The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Friday, 30 January 2015

Valsavarenche yesterday

Great conditions on Antares in Valsavarenche yesterday.

Stuart McAleese enjoying Antares yesterday in Valsavarenche, Gran Paradiso

Antares in Valsavarenche, Gran Paradiso.

Woke up to 30cm of new snow here in Cogne also looks as though there's been a fair amount of wind blowing the snow around so take care. 

La Barme is the place to stay in Valnontey, Cogne.

La Barme's a great family run hotel in the heart of all the ice climbing here in Cogne. The hotel's warm, comfortable and after a long day climbing the ice you return to a super efficient kit drying room, a sauna and then plenty of great food at dinner - what more do you want!

Andrea clearing the snow this morning

Cogne's also known for it's 'Ski de Fond' with 45km of world class trails which weave up and down all the surrounding valley's. The roundabout when entering Cogne has a great stone sculpture reinforcing this. 

Safe climbing

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Cogne today

Headed back up Valnontey today and climbed Patri de Gauche.

Climbing pitch 5 on 'Patri de Gauche', Valnontey, Cogne.

Topping out and enjoying the final pitch on 'Patri de Gauche' today, Valnontey, Cogne.

A team on 'Patri de Droite' today.
Climbers on 'Patri de Droite' today, Valnontey, Cogne.

Minus 12 when we left La Barme this morning, so much colder today and very little wind. Stu McAleese was guiding on Thoule today and there was another team on 'Di Fronte Al Tradimento' which also looks in great condition.

Safe climbing

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Valnontey today

We headed up Valnonty today and climbed Patri de Droite which gave great steep, but featured climbing.

The top pitch of Patri de Droite in great condition

 Peter Reid enjoying his first ice climbing leads on Patri today, Valnontey, Cogne.

Peter Reid leading the first pitch on Patri today 

Looking across the valley to Erfaulet today

Also across the valley from Patri climbers on 'Di Fronte al Tradimento' today

'Di Fronte al Tradimento' today

There were also climbing teams on Gran Val, Valmiana, Thoule, Patri de Gauche and L'Acheronte which all look in good condition.

We observed strong winds up high today which looked like it was moving a lot of snow around and it's been much warmer minus 1 degrees when we left La Barme at 8am this morning.

Safe climbing

Monday, 26 January 2015

Cogne conditions today

Cogne today, drove up to Lillaz and walked up into Valeille to climb Chandelle Levure.

Pattinaggio Artistico


Left - Stella Artice, right - Inachevee Conception

Cold Couloir

Last pitch of Chandelle Levure in great condition today, Valeille, Lillaz

Valnontey tomorrow.

Safe climbing

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Point Five today

Point Five on the Ben in great shape today.

Stuart McAleese enjoying some great conditions climbing 'Point Five', Ben Nevis, Scotland.

Safe climbing

Monday, 19 January 2015

Great winter new mixed line

Great winter mixed conditions here in the Lakes over the weekend.

Huw Davis and I headed up to Standing Crag just above Thirlmire, as I wanted to climb the last major line of the crag whilst it was still remained unclimbed. I also wanted Huw to make the second ascent of a great line I'd climbed a couple of years previous with Dean Mounsey which takes an obvious line bounding the left edge of the main crag.

In 2010 I first went to Standing Crag with Tim Lofthousemaking the First Ascent of  'Stand Out' - Grade 4 - A great turfy mixed line, following an obvious groove system to the right of the main crag.

In December 2011 Dean Mounsey and myself headed back to Standing Crag on 2 separate occasions - firstly Dean made the FA of 'Stand Aside' grade 5/6 and I made the FA of 'Fine Line' grade 7/7 (summer rock route grade HVS) which are both great routes on excellent quality compact rock giving absorbing and challenging climbing.

Yesterday, Huw and I headed back to Standing crag - firstly Huw made the second ascent of 'Stand Aside' which he really enjoyed confirming the grade at 5/6.

I then wanted to try the last major line left unclimbed on the crag which takes a leftward trending flake line which gets grade VS in the summer rock climbing guide.

It's was an absorbing 60m pitch of technical and committing mixed climbing on very compact Rhyolite volcanic rock which I climbed on-sight and graded 7/7 - a great long pitch and excellent climbing which we called 'Stand Alone'

Left line - Stand Alone 7/7
Middle line - Fine Line grade 7/7
Right line - Stand Out grade 4
North Face of Standing Crag, Thirlmire, Cumbria.

Huw Davis enjoying the climbing on 'Stand Aside' - grade 5/6, Thirlmere, Cumbria

Huw Davis climbing through the more awkward middle section of 'Stand Aside' - grade 5/6, Thirlmire, Cumbria.

It's cold again today and conditions should only be getting better!

Safe climbing

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Fixed Length Short Roping

Short roping is only designed to prevent a slip from turning into a fall.

The following notes are a guideline to ‘fixed length short roping’ – a technique used to short rope a client(s) efficiently and safely over moderate unbroken ground in summer or winter conditions.

With a clear initial briefing and good communication the guide is able to manage the rope, keeping the client ‘lightly felt’ on the end of the rope at all times and so in a position to arrest a slip if necessary.

The beauty of guiding is that there is never ‘one way’ of doing something and guides accept many different ways to come around to the same point as long as it’s safe, efficient and works for the guide, clients, terrain and ‘moment in time’.

Having spent a great deal of time last summer working on ‘Dynamic’ short roping you will now have the skills to move over moderate broken ground by moving up and down the rope keeping it lightly felt on the client(s) at all times while moving efficiently and safely over the terrain.
‘Fixed length’ short roping is far more straight forward in the concept, but still requires good judgement as to where and when to use the technique – give thought to the steepness of slope, conditions under foot and the security those conditions are giving you and your clients, clients ability, experience and the number of clients you have.

Short roping is one of the most difficult skills to learn, it’s also when the guide is at most risk and exposed from a client slipping or even worse falling.

Decisions on where and when to move together depend upon the client(s) ability, the weather and the terrain/conditions you find yourself on.
The client must also have confidence in the guide, if the guide feels anxious then that will transmit through to the client(s)

In judging the terrain ahead against the abilities of the client, you can make the decision of whether to move together on not.

Give thought to –
How many clients you have on a rope and the size of the client(s) compared to the guide.
How good are the clients on their feet and their ability and overall experience.
Your route choice, the weather, conditions under foot, time of day.

The bottom line is - can you hold that person if they slip? If there is any doubt then run it!
Drop your hand coils and move up to a spike or some other feature. If the terrain continues to be steep then drop the body coils and run the rope out even further, belay the client.

Fixed Length short roping in winter -

Technique 1 moving up an unbroken slope of snow –

Take in all the rope as coils in your downhill hand and lock those coils off in a way that you could comfortably hold a slip without letting out any more rope and so that the pull from a slips comes from the downhill part of the hand and without any pull twisting the wrist making it uncomfortable and difficult to hold a slip.
Now take up you ice axe with your uphill hand and plunge the shaft of the ice axe in the snow to give you extra security.
Now bend the downhill arm holding the coils so that you are ready to hold a slip. This bent downhill arm acts as a shock absorber taking the initial force of a slip. This coupled with bent legs (dynamic stance) and an ice axe plunged in the snow with hold a slip on moderate terrain.

Technique 2 moving up an unbroken slope of snow –

One arm span from the closest client tie an overhand knot in the rope making a loop easily big enough to hold comfortably with a gloved hand.
Now with your downhill hand, take in all the rope as coils and instead of locking off the coils grab hold of the loop of the overhand knot that you’ve tied.

Now move away from the client, feeling them through the rope with a bent arm. This bent downhill arm acts as a shock absorber taking the initial force of a slip. This coupled with a firm grip of your overhand knot loop, bent legs (dynamic stance) and an ice axe plunged in the snow with hold a slip on moderate terrain.

The shorter the distance to the closest client will allow you to more easily hold a slip.
Too close then you don’t have enough space to comfortably move and effect a dynamic stance in-case of a slip.

As the ground steepens then you need to use good judgement on when to stop, make the clients safe, drop all your hand coils and run it out to a safe anchor or drop all your body coils to move further up to a safe anchor.
Try and keep you head up, move at a steady pace and read the ground ahead.

Remember you have all the coils around you chest to use if you need them.

Other factors that a guide needs to give thought to –

Is there 2 clients on the rope and if so I may need to run it out on ground that I could move together on if I only had one client.
Even if I just have the 1 client – how heavy are they or how competent are they on their feet, the weather or conditions of the terrain I’m moving over?

All factors that a guide needs to take into consideration

On descent –

Fix the length and be dynamic in your body positioning and have a bent arm which you again use as a shock absorber in the event of a slip.
Remember more so on the way down that you may be walking more quickly than on ascent. In this case allow for more room between you and the first client just to give you that little extra space to arrest a slip if necessary.
Ice axe plunging into the snow with the uphill hand.
Remember crampons give you extra security in many different snow types and it’s not just you they may need to help arrest, so make sure you use them.

Also give though to the ice axe you use short roping in winter, modern day technical ice axes often have heal spurs at the very bottom of the shaft which don’t allow you to plunge the shaft of the axe into the snow so easily, especially if the snow is windblown or firm.
Without the axe plunged firmly into the snow then a slip is much harder to arrest.

Many thanks
Adrian Nelhams