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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Ice Climbing

~ Tuesday 22nd February 2011

 Two more excellent days ice climbing - Sunday on the Cascade des Ignes had something of a Scottish feel to it with non-stop snowfall and spindrift. Good climbing though on this remote and beautiful icefall. Worth the walk - and definitely worth taking snowshoes or skis. Anyone expecting to find the bolt belay will be disappointed - it's under several feet of ice, so go prepared to top out, or make threads to abseil. There's an old peg belay too but it leaves you hanging in space...

After 3 days of peace and quiet in Arolla we went to Chamonix on Monday, timing our visit to coincide with the first powder skiing for 6 weeks and the usual Grands Montets queue chaos. Luckily there was no-one climbing and we had a great day on Nuits Blanches, which seemed to tick the "something a bit more challenging" box for John. This is still in great condition and we've swept all the fresh snow off it now...Thanks to Rob Jarvis of High Mountain Guides for the picture - he stuck his head over the edge to find me sweeping snow and cursing hot aches on the top pitch. 

Evolene Ice Climbing

~ Saturday 19th February 2011

More ice today, this time on the excellent Grand Casdade d'Evolene (or the Coop Icefall) Strangely there is almost no snow below the route so the usual snow plod has been replaced by hard frozen ground covered in larch needles - a surface which seems to give even less friction than ice. Once at the route the climbing was great - hard but good ice and lots of it. 

Top of the route with Evolene below

Arolla Ice Climbing

~ Friday 18th February 2011

 Back in Arolla today - blue skies and perfect ice conditions. The skiing isn't brilliant at the moment but the tunnel ice routes were better than I've ever seen them. We finished the day top-roping the free standing pillar which has formed off the roof of the avalanche protection - road-side ice!

 

Chamonix Ice Climbing

~ Wednesday 16th February 2011

 When high winds and the end of the spell of settled weather frustrated our mountaineering plans we found ourselves heading for the classic Chamonix  Ice Climb "Les Nuits Blanches". Not bad for a plan B - quick access walking up the piste from Grands Montets mid station leads to 2 abseils in to the route. Steep ice always looks steeper from an abseil rope and this was no exception. Luckily, though steep, the climbing follows an intricate line weaving between amazing mushroom formations, with plenty of rests. 

Abseiling...

Second pitch

Near the top

 

 

Couloir des Toilettes

~ Sunday 13th February 2011

 The name is a bit misleading now the Vignettes hut has been modernised, but if you ever looked down the hole of the old toilets...yes, it's the obvious gully below the (in)famous "long drop"! The main track on the Glacier des Pieces currently leads very close under the Pigne seracs - it's well worth keeping to the left going up. 

Teams passing very close under seracs...

Funky sculpture on the glacier

Nice little sculpture on the big rock on the glacier!

The entry to the gully is fairly steep, convex, shady, lee slope, and leads to a 700m couloir...so not a place for dodgy conditions. 

The top

 The snow today was lovely for 5 turns...then crusty with huge sastrugi...then very firm the rest of the way down - easy to ski but important not to fall... 

In the firing line!

Narrower and steeper low down

Tsena Refien

~ Friday 11th February 2011

 More nice turns today on this big face - the one up and left on the way to the Pas de Chevre. Strangely no-one has been up here for a while so no up track meant lots of plodding, but it was all worth it. Some really nice snow. 

The big news is possible FRESH SNOW forecast on tuesday! 

Looking down...

 

Tsalion Couloir

~ Monday 7th February 2011

 The long spell of dry weather means some very stable snow for steeper skiing - today the Tsalion Couloir in Arolla. This is a local classic, not that steep but it's a long way up from Arolla...

Surprisingly firm snow - I climbed in crampons all the way - and a few rocks to avoid in the top section, but otherwise a good ski. Even the inevitable battle through the woods back to the village wasn't too bad...

Here's an excellent video by local guide Gilles Sierro of the obvious righthand branch - the Genolet couloir. 

Looking back up the couloir

Bit rocky at the top

 

 

Grimentz and Zinal

~ Monday 7th February 2011

 Another good week in Grimentz and Zinal. Despite the very dry winter the skiing is holding up well here. Excellent piste and off piste, and even the odd pocket of powder - though not quite British Columbian standards...

Good snow skiing to the Moiry dam

Steep entry to the Abondance descent

 

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