Monday, 20 January 2014

Ice is Nice

Sandra traversing the fracture line on the first pitch of the Cascade de Lillaz
Being used to Scottish snow ice I found the transition to continental water ice last winter quite hard work. My first attempt at leading over in Cogne last January wasn't exactly smooth... Climbing with blunt axes and crampons was not ideal and I fell off onto an ice screw, oops! Sharper tools and better technique have definitely made ice cragging a lot more fun this season.

Nearly at the top of the Cascade, the weather was turning distinctly Scottish! 
Sandra and I had a cheeky day trip to Cogne in Italy a couple of weeks ago and climbed the super classic Cascade de Lillaz. Whilst the ice was a bit thin and wet in places, we managed to get on the route before anyone else and had a fun morning wandering up the frozen gorge. Climbing in Cogne, feeling solid on the route and not sketching out like last time definitely made the day very satisfying.

Matt looking for a steeper section at La Crémerie
After work psyche running high!
The main thing that I have learnt from living in a ski town is that when there's work you need to take it. This means that the festive period with the influx of visitors to the valley is a hectic working period. Fortunately the icefalls up at La Crémerie have been in pretty good condition this year. Being a 20 minute walk from the car with easy abseil descents means they provide the perfect after (or even before) work training venue!

We've visited the crag in many different conditions this season, I'm surprised that it hasn't been destroyed totally by the recent thaw! Although it always seem to be a popular, busy venue; sometimes the conditions aren't exactly perfect. There were a few full depth ice slides off the rockface a few weeks ago and the ice on the routes can be pretty hollow with water behind or alternatively buried under a foot of snow... However I think interesting conditions like this just make the climbing more adventurous and memorable; a bit like climbing in Scotland!
Sandra on surprisingly thick ice just before Christmas
James on thinner ice this weekend.
Wintery wonderland at dusk!

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