Friday, February 28, 2014

Candelabro del Coyote

Cogne - Italy

Our third day in Cogne promised blue skies and warm conditions, again : )
Taking the path over the bridge and along the west side of the river Torrent, we walked to the first project - 'Candelabro del Coyote'. Without breaking step, Keri led the first pitch.
 Alpine Chamois - taken near Chandelle Levure

 Keri leading on 'Candelabro del Coyote'

 Spectacular views from the start of the route (at 1770m), and again from the first anchor bolts.
 A bite to eat, and onto the last climb of the trip, 'Tuborg'.
 The well marked paths and signposted routes meant that finding the corresponding climb to the guide was more time efficient, and aided the relaxed pace on each day.
 Routes in Lillaz Valley - 'Attacco Diretto'

Steve leading on 'Tuborg'

 It was great watching Steve and Keri on Tuborg, (which looked pretty steep) with a backdrop of other teams of climbers conquering hard routes on the side of valley...
...according to Steve the ice on Tuborg was like putty, just perfect, axes locking in well. I took a few more photo's...
 Keri following Steve up the first pitch

We walked back out as the clouds began to form again, and temperature continued to drop.
Snowfall on drive back towards Chamonix didn't deter us from stopping off in Courmayeur to catch with Andy (at a tapas bar in town) then rounding off with ice cream on the way back to the car. 

A highly successful adventure, here's to many more : )

Cascade de Lillaz

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 : )

Domain of the Ibex

Chamonix - French Alps

 I headed over to Chamonix on Saturday,  with the aim of getting some more days winter climbing with Keri & Steve ... and conditions were prime!

(direct flight Isle of Man to Geneva with Flybe),
 Had a fun day's skiing on the Sunday with Keri, at Le Tour - Mont Blanc, and Steve joined me mid-afternoon as Keri zipped off to work. Into town later to celebrate a 25th Birthday, sample the local cuisine and meet a few folk : )

With the skiing (and Apres Ski) completed, I made an early start with Steve next morning up into 'La Cremerie' Ice Falls (below the Argentiere Glacier). 
The ice was well formed. (top pic taken en-route)
 Got warmed up by following Steve up 'La Cremerie' route, then moved across to 'Moby Dick'. Met a solo climber who was climbing much more efficiently without ropes...

I led the first pitch, and Steve the 2nd (which gave me opportunity to peer down the glistening hollow depths between our ice wall and the cliff) and mighty relieved I was to be seconding : )
Trotting back down mid-afternoon, Steve suggested I experience the 'Le Train Du Montenvers' - Mer De Glace. The relaxed tourist way to ascend Mont Blanc to above the 'sea of ice', with opportunity to take a few pics, check out the ski routes and partake in some mulled wine...
 A spectacular backdrop, and the seeds of future adventures have been sown : )

 Cogne Valley, Italy

 After a bit of discussion, (and the lure of some fabulous ice cream), our climbing team left the bustle of Chamonix behind, driving through the tunnels, past Courmayeur and up to the mountain village (and ice climbing mecca) of Cogne, (located in 'Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso').
 One of terrific bonus's to climbers who are used to British route finding, is that the climbs (and cross-country ski trails) are well signposted. In such vast terrain however, perception (as well people) can be challenged, and the short easy 'walk in' may be longer and invigorating...
Steve leading 'Shandelle Ibex' 

 ...but worth every bit of it! Tuesday, our first day in Cogne opened my eyes to real ice climbing, and the difference between it and the mixed routes i've done previously.
A mind-blowing location to visit, and life-changing venue to climb in.
Having done my best to capture the place, it was my turn to experience the delights of absent footholds that the crux of a hard steep ice route can provide, and the mental battle to ascend as the Ibex above kicked a constant downpour of ice, snow and occasional loose chippings on my head... 

On reaching the belay point, a little worse for wear, I was informed (by a laughing Keri & Steve) that the female and kid observing us from just across the gully had also added droppings to the mix!

On arrival earlier, a team was already gearing up for 'Lillaz Gully' our intended route, so Shandell Ibex it was. The followed day (Wednesday) we would return : )


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kids S1 Kayak Indoor

A few pics from the Kids Stage 1 Kayak 'Indoor' which ran over half term : )
Superb feedback from the youngsters and parents involved.
Congratulations to everyone on achieving you Paddle Power Start, and we look forward to seeing you on the Stage 2 Kayak Indoor... 
See the Website Calendar for scheduled courses and experiences.
Catch you on the water soon : )
Keirron & The Team