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.
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.
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.