Text and pictures © 2012-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/20
"Ice climbing grades are quite simple. If it looks easy, it's hard. If it looks at your level, it's terrifying. If it looks hard, don't even think about it."
Left: Patri icefall, one of those that forms among the first.
Every year a group of Ascoli climbers team up to go climb ice somewhere. Last year we went to the valleys above Aosta and had fantastic ice conditions. But I broke my camera the first day. This year the bis repetita is not so good: it's been warm all winter and it just snowed a lot. Hardly one icefall out of 10 is formed, so we have to fight it out with plenty of other parties.
Right: Adriano at the base of Patri. Ice a little wet.
Left: Upper part of Patri: choice between a wide grade 4 that finishes in a narrow gully, or a steep grade 5. We start on the 5 where I get hosed down to my underwear by passing underneath a heavy water flow. That's ice climbing for you.
Right: View on the left side of Patri.
Left: Adriano on the left Patri, basically the same image as on the right.
Right: Another party right in the shower on the right Patri.
Right: Antonella on Antares, testing her new helmet.
Left: 3rd pitch of Antares.
Left: Daniele on lead on Antares.
Right: Ares on Antares. Yup, that's not a typo. Apparently the greek name of the star comes from the planet Mars (Ares) and the fact that you can mistake them, both red and bright.
Right: Among all those wet waterfalls, it's surprising to find one that is not only formed, but also in very good conditions and dry, like the free-standing 'Sogno Realizzato'.
Left: The crux move of Sogno Realizzato, a heel hook to get onto a ledge...
Right: Adriano on the other side of the free-standing.
Last year the conditions were fantastic and we were doing an average of 5 pitches a day, often more and I came back from the trip with forearms having doubled in size. Not so this year, the few pitches we did not compensating the long waits in line under the snow.
Right: Finally a place that's not too crowded. Well, maybe because we walked for an hour in the wrong direction. After a phone call we are back on the proper trail and find the icefall... Note the sling around the tree, left by poachers.
Left: ...under a thick layer of snow.
Right: Constant avalanches dump snow on the audacious belayers. Simply wiping the snow off the ice so you can plant the pick turns into 2 cubic meters of snow on the heads of the belayers.
Left: As Guido finished the 2st pitch the snowfall intensifies. I lead the good but short overhanging 2nd pitch and then we head home to dry. Better luck next year maybe.
Right: Cleaning up the curtain a bit before going through.
Left: Ice climbing in the sun.
Right: Yeah, I'll place pro whenever I feel like it.
Left: High traffic on the easiest icefall around.