Archive for La Grivola

Rifugio Vittorio Sella al Lauson

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2016 by xi'an

valnontey valleyTo sort of make up for the failed attempt at Monte Rosa, we stayed an extra day and took a hike in Vale d’Aosta, starting from Cogne where we had a summer school a few years ago. And from where we started for another failed attempt at La Grivola. It was a brilliant day and we climbed to the Rifugio Vittorio Stella (2588m) [along with many many other hikers], then lost the crowds to the Colle della Rossa (3195m), which meant a 1700m easy climb. By the end of the valley, we came across steinbocks (aka bouquetins, stambecchi) resting in the sun by a creek and unfazed by our cameras. (Abele Blanc told us later that they are usually staying there, licking whatever salt they can find on the stones.)

steinbocks near Colle della Rossa, Aosta, Jul 16, 2016 near Rifugio Vittorio Stella, Aosta, Jul 16, 2016

The final climb to the pass was a bit steeper but enormously rewarding, with views of the Western Swiss Alps in full glory (Matterhorn, Combin, Breithorn) and all to ourselves. From there it was a downhill hike all the way back to our car in Cogne, 1700m, with no technical difficulty once we had crossed the few hundred meters of residual snow. And with the added reward of seeing several herds of the shy chamois mountain goat.

end of the plateau, Rifugio Vittorio Stella, Aosta, July 16, 2016Except that my daughter’s rental mountaineering shoes started to make themselves heard and that she could barely walk downwards. (She eventually lost her big toe nails!) It thus took us forever to get down (despite me running to the car and back to get lighter shoes) and we came to the car at 8:30, too late to contemplate a drive back to Paris.

view from Colle Della Rossa, Aosta, July 16, 2016

Summer school in Gran Paradiso

Posted in Mountains, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , on June 20, 2011 by xi'an

The Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso and the Università di Pavia are organising a summer school on “Advances in species distribution modelling in ecological studies and conservation” in Pavia and Cogne, 12-18 September 2011. This school includes R and Winbugs tutorials, regular classes, plus a field trip to the park, so this sounds quite exciting (at least if you are interested in statistical ecology or ecological statistics). Following my  great experience there two years ago, I wish I could get back to Aosta to attend (and try once again to climb La Grivola!) but this is the start of the semester… (The deadline for registration is July 31.)

Summit fever

Posted in Mountains, Running with tags , on July 20, 2009 by xi'an

Frozen gloves in Vittorio SellaIn connection with the climb of last Saturday, I have had trouble sleeping for three nights: the night before starting, from sheer excitement at the prospect of climbing, the night at the refuge, from noisy neighbours to, once again, sheer nerves on the proximity of the climb and the need to wake up at 1pm, and the last night, from repeating the climb over and over and wondering how much astray alternatives would have gone, and from being back at sea level. (I could somehow feel the weight of those additional 1500 meters of air!) I still waited till 7am to go running, with a terrific impact from spending seven days above 1500m on my breathing!

La Grivola and the Trajo glacier (C.) B. Plessis

This is usually the case for most of my mountain outings so I do not think this is of particular importance, as the psychic involvement represented by an alpine climb is quite different from the requirement of a half-marathon or even of rock-climbing on a cliff. It is not as much the objective dangers of the mountains as the tension resulting from concentrating on every move for a long while and from repeatedly forcing one’s body into unusual positions, like bending ankles to grip the ice with all spikes of the crampons or walking down snow slopes in a duck-like manner, bending forward in order to avoid turning into the ultimate human sledge… The intensity and duration of this commitment explain quite easily why the brain cannot let immediately go, once the “game is over”.

Aosta [hike 3: no Grivola!]

Posted in Mountains, Travel with tags , , on July 19, 2009 by xi'an

pict6607My last lecture over in Cogne, I “ran” up to Refugio Vittoria Sella to meet my guide, to whom I had been introduced by the organiser of the course, Achaz von Hardenberg. This guide happened to be the very impressive mountaineer Abele Blanc, who is one of the twenty men in the World to have climbed thirteen of the fourteen 8000’s. I thus felt a bit shy at wasting his time with my low level climbing experience but he was both very professional and very patient in his guiding. Meeting him was an remarkable moment, for his intense personality is of a quality I rarely met. Climbing with Abele, albeit too briefly, was thus the experience of a lifetime, even though we could not meet our climbing goal, and I can only wish I have the opportunity to repeat this experience in the future…

Col de la Noire

The climb (la course) we intended to make was La Grivola, an almost 4000’s (3969m) whose sharp features are quite attractive and whose (low) difficulty was within my abilities. However, a storm built up on most of the Alps on Friday afternoon and it stroke during the night. We had intended to leave the refuge at 1am, but snow was falling too heavily for us to get out then and we thus started close to 6am when the snow had abated and daylight made handling the more delicate passages possible. (It thus allowed us to get at least some sleep, for some excursioners have had a good time in the hall of the refuge till midnight!) In the first hour, we saw a group of seven chamois, including four yearlings, who had gone down to the altitude of the path because of the snow. The first delicate passage was about climbing the snow corridor visible on the above picture (taken on the previous afternoon), to Colle de la Nera (3491m). There was enough iced snow there to make climbing easy with crampons and one ice-pick, even though we had to rope up for the final steep bit of maybe 50-60 degrees. Once at the pass—it was then 8:30am and we had made a fairly good time so far—, the weather had not improved, with gusts of winds sending snow powder inside every crack of our clothes and bags—as on Ben Nevis in 2006, my Lowe Alpine jacket hood would not close!—and a very poor visibility on the Trajo Glacier. Abele took a look at the glacier and decided that crossing it would be too dangerous for crevices were covered with fresh snow and impossible to detect—unless too late! He then took me to La Punta Nera (3683m), visible on the left of the above picture, that was an easy climb up packed snow, for there is an alternative route to La Grivola that goes through La Punta Bianca with very little differential in altitude (compared with going down on the glacier). Unfortunately the windy conditions were such that attempting this technical ridge walk was also impossible…

Colle de la Nera

We thus went down to the pass, hoping for a miracle for there still was time to cross the glacier in good visibility conditions and to reach La Grivola in about two hours. As miracles rarely happen, Abele then decided to try for another peak on the other side of the pass, La Punta Rossa, to make the most of the day, but after fifteen minutes of walking on the side of the glacier, we hit bare ice where our mixed climbing crampons would not grip, as I quickly found with my first steps… We could thus only head back down to the bottom of the valley. Going down the snow corridor proved to be the hardest part of the climb as, after the 20 meters of steep hard snow, we hit recent snow covering rubble and loose slates that made my going very very slow. It is only when we hit the end of the snow line, at about 10:30am, that the weather started to lift, as seen on the above picture, but it would have been too late anyway. So, after a cup of tea at the refuge—above which we saw a lone chamois—, we rushed back to Valnontey, our starting point, that we reached at 1:30…

From Refugio Vittorio Sella

It is always a disappointment to have to turn back on a climb, but the weather and the difficulty always are the final judges! In the end, this still is a wonderful experience and I dearly hope to be able to come back to this Aosta valley to attempt La Grivola once again.

Trajo Glacier