2006 Ice-Climbing round-up, by Adrian Nelhams

​As Terry and I sat down to a steaming hot mug of coffee in Leysin's 'Place du Marché, the snow kept on falling outside, adding to the huge amount that had already fallen over the past week.

Great for the ski-touring courses starting the following day and right on cue at the end of another great winter of alpine icefall climbing for ISM. Looking back over the season we both agreed that we’d had some of the best climbing and conditions we’d experienced for a long time.

The weather in January and February was very stable with very little precipitation, blue skies and cold nights. Icefalls had formed in places we hadn’t seen before and icefalls that form on a regular basis were fatter and in better condition than normal. Stable snow allowed us to access the icefalls easily and meant that there was little, if any, avalanche danger even from above the more exposed icefalls.

Other areas and regions weren’t so lucky, with venues just south of the Mt. Blanc massif not forming as well as in previous years. These areas had a dry autumn with very little precipitation and consequently no runoff, followed by a very cold period, culminating in only a certain number of icefalls forming.

Here in the Swiss Valais and Oberland regions Terry and I found great conditions for all our courses with well-formed icefalls of varying lengths and grades to suit everyone. The great pleasure of icefall climbing in Switzerland is being able to get away from the crowds and, for the most part, we’d end a weeks’ climbing having not even seen, let alone met, any other climbers. This really does make ice climbing in Switzerland special and a real adventure. It also allows us to give our clients a safer and more enjoyable climbing experience in a great learning environment without the disturbance and possible hazards of having a lot of other people around.

Climbing apart, Switzerland is a fantastic place to visit in winter and ice climbing in these quiet valleys and mountain villages really allows you to get under the skin of the place and see it afresh. The people living and working in these uncrowded mountain villages are less busy and so have more time for you and show a real interest in what you’re doing.

It is also a real pleasure for us as guides to see the speedy progress that so many people make during their week of icefall climbing with us. More often than not, beginners will go on and climb vertical ice in good style and control and get a huge buzz from it, which is just fantastic for our job satisfaction! Many people also end up leading competently towards the end of the week, which is also very satisfying to see.

So, from Terry and myself we hope you had a great winter and have a good end to the season. Stay safe and we look forward to climbing with you again next year.

34a Baretritt-Kandersteg-06
34b Cascade-coop-06
34c Cascade-Coop-Evolene-06

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