The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cascade Ilynx, Lac de Montriond

Cascade Ilynx is in great shape at the moment as are all the routes in & around Montriond at the moment.

Ilynx WI6, 250m, Lac de Montriond, Morzine, France

It's turned into a fantastic season in the Alps this year.

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

La Dame du Lac

I had another great day with Tim in Kandersteg on Sunday & then headed over to Morzine early yesterday, as I'd had a text from a friend of mine who lives just outside of Morzine saying 'La Dame du Lac' was formed.

With the 1st ascent of this grade WI6+ pillar back in 1992 & the 2nd ascent 8yrs later it's an amazing ice formation that rarely forms big enough to climb or falls down before it's fully formed - If it's in condition we had to go & climb it.

Jacky had been watching it all winter.........It almost formed in December but then fell down, but with this great melt freeze cycle where having at the moment it had touched down, filled out & formed well enough to climb.

Walking up into the Ilynx & La Dame du Lac bowl..........our first views of La Dame du Lac with a team on the 1st pitch

La Dame du Lac - WI6+ 150m

Jacky leading the 1st 60m pitch on La Dame du Lac WI6+, Lac de Montiriond, Morzine

Great conditions on the climb yesterday, climbing 2 hard & long pitches of steep & fragile ice - awesome. 

Another team starting up the 2nd pitch in front of us - steep, featured & fragile climbing

Jacky & me enjoying a great day out on La Dame du Lac

Safe climbing



Saturday, 23 February 2013

Kandersteg ice

We headed back to Leysin yesterday & climbed some great roadside ice on the way - conditions at the moment are just fantastic.

Not bad for a few pitches of roadside ice!

I drove up the Rhone valley this morning & through to Kandersteg on the Autoverlad from Goppenstein. As the train came out of the tunnel & pulled up in Kandersteg it was immediately obvious the ice is good here as well
Driving through the village you could see the Oeschinensee Wall directly above Kandersteg stacked full of ice & every route was formed!
Conditions here also fantastic.
All the rarely formed pillars are all touching down & most routes looking fat - I'd need to have a close look at routes like Riese Integral but it's touching down & if its not climbable at the moment? then, if the temperature cycle continues, then it won't be long until it is.

Having said that, I wouldn't have climbed anything super steep like that today even if I though it was climbable as it was super cold this morning (minus 18)  & it didn't get above minus 10 all day!

The ice felt super cold all day & very hard/brittle on some pitches - you could feel the cold coming off the ice! - sounds crazy if you haven't been icefall climbing!! You'd think 'of cause the ice feels cold'..........too cold & the ice contracts & becomes under to much tension, brittle, hard & unpleasant to climb....also more dangerous on super steep pitches where there is already a lot of'll here the ice cracking with axe placements...stay off that stuff!

We had a great day though & climbed on the left hand side of the main wall - Namenlos, a great 5 pitch route at WI4+ (i'll give it the + today as it felt harder than WI4!)

Tim enjoying the 1st steep pitch on the left side of the icefall

On the 5th pitch we had to exit through this window out onto the steep ice pillar above, 30m above the ground, both feet first coffin style! as the window's the size of my chest at a squeeze!

Tim enjoying a cold shower! after exiting the window & traversing the pillar above

It was worth the battle today! Tim enjoying topping out on Pitch 5, Namenlos WI4(+!)
Completely frozen hands, gear,'ve gotta love the ice! 
Safe climbing


Friday, 22 February 2013

Tierra Outdoor clothing

ISM have teamed up with Tierra outdoor clothing

After a very positive meeting with Ralph White, MD of Rosker Ltd who will distribute Tierra here in the UK…………….. I’m very excited that Tierra is now the ‘Official clothing sponsor of ISM’

Tierra, Sweden’s ‘best kept secret!’ has produced high end, functional outdoor clothing for climbers & skiers for almost 30yrs.

Never before has Tierra moved away from its Scandinavian roots, but they’ve now chosen the UK as a market place they’d like to develop & they’ve chosen ISM to partner them in that development.
I’ve already had my hands on & have been wearing the Tierra Roc Blanc, 3 layer Gore-Tex Pro jacket & pants, icefall climbing this winter…………

The jacket’s been great - really well cut & very neat fitting with no excess, but still allowing you to swing your axe without the jacket lifting or the sleeves pulling back. The trim fit also means you get a clear view looking down to access gear loops on your harness, which makes accessing ice screws on a steep pitch, quick & easy.

Great functionality as well……..with good length sleeves & velcro wrist fasteners that work! a hood which takes a helmet without too much excess, under arm ‘pit zips’ which sit just forward from where they traditionally do, which means they can be opened & closed with one hand which is great, 2 large size front stowage pockets…………..& it looks great!

The bib pants are also trim fitting, a good length, seem durable & have loads of movement.

I’m looking forward to receiving some more kit – it’ll be Christmas all over again!

Safe climbing

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Valsaverenche today

We headed over into Valsaverenche today - the 24hr temperature cycle we're seeing in Cogne at the moment (cold nights & warm daytime temps) is just perfect for creating & fattening up the existing ice, especially where there's good drainage............Patri yesterday & Rovenaud in Valsaverenche today - I've not seen Rovenaud, stacked so full of ice before!

Me leading the 1st main pitch on Rovenaud in Valsaverenche

Me enjoying the 3rd pitch on Rovenaud WI4, 140m - Valsaverenche

Darren pulling hard on the steep 4th pitch on Rovenaud today

The weather continues! - cold in the shade, warm in the sun, fantastic blue skies & great ice.

Heading back to Leysin tomorrow & then over to Kandersteg for the weekend - the quest for ice continues!

Stay safe


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Great ice in Valnontey today

Headed up Valnontey today & climbed Patri - amazing weather here & some great ice.

Patri de Droite grade 5 & the rarely formed Directissime de Patri on the left.

The upper pitches of Patri de Gauche, Directissime de Patri & Patri de Droite

Stuart enjoying the final narrow gully on Patri de Gauche 250m grade 4 - Valnontey, Cogne

A couple of other routes looked in great condition on the other side of the valley.......... 

Di Fronte al Tradimento - Colonnato Centrale - grade 6

Erfaulet - grade 5, 140m

Caution though...........take care on these routes & others around/above 2000m with south facing slopes above them....... as we saw a number of big slab avalanches today, from snow accumulated over the last week & released by the intense heat in the sun at the moment. Both these routes on the other side of the valley today were washed out by big avalanches - sunny south facing slopes above them.

Enjoy the great ice here at the moment.

Stay safe


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Chandelle Levure & Valeille today

Super cold here today - minus 18! so we headed into Valeille for some sun!

Fantastic views up Valeille today

Me leading the 1st pitch of Chandelle Levure today in Valeille

Me leading the 2nd thin ice pitch on Chandelle Levure

Looking up at the top pitches of the classic Chandelle Levure
Stuart enjoying the 3rd pitch on Chandelle Levure, Valeille, Cogne

Me enjoying some great ice on the steep 4th pitch on Chandelle Levure, Valeille, Cogne

Stuart pulling hard on the steep 4th pitch on Chandelle Levure, Valeille, Cogne

Darren enjoying the steep climbing on pitch 4 of Chandelle Levure, grade 4, Cogne

Darren cranking hard! top of the steep pitch 4 on Chandelle Levure, Valeille, Cogne

The boys enjoying getting to the top of pitch 4 of Chandelle Levure

Cold Couloir here looked in great shape today with a number of teams climbing it

Stella Artice here was getting climbed & looked in great condition

Candelabro del Coyotte here was also climbed today & looked in good condition

Tuborg here was also climbed today & looked in great shape

Loads of wildlife around the valley today & enjoying the sun & lack of snow here at the moment.

Just fantastic ice conditions here in Cogne at the moment & all the routes in Valeille in amazing condition as our route was today.

Me top right on Chandelle Levure & Cold Couloir on the left on the other side of the valley - awesome.

Enjoy & stay safe



Monday, 18 February 2013

Alps ice today

Arrived back in Leysin on Friday......buckets of snow & great skiing.

Views over to Les Diablerets from Leysin

Great snow & fresh tracks..............I went for a short ski tour on Saturday around Leysin

Headed over to Cogne in Italy on Sunday..........

Me leading the 2nd pitch of Gran Val in Valnonty, Cogne.

Great weather & conditions here at the moment, with very little snow. All the snow's hit the northern part of the Alps & just south of the range there's nothing, which is great for the ice climbing.
It's been cold here though, with temperatures around -15 for the past 2 weeks...........which coupled with the warm daytime temperatures the ice has stayed in great shape & more ice formed.

Lillaz Gully today in - fantastic conditions

Me leading the 1st pitch in Lillaz Gully, Valaille, Cogne.

Great conditions - me heading up the 4th pitch in Lillaz Gully, Cogne

Stuart finishing up the top of the 4th pitch in Lillaz Gully

Looking up the 5th pitch in Lillaz Gully today in Cogne

Stuart working through the steep & narrow 6th pitch in Lillaz Gully

Darren enjoying the 6th pitch, working through the narrow steep steps in Lillaz Gully

Darren pulling over the top of the steep mixed section in Lillaz Gully

Great climbing & great weather here in Cogne at the moment - Chatting to Dave Hollinger a little earlier (another Guide) he climbed Cascade Thoule & Lauson today in Valnonty & said that they to were in great condition.

Very cold again this morning & the ice first thing was very cold, so be careful first thing on anything super steep & a little more fragile!

Enjoy & stay safe



Thursday, 7 February 2013



Adrian Nelhams 44yrs committing to the crux pillar on the upper Oeschinen Wall, Kandersteg, Switzerland.

Head down I check my feet. I step my right foot in underneath my body weight & push up, look left & step my left foot out onto a small icy noble, then look right & carefully place my right foot out in-between some thin stalactites. With hardly any weight on my right I pull hard & push up through my legs. Now with my right arm locked tight I carefully place my left axe into a small hollow. I can see the pick through the ice & it’s thin, bloody thin but that’s all there is & I gently pull & repeat the process being as light on my feet as I can. Head up & I place the right axe out onto an isolated small blob of ice which shatters but doesn’t break off. If I pull the axe to try & replace it they’ll be nothing left, so I pull gently driving up again through my legs keeping my elbows close to the ice to help the picks stick. I look up again & then look down, this pillar’s hardly attached! It’s a one way ticket now, I’m committed. Well this is what I’m here for! This is steep, fragile, technical & very very pumpy! I just need to keep it together, weight my feet, stay in balance, delicate axe placements………soon I’ll get an ice screw placement…………


Jesse James a spotty youth of 18/19yrs, stands at the bottom of the Classic Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs in North Wales, first climbed back in 1897 by T.Rose & C.Moss

Jesse kicks the thin layer of ice with his soft Vibram soled boots, they just round up & make no impression. Jesse looks up & the whole route has a layer of gleaming white ice marbled all over it. Jesse tries again with the boot….still no impression. Head down he checks his right pocket & fumbles around until he finds something. Jesse pulls out an old one penny coin & a Yale lock key from the front door of his house! The old one penny coin had a sharper edge so he started to chip away at the ice to create an edge just big enough to stand on. He came close to the ice, lifted his right leg up, connected with the edge he’d just created & gingerly stood up. With the left boot trailing Jesse dug his door key into a soft edge above giving himself some stability with his right hand & then with his left hand  bent down & chipped away another small edge for his left boot. Now with both his door key & old Penny coin securely dug into the ice above he stepped up with his left foot & gained a little height. The ice now had formed fat & was steeper & more marbled, Jesse couldn’t make progress with the penny coin as the ice was just too hard. Jesse’s partner moved in close to the ice & slid the knotted hemp rope which was around Jesse’s waist to one side, so as not to get in the way. On tip toes Jesse’s partner braced himself against the ice while Jesse carefully bent his right leg & carefully placed it onto his shoulder. Then with the drive from his legs, pushed up giving him an extra meter above the steeper ice step to again chip away a tiny edge for his left boot, which he then stepped on & with his key & old penny keeping him in balance he slowly transferred his weight & carried on. ‘It’s a one way ticket’ as Jesse looks down at the ground some way beneath him & then up at the marbled smooth ice above.

Jesse kept it together………… & possibly made the first winter ascent of the Classic Ordinary route on Idwal Slabs. If not the FWA then certainly one of the early winter repeats.

No photo's unfortunately!

Even though the slabs are tilted & at a moderate angle, it was still an impressive ascent in a day when your only protection was sure 'footedness' & nerves of steel. 
Jesse's now over 70yrs & is still as fit as ever, roaming the hills around Snowdonia & runs the infamous ‘Jesse Jame's Bunkhouse’ 

Both Impressive & inspiring.

Safe climbing