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 (http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=466646637503294251&postID=1260359404244775516) 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)