Ice climbing. The magic of hitting an ephemeral frozen waterfall, defying the elements and living for the moment. Expert ice climbers will tell you that there is so much more to ice climbing than the mere ascent of a line. It’s all about the experience, living here and now, creating strong bonds within your rope party, accepting challenges and facing them head-on.
While the progress in technology, both in terms of gear and clothing, allows you to test your limits, the mountains can always strike back, the power of nature being beyond human control.
What are we to learn from an event such as the Cogne Ice Opening, having now reached its fifth edition? First of all, the human facet is always the most important one: as with any field of life, some people may be more committed than others, but one thing is common to all, i.e. respect for the mountains and those around you. In Lillaz, where the air is cold and the wind unforgiving, a spellbinding buzz will enthuse and you will find yourself sharing a rope with new and old friends, smiling despite the not so comfortable conditions, hearing motivating stories, and having a good time.
As was the case for the past editions, several renowned and truly respectable mountaineers walked the stage of the All about the Ice movie night this year. From François Damilano to Mathieu Maynadier and Rudolf Hauser, plus Matthias Scherer , the mind behind the Ice Opening. He is usually on stage to present other athletes, while he was asked a few questions by none other than Monsieur Damilano this time, primarily concerning decisions. Matthias showed his spellbinding Anathema film, on ice climbing in Norway, together with his wife Tanja and her twin sister Heike, a mountain guide. When circumstances are harsh and the climbing so committing, the power of the rope party becomes stronger than ever. “I have climbed with Tanja and Heike for so long, that a glance is enough to read their minds and decide what move is next.” Conditions can be tasking in Norway – brittle ice along mammoth lines – so team spirit needs to be high. François Damilano, an endless list of first ascents on ice, including the iconic Repentance, under his belt, recalled his first encounter with Cogne, upon invitation by Giancarlo Grassi, and showed a video which marked the evolution of ice climbing from the beginning of the new century, to the somewhat new dry tooling activities. Extreme alpinist Rudolf Hauser explored the media influence into crafting ice climbing videos, and also illustrated his solo project, climbing two lines in the Hochkogel region in Austria (1000 and 1.400 metres) and linking them with a 20 km run, all in just over 11 hours, in 2014. Mathieu Maynadier, who completed astounding first ascents and expeditions in the Karakoram, Alaska, Nepal, Peru, and many other places, enthralled the public with the first video from the Maewan project. The brainchild of Erwan Le Lann, Maewan is a small boat which will go around the world in search of beguiling projects for four years. This first part involved sailing from north Iceland to Greenland pursuing cool lines to ski, thus having a sailor, a freerider and an alpinist on board.
The world is your oyster, it would seem, for the possibilities are endless in the mountains, if you put your mind to it. The Ice Opening has, once again, brought smiles and adventure, fun and commitment. Could the ice climbing season have started in a better way? I strongly doubt so. Venture out and explore, listen to your emotions and follow your instinct. The mountains are waiting.
The event was kindly sponsored by La Sportiva, Arc’teryx, Petzl, Black Diamond, Sterling Rope, Suunto and Glorify.