Last year when out in Chamonix with James Thacker, we had hit Cogne in the Aosta valley hoping to climb some great ice straight from the car park (or just about) at the 5 pitch, frozen waterfall of cascade Lillaz.
Sadly conditions didn’t meet our hopes and its was much more water and slush than ice so instead we had headed up for a few pitches of Lillaz gully .. much more of a Scottish walk in .. see Cogne Ice. No walk ins?
With us back in Les Houches for a weeks skiing this year, we chanced our luck and James and I headed back to see if Lillaz was in and were rewarded with what I can only describe as the most amazing water ice , multi pitch cascade climbing I have even experienced.
Pitch one instantly reminded me ice is king and that I was out of practice .. my swings were loose and sloppy, dinner plates all around , gripping hard , getting tired. It was a good wake up call !
By pitch 2 though I was much more in my stride. Technique back in, relaxed , good feet , hips in, resting arms and climbing well . Working much more fluidly and efficiantly, choosing axe placements more, swicthig axes as needed and just enjoying being in the moment – definitely more grin than grimace 🙂
We flowed well up the remaining pitches, some great steep, more vert columns , some wet and softer sections , some bullet hard ones.. everything you want !!
After topping out and rapping back to a walk off point we had plenty of energy left in the tank (whhc isnt always the case so demosnatrted how stoked I was) so James suggested we have a crack at a narrow, steep variation off to the right of pitch 2 (I think?) . It was super steep, more waterfall than wall but there was no questions of of both having a bash.. even if it might need to be a careful one.
Time for some fun !
James led off and as I belayed it was clear this would be no cakewalk. Tubes of ice mean sensitive feet work, rock offering some options for feet and once he got the top belay I got ready.
Looking up it was steep, very steep and with no obvious line of weakness.
Getting started was tricky, once established there was some drop knee onto rock needed and some careful axe and foot work, a few good hooks if you could find them . At one point I was effectively laybacking , holding a tube of ice , axe buried above me trying to get a good footing and take a screw out the ice!
Topped out and James lowered me off. Maybe only 10m at about WI4+ but it had packed a lot of fun into a small package !
Off down the short path , a great italian coffee in the new cafe at thecar park and then off back to Cham.
We got a lot out a short day and I loved every minute of it. Cheers again James!