“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway
Life. Making the most of it. Be it reaching the zenith of a mountain, learning a new skill or simply “taking the road less travelled by”, the journey encompassed by these new experiences takes centre stage.
And so, when faced with hardly any ice on the eve of an Ice Festival, Cogne Ice Opening organisers Matthias Scherer and Tanja Schmitt decided to opt for alternatives. Chief among them, dry tooling. With the help of Jeff Mercier, Patrick Raspo and Heike Schmitt, a few routes set up at the speed of light to satisfy possibly disappointed people, eager to hit the very ephemeral ice. In the end, all I could see were smiles, determination and the will to learn this new technique. A good lesson in resilience. Dry tooling feels very unnatural at the beginning and trusting your tools is an acquired art, but you slowly build up confidence and learn to enjoy the ride.
Some ice, albeit brittle, was nonetheless to be found, and keen climbers honed their skills at it, whetting the appetite for the not so distant future.
The lack of freshly formed waterfalls was nonetheless supplemented by “All about the ice”, the Opening’s Movie Night. Tanja Schmitt presented Velocity, shot in Cogne at the beginning of the year, which offers a slightly introspective take on the fascination hidden within ice climbing. Matthias Scherer introduced Reborn, which premiered at the festival, a superb film retracing the couple’s recent journey to Canada and the anticipation that lingers at the beginning of every ice-climbing season.
Mountain Guide Matteo Giglio briefly talked about his exhaustive guidebook Effimeri Barbagli , covering the 700 waterfalls in the Aosta Valley. Austrian extreme climber Rudi Hauser presented a superb set of images from ice climbs in Norway, lulling the viewers with enthralling landscapes and outstanding shots. He also illustrated his forthcoming film on a the combination of two 1000 metre- rock routes, which he free soloed and linked by running and riding a bike, all in 11 hours.
Manu Ibarra and Jerome Blanc-Gras presented the Italian translation of their The Art of Ice Climbing book , edited by Versante Sud under the title L’arte del ghiaccio They also introduced their project Icefall Data, which aims at collecting information about ice climbs, their nature and the possible accidents which may arise from this sport.
Bold French climber, base jumper and aspirant mountain guide Maël Baguet showed a film on Ballade au Clair de Lune, the exceptional ascent of this complexl route on the south face of the Aiguille du Fou (Aiguille du Chamonix), together with Damien Tomasi and Mathieu Maynadier. Wanting to descend rapidly, Maël jumped from the top with a wing suit, making it the first ever jump from the summit. More info here.
The final, thrilling touch to a very varied evening was given by accomplished Slovenian climber Klemen Premrl, who entertained the audience with some adrenaline packed short movies, attesting to his (and friend Aljaz Anderle’s) somewhat scary climbs on icebergs in Greenland.
Two days of clinics on ski-touring, ice climbing and dry tooling were the perfect recipe for happy faces, new friends and treasured adventures. In addition to the above mentioned athletes, classes were held by Matt Helliker, Jon Bracey, Isabelle Santoire and Fabian Mayer.
This event is growing, which makes the organisers really proud, and the world-renowned hamlet of Cogne, an even more interesting place to visit.
Sponsored by Arc’teryx, Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Sterling Rope, Suunto, Gloryfy and Clif Bar.