All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Ice can break stuff - La Grave (Part 2)

Day 3
The night before we had decided to head to Le Pylon near La Grave village.  It is under the gondola at P1 1800 that takes skiers to the lofty 3200 Le Ruillans where they can then access the 3550 Dome de la Lauze ( only good skiers need apply.

We wondered down a pleasant snow covered path took a little track to the left into the trees and started upwards immediately.  We had arrived as early as possible to beat the crowds and had failed slightly.  Although two chaps were leaving as we arrived, one looking clear annoyed and the other a bit sheepish, the absence of a set of axes was telling, his small pack would not have fitted them in. Oops!

The view from Le Pylon over La Grave

One of the other remaining parties was a guide and aspirant guide and two clients.  They had a couple of top ropes up, but where perfectly nice and the guide even decided to move to another location as much for us as his clients.  The exchange between us whilst at the crag was good hearted banter and encouragement for the clients.

The other team were to Spaniards, proving to be dangerous, careless and selfish.  There are certain ethics at a crag ice or rock, carrying out rubbish is one thing.  If you are purposely knocking off blocks of ice the size of PC boxes, you call some warning.

Adrian and Jamie had decided to do the right hand side of the ice fall and Nik and I were going to go up the left.  But after watching the masses of ice coming down we decided to follow Jamie and Adrian.  Whilst Jamie was coming to terms with how brittle the ice was, after some days climbing on brittle ice in Norway and being giving a very clever tip whilst there, I looked forward to it.

                               Jamie starts up the right hand side.

Whilst we waited for Jamie and Adrian to make head way, Nik decided it was Baltic in the shade and layered up (pic left), I drunk tea and ate, nothing unusual there.  We also watched Adrian dodge ice knock of by Jamie and get hit twice in the same spot.

We watched with terror the amount the Spanish team hurled off, rucking from under their feet or pulling it off purposely with their axes, watching it fall and not even call (the leader didn't even call for his second).  Normally at a crag you can't shut the Spanish up and they are great and entertaining company.

Soon Jamie had go to the belay and Adrian had started up, the route snaked slightly and knowing Adrian is an aware climber and that my line was to be slightly steeper on cleaner ice, I started up.  At first protected from the ice missiles from above by the slight bulge I had to decided to climb. Nik dodge ice below as Adrian started the second pitch and dodge ice from our friends above.  I called out to him as anything large came over the top as the Spaniards continued to to be quiet.

A few moves on and I had to step into the line of fire, a risk you take on a busy route.  Adrian called as he dislodged a couple of pieces, they missed me or I avoided them.  I called to him as a big piece the size of a football came down from the top again, no warning, it missed Adrian..........just!  I watched stuck in an exposed position as it hurtled towards me, it hit the lip of the bulge, I had sunk on to my feet a relaxed my arms a bit to absorb some of the impact, it shattered and a SLR camera size bit hit me clean in the bicep.  I stayed were I was, yelled at them about warning people, shook out and pushed on a couple more moves.

Soon I was on the line that Adrian and Jamie had taken and making steady progress dodging ice bombs and still enjoying it.  I cam to a large piece of smashed to bits ice, that needed moving.  I warned Nik, and then flicked it off to the right hand side away from danger.  Nik and I both watched it hit a big piece of solid sheet ice on a rock above Nik on the slope, break up a bit and the bits fly in Niks direction.  Nik braced herself the best she could and held on to the rope like a star as she was pelted in the hand by a very large bit of ice.

I asked if she was all right, she took a second or two to respond, when she did, she said no. I started to down climb to abandon the route, as I did so, without warning a couple more big pieces of ice came flying over Adrians head and whizzed towards me.  I adopted the same position, the ice hit me in the same spot and remarkably I stayed on the face.  My bicep burn hot, I down climbed to the gear below my feet and Nik lowered me off and I cleaned the route.

Once, on the ground Nik and I retreated to safety from the Spanish bombers and tended to her wound, my arm was fine after taking the strain off it.  Niks hand was already swelling and very sore, she couldn't move it.  We decided that was it.  We packed our gear away and Nik started out slowly, to go in hunt of tea and warmth, Le Grave was only 15 minutes easy walk away, so I am not a horrible boyfriend.

Adrian and Jamie, abseiled off the route a little while after and collected my ice screw I had lowered off, for me.  We packed our gear  and headed out to find Nik and head back to the gite for dinner and the story tellings of the day and Richards entertaining carry on in the gite.

We found Nik with her now even more swollen paw and bundle into the van.  We were convinced it was a small break on the back of the hand and time would conclude this.  I felt pretty bad even though I had done all I could to avoid it.

The upside was it was meant to drop a load of snow over night and no-one would be climbing.  It did! (Part 3, Skiing and Dry Tooling)

So how about a bit more about climbing. La Grave - Ice Fest (Part 1)

Second week of Jan (Only a week back at work) we packed the van and headed to Peglers Ice Fest in teh Ecrin National Parc with Jamie and Adrian.  We were off on a 10-12hr journey, through some ordinary weather in a snow covered England and France.  Which we expected and prepared for the worst and were rewarded with, and earlier train through the tunnel and a not too difficult journey.  Even location the Feu Vert to purchase snow chains (which got used a lot) was done without hassle and was not too far from a great boulengerie.

In time we passed Grenoble with few navigational issues and were on our way to to the Oisans and Sardonne, to the gite.  We were warmly welcomed as we had transported much of the food and some climbing equipment.  It was nice to arrive at a reasonable time and to such I nice gite.  The views from the gite were fantastic and the gite itself fall of charm and has a magnificent vaulted cellar as the dining room.

We settled in and made preparation for the first days climbing, which would be at Alpe D'Huez.  Over dinner we met most of the others attending Ice Fest and would meet the rest as they arrived after travel delays and so on.

Day 1 - Alpe D'Huez:
Driving up the famous switch-backs of Alpe D'Huez, I could not help but think of Le Tour de France and the famous stage victories completed on this piece of road, and vowed to return in a summer to ride it and many of the other famous summits and passes.  Another blog sometime in the future.

The van gentle pulled her way up to the famous village and after some faff we found a park and then our way to the gondola, to make our way to the half way station and then have a short walk across to the Alpe D'Huez crag.

Being eager to climb something, Jamie and Adrian chose Canine Blues and Nik and I, chose Super Misere, the first decent routes we came across.  Super Misere was a nice route and we broke it into two pitches, shortly after leaving the belay station I headed for the fat ice to the left of the picture below.  Placed a screw and duly removed it as the ice melted around it in the warm afternoon sun.  Directly above me was a crud layer of ice, on a layer of frozen snow and then some more ice.  I chose this line as the ice was being sliced like soft butter by my axes.

Soft wet ice above my left axe and left.
(Photo: Adrian B)

Retrieving dodgy ice screw, Nik belays below.
(Photo: Adrian B)

I passed the crux of the route with the only decent gear being the belay Nik was at, shown above, a very dodgy screw may have slowed me down. Onto the snow slopes above quickly clipping an in-situ runner (Misere ab station) and making like Ueli Steck to out run the snow as it fell from under my crampons.

I got Nik on belay and she made a very good clean ascent of the crumbling crux and teetered her way up the snow towards the belay.  A couple of route top photo's and we ab off to make sure we could walk back to the lift station and catch a gondola down.

View from the top.

We retreated to the gite after descending the zig-zags from Alpe D'Huez for an evening of food wine and stories of the first day's climbing.  A successful first day.

Day 2
Would see the van making her way back up to Alpe D'Huez at an early time to allow for further climbing.  Adrian and Jamie had chosen Symphonie d'automne 120mtr 3 pitch route, whilst due Nik and I chose rather fat Stalactus and a decaying Ice Bille.  Stalactus proved to be vertical in a couple of places but was sound and very enjoyable climbing and a route very worth while doing, once at the belay Nik started up the route with a French guide in tow and she shortly was at the belay with me.  We descended and headed around to Ice Bille where some of the other Ice Fest crew had been climbing.

The plan had been to climb the two pitches of Ice Bille, but it was decaying rapidly in the sun and time was stack against us.  I made my way up Ice Bille, removing chunks of rotten ice and trying to not get too wet as I was in a fleece and base layer, it had go that warm.  I placed a couple of screws and tried to find clean ice to climb which had me venture left and up and over a bulge to the belay.  This made the route more interesting.  Nik followed my line up the ever decaying ice, made good short technical work of the bulge and arrived at the belay.  We had another chat about doing the second pitch and we thought we had done enough for the day.

We ab off, to meet Adrian and Jamie, who had had a good day until the last pitch of Symphonie d'automne, where things had got more interesting and abseiling down after completing the route gave them issues that they resolved, it was nice to see them safely down.

We made our way back in the glow of the blue fading light, knowing we had missed the last lift down and had a long walk, everyone was content and so we enjoyed the ambience of the empty ski slopes and a clear evening.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Van Conversion 3

The next steps in the conversion of the van have been getting the side windows fitted by the guys at  Autoscreen Network, they also fitted the lockable swivel bases (C-M-C) for the front seats, which are in and have been well and truly tested.



Some of the metal work has been carpeted and more will be done in a couple of weeks and a few mechanical changes are to be made very soon, that should improve fuel economy a tiny bit.  I also made up a centre console for the front and it has been finely carpeted by Nik.

Most recently, I have fitted a new head unit, to add to the up rated front speakers and some previously added 6x9's located in the tailgate.

I have also covered the headlining with VW grey headlining and it has come out really well and that coupled with the roof insulation does make a great deal of difference when it rains.

Many little jobs and big jobs to do:
EGR blanking
Paint dash black
Replace door pockets and carpet
Half carpet door cards and paint other half black
Source B pillar kit, paint it black and fit.

When funding permits:
Re-upholster those seats
Lower 40mm
Maybe some side bars in black

Christmas in Chamonix

Ok, maybe a little dated.  But I have been busy with all sorts of things.

Anyway, my sister Kathleen has moved to Chamonix and whilst Andy her other half was there over Christmas, Nik and I went over there to visit them and spend Christmas with them and spend a few days skiing.

Because time was short we kept it simple but visited a few different spots to ski, Les Houches a couple of times, Le Brevent and Courmayeur.  The later being my favorite as there was more powder and I wanted to test my new fat powder skis as well.

 Nik, at Le Brevent

L-R: Nik, Andy and Kath, background Mont Blanc

Christmas day was an relaxed affair, with some skiing in the morning, a slight delay to lunch, so some skiing in the afternoon and then a late lunch early dinner that was just great.  It was a very nice way tp spend Christmas day.

 Christmas lunch coming together

Make that Christmas dinner, it was great.

W did some more skiing over the next couple of days before Nik and I had to head home.  It was great to see Kath and Andy, and see how excited they both are about their new life.

Kath, Andy and Kath's little chalet.

Welcome to the Northern Hemisphere.