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Date: January 2012
Submitted by: George Carleton

Feeling the itch to get back on to some vertical ice I put out the feelers to see who else might be up for a challenge. Sandra, Peter, Mike and Clare where keen and jumped on board for a long weekend climbing in the area around Cogne.

We flew into Geneva around 1pm and were on the road shortly after; we had plenty of time to reach our destination so we stopped in Chamonix for lunch, Mike led us to Poco Loco where I had the biggest burger I've ever eaten, it even had chips in the burger, we had a quick look about the town before continuing to our hotel Les Nigritelles in Lillaz.

For our first days climbing we settled on the Cascade de Lillaz 250m grades 3 which was a 10 or 15min walk from the hotel.

Peter and Mike teamed up for the first day and I climbed with Clare and Sandra. It was a good choice for our first climb and one I think everyone enjoyed.

It was still early when we finished on the Cascade so we had a coffee in Lillaz and then headed off to do another climb E Tutto Relativo grade 4. The first pitch was straight forward, and then came an easy angled pitch of snow which led to the crux pitch, a 90 degree curtain of ice which was now running with water being quite late in the afternoon.

Mike was keen to lead this pitch which he did in good style, braving the torrent of ice cooled water to get onto the face of the ice. Peter followed on second. With the day moving on and the light starting to fade, myself Sandra and Clare decided to abseil off and leaving the lads to enjoy some challenging climbing.

The following day I was climbing with Peter while Mike, Sandra and Clare made a team. Our objective was Candelabro del Coyote, 180m 4+/5, I led off following behind a couple of Italian climbers that had beat us to the start to the route.

Peter followed on tackling the steep 2nd pitch and I finish by leading the 3rd.

There where a couple of near misses with ice being knocked loose narrowly missing Mike and Sandra; one of these was bigger than a concrete block and landed about a foot from Sandra who was belaying Mike at the time, but thankfully they escaped without injury.

Peter and I then went on to climb Tuborg 200m 4+/5, the route was quite busy; peter led the first pitch climbing around 2 guys who where following a guide, while belaying I had a few encounters with dislodged ice bouncing off my helmet. By the time I finished leading the top pitch I was feeling the strain and was happy to head back to the Hotel for some R and R.

By day 3 we or at least I was beginning to tire so we were looking for something a little less challenging than the previous day.

In the guide book Clare had spotted a grade 3+ called Thoule in the Valnontey valley which seemed to fit the bill.

There had been light but continual snow showers during the night which made getting to the climb a little more difficult.

I was climbing with Mike who led off on the first pitch, we then plodded up a snow ramp and I led the next pitch, which felt like the hardest I had done on the trip, due to a combination of factors from snow on the ice, the ice being brittle and arms that were beginning to feel the work they had done over the previous two days. By the time I reached the top I was busted and ready for the security of the belay chains. When Mike joined me we abseiled off with the others following shortly after.

The area around Cogne offers great climbing in a stunning setting and relatively quick and easy to get to from Geneva, taking us less than 3 hours to get back to the airport from the hotel even with my cautious driving. The hotel was a popular base for climbers and cross country skiers, it was close to the climbing and an added bonus was that we where able to borrow Black Diamond and La Sportiva kit to trial for free and the owners where helpful and friendly.

13 Feb 2012

George, great pics, looks like team had a fab trip, would definately go if you are returning, beats Cairmgorm whiteouts ny day.

14 Feb 2012

Sounds a good trip. I was glad to read about your cafe loitering and feel we need more of this.

15 Feb 2012

It was a good trip but the Cairngorms and Scotland in general are hard to beat when the ever elusive good conditions are present, the Italian food and the coffee might just beat its Scottish counterparts though.

16 Feb 2012

I loved Scottish Winter climbing when it used to be reliable. If you can do the ski bit I really rate 2 or more day Winter Alpine routes but you can be unlucky with the weather

16 Feb 2012

George, great Pics and report. Well done everybody - great when a trip works out :)

20 Feb 2012

Jez guys that sounds fantastic ! well done !

Photo of Route
Il Candelabro del Coyote, Valeille Rive Gauche - Sandra, Clare and Mike at the top of the first pitch