Monday, 28 January 2008

La Grave...part 5

For our last route of the trip we ventured to Vallon du Diable. This was a new area for us though we had been in for a look in the past. The climbs on the south facing cliffs were deteriorating and we saw and heard avalanches of ice and rock coming down the gullies. At one point, the path was affected by avalanche debris from both sides.
We picked out routes and saw climbers on L'Autisme, Les Hermos a Godo and some folk on a south facing route who were either very brave or mad! Ron and I climbed Les Larmes du Chaos (II,4) on good ice with some typically Scottish spindrift on the third pitch which made us feel very much at home! We found that the belays differed a bit from the guidebook description as it seems that some new belay chains have been added on the left (as you climb) for the top of the first pitch and again at the top of the third pitch.
Our last day was spent back at Alpes d'Huez skiing the black runs of the Tunnel and Sarenne. Both are lovely long runs with Sarenne giving a great trip through the ever narrowing valley back to a lift which gives a bit of an up and down return right to the car park.
We ended of the trip with a good meal at a local restaurant before an early start the next day to get to Grenoble and a bit of an Easyjet epic to return to Inverness!

La Grave...part 4

La Colere du Ciel (II, 3+)...lovely steep ice for me on the first main pitch and Ron purposely chose the steepest line he could find on the top pitch! For the first four pitches up the initial bit of ice and then the snowy couloir, we moved together which saved loads of time. This was actually the only route when we met up with other climbers "en masse" and even then, it was only because a guided group followed us up.
The descent down from this route is just one abseil then an adventure through the trees to find the bottom of the gully and the rucksacks! Especially fun when there is no trail!

La Grave...part 3

We went up to Valseuses for a look and Ron began the climb but the ice was fragile and he wasn't too happy about the ice screws. The temperature was quite mild and even though we were on the north facing side of the valley, there was a lot of water running down alongside the route.
A skiing day next and we all go to Alpe d'Huez. This was partly to look at the ice routes there but also because there are some great ski runs down from Pic Blanc (3330m).
The weekend past by and we were tempted by La Meije so we all went up on the cable car and had two great runs down from the top to the first cable car station, down snowy couloirs and through the trees. Our third and last run down from the top took us all the way down to La Grave.

La Grave...part 2

Les Moulins (III, 6) was the next route Ron and I went to and we had it all to ourselves until late on in the day. It quite surprised us just how few climbers we met this trip!
I decided on a steep start to the first pitch then swam my way through all the fresh snow to our first belay, a full 60m pitch. On the next pitch, Ron found an intresting steep start again then more snow and icy bulges for another 60m to a belay "rive droite" below the pitch that lead up to the "cigare". The "cigare" is the bit that gives the route the technical grade 6 so we opted to leave that for another trip but it did look fantastic.
Ian went skiing at Les Deux Alpes and enjoyed the fresh powder. The freetrek skis that we all use, fat snowblades really, float well on powder snow and are great for skiing down gullies too.
Le Lerie at the Grands Clots area was in condition and we had thought about doing it but another party were just starting up. As the days went by, we saw this route quickly disintegrate as did the other routes in the Clot section. Being south facing meant that all the routes on this side of the valley were disapperaing fast.

La Grave...part 1

On Saturday 12 January Ron, Ian and I arrived in La Grave hopeful that we would find plenty of ice to climb on and good conditions for skiing. Lat year was warm and there was ice to be found only on the higher routes. This year the snow was falling heavily so it was difficult to see just what routes were good but all the fresh snow gave us a great day skiing at the nearby village of Les Chazelet.

Ian went for another day skiing again at Les Chazelet and Ron and I headed off to climb Le Pylone (I, 3) We could see other climbers on the route from our apartment window so waited till a bit later in the morning so we would be the last. It was good climbing though the top pitch, my lead, was steeper than I remembered from our previous visits. We were intrigued to find that one long abseil with 60m ropes took us from the top belay right down to the bottom.

All in all a promising start to the trip.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Wintry and windy

Clare, Trevor and I went snowhole digging today as it seemed a good use of a very windy day. The wind picked up the snow and ice crystals and made goggles a very useful bit of kit. By the time we started walking back down, the skiing had stopped for the day and the winds felt like they were increasing rather than dropping as one forecast predicted. The weather gave a truly wintry day and just what they both wanted to experience.