Dec 13 29
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We took a little time out of Chamonix and headed over (or should I say under) the border to Cogne for some ice climbing.

Cogne is a small town on the edge of the Grand Paradiso, mostly dedicated to cross-country skiing, with a few lifts for some short runs. But what we go there for is the amazing ice routes to be found up two valleys just beyond Cogne: Valnontey and Lillaz-Valeille. We set out early on Friday morning, having to use the chains to get out of the car park, and headed towards the tiny village of Lillaz, where we had to use the chains again for the last 4km as we left Cogne.

Due the the amount of heavy snow, and the bright sun, we opted for a safe and easy option that avoided avalanche risk and would get our ice arms back into action: Lillaz Gully.

It was bitterly cold and I was beginning to worry that I had lost the taste for climbing the frozen stuff. But the short walk warmed me up a bit and I was able to discard one of my 5 layers.

As anticipated, the bottom of the route was busy. This is a very popular route, but we didn’t have to wait too long to find a clear line.

Pete on the left of the top steeper section of Lillaz Gully's first pitch

Pete on the left of the top steeper section of Lillaz Gully’s first pitch

You can see the water cascading through a hole on the left of Pete, with some beautiful formations below

You can see the water cascading through a hole on the left of Pete, with some beautiful formations below

Laetitia at the top of Lillaz Gully's first pitch

Laetitia at the top of Lillaz Gully’s first pitch

Half way up we passed a bunch of idiots smashing the ice up as they top roped one section, but again we were able to find a clear line and avoid their mayhem.

Laetitia at the top of penultimate pitch of Lillaz Gully

Laetitia at the top of penultimate pitch of Lillaz Gully

The walk off was through deep powder, so we followed the trail back down to the village, but unfortunately not back down to our bags – we’ll have to try to remember to gear up at the car next time.

Pete on the descent from Lillaz Gully

Pete on the descent from Lillaz Gully

That night we went into Cogne to have a traditional beer, aperitifs, and pizza. There seemed to be some sort of event going on, possibly the close of a competition for children, I could’t be sure as I don’t speak a word of Italian, but there was a bonfire and free cakes – yeah! Celebration enough for me.

Laetitia warming herself at the celebration bonfire in Cogne town centre

Laetitia warming herself at the celebration bonfire in Cogne town centre

Saturday was cloudier and we could see down the valley that it was snowing, and it was coming our way. We decided on another route fairly close to the car: E Tutto Relativo. Another fairly easy route, but good to test our muscles on the steeper stuff.

Laetitia starting up E Tutto Relativo

Laetitia starting up E Tutto Relativo

Pete on the crux pitch of E Tutto Relativo

Pete on the crux pitch of E Tutto Relativo

We finished pretty quickly and wandered back through Lillaz.

A bright red berried tree in Lillaz village

A bright red berried tree in Lillaz village

We’d only had a slight scattering of snow and it hadn’t settled on the road, so we decided to head back to Chamonix before the temperatures dropped. We reached Courmayeur and the tunnel at the peak time… it took us an hour to get to the tunnel entrance from the very edge of town and the snow was falling heavily. The extra snow promised for fantastic powder the next day.

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