Ice Climbing Skills

This course week is designed to give a profound and pleasant introduction to the exciting world of ice climbing, hone your skills with blending instruction in all the important skills and lead you to climb magical frozen cascades you would never try without a professional UIAGM/IFMGA mountain guide. The course is based in Cogne (Italy), one of the best places in the Alps, with a long season and 100+ routes at all grades, makes it a perfect place to give you a great experience.

We start the week on single pitch ice climbs where skills and techniques can be taught in a way to climb on these fantastic ice falls without destroying them, then throughout the week we progress – we try our best to adjust the level and evolve at a pace which is right for the participants – to more challenging and longer multi pitch ice climbs. We do not doubt that you will learn fast and acquire skills useful in all aspects of alpine mountaineering.

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The nights we spend in an excellent and cozy hotel in the lovely village of Lillaz, offering high quality Italian meals that satisfy most visitors, within walking distance to the ice climbs, a place to dry the wet clothes and to take care of yourself by having a good night’s sleep.

Prerequisite skills
The course is suitable for beginners and for people with some experience from classical summer alpinism. Even people who already tried climbing steep ice with two ice tools can benefit from this course to build a more solid foundation in all the skills and techniques demanded by ice climbing. Some rock climbing experience is useful, but not required, and the better your knowledge is the more you will be able to focus on specific ice climbing skills. A good level of general fitness is required in order to be able to cope with long days out in a cold environment, both approach and climbing wise.

Of course if you feel you lack some of those experiences or uncertain of your own level, please feel free to contact us. We will do our best to give you the best experience possible.

This course is suitable for the cold mid-winter season and the best period is from late December to late February. However, early season ice can provide many opportunities for great climbing and can be a bit more solitude in most famous venues.

Program for the week
As with all waterfall climbing, in the Alps, the best strategy seems to be to choose objectives that work best with the current weather, ice and avalanche conditions. Rather than choosing some specific climbing objects in advance it is wise to wait until arrival and see what looks particularly good and attractive. The following program is a typical week. There might be changes due to weather or snow conditions.

Day 1 Sunday : Arrival day in Lillaz – Meeting
Arrival day in Lillaz. The hotel will be available for check in the afternoon and in the evening we have a gathering to discuss the plan for the week. If you want to spend additional days before or after the course please let us know.

Day 2 Monday: Valeille
The first day you will go for a day of introduction, or refresher for those who have climbed before, on easy angled ice walls up to 80 m in height and they are just a short walk from the hotel. The aim for the day is to show you the different techniques, explain you how the equipment works and make sure that you understand all the safety aspects in order to give a firm foundation for a safe week’s climbing. It is also important to understand the cold winter environment so we finish the day with spending some time on how to stay comfortable, using the impressions of the day, whilst on the climb.

Day 3-6 Tuesday-Friday : Valeille/Valnontey
Classic ice fall climbs in the Valnontey and Valeille valleys around Cogne to build on skills from the first day and progress to more technical aspects that will help you to climb more efficiently. The climbs will be carefully chosen so that we can evolve in a good pace focusing on stance management, rope work, single to multi pitch routes, placements of ice screws, abseiling, anchors and a wider range of useful climbing techniques will be thoroughly learned. We are happy to be very flexible to ensure that we climb where conditions are best and attempt the routes most suitable for the course participants. Some examples of routes include:

  • Lillaz Gully (WI4 M) – a superb mountaineering route up a deep couloir with varied pitches.
  • Patri (WI3-5) – a super classic route in the valley with a lot of various ice lines.
  • Gran Val (WI3+ M) – another interesting route with a very nice high mountain feeling.
  • Candelabro del Coyote (WI4+) – a steep ice route.
  • Sentiero del Troll (WI3) – a long gully, up to 10 pitches, with many easy sections.
  • Tuborg (WI4+) – some steep columns on south facing aspect.

On Friday we finish the course with a debrief and personal advices for the future.

Day 7 Saturday : Departure day
Day of departure back home.

Small groups
We only take 1-3 climbers/guide during these weeks. Some weeks there are two guides with independent groups working together. However, we move independently so that the groups can climb different lines.

Personal equipment
The following is an equipment list. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. Equipment marked with * can be provided by your guide when needed.

• One pair of technical ice axes, such as the Petzl Quark, Nomic or Grivel Matrix.*
• Harness, with adjustable leg loops and gear loops.*
• Crampons, technical model, such as Petzl Dartwin, Lynx or Grivel G14.*
• Helmet*
• 1 Belay device with a HMS screwgate karbiner.*
• 2 large locking HMS karabiner.*
• 2 Prusik cord.*
• 1 sewn tape sling 240 cm.*
• Poles, adjustable that can be mounted on a backpack.
• Backpack, 35-45 liters, with straps for climbing equipment.
• Ski goggles, “orange/yellow/clear” lenses to be used in windy weather.
• Sunglasses, category 2-4.
• Rigid mountaineering boots, a B3 rated boot is most suitable.
• Gaiters
• Gortex jacket or similar.
• Gortex pants or similar with ventilation possibilities.
• Mountain trousers combination in some softshell fabric or similar.
• Down jacket
• 2 pairs of base layer, synthetic or wool.
• 2 pairs of warm socks.
• Mid layer
• 2 pair of technical climbing gloves
• Insulated gloves, mitten type.
• Warm hat to fit under a helmet.
• Balaclava to protect your face in windy cold weather.
• Head torch with spare batteries.
• Sun block
• Water bottle (1-2 liters), since we do not recommend Camelback systems.
• Small medical kit.

• Professional Mountain Guide authorized by UIAGM/IFMGA.
• All transport during the week.
• Hotel half board accommodation in twin double rooms (a single room can, where possible be arranged at additional cost).
• Fantastic introduction to the world of ice climbing.

Not included
• Lunch and drinks during the days.
• Personal climbing equipment (see list above).
• Travel to/from designated meeting point.
• Mandatory insurance to cover mountain rescue costs.

Number of days: 5 days climbing, 6 nights accommodation.
Price: Please contact us.

Please use the form if you have any questions or want us to contact you.

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