Skiing isn’t only groomed pistes, lift passes, powder and gondolas, for me it’s much, much more than that.
The environment where I like to ski goes far beyond the boundaries of ski areas and the engine of the lifts. It’s free, wild and uncontrolled. It’s the Mother Nature’s kingdom.
In order to learn how to survive and how to get the best out of that, I had to learn the “techniques”. Climbing, trail braking, rappelling, ice climbing and many more. These are the skills that I had to learn in the years, first because I wanted and secondly because they allowed me to get to the places where I could ski the best terrain and find the best snow.
Ice climbing it’s still a green leaf in my skills garden, but I’m working on growing it fast and strong. A couple of days ago I was looking for ice climbing places on the net when I randomly bumped into some photos of some sorts of ice caves. I was totally fascinated, so much that I couldn’t resist the temptation to go try it myself. In the meantime I found out that the photos were taken by a friend and photographer Alexeandre Buisse, which I immediately contacted and that was kind enough to take me there the next day.
A big glacier, doesn’t only brake in the most known seracs and crevasses, but sometimes form beautiful ice wells and caves that we could not even imagine when standing on the surface.
When we approached the area where Alex found the inspiration the previous time, we wonder around for few minutes when… boom! we spotted a perfect rounded well, narrow and deep enough that we couldn’t see the bottom! What a luck-I thought- for my first glacier hole!
Surely enough I dropped in first. The fact that we were standing on a instable terrain and that we were the only two people in a long mile range, we decided to play it safely, and made a solid anchor at the top and top roped the ice pitch. The ice reflected that kind of perfection that u imagine when u picture ice in your mind: blue, transparent, smooth, gleaming. Cold.
I put a screw in and secured myself in place that I felt comfortable with and when Alex was ready, I started climbing up. It was literally climbing towards the light outside the tunnel! A truly, wonderful, mystical experience.
Once out, was Alex’s turn. Same thing, same amazement, same fun, although he was surely more stylish and faster than me! We did that a couple of times before braving up and plunge ourselves all the way down the well, and see what we could find at the bottom.
Alex went down first this time and waited for me in the scariest, narrow and wet place I’ve ever been holding the axes in my two hands! It was dark enough that a head lamp wasn’t a bad idea, (thankfully Alex brought one!) and being claustrophobic was not an option. I climbed out first, hearing Alex snapping shots while he was belaying me… Great double task job!
The light at the top looked far this time, but the advantage of having done the top part before was allowing me to stay calm and concentrate on the climb without panic.
The arms got definitely pumped this time and I was well released when I reached the surface! Alex followed. He topped out wet like a mop and I couldn’t believe the amount of water he squeezed out of his gloves. What a day!
It was probably not the most challenging ice climb, and not the longest, but surely the most esthetic and exceptional that I will always remember. A good warm up for the season after all!