The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Monday, 20 January 2014


From Kandersteg, I headed over to Grindelwald for a week.
I ran an introductory icefall climbing week for Petroc (North Devon College) who I've been working closely with for a number of years now.
The students, most of which who are on an Outdoor Education Course based down in Devon, come out to the Alps on a grant funded 2 week work experience trip. The students learn to ski, understand what it's like being a ski instructor, have a day snow shoeing and come out with me and learn the basics of ice climbing and understand a little more about what it's like being a Mountain Guide. They also understand what it's like working in a resort like Grindelwald, opening their eyes to what achievable if they 'want it' enough! 

Shay working his technique on the steeper ground at sector Schwendi, Grindelwald, Switzerland

Scooby enjoying the good ice climbing in Grindelwald this week

Fraiser! doing a great job, pushing himself on the short but steep test piece at the end of the day - Grindelwald, Switzerland

Trudy enjoying the steeper ice on the central steep pillar - Grindelwald

We found some great ice this week but it's been warm (+4/5 degrees) in the day and it's not freezing overnight - at this rate the ice isn't going to there for much longer, we need it to go cold again.

The driving force behind the week - Mike Bazley, enjoying some time out today and doing what he loves, which is getting out climbing!

Conditions still sound pretty good over in Cogne, the top of Valsaverenche would also be a good bet, as would high up in the Arolla and Zinal valley's.

Stay safe


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Kandersteg Ice conditions today

Plenty of new snow overnight and chucking it down all day..........but so far, the ice routes up on the Oeshinenwald, (the classic wall, easily accessible above Kandersteg) haven't formed at all this year, it's just been too warm.

I've posted a few shots here of some of the classic routes I saw today, which obviously are a long way off being formed!





From no snow to loads of snow! - Kandersteg today

Great conditions on Tutto Relativo yesterday in Cogne - Steve leading the first pitch

Graham with a team in front leading the second steeper pitch

We opted not to wait and climbed the left side of the lower section of the pillar and belayed behind it! The second pitch was an exciting step around back onto the pillar and up!

Steve pulling over onto easier ground at the top of the steep pillar - on Tutto Relativo, Valeille, Cogne.

Steve leading the last pitch on Tutto Relativo, Valeille, Cogne

Cogne is obviously the place to be at the moment!

Stay safe


Monday, 13 January 2014

Kyrgyzstan article in Adventure Travel Magazine

Mountain guide Adrian Nelhams introduces life in Kyrgyzstan and explains why it’s one of his favourite places to explore and climb.

The Tien Shan, which has been crossed for centuries by Silk Road traders, wandered along by generations of nomads and was the battleground of Genghis Khan and other warring tribes, remains very much today as it was centuries ago.
Kyrgyzstan’s cities have a Soviet feel, which acts as a window into the 20th century, but underneath this Soviet architecture, the soul of the place remains very much as it always has been.

mountaineering in kyrgystan

The Kyrgyz people owe their survival to their nomadic lifestyle which has been key for over 2,500 years. Yurts or felt tents acted as temporary homes as their livestock roamed the mountains in search of food and water. 

Horses (akyns), or ‘the wings of the Kyrgyz people’, are central to the Kyrgyz way of life – a friend, worker or source of food. These horses allow the nomads to shepherd their flocks over miles of remote grazing land in the Tien Shan mountains, hunting, carrying yurts, supplying meat, leather and milk. Their national drink, kymyz or cumous is in fact fermented mare’s milk.

The nomadic people of Kyrgyzstan say ‘a man should move, because the sun, animals, fish – everything moves and only the land and dead creatures stay where they are’.

The mountain pastures are littered with brown rings of dead grass and ramshackle livestock corals, most of which have fallen down into disrepair, with small walls of dried horse dung left over from the previous tenant. A sign of the Kyrgyz nomad, where a yurt once sat and a family lived.

Inside the yurts (bozuys) the circular walls are lined with bright, colourful felt rugs depicting the changing seasons, the hunting of Marco Polo sheep and their traditional way of life. The multi-fuel stove sits to one side with the chimney snaking up and out of a small gap in the roof. 

Inside, the space is allocated according to tradition – the left-hand side for the man, his horse and his hunting gear and the right hand side for the women, the stove and her domestic utensils. At the back of the bozuy lie the brightly coloured folded felt blankets or shyrdaks and thick straw filled beds – the higher the pile the wealthier the family!

The felt, which is compressed layers of sheep’s wool, is made by layering handfuls of washed wool together on a reed mat and rolling the mat up and tying it tightly together in a long tube. Boiling water is then poured over the outside of the reed mat which seeps through into the wool. The roll is then stamped and jumped on to mulch the layers of wool together to make one tightly knitted layer – simple but really effective.

Two great mountain ranges embrace over 90% of the country – the Tien Shan mountains, which stretch for 2,500km from east to west, and the Tajik Pamir mountains, which spill into southern Kyrgyzstan. Over 30% of the country is covered in permanent snow and ice. The Tien Shan host peaks such as Khan Tengri (the Prince of Spirits) at 7,010m, and the highest peak Jengish Chokosu or Peak Pobeda at 7,439m. In the Pamir, Peak Kuh-i-Garmo, or Peak Lenin, is 7,134m and is one of the easier 7,000m summits in the world.

In the seventh century traders explored these parts making their way along the Silk Road, which was once the richest trade routes in the world. Caravans of camels, men, horses, silver, spices and silk travelled across the thousands of miles through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, through Turkmenistan and Iraq on to the Mediterranean Sea and then into Europe. Trade also passed through Kyrgyzstan and on to Greece via Kazakstan and Russia.

Tashrabat in Kyrgyzstan was an important valley, providing a vital link to and from China forming part of the Silk Road. Just below the pass a fortified Caravansari was built to store the valuable silk safely overnight. Traders would sleep with the silk before continuing their journeys. The region prided itself in keeping a safe passage through for all the traders, encouraging them to use the same route again next time. Money would change hands for this safe passage through and so it was the responsibility of the region to keep the bandits out and the silk safe.

The rich history of Kyrgyzstan, the unspoilt mountain landscape, the virgin summits and unexplored valleys, the traditional nomadic people many of whom still live off the land and in yurts, make this a very special place to go climbing and mountaineering. 

ISM has been running expeditions and exploring the virgin summits of the Tien Shan for almost 20 years. It is not just the climbing, but the culture and history of this beautiful landscape that captures your imagination. 

Written by Adrian Nelhams, UIAGM guide and director of ISM mountaineering company that's very proud and feels privileged to be part of Kyrgyzstan’s climbing history.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Pattinaggio Artistico

Headed into Valeille today and climbed the classic Pattinaggio Artistico

Steve enjoying the first pitch on Pattinaggio Artistio, Valeille, Cogne.
Fred leading the second pitch on Pattinaggio Artistico

The line of Pattinaggio Artistico today - the direct start takes the steep pillar below -grade 5+
 A team on Crystal Guisy today seen from our descent off Pattinaggio Artistico

I'm trying out some kit this season - I've changed my boots for some Hanwag Sirius GTX boots which have been fantastic this past week. Comfortable, warm, but still lightweight and feeling very precise when climbing the steeper ice. The joy of climbing the ice is being able to feel every feature under your feet and move your weight around as if you are climbing a steep but featured pitch of rock. The boots allow you to do just that and I'm looking forward to giving them a serious run out this winter!

It was colder this morning, down to minus 5 overnight. There were teams on Patri left and right, both of which are in great condition, Stella Artice, Cold Couloir, Candelabra del Coyotte, Tubourg, Tutto Relativo all in good condition today.

Stay safe


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Happy New Year

I'm back over in Cogne at the moment and enjoying some great weather, but with mixed conditions as we're in the middle of a warm period with the temps well above freezing in the day and only just freezing overnight - be careful! 

Steve Brown enjoying some mixed action in Lillaz Gully yesterday - Cogne..

Damian having fun in the narrows on pitch 6, Lillaz Gully, Cogne.

A great view of Lau Bij - grade 5+ yesterday on the way down from Lillaz Gully, Cogne.

A view yesterday of the first couple pitches of the classic Cascade Lillaz, Cogne

Me enjoying some great ice on Chandelle Levure today - Valeille, Cogne

A team climbing Candelabro del Coyote today

The rarely formed Pattinaggio Artistico Direct - Valeille, Cogne

A formed Stella Artice on the left and on the right Inachevee Conception

Enjoy the great climbing here at the moment, but just take care with regards the warm temps.

Stay safe