belay at the top of the 4th pitch on 'Pingu' today.
You can just see down & left the steep pillar which is the 2nd pitch of 'Rattenpisoir'

'Blue Magic' grade 5+ also looks complete, but I guess just a little thin....we'll check it out later in the week & let you know how we get on.

Well I hope that helps, if you're thinking of heading over this way & brings you a little up to date with what I've been doing.

I've also been over in Cogne, Chamonix & Megeve climbing & will let you know what the conditions there are like when I next log on.

Very happy to have sorted my logging on issues & feel connected again!

Anyway take care on the ice & stay safe