Text and pictures © 2012-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2013/03/17
"Early season or new ice is often little more than unconsolidated icicles stuck together with the climber's optimism." — Will Gadd.
Left: We managed to climb over 10 different pitches of ice less than a km from home. There's quite a few possibilities in the Furon on the road from Sassenage just before entering Lans. Some are mixed climbing but there are a few pure ice routes like the grade 2~3 you see in the back of the image.
2012 didn't start off too well for the ice climbing season. Too warm and too much snow. Still I managed to climb a bit of wet ice, but really looking for it. Then at the end of January the weather turned to a bitter and sustained cold. We had -21C at home and the night temperature didn't go over -14C for several weeks.
Right: The most interesting and also one of the easiest is the icefall at the back of the cave on the east side of the road.
The Vercors is more reknown for its caving than for its ice climbing, but we managed to combine the two 2 minutes from home.
Left: Third step inside the cave (just a few meters).
Right: Last part of the cave, with a good 40 meters exiting through a hole right in the middle of the forest.
Left: Jenny at the end of the Furon cave icefall.
Now the Vercors is not known as a place for ice climbing: not high enough, but above all not enough water. Since it's all karstic limestone, there are few springs and few streams or rivulets running down the many cliffs. This year is different: it snowed in early december and the snowed stayed and slowly dripped water in places that never had ice before.
Right: 'Sablier des Roberts', a little wet at the start.
Left: End of the 1st pitch (grade 3). The rope got wet and will freeze nicely on the next pitch.
Yes, I know this is nowhere near the Vercors, but I'm just putting it on this page for now, mkay ? This route is located right above Livet, soon after leaving Grenoble on the road towards Briancon. It's probably in conditions hardly even once every 10 years.
Left: Agostino on the 3rd pitch (grade 2)
Right: A good view on what we thought was the last pitch: 50 meters of very wet grade 4 followed by an extra 20 meters of gullied 2.
Left: OK, so we are doing ice climbing in the sun on a south facing route at 400m altitude. Does that mean I can't complain about getting wet ?!? The rope turned into a raw spaghetti and I had to shoulder belay Ago.
Right: Can a frozen screamer still catch a fall whether you scream or not ?
Right: The upper part of the paravalanche icefall in the Bourne valley. There are at least 2 more pitches below the road. And as you see, the start of the route can prove interesting if there's traffic on the road. And usually there's plenty. We had a good view on this while we were on the Arbois icefall.
Left: The terrifying free-standing at the start of the route. Incredibly fragile ice. I planted 2 screws by just pushing them in and when an axe and a foot ripped through the ice like it was melted butter I saw Ago praying with both hands instead of belaying me...
Right: A preceding party on the barely cohesive ice: it was like fingers of ice barely stuck together.
Left: The 3rd pitch, the only one with good ice all the way, even if the way was slightly overhanging for a while.
Right: Ago at the end of the 4th pitch, where we went through a tunnel with plenty of fragile columns that kept breaking off.
Left: The start of the 5th pitch and yet another fragile free-standing... going through an arch.
Right: Ago testing the ice on the free-standing and then wisely deciding not to lead it.
Left: Ago going through the arch.
Right: Ago leading the 6th and final pitch.
Left: Dry climbing at a the special site of L'Abattoir, in Meaudre. Here on the rightmost route, one of the easiest... as you can see ! Mostly complete guidebook here.
Right: The Coulmes seen in winter from the Pierre Percée pass, a pass I usually take in mountain bike.
Left: Several parties are vying for the 1st repeat of the newly ascended Nave waterfall which managed to freeze for the 1st time in the 2012 winter. I passed them all going solo. Still there are 2 pitches of 4 and 2 of 5.
Right: Coming down the Draye des Communaux.
Left: Going up the Draye de Seblou. Which branch ? I take the left one and stay stuck for 30 minutes at a delicate boulder move. In crampons.
Right: Meta on the artificial waterfall of Lans.
Right: Stas on the very hard M8 first pitch of dry climbing.
Left: End of the rock and start of the ice. The cliff catches the early sun in march.
The Rail de Chalimont is an attractive line of ice right above the road leading to St Julien en Vercors. Unfortunately the ice never reaches the ground due to a massive overhang. The smoothness of the rock ensures that this first pitch is hard, even though it is protected by alternating pitons and bolts. The next pitch is a 60m grade 6 in good ice when we did it.IR("Vercors/20130303_092233_Chalimont.jpg", "Start of the long and steep 2nd pitch."); PR(); IL("Vercors/20130303_110304_Chalimont.jpg", "Rapelling down the line."); PL(); ?>