A Frozen World

Coming from South Africa I don’t have much experience with snow & ice… but over the last 3 years I have spent my fair share of time in some pretty harsh conditions. Climbing on ice though is a completely different kettle-of-fish and I must admit I felt some trepidation during the drive down to Italy for the 2nd annual Ice Opening 2013 in Cogne, Italy.

Cogne Ice Opening 2013

Gear testing center at the Cogne Ice Opening 2013

As with most climbers I am a gear junky and from this aspect ice climbing is extremely intriguing, I mean the gear is amazing, a bit like medieval gladiator weapons, picture a scene from Braveheart!

Black Diamond - Fusion Ice Tool

Black Diamond – Fusion Ice Tool

We arrived in the evening, so as with every time you go to Italy you have to sample the local pizza… and after, the local aperitif, in this case, Genepì. Well to cut a long story short it ended with us drinking a good old German schnapps around 2am.

That brings me to the first thing I found out that I didn’t like about ice climbing, the alpine starts! The 6am wake up was a shock after a night like that but I was still a little drunk so it wasn’t too bad, and by 9.00am I was heading off to climb one of the most famous ice-falls in the area, Cascade da Lillaz, a beautiful 7 pitch cascading waterfall.

John (one of our guides) leading the 6 pitch

John (one of our guides) leading the 6 pitch

Even though it is graded WI3+ which I guess is super easy (i know nothing about ice climbing) it felt surprisingly easy as you pretty much always have two jugs to hold on to, as long as you make sure every placement is solid… but this is when you are following, I guess it only gets REAL when you’re leading as there is a NO falling policy in ice climbing, way more then in trad! Sure the ice screws look solid but I sure as hell wouldn’t wanna test one!

Black Diamond - Express Ice Screws

Black Diamond – Express Ice Screws

The event was hosted to give people like me the opportunity to try ice climbing for the first time or brush up on their  skills under the supervision of professional guides as well as test the latest gear that Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Sterling, Arc’teryx and Suunto have to offer.

Welcome to Black Diamond

Welcome to Black Diamond

Thx again to Christi from Black Diamond for letting me tag along!


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