ICE- RASSEMBLEMENT a l ‘Argentière-la-Bessée
The 10-11-12-13. Januar 2013 was already marked in our calendar in bright red patterns: at this time of the year the french ice climbing community were about to arrange their “Rassemblement” of ice climbers with a full, big plan: test of material, shuttle busses to the ice falls areas, Dry tooling- and Big air competition, slide shows, live music...the whole program. The festival has already a long tradition and is pretty good visited. The “Jeune alpinists francaise”, the “Big Shots” of the scene, many ice climbers around the area and many from afar...the Rassemblement is for sure a big meeting point.
We have climbed nearly every winter in the area which is a mecca for ice climbing, many extreme lines can be found on Gramusat in the Freissinières valley.
But this year it was a bit different: Temperatures lied around 8 degrees plus. The classic Viollins were broken and not even there! I was disappointed. There was some ice but really hand selected.
But the pictures the PGHM exhibited on the festivals walls showed hope: there were indeed some falls formt: Impatience III/5 in Freissinieres, “Un beau voyage” III/5 in Vallée de Chichin, L´Azize 100m-IV/5+, Azimut brutal 150m-IV/6, both in the Vallee de L´Aup Martin...some easier stuff in Ceillac. Everyone willing to catch up with the harder conditions could find something to climb!
Matthias and me were giving out test jackets for Arc´teryx. We had a booth in the salon, opening each day at 7 o´clock. As a result our ice climbing activity was limited to only smaller climbs like “Vermicelle 50m- II/5+ “ in Ceillac.
What was more serious for us to cope with was an agressive virus, planting it selves in our body. It weakened us and stole away our sleep. There was only one way to eliminate it: a long, intense day outside.
So when the festival ended we decided to go to Azimut brutal: 5 hours of approach waiting for us. But the scenery is worth it: a wild mountain valley with many trees, cut through by a small riverbed. The slopes are actually dangerous avalanche terrain if there would appear more snow, but we found perfect conditions.
After 4 hours with a moderate pace we achieved the hut, where a winter stay is possible. One hour more and we finally stood under “Azimut brutal”. I climbed the first pitch with very tricky ice conditions. So it was not a hard physical climb, the ice quality on the upper medusas appeared questionable and i had good fun climbing it. Afterwards there was a 35m long, huge pillar. Temperatures were solid under minus 10 degrees now, which included very cold fingers. Matthias climbed the pillar very fast. We build a V threat and abseiled. A fantastic climb!
Skiing down the fall in powder snow and looking around this wild place i felt renewed again- nothing helps more getting healthy than high spirits ;-))