Cogne Ice Climbing

I've just returned from a week's ice climbing in Cogne, Italy. Cogne is a little town up a valley leading off from the Aosta valley. From Cogne there are two valleys Valnontey and Valeille leading off into the Grand Paradiso. These two valleys give accessible and generally reliable cascade water ice climbing. Even though conditions are generally reliable, I think we struck lucky, many people were saying the ice was fatter for the week we were there than it had been for 25 years! 

View of ice falls on Valeille Rive Gauche

Myself and Tom Skelhon on Monday Money WI4 in Valnontey, a long walk in through fresh powder and warm temperatures meant being wet and cold , a tough day out!

This was my first ever European cascade ice climbing trip. I have pottered about climbing the odd pitch or two of water ice in Scotland, Wales and the odd couloir in Cham. But apart from leading the 'easy' pitch of the Devils Appendix I haven’t really done much water ice cascade climbing. Being more of a rock climber I seem to find myself preferring mixed to pure ice climbing. However this trip has proved that climbing ice in the right conditions in a beautiful location can be very enjoyable.  

Jack cruising up the stunning and sustained Tuborg WI4+

Jack on the stunning Tuborg WI4+

Most of the week was spent climbing various WI4/4+'s in Valeille valley. This seemed to be the more accessible of the two valleys with many routes only needing a 30min walk-in and having bolted belays making for easy descent. I found the WI4/4+ grade to be the best balance of  challenging fun vs fear; for me it's a fine line when ice climbing! 

Jack feeling the pump at the top of  E Tutto Relativo WI4

Jack wiped out at the top of  E Tutto Relativo with view down to Lillaz and Cogne in background
We also did a couple of days of skiing. There is a small (four lifts and about five pistes), un-crowded and reasonably priced ski resort which runs from Cogne. There are also also a couple of reasonably priced ski and board hire shops in the town. These days were supposed to be restful but being a beginner at skiing I found them the most strenuous! However I was happy with how my skiing skills progressed, by the end of the two days I was confidently linking turns and getting down black runs. 

The most memorable route of the week for a number of reasons was Cold Couloir WI4+. Teaming up with Tom Skelhon we summoned all our remaining energy and climbed the route on last day of the trip. With 600m of climbing it's the longest route in Cogne. The route takes a deep couloir up from the Valeille valley with about 7 60m (or more)! pitches, almost every pitch was sustained at the grade. It was a big and satisfying day out and the descent was more eventful then planned...I'll let the video and photos do the talking! 

Avalanche poring down down X-Files a Stevie Haston M9 WI7
My friend Tom Skelhon who was on this trip is planning to write a destination article on Cogne since we found the current information on the internet to be lacking. Tom also keeps a lively blog which is well worth a look: