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Monday, February 27, 2017

Ice-age in Wallis 2017

January and February, at least in my humble opinion, are not the best months to do outings in higher Alps. However, each period  of the year and each conditions bring something one can do. Skiing in powder and ice-climbing are the right choice for these two cold winter months, although this winter in the west Alps is comparable to the usual winter on Petrin in Prague.

The ices I am going to report about are marked in the map 1.-5. In fact, ice is all around in these valleys and we decided for those most suitable for us. To be more precise: climbing on third and fourth degree of ice-climbing scale.

I was very lucky that I found right friends this year to explore ice-climbing regions in valleys of Wallis.  Well, "explore" with guide book Hot Ice West is not really exploration. I shall say "following tips and instructions of  the guidebook with hope that ice is there. " And it was there ...

1) The first ice we climbed this winter is positioned in north face of la Maya, marked as 1 in the map. More picture can be seen here: dandy_fb.  This ice is worth to climb when there is not enough snow on the slopes above it, otherwise avalanche is more than probable. It has 5-6 pitches of easy climbing and it can be recommended as easy start to the season. There is always some belay station, just look left on the rock.

la Maya
Climbing la Maya ice is not so exhausting, so one can be still hungry of climbing. There is an option located on the left from second belay station. One needs to cross steep slope where 10 m long challenging vertical ice can be found. I climbed it three times with top rope and none of the tries was without a fall.

2) Ice called "Cascade du Tunnel" because it located above the tunnel. It offers many beautiful lines on 3rd and 4th degree. There shall not be a big danger of avalanches, however it is better to climb it when there is not too much snow. Firstly because the access to the foot of the ice is leading over steep and long slope and secondly because snow would constantly fall down from upper parts of the ice. Nevertheless, this ice is ranked as the best in this valley so it is worth to climb it when conditions are appropriate.

Cascade du Tunnel
3) There are two vertical ice-falls on the right side right after Evolene. One is huge, 60 m, huge, scary ice-fall. Second one named "Sans Nom" (it is really its name) that is not that scary, but still 40 m  long vertical line rated 4+. Mrkva was on a lead and I was just staring at him. After we climbed this one we continued little bit further following the stream that created that ice-fall and found small arena that is not mentioned in the guidebook although it offers many short vertical lines.

Sans Nom

My line in Arena, nicer then Mrkva's one :-)

We descended from the Arena by the other stream that creates that 60 m long ice-fall. That one we rappelled down to ensure ourselves that it was good decision not to climb it. Firstly it is tough, secondly, that ice is probably in good shape only few days in year. The ice stood separately from the rock only on its own weight. But this one could realize only when reaching its top.

4) Zinal. This place is not in the guidebook. It is perfect playground where one can practice also after sunset. The lines are not very long (up to 30 m) but those one on the right can be pretty tough. This place is often used for courses and one needs to get up early to be first there. Big pros of this place is good access from parking place. It is right above Zinal, 10 mins from car.  

Difficult left side and easy right side of the Zinal climbing gym

5) If you are done with ice-gym in Zinal, you can fallow the valley further and large open area with many ice-falls open before you. There is also Indiana Jones ice-fall that is definitely on list of every climber searching for remarkable lines. We however decided for shorter and easier one called "Cascade du Chamois". This one however can be climb only when the lowest degree of avalanche risk occurs. This place is extremely exposed to avalanches. But I think you can see it immediately when you enter the valley. 

Cascade du Chamois
I climbed with a circle of my very best friends so I enjoyed that very much. We didn't make it with few other close friends, but ice will be there next year again. I had also great opportunity to learn from great teacher, guide and kindest soul in one person.

Dandy doing his job

And now ... the better part of the winter season.