Antares, Valsavaranche

ANTARES is one of my favorite venues for ice climbing. It is the whole experience that makes a real WOW day! The drive up into the Valsavaranche valley is truely beautiful. The remote feel of not seeing a soul around just bouquetins dancing in the snow is just wild. Getting ready, putting boots on in a warm cafe sipping a cappucino is very civilized. The 10 min walk in even better!

The first pitch is covered in snow with just a little step of ice before the 1st belay on the right. Then the second pitch is a real calf muscle burner! Not steep enough to be standing up right, but tricky enough to be wanting to use both axes. Louise has her own technique...

The third pitch is a full on 50 m of vertical ice of grade 4/4+, well formed, very "fat ice" but also very hard ice. I got a real pump working my way up "dinner plating"placements. OK fair enough this is my first outing of the season. Isn't strange how your mind can block out the simplest usful information... like breathing, not gripping manically tight on to the axes, shaking out, body positioning...

I left the car park with only 6 ice screws. I soon discoverd that the extra confidence ice screws can provide is essential. I used my first ice screw to protect the belay. I was then down to 5. When I tried to place my second and I discovered it was totally blunt and impossible to use. I was down to 4. Then I suddenly looked at my rack and with one very short ice screw I was litterally climbing with only 3 1/2... Oh la la my imagination was playing tricks on me...

I got the hot aches, hands and feet. I forgot that ice climbing can be painful and very scary. I belayed from this niche standing under the ice-curtain of the final pitch admiring the great view out to the valley, right in front of the Grand Paradiso. I just can't help it. It is so good to be out on ice again.

The final pitch is a very short traverse and the ice is all much softer, it felt much easier.

Quick abseils and we were back at the car in no time. What a way to start the winter!

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One Response to Antares, Valsavaranche

Anonymous said...

joli, joli ! ça donne envie !!!
Et il y a meme des videos, quelle classe !

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