Toit Honiball – Back in France
And we are back in France! Like last year I had the amazing opportunity to go to the UIAA affiliated event hosted by the Toulouse Alpine Clubs. Their youth climbing week in the Guillestre area of France is focused on teaching the basics of ice climbing to the youth by letting aspirant ice climbing instructors take them out for a week of climbing at the end of which they receive their “certification”. Sick so first question is do you remember how to ice climb? Always a good question to ask yourself… But luckily I could first ease into climbing in France while doing some sport climbing in a gym in Toulouse with Coralie. She is my host Bibi’s daughter and she is a super good climber and just a fun person to be around.
After a nice 8 hour drive to with Pierre my lift we had our first glimpse of the Alps… beautiful as always. I sat in nervous anticipation to feel the crunch of ice beneath my crampons again.
On arrival Bibi had the massive task to organize all the climbers each night getting us pared up for the following day’s climbing, each day we went to different sites and with new climbing partners.
Areas e climbed in were Pelvoux, Crevoux, Ceillac and Les Orres.
Pelvoux and Crevoux are areas were we could do a few single pitched climbs, just getting comfortable “on tet” (in lead) again as ice climbing is slightly scary for those not doing it every day. Crevoux is nice and remote with a fe super hard lines a really good place to practice your technique.
I climbed three routes in Ceillac one on the “Y” route an easy 200m multi pitch route leading up a broken waterfall. I took one of the younger guys up the route and it was fun to in the spirit of the camp impart some of the skills that I have learnt. The fact that I had to impart said skills using my super limited French only made it more fun for me, but I don’t know if my climbing partners would always agree with my description of “fun” but non the less I could get my point across in Brocken French…
Another very memorable day in Ceillac was climbing Formes du chaos – one of the best 4/4+ routes in France (even in Europe according to my French companions). Super sustained and exposed climbing followed for 180m and with one pitch which starts at a frozen waterfall surrounded by a still flowing pool of water it truly was memorable and completely lived up to the hype.
I also had the chance to go climb the Sombres heros route again (4+). Last year I barely made it up this feature in seconds, this feature can be best described as a cigar (a free standing ice waterfall to which you have access to climb on all of its sides). But luckily I am not a bit older and wiser (maybe a bit stronger) and this time I could lead it without dying (always a bonus).
But by far my favorite route was the Dancing falls at Les Orres – starting out with a super thin line of 4+ up 80m of ice it as already insane but then as e came up to the ledge we had a beautiful surprise… a free standing cigar! This beautiful pitch of ice is rated 5+ and I was so glad I didn’t have to lead up it but wow super cool climbing!
This trip to France taught me so much (besides just the skills I need to be an ice climbing instructor) but also helped me forge a lot of new friendships. The initiative of the Toulouse Alpine club to host this type of event is an awesome platform to introduce newbies to the sport as well as allowing old hands to perfect their craft while transferring their skills to the next generation.