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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Arolla Ice Climbing

~ Monday 28th December 2009

There's plenty of ice climbing in Arolla at the moment. We were climbing yesterday at la Gouille and l'Usine Electrique, then today on the left hand route at the tunnels below la Gouille. Although overall there seems to be less ice than usual, what there is very good. In fact the tunnel route is better frozen than I've seen it in the last few winters with plenty of lines to choose.

 

Pitch 2, Tunnel route

Start of the third pitch, still smiling!

Leading the top pitch

This picture was taken by Kate on her I-phone and e-mailed to me from the car on the way home. Modern technology!

ABS Rucksack

~ Saturday 26th December 2009

 I've just, after lots of deliberation, bought a new 30l Vario ABS Rucksack. Thanks to La-Haut in Sion.

The 30l seems like the most useful volume, but the Vario system means I can get a lightweight 18l zip-on or a monster 50l for touring if needed. 

First impressions are that it's very well made, easy to use, carries very comfortably, and should be a really good ski sack. It's not lightweight, which apart from the price is the big problem. At 3kg for the 30l, you're carrying almost 2kg more than a standard rucksack. This OK for day tours and fine if you're not in a hurry, but it's a lot to carry on a big climb.

It's not just a rucksack of course, so you need to read the instructions and get used to using it. Setting it off by mistake would be easy, and amusing for everyone else. The "home test" is quite exciting - it makes quite a noise! The instructions are excellent and easy to follow, with a DVD to help. I'll write more when it's been better used. 

Here's a pic of the sack looking almost as big as Mont Blanc de Cheilon, and looking like it skinned up there on it's own which is what you'd expect for the money. 

ABS Rucksack - bigger than MBC

Evolene Ice Climbing

~ Wednesday 23rd December 2009

 Great ice climbing today on 2 routes above Evolene. First we climbed the route to the left of the via ferrata. This is a good 50m grade 3/4. Approach as for the VF and it's 25m further right. You can abseil or easily walk off down the gulley. 

The Via Ferrata ice climb

Next it was the slog up to the Coop Icefall - much further than it looks. This is called the Grande cascade d'Evolene in the guidebook and it's directly above the Coop and well visible from the town. 2 big pitches with a choice of grade 3 or 4+ on pitch 1. We went up the 4+ pillar which is in good condition. Some new belay bolts have appeared since last year which makes life easier. Pitch 2 is a great pitch of 4, and it's 2 easy abseils back to the bottom. Then a very fast bumslide through the trees - highlight of the day!

Pitch 2, Coop Icefall

 

Avalanche Death

~ Tuesday 22nd December 2009

 Sad news today with the first avalanche death of the 09/10 season happening yesterday at Tete de Balme above Trient. This is something of a blackspot, with very easy access from the Vallorcine/Le Tour lifts and frequent high winds causing lots of windslab. Conditions recently have been windy - strong westerly - with fresh, cold snow, and most of the skiing here faces NE. The victim was a young french snowboarder, and had no transceiver...he was buried under a metre of snow and without a transceiver he really had no chance of surviving. 

So, get the gear and learn how to use it. And learn how to spot likely avalanche areas. 

I've just got hold of a Mammut Pulse transceiver and Mammut Alugator shovel from V12 in North Wales. This some of the best gear and I'll write a review soon. 

 

Arolla Ice Climbing

~ Wednesday 16th December 2009

 The recent cold spell (-18 in les Hauderes lasts night!) has at last brought some ice into condition. Good climbing today on the Cascade de l'Usine Électrique in Arolla, and reports of good ice on the left hand tunnel route too. The Cascade des Ignes is good too, and there's not too much snow around so the approach is easy.

Cascade de l'Usine Électrique

Flights to Sion

~ Saturday 12th December 2009

 Sion airport is really close to a lot of good skiing, so it's worth checking out flights with Snowjet

Transfer times should be very short - 25mins to Evolene, 45 mins to Verbier, maybe only 20 mins to Nendaz! Zinal/Grimentz, Crans Montana, even Zermatt and Saas Fee are all going to be less than an hour. And the lifts are open now!

Powder in Arolla!

~ Wednesday 9th December 2009

Second ski of the winter today, skinning up through a deserted Arolla ski area - no lifts open yet - to find a great ski. Knee deep fresh tracks!

blue skies and powder in Arolla

View from la Forcla, Dent Blanche, Tsa, Douves Blanches, Dent d'Herens 

Snow in the Alps!

~ Tuesday 1st December 2009

 Yes, winter is back. Weather here has been unusually warm - brilliant for rock climbing but with the ski season starting soon it was time for some snow. 

Well, it's here at last. A good 50cm in les Hauderes in the last 24 hours, and still snowing. Hopefully this will be a good base for skiing, and get a bit of water flowing to form the icefalls. 

Here are 2 contrasting pictures from the last 2 days. Shirts-off cragging in Sion, and the garden table this morning!
town centre crag in Sion

50cm of fresh snow

 

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