Cogne - Italy
The trek back up to Lillaz Gully on Wednesday morning, was warming, watching two teams move onto the route as we ascended. There had been steady snow fall all night, and plenty of powder about.
Keri & Steve - post avalanche
Just as we reached the roof adjacent to the start of the route, and we we all busy sorting things, a sudden noise and powder fall gave us a split second warning, to start reacting as an avalanche dropped straight down the gully we were about to climb, wiping out the track we had just come up.
Bracing with our feet, driving our bodies into the wall like a rugby scrum, as the powder and accompanying blocks swept through us. Steve was holding the partly inserted ice screw with one hand, Keri was slightly more protected by the rock overhead, and I just hoped this wasn't our time...
The main body of debris tracked straight down, and after it had finished we were all still there... and it seemed that I had hold of steve's other hand! : )
Checking that team immediately above us was ok, further verified by abseil ropes which then dropped snaking back down the gully, we changed our soaked thermal tops, packed rapidly and descended the slope again.
We'd had our warning, and 'Cascade de Lillaz' was calling.
A mighty cascade of ice, and a friendly guided team already on the route, gave us plenty to look at, and Keri & Steve got ready whilst I looked for a vantage point..
Keri leading 'Cascade de Lillaz'
Chatting to other teams (as they too headed to this preferable venue) we leant that the 'little big avalanche' had dropped as the top team had reached the top, and were safety on rock, and the team above us were all on their anchor. Very lucky.
We also learned from the Italian guides coming off the more serious routes, that the climbs were 'easy' due to 'good winter' so the ice falls were 'like a ramp', the route in 'like highway'. Phew!
This was only the first of a series of stunning drops, pool and walkways through which we journeyed.
Undeniable the best day's winter climbing i've had. After coming last on that one, I led the second pitch, then with the ropes coiled we ventured further...
...into what can only be described as a fairy tale setting (with a serious side to it) : 0
The team i'd photographed climbing before us were enjoying some top roping, whilst a guided team practiced leading, both on the wall immediately in front. So Keri headed up the icy wall to the left.
And onwards and upwards we went.
Keri leading 3rd Pitch
Steve leading the 4th Pitch
Keirron leading the 5th Pitch
It was snowing for most of the time, and as we reached the final pitch, up over a dazzling electric blue icicle cave, the sun came out. Absolutely perfect!!
Meandering our way back included a brief abseil and opportunity to look back down what we had climbed, and reflect on how immense life is in general : )
Keri & Steve with Cascade de Lillaz
Completing the experience with Italian Ice Cream and coffee. Thanks to you both for another terrific day, looking forward to another one tomorrow.
How could it possibly get any better?
ps. to Luigi and son - pics on their way to you shortly : )