Antares WI 4, Valsavarenche 🇮🇹
Whilst the early season ice conditions are pretty decent over in Cogne, as it was a busy weekend due to the Ice opening festival there, we opted to climb on the other side of the Gran Paradiso and enjoyed the quiet, chilly and very short walk through the powder snow up to the vase of Antares from the Valsavarenche road.
Lots of teams arrived later to enjoy the decent early season conditions and some fat ice on the main steep pitch of Antares, but it was quiet early on and Rami and I had the route to ourselves for the ascent, not for the abseil descent!
After an easy snowy walk to the first belay there is some more easy snowy ground before the pleasant steady ice leads up to the fixed anchor in the rock on the left.
There is either a move left to get across the rock slabs to the anchor, or possibly easier to go left sooner and climb more direct. On starting the steeper main ice pitch above – there was a small section of fixed rope on this anchor – making it easier to down climb and traverse out on to the ice – as the traverse from the height of the anchor itself would be across bare rock.
The main 2nd pitch was in good condition and a pleasure to climb several steep bulges with good axe placements and an easing of the angle after each bulge with decent opportunities for placing ice screws. We had done some previous intro ice training but this was Rami’s first proper ice route – and it packed a punch with a few fine short vertical sections.
Whilst there is a mini waterfall down the centre of this upper wall, this is easily avoided in the nice big dry cave on the left with bolt anchor and ledge big enough for a comfortable bivi! The waterfall could be passed easily and rapidly starting the 3rd pitch which looks like it’s going to be steeper than it is, with big footholds and good hooks rapidly leading to an easing of the angle and another bolt anchor, this time on the right.
The last pitch did not seem to have had much traffic and was an unappealing combination of thin ice with water running below and deep soft snow above. We started rapping back down the route!
Back down in the valley floor it had gone from a chilly -9C in the shade to a very pleasant sunny and sparkling winter ambiance with folk enjoying the good conditions on the cross country ski track in Pont, not to mention of course the obligatory Italian cappuccino at the café.
There are various other lines forming in the Valsavarenche although none we saw looked as fat and complete as Antares and the mild weather forecast for the next few days will not help in building these further.
Jardiland, M3+ Leysin 🇨🇭
As a contrast to the Italian ice, we enjoyed some Swiss mixed, at the friendly and very new mixed climbing crag above Leysin, Jardiland. This is a good place to swing the tools in to frozen turf; fettle picks in to limestone cracks; enjoy some short and steady mixed routes….whilst clipping bolts along the way!
We climbed both of the very new ‘sport mixed’ style routes in the centre of the crag, ‘Cochonium-19’ and ‘La Balade de Dalton’ which both feature a mix of short limestone walls often with good turf placements above and bolts below up to around M3+ (around Scottish grade III-IV).
There are quite a few bolts on the steeper sections but obviously less so on the easier snowy turfy sections and we placed a few nuts and cams as part of a good overall mixed climbing training day including a couple of abseils back down the crag to climb another route.
Both routes have a shared top out with various fixed anchors and bolt and peg runners and some fun steep moves up a short rattly limestone chimney crack!
On topping out on the crag – any decent tree anchors are well back so it’s worth ensuring you have plenty of rope to reach them! Walking off gave a pleasant change to abseiling and an atmospheric Scottish feel, apart from the fine views to the Dents du Midi big north faces of the Mont Blanc Massif!
Clearly this is not a big or impressive crag but it’s a fun place to climb with a very easy approach and will catch on as an interesting new venue to train mixed climbing for maybe future ascents of some of those north faces…or other fine mixed routes above Leysin for that matter. Thanks to Simon Chatelan’s new Swiss mixed climbing guide book for the inspiration and Pierre Bady and Danig Pohin for their work developing this crag.
Get in touch this winter if we can help with some cascade ice climbing and winter climbing, mountaineering training, glacier snow shoe walking, private guiding for Chamonix ski touring and off piste skiing.
If you prefer to join one of our group courses, we have places available on our winter & spring 2023 ski touring, off piste and Mont Blanc & Matterhorn training group courses…
- 14-15 Jan, Intro Ski Touring Weekend in Chamonix – Places Available
- 23-26 Jan, Off Piste & Ski Touring Skills Progression – Course Full
- 23-27 Jan, Off Piste & Ski Touring Skills Classic – 1 Place Available
- 30 Jan – 3 Feb, Off Piste & Ski Touring Skills Classic – Course Full
- 11-12 Feb, Val Feret & Rifugio Bonatti Ski Touring Weekend – Places Available
- 11-12 March, Grand St. Bernard Intro Ski Touring Weekend – Course Full
- 20-23 March, Off Piste & Ski Touring Skills Progression – 1 Place Available
- 20-24 March, Off Piste & Ski Touring Skills Classic – Places Available
- 25-26 March, Intermediate Ski Touring Weekend Grand St Bernard Monastery – 1 Place Available
- 23-28 April, Spring Ski Summits (with optional Ski Mont Blanc extension) – Course Full
- 27-29 April, Ski Gran Paradiso (with optional Ski Mont Blanc extension) – Places Available
- 27 April – 3 May, Ski Mont Blanc – Course Full
Mountaineering & Training Courses
- 4-5 Feb, Mont Blanc Winter Training Weekend Cairngorms 🏴– Course Full
- 8-9 April, Mont Blanc Training Weekend Snowdonia 🏴 – Places Available
- 15-16 April, Mont Blanc Training Weekend West Highlands 🏴 – Places Available
- 22-23 April, Matterhorn Training Weekend Scottish Highlands 🏴 – Places Available
- 13-14 May, Matterhorn Training Weekend Snowdonia 🏴 – Places Available
- 20-21 May, Mont Blanc Training Weekend Snowdonia 🏴 – Places Available