Val Varaita Ice Blaster

Val Varaita is the place where the Italian ice climbing was born in 1977 and where one of the first international ice climbing meetings was held. It lies in the region Piemonte, which means “at the feet of the mountains”, and is a little bit like an Italian version of the Norwegian Rjukan. The natural ice lines at all grades and the artificial ice park, with a long season, offers a perfect place to give you great experience. Climbing the route Ciucchinel, opened by Romeo Isaia and Piero Marchisio on the 18th December 1977, and feel the hand of ice climbing history upon our shoulders can be a great experience. Even the footprints of Giancarlo Grassi, the “ice master”, who climbed thousands of ice routes and opened hundred of new ones, accounted for in one of his guidebooks are just awaiting to be discovered.

The aim of the course is to build on your skills and progress to more technical aspects that will help you to climb more efficiently. From single pitch ice climbs where skills and techniques can be taught at a pace that is right for the participants, with continuous feedback, to more challenging and longer multi pitch ice climbs. There are even great opportunities to learn lead climbing skills for those people interested. Just contact us to discuss your ambitions and proposals, so we can put together an appropriate program tailored to your requirements.

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The nights we spend in excellent and cozy mountain hotels around in Pontechianale, offering high quality meals that satisfy most visitors, sometimes even 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
As with most mountain activities, ice climbing requires a good level of general fitness in order to be able to cope with long days out in a cold environment, both approach and climbing wise. This course is suitable for all levels of experience and ability, from beginner to expert. However, please be aware that for safety reason, on longer and more technical routes, we cannot promise making an ascent until we have seen how well you are currently climbing. Of course if you feel you lack some knowledge 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 long weekend course. There might be changes due to weather or snow conditions.

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

Day 2 Friday: Val Varaita
The first day you will go for a day of introduction, or refresher for those who have climbed before, on artificial ice walls up to 30 m in height and they are just a short walk from the parking. It is important to look at your technical skills, analyzing your climbing technique, coaching when needed and create a plan for the next days. We will touch important things such as ice screw placements, racking systems, double rope technique, stances and belays, assessing ice conditions, mixed-climbing techniques and attempt routes at the higher grades for those with previous climbing experience.

Day 3-4 Saturday-Sunday: Val Varaita
Classic icefall climbs in Val Variata 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. 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:

  • Bonvin (WI4) – a superb mountaineering route up a deep couloir with varied pitches.
  • Martinet (WI3-5) – a super classic place in the valley with a lot of various ice lines.
  • Chandelle Gàstok (WI5+) – a steep ice route.
  • Ciucchinel (WI3) – historic route with a very nice mountain feeling.
  • Pineta Nord (WI3-5) – interesting approach climbing and then lot of ice lines.
  • Berrò (WI3) – superb route for first approach of multi-pitch climbing.

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

Day 5 Monday : Departure day
Day of departure back home.

Small groups
We only take 1-2 climbers/guide during these courses (if the scope of the course is towards a first introduction we might even agree to go with 3-4 climbers/guide in rare cases). Some courses 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 a general equipment list, all communal safety equipment (e.g. ropes, ice screws, rock protections, etc) is provided by us. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. Equipment marked with * can be provided by your guide when needed. Experienced climbers will find it best to bring their own tried and tested personal equipment.

• 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).
• Top quality 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: Week – Short and Long Weekend – Single Day.
Price: Please contact us.

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

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