Lately with Gian we have not been able to see each other all that often to go climbing together. But when it does happen, we usually go and get stuck into some alternative climb or open a new line. Last week, given the conditions that were generally demotivating, we decided to meet up to fix a few things at the “B&B” sector (Cogne).
A good opportunity to get away from the crowds and do a bit of training. So a drill and 4 bolts, 2 pitons, 3 screws, 3 friends and 8 quickdraws were added to the rucksack. During the approach, we chatted as always about this and that and of course, there was no shortage of memories and projects from the past and for the future. When we arrived in the “B&B” sector, the chatter was halted by the sighting of a strip of ice that on other occasions had already caught our attention. But you can only see the strip of ice… the lower part is still obscured by a rocky shoulder. Gian looked at me and suddenly said, “Ok let’s go there.” Any other person would have taken it as an impromptu joke. But he knew that I would have consented his decision and so we went straight for it, although a little contemptuous because of the small amount of equipment present in the rucksack. The risk of doing little or nothing at all was very high.
L1 goes easily up the line with a bit of “free style” because of snow still present. L2 however, in very much “Scottish” conditions, makes me work a little more. I know that this pitch’s conditions can vary greatly therefore, I will be very careful about choosing how I go about bolting it, taking everything into consideration. I head off with the drill slung around my neck and the small amount of equipment that I have with me. If the line from underneath seems a little bit forced, in reality it is actually a very fun climb. Today (well actually last week!!!) there is a nice mix of rock and ice. On a pitch of about 50 meters, I will only place 2 bolts, because sometimes there may well be more ice, or in dry conditions you can easily place protection in the rock. I would say almost miraculously I am able to climb the entire pitch and get to the first terrace. I decide to stop here and allow Gian to warm up, who is by now a little iceman at the base of the pitch. He will finish the pitch just a few meters further up, positioning the anchor away from the pitch with the hanging stalactite. I continue for a few more meters to explore the third pitch, then seeing as all the equipment has been used up, we go home with the intention to finish this “work in progress” soon.
Today is finally the big day. We start off early in the morning to avoid the warmer temperatures. We arrive quickly at the base of the last wall. The ball is passed to Gian who knows a little bit about carpentry. The pitch presents itself more complex than expected with many cracks present: even though this does not change the angle of the wall… Gian bolts a perfect route up until the ice and then it is my turn. Gian abseils down, we eat, drink and relax for a moment. The Sun is approaching inexorably. We are ready to start, the rope is uncoiled and we must take it back up the route, this time all the way to the anchor! I climb the first rocky part well and then a bit of hesitation comes over me when I have to hang onto the ice. It always has a certain effect when you pass from rock to a piece of ice the size of a bus that is hanging down. It is true that there are bolts on the rock, but it is also true that the arms are knackered and it is best not to bolt this candle of ice! After some hesitation and a risk of drowning at high altitude from the melting edges, I get out onto the final terrace.
The sun begins to shine on the frozen waterfall. We warm up but we are better off heading down as soon as possible before even this candle warms up! Allé!!! Another beautiful route completed.
Thanks Gian! La Valeille still has some intriguing surprises for us.