17 January 2022, Repentance Super, Ice Climbing In Cogne

In Cogne the sun has been shining and the ice has been building.  Whilst there is little snow left on the sunny slopes there is plenty of ice, and it’s pretty fat on plenty of great routes at the moment…

Tony approaching the inspiring step ice line of Repentance Super, Valnontey, Cogne

We were keen to sample some of the steeper servings of ice available in beautiful Valnontey and, arriving pretty late, we took a walk to check out conditions and swing the tools to warm up for an early start the next morning…

The beautiful Valnontey, Cogne with the big fat ice line of Monday Money visible in the centre. Repentance is just out of sight to the left and it’s about 1.5-2hrs approach from the parking.

Some of the sunny and slightly less steep lines on the true left bank of the Valnontey are in good condition and there were numerous teams on the long and appealing Il Sentiero dei Troll.  Although these routes get the sun and can have considerable avalanche risk, now seems like a good time to be doing them as whilst the ice is well formed and fat, there is little snow and a very good overnight freeze.

Il Sentiero dei Troll and Valmiana, both II,3. Valnontey, Cogne

Likewise on the shady side, the classic Patri looked fat and neighbouring L’Acheronte had teams on it.  We continued further up the packed down climbers path to join the long approach climb up to the base of Repentance and Monday Money.

Setting off on the steep first pitch of Repentance. Photo Tony Lowe.

Despite the lateness of the hour, and with the knowledge there is a bolt belay in the cave on the right, we set off up the steep first pitch of Repentance.  Using the higher left hand approach meant we were able to climb up to the cave belay in one long pitch of about 55m.  Note that from the right hand approach this is more than 60m and thus most teams were splitting this pitch with a belay in one of the fine ice grottos along the way!   Likewise, even with 2 x 60m ropes, the abseil from the bolts in the cave does not quite take you off the ice at the base of the route.

One of many short traverses weaving up the first pitch of Repentance

The climbing on this big initial pillar is sustained and engrossing with lots of weaving around bulging medusas which provide some steep moves but also some brilliant footholds!  There is a constant cold shower pouring down the centre of the pillar so hard shell waterproofs with a good hood & spare gloves recommended!

Tony taking the dark & cold shower in the cave belay on Repentance

As the hour was late and we were both pretty soaked from the cold shower we headed back down the path enjoying the beautiful full moon lit ambiance of a positively glowing Valnontey.  The fondue and other local culinary delights in the village are also highly recommended!

Atmospheric full moon lit descent of the Valnontey

Having left the wet cave at dusk we re-gained our previous high point just after dawn next morning and any hopes of a reduced flow in the shower were dispelled by the ice coated jacket and ropes.  But the back of the cave is almost dry and we took the weasel detour up and behind an icicle which means the upper pitch is approached in the dry. Impressive exposure is encountered with the step out on to the final pillar.

The belay cave is just to the right of the top climbing and the final pillar above has 15m of vertical climbing leading out of the cave with some brilliant positive hooks!

This pillar was an exquisite feast of positive hook after positive hook.  Vertical for 15m but with sufficiently funky ice to get good footholds to place ice screws and barely the need to swing the tools.  An ice climbing treat par excellent and finishing with another bolt belay on the rock above.

The pillar eases in to an easy angled ramp and a fat bolt belay with fine fat ramp pitch above.

Whilst many teams abseil off from here, the continuation is recommended, both for the 2 nice pitches more climbing and topping out on the expansive plateau above…

Lovely ramp pitch above the pillar giving fun easier angled climbing up to another bolted belay – just over 60m away!
This last pitch is not a path and combines a lovely fat lower ramp with a sustained upper wall

Arriving on the plateau above gives a rare sense, for Cogne, of actually topping out on the route and there are brilliant views of the upper Valnontey and into the glacial heart of the Paradiso National Park.  Also across to the intriguing intricate path and ascent to the Leonessa bivi hut (see below).

Upper Valnontey, Cogne with the intricate path and Leonessa Bivi Hut (2910m) circled in red

We continued the topping out and journey theme (and avoiding rapping back down in to the cold shower) by traversing across to the top of Monday Money and abseiling down that route.

Traversing from the top of Repentance to the summit bolted belay on Monday Money

In five abseils, all off modern bolted anchors, we had an interesting (and dry) descent of of the fat ice in this impressive shady ice feature which is often one of the last things still in condition in Cogne as the season progresses.

Last abseil back to the base of Monday Money – and Repentance

Whilst traversing back to the bags at the base of Repentance, with a wary eye on ice fall from the team established above, we came across a shiny ice screw lying in the boot track.  ‘Booty’ I thought, an excellent end to an excellent days climbing…but randomly I then noticed it had my name on it!  Neither of us had noticed dropping it during the route but at least we had now found it!

Bird nesting restrictions for ice climbing in the upper Valnontey

Repentance has been bird banned for numerous recent years so it was a pleasure to take the opportunity of good conditions and no bird ban this year.  See the notice above for the other routes, further along the valley, Flash Estivo etc, which are indeed prohibited this season.

Tony topping out on Repentance, Valnontey, Cogne

Please get in touch if you would like to do some ice climbing – training – guiding in Cogne or Chamonix.

Chamonix Ice & Mixed Climbing

Tony & Rob summit selfie on Repentance

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