15 Feb 2022, Cascade du Dard, Sixt-Fer-Cheval 🇫🇷

Dark and wet, infact properly chucking it down.  We couldn’t help wondering if we were keen or just mad this morning on leaving the Arve Valley.  We were heading north and in to the Réserve Naturelle Nationale de Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval…to find out!

Magical powder atmosphere in the Chablais elf forests above Sixt-Fer-Cheval. About 1hr to the base of the route from the parking.

Whilst the week ahead looks wet and warm, today remained cool – enough!  It was lightly snowing in Sixt-Fer-Cheval and big flakes of snow settled in the accumulating powder as we pottered up through the lovely winter forest towards the Cascade de Dard at 1350m.

The impressive first sight of the steep upper column on the approach to Cascade du Dard.

The line of the cascade ejecting in to a free standing vertical column from the gentle forests above to then be smeared over the rock walls below gives quite an impressive first sight of the route!

Sustained wall climbing on the first pitch, with slower going in the fresh snow on the ledges. The route trends up and diagonally left to tackle the steep pillar top L.

The climbing is sustained from the off with long pitches and slightly slower going today with the fresh snow on the ledges but, on the other hand, lovely chewy toffee ice beneath!

An easy ramp and steep featured groove give good climbing on the 2nd pitch to a well sheltered ice screw belay in a small grotte on the left under overhanging icicles

The 2nd pitch gives some fun steep moves up through a groove, with bits of delicate ice, but good protection either side and a fine grotto ice cave belay out on the Left.

Steep but featured and fun easier climbing leads up the 3rd pitch towards the based of the huge column above…

Above that some steep but featured and fun moves on ice cauliflowers lead in to an excellent easy groove.  This had 2 in-situ abalokovs at the top of it which was the only fixed gear we found on the route (apart from the bolts at the top).

Great sustained climbing on the steep final pillar of the Cascade du Dard, Sixt-Fer-Cheval

Whilst the final column pitch looked both inspiring and really steep from the road and walk-in, it appeared to lie back a bit from the belay below and was looking like a good ‘soft touch’ pitch of 6!   It’s funny how the apparent angle of ice changes according to where it’s viewed from though, as whilst climbing up it…it felt pretty steep again!

The top of the long & steep final pitch of Cascade du Dard. Photo Neil Hitchings.

But the ice was solid, good conditions, a few half decent footholds from previous teams, plenty of good hooks and screws and really enjoyable steep climbing which comically switches from the vertical to the horizontal as you enter the stream bed that feeds the cascade from above.  This mini gorge heads off up in to the woods whilst we headed back down the route, abseiling off the 2 old style bolts…

The climbing rapidly goes from plumb vertical – to plumb horizontal! You can see why the Dard is a better choice than many other cascades when it’s snowy – an easy angled stream through the forest at the top of the route. Old style bolt belay here but no other fixed gear seen on the route.

Apart from the 2 threaded abalokovs at the top of the 3rd pitch, any other fixed gear was either buried by the fresh snow – or maybe the fashion is shifting from abalokov threads to clean lunule séche (threading the abseil ropes directly through the ice thread).   We joined the fashion and did several of these to rappel back down the route in 4 pitches.

A good adventure and quiet today with the snowy conditions perhaps, but still just freezing – nice chewy ice! Rappels down the route done on ice abalakovs / lunules sèches.

It was 0C back at Sixt, and still lightly snowing, but it does look like a thaw is inbound towards the end of the week before a return to cooler conditions for the weekend.

Ice conditions remain pretty good – please get in touch if you would like to do some intro training or guiding on routes.

Chamonix Ice & Mixed Climbing

Our Winter – Spring 2022 Ski Courses – Remaining Availability

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Well earned views from the Ben Nevis summit plateau after an ascent of the North Face