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List of all content - Sat, 26 Nov 2022 16:28:58 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Ice Climbing in Scotland Ice Climbing in Scotland

 Out of all the places in the world you could visit to enjoy a spot of ice climbing, Scotland may not be a country that comes at the top of anyone's list, or even on that list at all. Well, once reading this article hopefully we will have convinced you otherwise and you'll be on your way to the Highlands to enjoy a fantastic winter climbing experience.

First of all, you should know that ice climbing in Scotland is only available during certain parts of the year as the climate is much more varied than that compared to the Alps, for example. However, when the Highlands are in the correct condition for ice climbing, there are several locations that combine together to offer one of the best overall venues in the world.

Those of you who have been ice climbing before will most likely have been to locations such as, the Alps, Ireland or Rjukan in Norway and in these destinations you are surrounded by steep inclines. However, this is not the case in the Highlands. Characteristically, the inclines in the Highlands are much more open, but this does not mean you can not test yourself against some steep gradients. The various rock climbing locations dotted around Scotland will seriously test your winter skills, while other routes are more suited to beginner climbers.

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Scotland's Top Five Winter Climbing Locations

If the idea of ice climbing in Scotland sounds appealing to you, then get your axes and snow boots ready as below we take you through the top five locations to brave the snowy conditions in Scotland.

Ben Nevis

It is no surprise that Ben Nevis is the most popular destination in Scotland to enjoy some ice climbing when it sits at the highest point across the entirety of the United Kingdom at 1,344m above sea level. This collection of tall rugged ridgelines will have you marvelling at the view whenever possible. Ben Nevis offers some of the steepest gullies available in Scotland along with a variety of winter routes throughout the mountains. In total, you can find around 375 routes, making it the perfect adventure for all climbers.

For the best ice climbing experience, you will want to book your trips to Ben Nevis starting in January and shortly afterwards. By this time, there will have been plenty of snowfall and the ice will have had a chance to properly form throughout the Scottish winter. Since Ben Nevis' peak sits 1,344m in the sky, you can often find suitable ice climbing conditions in early June.

If you want some guidance on which winter route to pick, then we advise either the Prion Face Direct (Grade 5) or Tower Ridge (Grade 4).

Creag Meagaidh

Although Creag Meagaidh is often snubbed by rock climbers during the summer seasons, it is a whole different story once the snow has settled and the ice has formed. Creag Meagaidh is mostly known for its water ice lines, which are routes formed when the snow melts and then freezes as it falls gracefully of the side of the cliff faces. Although Creag Meagaidh offers some spectacular climbing lines, conditions in this area of the Scottish Highlands are incredibly unpredictable.

Those tempted by the climbing lines offered by Creag Meagaidh will need the area to go through several cycles that include the freezing and then thawing of the ice.

Our suggested routes in Creage Meagaidh include Smith's Gully (Grade 5) and Fairy Godmother (Grade 4).

Stob Coire Nan Lochan

Stob Coire Nan Lochan is a North-East facing peak in the beautiful Scottish Highlands that sits around 1,115m above sea level. This fine ice climbing location can be accessed directly from the A82, where climbers can begin the ascent from the base of the mountains. Due to the altitude that Stob Coire Nah Lochan offers, it presents itself as a great ice climbing location throughout the majority of the season.

Another highlight of this location is the varied climbing routes which offer a selection of different gradients, technical requirements and challenges. In total, there is 57 routes and the ones that make our top picks include; Central Groove (Grade 7) and Dorsal Arete (Grade 2).

The Northern Corries

Now, if you are looking for a location in Scotland that offer ice climbing routes early on in the season, then The Northern Corries should be at the top of your 'To-Do List'. The Northern Corries are located in the vicinity of the Cairngorm Ski Centre and can be accessed via a short walk making them highly accessible to climbers. The Northern Corries are not just a single crag, but instead two crags that are parted by a ridgeline. The two crags are named; Coire a t-Sneachda and Corie an Lochan.

Between the two crags, you have access to a total of 318 climbs which vary from beginner routes through to professional routes. The two routes that we advise having a go at if you are lucky enough to go to The Northern Corries are; Aladdin's Mirror Direct (Grade 4) and Fingers Ridge (Grade 4).


Around 20 miles from Braemar, you will find the beautiful location of Lochnagar which is one of the less popular ice climbing locations in Scotland due to the poor accessibility. We advise heading to Lochnagar towards the end of the season as this is when you will find the best conditions. With that being said, with routes that stretch over 200 metres long, you will find that the conditions on the different pitches vary.

If you are determined to endure the long walk to Lochnagar, then you can take advantage of the 145 climbs that are available. We suggest giving either Raeburn's Gully (Grade 2) and Eagle Ridge (Grade 6).

]]> (Damian Granowski) Articles Wed, 19 May 2021 17:21:30 +0000
Climbing The ‘Pale Alps’ Climbing The ‘Pale Alps’

If you are currently wondering what on earth are the ‘Pale Alps’, then it will ease your mind when I tell you that this is the nickname that the Dolomites go by. Hopefully, most of you reading are now aware of the incredible rock faces that I am referring to and for those of you who don’t… well let’s just say you are in for a real treat.

Placed in Northern Italy, the Dolomites offer one of the most diverse climbing destinations for all mountaineers and rock climbers to enjoy. More specifically, the eye-catching limestone spires of the Dolomites can be found south of the Austrian/Italian border. Characteristically, the Dolomites feature steep inclines with ever-lasting peaks that stretch over 3000m in altitude, in some locations. Around 80km of mountainous environment provides a vast range of varied routes, climbing destinations and challenges for all climbers to take on.

Those of you who fancy taking on the Dolomites will not be the first of course, with there being plenty of historical mountaineering figures who have done so in the past. To give you some examples of these; Emilio Comici, Angelo Dimai, Lacedelli, Piaz, Huber, Messner and Vinatzer are just some of the names to have ventured up the Pale Alps.

One of the mitigating factors that lead to the immense popularity shown by today’s modern people and historical figures for climbing the Dolomites is the challenges they present and the varied climbing destinations. Below we take a look at some of these options.

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Comici-Dimai Route

For those of you who are not fluent in Italian ‘Tre Cime di Lavaredo’ translates to Three Peaks of Lavardeo and this simply refers to the location in which you can find the Comici-Dimai Route. This route is certainly not one that should be attempted by beginners with it presenting a number of challenges. The classic route can be found to the north face of the Cima Grande which was put up by some of the historical figures in 1933 that were mentioned earlier, including; Emilio Comici, Angelo Dimai and Giuseppe. As you probably already noticed, the Comici-Dimai Route gained its name from two of the three famous climbers.

To have success on this route that presents a grade of around VII, we recommend an early start, expert efficiency in climbing skills and experienced route-finding skills.

For more experienced climbers We sugesst Constantini-Apollonio VII+.

Via Ferrata

Once again, for the readers who are inexperienced with the Italian language, Via Ferrata translates to ‘Iron Path’ and this refers to the steps, ladders and iron cables you can find scattered across mountain ranges. Without this ‘Via Ferrata’, many mountains like the Dolomites would be impenetrable. The via ferrata that you can find in the Dolomites have been in place since World War I, where they originally helped soldiers pass the tough rock formations during the fight between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Fortunately, the very same ‘iron paths’ remain in place and offer exciting routes for all climbers to enjoy - professional and rookies. Even those of you who are considered non-climbers, but perhaps fall into the category of a hiker, will feel right at home on these history-filled routes.

If you would like some extra guidance before taking on the ferratas, then we advise reading Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites Vol 1, by Josh Rushforth.

Piz Pordoi

Despite lacking on the history side of things, the Fedele Route with a Dibona finish is one of the best in its grade that's for sure. With over 20 pitches available and a grade of 5.7 (5.6 on the lower section), the Fedele Route has plenty of fixed-gear available to take advantage of. This challenging but fun route is perfect for all climbers, offering the chance to grab a tan and a pizza on the way down too.

Our Dolomite Need-To-Knows

Before you set your aim on the wonderful Dolomites in Italy, we advise that you take a brief look at our suggested ‘Need-To-Knows’ which will help you make the most of your time spent here.

Accessing the Dolomites

Being such a popular location, we expect many enthusiasts will be flying from abroad to arrive at the Dolomites. In these instances, the best airports to access the Pale Alps are most definitely Venice and Innsbruck. If you are struggling to book flights to either of these locations, then Munich and Milan will both work as substitutes.

If you managed to get to either Innsbruck or Venice, then driving is 100% the easiest approach but you can also make the most of several bus services in the larger towns that will drop you in the Dolomites.

With this being said, we have to mention that public transport is not a great service in the Dolomites. As mentioned before, the larger towns and cities offer adequate bus services but once you enter the mountains you will find yourself stranded without a car.

When is Climbing Season?

The best time to visit the Dolomites is between June and October (mid-October if you’re lucky). Fortunately, the Dolomites are positioned on the warmer, more sunny side of the Alps which means it gets much better weather than other regions. Also, with the Dolomites peaks sitting lower than that found in the Western Alps and Chamonix, you can expect warmer weather and less snow.

However, on the expectancy of snow, adventurers can head to Croatia, Austria or Acro in a few hours.

Places To Stay

Fortunately, the Dolomites is not the only scenic place in the area and Italy has a handful of serene villages dotted around. If you are the type of person who wants to get involved with the community then Cortina is a great option. The mountain town hosted Italy’s first Winter Olympics in 1956 and has won the bid to hold it once more in 2026. You can also find AirBnB’s available in quieter locations Ortisei and Alleghe.

If, on the other hand, you want a location that is closer to where you will be climbing then you may want to find a spot in the hills. You can find several mountain huts available for hire in the Dolomites, making for great short stay spots.

]]> (Damian Granowski) Articles Tue, 11 May 2021 10:49:10 +0000
A guide to climbing in Red Rock Canyon Nevada’s sun-kissed Red Rock Canyon

Did you know that just 20 miles north-west of the Las Vegas Boulevard “Strip” lies a fascinating geological area in the Mojave Desert? Red Rock Canyon’s majestic red sandstone peaks and the Keystone Thrust Fault are just two reasons why avid climbers are growing increasingly intrigued by this corner of South Nevada. Red Rock Canyon offers climbing experiences and challenges for people of all ages and ability levels. Better still, the Nevadan climate means that it’s a year-round climbing location.

Nowadays, more people are venturing out to Las Vegas to experience Red Rock Canyon, as opposed to exclusively sitting in the casino floors of the Strip. The increasing accessibility of real-money poker rooms and online casinos, which offer plenty of games and welcome bonuses, means that the unique feeling of playing table games in “Sin City” is being lost. Las Vegas is also working hard to diversify into other areas of entertainment, including fine dining. 

The number of Michelin-starred eateries is rising year-by-year, while Vegas is also welcoming more professional sports teams to the city, namely the Las Vegas Knights NHL team and the prospective Las Vegas Raiders NFL team.

Besides, it’s also rapidly gaining a reputation for its Red Rocks, which are wholly unique for North American rock climbers. Some might think that Nevada is mostly flat as a desert. But real-money poker rooms interspersed within its flatter landscape. The busiest time for climbing at Red Rock is between September and May. It remains popular in the summer months but due to the searing midday heat of June, July and August, climbers tend to head out on climbs at 6 am, returning well before the midday desert heat reaches its climax.

There’s no other location in North America that feels like you are climbing in the wilderness of the desert despite being just a 20-minute drive from the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas’ civilization. Let’s take a look at a few of the best climbs you can do in and around Red Rock’s National Conservation Area:
1. Pine Creek Canyon
This scenic granite canyon appears to be the most popular climb of all at the Red Rocks. With an elevation of 7,190 feet, it’s a stiff physical test. There’s up to 630 different routes you can take on your climb, most of which will demand a 230 ft (70m) or 260 ft (80m) rope. Climbing conditions can be almost impossible when Pine Creek is wet, due to the fragile sandstone. Nevertheless, Pine Creek is easily reached by car via the scenic loop road.

2. Black Velvet Canyon
There are few more breath-taking climbs in the entirety of the Red Rocks than at Black Velvet Canyon. In particular, the Epinephrine route is one that offers something for everyone. Aside from the awe-inspiring finish, looking down at the Las Vegas Strip, the chimney pitches are worth the entry fee alone, as is the descent.

3. Juniper Canyon
Easily accessible from the Pine Creek parking lot, the Juniper Canyon offers exciting moderate routes for brave beginners and intermediates, as well as stiffer routes up the Rainbow Wall and the Cloud Tower. Once again, it’s important to reaffirm that climbing Juniper Canyon is unsafe if the area has experienced heavy rainfall and should not be attempted if the ground or rock face is damp in any way.
Of course, it’s possible to stay in and around the Las Vegas Strip if you are embarking on daytime climbs. But you can also choose to camp within the National Conservation Area. Vehicle campsites are first-come, first-served, and available at just $15 a night. The Red Rocks are definitely a bucket list climbing experience, even for those that don’t enjoy the bright lights of Las Vegas.

]]> (Damian Granowski) Articles Fri, 27 Dec 2019 09:27:14 +0000
Unique Ways to Show Off Your Climbing Memories Unique Ways to Show Off Your Climbing Memories

When it comes to climbing, preserving a particularly great climbing spot or action move is sometimes just as important as the climb itself. While experts recommend a variety of tips for climbing photography, what’s even more important is what you’ll do with the photo afterwards. While it’s great to inspire yourself with climbing quotes, it’s even better to inspire yourself with real photos of amazing climbing experiences you’ve had personally. And, what better way to do so than to transform yourself and the photo into timeless art, still or moving?

Create Wall Art

Forget about those traditional inspirational posters. When you’re wanting to either hype yourself up for your next climb or show off a particularly stunning shot of you climbing one of the most difficult mountains in your region, you can use wall art to do so. Due to the rise in popularity of creating canvas art from personal photos, companies like CanvasPop offer individuals the chance to turn their special memories into 3D art that can be hung on a wall in your home, office, or training space. If you know someone who loves climbing and outdoor activities, this also makes a great surprise gift for a special occasion or to celebrate a recent accomplishment with a big climb.

Create a Movie

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which means that a video must be worth so much more than that. It’s actually true, with studies showing that a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Turning footage from a climbing trip into a special movie is not only a great way to eternalize your memories, but it’s also an effective way to analyze and learn from your own climbing skills. Having to watch yourself and every step you take will help you become a better climber, and you’ll have a stunning movie to show off to friends and family following the big climb.

Enjoy the Moment

As a climber, you likely won’t be a stranger to the thrilling exhilaration that you feel during and after a great climb on a new mountain. While you’re probably great at living in that present moment, commemorating it with wall art or in the form of a video can be a great way to ensure you can relive that moment over and over for a long time to come. After training, traveling and exploring the heights of mountains and your own physical abilities, it will be well-deserved.

]]> (Damian Granowski) Articles Tue, 12 Feb 2019 21:53:03 +0000
Salluard Route 6a+ / Pointe Adolphe Rey, Mont Blanc du Tacul Salluard Route 6a+ / Pointe Adolphe Rey, Mont Blanc du Tacul

Salluard Route (6a+ 260m ) on Pointe Adolphe Rey (Mont Blanc du Tacul massif) is nice multipitch route on good cracks and corners. But the place is impressive. A heavy recommended route for warm up and acclimatization. Granite is excellent here :). Also, you have here sun by almost all day.

Grade: 6a+

Lenght: 260 m, 8 pitches

Time: 3-4 h

Localization: Pointe Adolphe Rey / Mont Blanc du Tacul / Chamonix

Character: corners, cracks, slabs

First ascent: 1951, 6 September - Toni Busi and Franco Salluard


View from The route


You have two options:

From Aiguille du Midi (1,5h)

Descend to Col du Midi plateau (3670 m) and cross the glacier to Pointe Adolphe Rey.


Approach from Refuge Torino

From Refuge Torino (1h)

From Rifugio Torino (3375m) traverse west towards Col des Flambeaux. From here continue beneath the cable car and descend towards the obvious Pic Adolphe Rey rocky outcrop Prepare that later you must approach this same way to Torino (uphill) :-).


1. pitch 4a, 30 m. Climb rotten rocks to a corner-crack and go to belay on the ledge


Tomek Reinfuss on first pitch - very nice crack :)

2. pitch 6a, 25 m. Go to the small overhang above the belay. This is the crux of the route and place is technical and physical, but quite ok.


Tomasz Reinfuss on the crux pitch

3. pitch 5c, 25 m. Climb a crack (and corners) on the left side of the ridge.

4. pitch 5b, 30m. Go to big groove and later go on a big ledge, where you will be below a big chimney.

5. pitch 5c, 35m Climb the chimney (nice cracks inside) and then go to the left to another corner. Pass belay and go to the left and climb the cracked slab above for 10 meters. You will find belay on a ledge.

6. pitch 5a, 35m go to a big ledge and climb cracks to belay - which is 5m from the left of the arete.


Last pitch

7. pitch 5b, 30m. Go to corner system on the left (nice cracks) and direct to V-shaped col. The belay will be on a big ledge.


Bartek Szeliga on last pitch

8. pitch 5c, 40m. Climb directly from the belay on the cracks and flakes. The last belay is on the summit ridge of the Pointe Adolphe Rey. Usually climbers descent from this point, but you can continue to the summit.



Abseil to the base of the route. You have prepared fixed anchors.


Standard set for easy routes in Chamonix:

- some nuts

- Set of cams to (#3), double purple, green, red

- 12 quickdraws

- 60 double rope.

The Salluard Route line
]]> (Damian Granowski) Mountain Base Tue, 06 Feb 2018 15:00:05 +0000
Ice Climbing in Iceland Ice Climbing in Iceland

Reaching the summit of Everest is on every climber’s to-do list, and if it’s not, it should be. That said, it’s not exactly the wild ride it used to be, and you’re more likely to see the likes of Damien and Willie Benegas cleaning up the litter left by hundreds of climbers than empty rock faces. To get away from all that, head to the glaciers of Iceland.

The Icelandic tourist scene is still developing, so while you’ll see some tours around, die-hard climbers will be able to get their fix of uninterrupted, uncrowded, unspoiled climbing amid awe-inspiring natural formations. And don’t let a potential lack of guides or hooks put you off. Or that rumor that there is no ice in Iceland. With a bit of preparation and bravado, even ice climbing beginners can have a memorable trip.

And on that note, let’s have a look at some of the top places apart from the obvious (the active volcano and highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur) to go for an extraordinary climb.

A good site for ice climbers to make their debut is the Sólheimajökull glacier. It’s a quick and easy journey from Reykjavik, home to most native ice climbers, to the car park closest to the glacier. But first, you’ll have to walk for about 15 minutes to get to the foot of the ice wall. True novices in the world of ice climbing should be aware that glacier hiking isn’t necessarily a walk in the park — be prepared for some uneasiness and ice crunches underfoot. To make the hike slightly less disconcerting, donning crampons for this part helps a lot. The beginner wall at the glacier lives up to its name: there are quite a few handholds that have been formed by other people’s axes and crampons icing over so while you’ll still have to work at getting your axes anchored in, your feet will have a bit of help.

Kaldakinn in Skjálfanda, which is in the northeast of the country, would undoubtedly be much more popular if it wasn’t so far away — you’re looking at a six-hour drive or internal flight from the capital. But is it worth it? That depends. Are you looking for up to 200 meters of clean ice? About 20 stretches of which have probably never been climbed before? For anyone looking to get a real adrenaline rush or to build on previous experience, Kaldakinn is well worth a visit.

And for seasoned ice climbers, those who have done all the “easy” climbs and are looking for a real challenge, Glymsgil is the place to head toward. It’s just an hour away from Reykjavik and therefore much more accessible. At the opening of the canyon, there are several easier climbs, but as you move further in, you’ll have to contend with a river that doesn’t freeze completely. Rappelling down is easy, but once you’re there, the only way to get out is by going up. The routes are long and it’s an arduous climb. Be prepared and make sure your equipment is in good shape because these routes aren’t frequently climbed, so do everything in your power to ensure you don’t get stranded. The Icelandic Alpine Club has more information about the routes at Glymsgil (in Icelandic), including the best ways to get there by car.

Iceland is, as of now, an untouched paradise for climbing, with only the locals getting into it. Our advice is to head there sooner rather than later before it becomes as commercial as other spots. After all, where’s the fun of conquering an ice face that has been done by thousands before you?

]]> (Damian Granowski) Articles Fri, 19 Jan 2018 10:46:16 +0000
Aiguille du Midi / The Cosmiques Ridge Aiguille du Midi / The Cosmiques Ridge

The Cosmiques Ridge (in french Arête des Cosmiques) is one of the most classic climbs in Mont Blanc Massif. This ridge on the Aiguille du Midi need minimal approach and is easily accessible from the cable car. Give easy grade (french PD/PD+), nice views and you know why Cosmiques are so popular. This is also a good way for acclimatization for harder routes, and for a relative beginning climbers great alpine goal.

Grade: AD 4a (crux has 4c)
Length: 240-300 m. Elevation 3550 m / 3842 m
Time: 2-3 hours (half of the day with approach/descent by cable car on Aiguille du Midi. But on this route can be a big traffic)
Localization: Aiguille du Midi / Mont Blanc Massif / Chamonix (France)
Character: Ridge, traverses, slabs, couloirs
First ascent: 1911, 2 August - George and Maxwell Finched


Technical Information:

Difficulty rating: PD/PD+, 4a (4c crux)
Elevation min/max: 3550 m / 3842 m
Height difference: +300 m / -300 m
Difficulties height difference: 240 m

Arête des Cosmiques offers climbing on rock, ice, and snow. It is possible to do this route in every season. It is not difficult for climbers, but you must be prepared for mixed conditions which depend from the time of the year. You will descent to the glacier and climb up granite slabs & crack.

Area of Aiguille du Midi is known for a good place for acclimatization. Typically you take a cable car to the top (~3800 m), do some route and quickly go to Chamonix (~1000 m). That was our tactic for climbing on north face of Grandes Jorasses.

Cosmiques are very popular (especially in high season (from June to September) then be prepared for a lot of people on the ridge. A good option is to start early (first cable car). Also, be prepared if there is a strong wind.


• Crampons
• Ice axe (or two in winter)
• 60 m half rope
• Half a set of nuts (mostly cams to 0.75)
• 4 slings
• 4 quickdraws
• Abseil/belay device

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From Chamonix take a cable car to the top of Aiguille du Midi (ticket up/down cost ~60 euro…) and go to the ice tunnel. Descent the steep snow ridge and traverse below the South Face of the Midi (outstanding summer climbing in orange granite). Go near of the Simond Hut.


Descending from Aiguille du Midi

The Cosmiques Ridge

The Ridge start on easy mixed terrain, which leads to a small summit. At this part of the climb, you will go on the right side of the “ridge”. Take direction to the first gendarme (~3731 m ), climb the inclined slabs (4b). Go on the ridge to the second subsidiary summit. Do a descending traverse (or abseil).


View to crux of the route

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Next, go to the first tower and abseil 30 m (bolted belays). Move on the right on the base of the first tower. Climb a small chimney (4a) and go up to ridge (here go also the Cosmiques Couloir). On big ledge go right around the second tower.


Author on crux pitch. Photo Tomasz Klimczak

Before you are crux section. 5 meters of terrain 4c (slab with cracks). The slab is quite easy because you have drilled (sic!) holes for your front points of crampons. Traverse right above the slab, go to the narrow ledge. From there go to the big terrace and cross the ridge to NW face.


Outstanding view!

Descent and go right to couloir chimney (2 pitches 3c and 4a).


On the ridge go to the metal ladder and access to the terrace of Midi station and to cable car, back to Chamonix.

]]> (Damian Granowski) Mountain Base Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:31:37 +0000
Grandes Jorasses / Desmaison (Gousseault) Grandes Jorasses / Desmaison (Gousseault)

Desmaison (Gousseault) on the north face of Grandes Jorasses is described as one of the finest mixed climbs in The french Alps. On 11-14 of October 2017 we do this route and here you have a description of Desmaison. Like they say in the guidebook: “Go for it, before you become an old fart”... ;-).

"When I think of the Grandes Jorasses, I think real class
When I think of good conditions on the north face, I think those who are not there are missing out
When I think of all those routese, I think I still have loads to do
When I think of the Desmaison, I think- Go for it, before you become an old fart...."

Chroistophe Moulin

Grade: ED2 VI 6a A1/A2, 1200m
Length: 1200 m (33-36 pitches). We have 33.
Time: 2-4 days.
Localization: North Face of Grandes Jorasses / Chamonix (France)
Character: snow/ice ramps 50-85 degrees, corners chimneys, mixt,
First ascent: 1973 10-17 February - René Desmaison, Giorgio Gertone, and Michele Clareta
First free ascent: 2007, October - Guy Robertson and Pete Benson

Climbing on the north face of Grandes Jorasses isn’t easy. This is one of the wildest places in Mont Blanc massif. After you climb north face you have complicated (and dangerous) descent on the south side of Grandes Jorasses.


Lescheaux hut. Photo Damian Granowski


The best way is to train to Montenvers (from Chamonix). You go to Mer de Glace and approach ~4 hours to mountain hut Leschaux, where is good to stay for a night.
From there you have 3-4 hours to the base of the north face of Grandes Jorasses.


Approach to the base of the north face. Photo Tomasz Klimczak


Best time for climbing this route is autumn, winter, and early spring. You can do this route in any conditions, but… I recommended that do this route in good conditions :). On route, you will find a lot of rotten rock, and a few big boulders, which can fall with you (especially if they will be not frozen).
Best is if easy terrain on Ramps is covered in consolidated snow and ice. Perfect conditions were for that purpose were in 2014 (very rare) and some teams do Desmaison in 2 days.
We have poor conditions (but good weather) and need 4 days to complete Desmaison. The hardest pitches were this easiest :-). Sometimes you can find a rotten rock, covered by snow. A lot of time takes in this conditions to find holds and solid place for protection. In good conditions, you probably run at this “easy” places.
Another problem was bivi places, which are VERY poor if there is not so many snow. All our bivouacs were in sitting position. Check fresh foto of the wall and search for ice on ramps :-). Hardest pitches (with M-grade) are usually possible to climb even if they are dry. We don’t have problems with them.

Desmaison (Gousseault) has some start variation:
Originally (1971 and 1973 year) Desmaison started on an overhanging wall between the gully of The Shroud and Ramp I.
Now you can start also: October 2000 start (250 m by The Schrund and go to the top of Ramp I), January 2000 (Start at gully on the right of The Shroud and go to chimney), Colton-Smith (most logical if the start of this route is covered in ice). All the starts to the Desmaison lead to the top of Ramp I.



We choose:

- double rope 50 m
- one set of friend to #3 (purple and green doubled). Plus set of microfriends
- 8 ice screw (mostly short)
- set of 11 nuts
- set of pitons (especially 2-3 knifeblades, 3 "Jedynka") + hammer
- 12 quickdraws (include 8 alpine)
- couple of slings 120 cm and 12 meter of cord
- Jumar and microtraxion

Food (for one day)

- 200 grams of nuts,
- 100 grams of dried fruits
- one portion of liofilizated food
- one light liof for team on breakfast
- soup (one for team)
- 2 tables of izotonic
- some individual sweeties

My clothes and personal gear

-2 pair of Smartwool socks
- shoes with inner boots. My were TNF Verto S6k Extreme.
- underwear clothes
- t-shirt
- hoodie Cortina Montano
 El Cap Montano Softshell
- down jacket Yeti Wave
- 3 pair of gloves (Monkey's Grip Power Load and Dt. Plus one very light for operation on bivoaucs)
- cap and shawl
- sunglasses
- Ct Ascent harness
- Ct Orion helmet
- Fixe Frog Belay Device
- 3 CT hms
- one CT hammer
- 2 Nomics
- Simond Vampire crampons
- 2 cords

Bivvy gear

- one windboil 1l
- 500 gram of winter gas
- sleeping bag
- bivy bag
- carrimat

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After reconnaissance, we choose January 2000 start.
We climb ~60 meters in quite good ice. Next, we climb mixt M5 pitch which ends at the base of the chimney M5+. Prepare for war if there is no conditions in chimney :-].


Tomek at the beginning of chimney pitch

After chimney pitch move to the right to the easier-angled mixed ground to the foot of a rock step (top of Ramp I). On this step, you will find 2 pitches. First is 5c/M6, with traverse (old poor fixed ropes) to a small flake. Secon M5 to the top of Ramp I.


M6 pitch to the top of Ramp I. Photo Tomasz Klimczak


Second pitch. Photo Tomasz Klimczak

In this area (2-3 easier pitches) we have the first bivouac.


Morning of second day

After that, you go to start of Ramp II. From here you climb 50 m rock wall (right to the chimney and after to the left). Next 80 meters of easier terrain (M4, 80°. We have some nice ice and later poor rotten rock covered in snow), which ends at the base of Ramp III.
You will find there 60 meters of 6a/M7 mixed terrain (or A1). Tomek aid last part and move out to “excellent bivvy site”, which was not so excellent :-). But in better conditions should be better.


Tomek heading for this hard pitch (lower crux). Photo Damian Granowski

From here you have 300 meters of easier climbing in ice (section 80-85° thin ice). If there will be not so many ice then prepare for battle in corners with loose rock. Ramp III goes to the foot of headwall, where are connections to other routes. At the base of headwall we have another bivvy site, but if you have time, then try one more pitch of headwall and you probably find a better place, with a sun at dawn :-).


III Ramp. Photo Damian Granowski


At the base of headwall. Photo Tomasz Klimczak

Headwall consists some nice mixt pitches. First is 50 m of climbing in cracks at grade M5. Second is M5+, which goes diagonally (to the right) in solid red rock to the base of the chimney.
We climb 40m in - not so good - rock, climb chimney (M5, some old fixed ropes - abandoned during a Korean attempt. After you climb chimney go to the right (poor rock, and loose blocks) below monolithic step.
Crux pitch (M6 or 5c A1) of headwall is before you. Climb the wide crack (hand traverse) and after this go to left (don’t go to pegged crack on the right!). Climb to the corner (maybe you must take off gloves) and go to ice smear.


Hand traverse on the headwall crux pitch. Photo Tomasz Klimczak

After this pitch, you have 4-5 pitches of Exit Ramp (200m, M4, 75°).


Nice 1000 meter exposure :-). Photo Damian Granowski

It depends from the conditions. We have some “hard” climbing in not consolidate snow. On the last part go to corners from the right side. It should be the easiest way to the top.


Tomek on exit ramp. Photo Damian Granowski


Good morning Mont Blanc! Photo Damian Granowski

Descent (4-5 hours)

from the Grandes Jorasses is one of the hardest and complicated in Mont Blanc massif. Some sections are exposed to seracs, stone fall or avalanche… In the night or poor weather can be difficult to find the route. It's a good idea to have map, compass, and GPS with coordinates of crucial points.
The best way from Pte Walker is “normal” route. From the summit head down (slightly leftwards) to S rock ridge. The descent on the crest (rock&ice) to glacial plateau. Traverse west across the glacier (be quick! Above you are a line of seracs) to get to the Rochers Whymper (base of S spur of Pte Whymper).
You will find here some Rappels (in good conditions you can descent without them) which lead you to Gl. des Grandes Jorasses.
Traverse this glacier to the west to the top of Rocher du Reposoir. Go down the crest of this ridge (poor rocks). After few hundred meters go to left side of the crest. Last part you can climb down or use two 30 m abseils.


Descent on Rocher du Reposoir. Photo Damian Granowski

We use abseils and after that don’t go down (hard slabs and bergschrund), but traverse to the west to easier part of the glacier.
Head down on the glacier (but take the left side of Glacier de Planpincieux. Near of Rognon de la Bouteille). Move off the glacier onto a rocky plateau. Continue down rocky rib to Boccalatte hut (fixed ropes). The hut cannot be seen until the last minute.
From Boccalatte hut go down by patch to village Planpincieux (2-3 hours).


Desmaison 11-14 October 2017, Damian Granowski and Tomasz Klimczak. 3 bivvy at the wall and one of the peak of Grande Jorasses. 1200 m, M6+, WI4, A1.

Movie from this trip:


and another


]]> (Damian Granowski) Mountain Base Sun, 22 Oct 2017 18:38:57 +0000
Climbing in Leonidio Climbing in Leonidio

In April 2017 we check new destination on worlds climbing map – Leonidio in Greece. Almost two weeks in this quite new sector was a good time. In this article, you will find some tips for climbing and accommodate here.

Getting there

Leonidio (~6000 residents) is placed in a valley on the east coast of the Peloponnese peninsula (210 kilometers from Athens). It is surrounded by big limestone crags, and from city to Sea is 3 kilometers. The best way to getting there is to buy a fly ticket directly to Athens. From there you have a 4-hour drive (you can rent a car from airport) to Leonidio (highway and later express road near of Mediterain Sea.



Climbing in hot rock. Photo. Damian Granowski

Another option is going there by bus:

By Bus:
From Athens International Airport take Bus X93 to Kifissou Bus station (in greek: Κηφισού). It is the final station of the line, ca. 1h drive, 5€.
At the bus terminal buy your ticket at the counter "Leonidio" (in greek: ΛΕΩΝΙΔΙΟ or Λεωνίδιο).

From Athens to Leonidio
8:15 am, 11 am (1x switch in Tripolis), 16:30 o'clock. Drive: ca. 4h
Fridays is an extra Bus at 18:30 o'clock.

From Leonidio to Athens
5:30 am (except Sundays)(via Tripolis), 8:15 am, 16:30 o'clock
Athens Bus Station: (+30) 210 5124910, 210 5124911
Leonidio Bus Station: (+30) 27570 22255

Accommodation & Food

Leonidio – The traditional town offers a lot of places to accommodation. There is the big touristic base for summer, when a lot of people go there for holidays (sea and beach). But out the season lot of them is free (and probably cheaper).  Here you have link to possible places.


The traditional town still offers a pleasant way of life and is a good place to choose for a relaxing and/or active vacation! Many of you have visited our beautiful village and have experienced the stunning cliffs surrounding Leonidio. Currently, there are more than 1000 routes across a wide range of grades, and there is still potential for much more.

In Leonidio, you have 2 small supermarkets. But you also have a lot of bakeries, small shops (fruit & vegetables). For long evenings you have a tavern and pizza restaurants. Local taverns have a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes.


There is „Leonidio Climbing Guidebook” (edition 2016, also in English). Almost 1000 routes in 50 sectors. More than 40 intro pages. It cost ~30 euro. It was produced by the climber from Panjika cooperative in Leonidio. They have in Leonidio bar, climbing shop, the restaurant in one ;).



Przemek Patelka on Tufa Tango 6c, Sector Mars

Best season for climbing

Climbing conditions in Leonidio are best in autumn, winter, and spring. Best period for climbing is from October to April, with the climate being typically Mediterranean. Some crags can be climbable even on hot spring and summer days.

We have been there on the beginning of May and there was a lot of crags where you can climb. But in many cases, we tried to climb in shade, For example, after 1 am there was shadow on sector Mars. Main sectors (above Leonidio) like Hot Rock are best in winter when the sun is your friend :-).


Daniel Wdowiak on Metallica 5c+

A lot of climbers is there at the beginning of November, when is Leonidio Climbing Festival (in this year 2-5 November).

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The rock

In Leonidio is limestone. Usually red/orange in overhangs. The vast majority of climbing routes in Leonidio are relatively new. Many still require thorough cleaning of loose rock and traffic to improve. Pieces still break off, so helmets are strongly recommended.



Ania Kołodziej in Sector Red Rock

In general quality of rock is good. You will find crimps, pockets (not so many), tufas. Climbing on slabs, vertical, overhanging rock.



Mateusz Kołodziej climbing 6b in Sector Mars


Near of Leonidio, there are close to a thousand climbing routes ( the state from 2016), most of them are quite new. The majority are single pitch routes, but you will find some multi-pitch climbing (up to 200 m) on the main cliff above the city. All the climbs are sensibly bolted (no clipstic required).

It is recommended to take an 80m rope since some of the routes are up to 40m high and required as many as 20 quickdraws (I hear that on some harder and long (~50m) routes you need 25). However, it is possible to get away with a 70 m rope and still climb the majority of the routes. Even 60 m rope should be ok, for a lot of routes (For example sector Mars). For sports multi-pitch climbing you need 80 m single rope (rappels are 40 m long) or 50-60 double rope. The double rope should be better on traditional routes.



Daniel Wdowiak and Krzysiek Sadnicki on multipitch route Mira 6b

Almost every climber will find something for them. From french 5a to 9a. But this area is not for very beginners climber. It is ok if you do 6a grade (OS or quick RP). There are not many routes at 4 and 5 grade.

A lot of routes have soft grade and are good for Onsight. It depends from the area. There where are routes bolted by German and Czech climbers will be more thoughtful.

One more time I repeat - A helmet is highly recommended, especially on vertical/long routes.

Best crags

Approach to the crack is usually short and well-signposted. Some sectors are 20-40 minutes from parking. And there you drive 5-20 minutes from Leonidio. Sectors like Red Rock, Hot Rock, Mars are available 20-30 minutes of walk from Leonidio. If you prefer you can hire bicycle or scooter in the town.

Most popular sectors:


Vertical, red-yellow wall. 15 minutes from parking above the valley of Leonidio.
Routes: up to 40m, 6a – 7a+


40 minutes by walk from Leonidio. The sector is in shade after 13:00, but after 17:00 tufas can be wet...



Katarzyna Miszograj on Tufa Tango 6c, Sector Mars

Routes: up to 40m
Grade: 6a+ to 8a

Twin Caves



Climbing on vertical routes in Twin Caves

This sector is in shade until 11:00 and after 18:00

Adrspach Wall

The Kokkinovrachos multi-pitches

There is 4 sports routes in the lower 6 grade and 12 fully bolted or traditional routes up to 200 meters. Recommended multi-pitches are: Tha Ta Poume 7a, Plug and Play 7a+, Aramis 6c, Mira 6b.

I don’t recommend Pillar of Fire. Its ugly trad (with some bolts) - better take only quickdraws and go for fully bolted routes :-).



Second pitch on Mira 6b

Take necessary gear + water, adequate clothes, and headlight. Best way to go down is rappeling by this same route or go to dedicated rappeling route on the right side of the wall (rappels have 40 m and are marked by red dots).

Other options for rest

- Mountain bike
- Diving in Sea
- visit monasteries of Elona. One hour from Leonidio is Mycenae and Tiryns


There are a lot of climbing sectors in Leonidio. You can find more information and topos here:

More pictures from Leonidio you will find here: Leonidio Gallery.

Damian Granowski

]]> (Damian Granowski) Articles Mon, 18 Sep 2017 07:52:38 +0000
Eliteclimb Raptor - ice axes made in Poland Alicja w Krainie Czarów WI5 M8. Photo Kuba Poburka

Today I write about something special. Eliteclimb Raptor - lightweight ice axes from carbon fibers. I had the honor to test one of the first prototypes of this tools and some of my ideas are in new Raptors. In this text, I will write something about this ice tools and answer the question: Is this Raptor for You?

Oryginal test (in polish) you will find on

Below small interview with Jarek Walewski (Founder of Eliteclimb)

DG: When Eliteclimb start and what were your inspirations

JW: Company has roots in mountains. The idea was born in the middle of Kazalnica (famous polish winter wall in Tatras) at 2013. Near of our team was climbing team Wojtek Ryczer and Piotr Xięski. Wojtek saw hammer from Kevlar and give the idea of ice tools from that same material. With his help after half of the year, Salamandras axes go with Artur Małek on the expedition to K2.

What was first product?

Of course first was hammer ;). After that were 3 Salamandra tools. Their lucky owners are Artur, Wojtek and me.

In the meantime, I work on a snow shovel. Some prototype goes to polish expedition K2 & Broad Peak Middle in 2014. Another project was ice tool Czarny Łabędź (Black Swan) for Ice World Cup. Tester was Olga Kosek, but the project now is closed, because UIAA changes limit box for Ice tools.

After K2 we create Kruk (Raven) and in this year we have the last version of Raptors.

Great thanks for Artur Małek. His experience in high mountains and lot of winter climbing allows creating great products for mountain terrain.

Say something about technology

In production, we use hybrid carbon and Kevlar composite. Combination of this two materials results in high strength and low weight. Everything is prepared manually.

New Raptor?

Raptor is next step. Before it was Salamandra. Raptor is designed to technical mixt climbing (ice & rock) and dry tooling. It takes 2 years from idea to product. In the first version, geometry was not so good. Ice tool was also too flexible. We change the shape of shaft and picks. 

The purpose was: light weight, great swing, stiff shaft and good to place in ice. I think that now Raptor is good.

What are next products?

We have some ideas. People ask for a combination of ice tool and shovel. Others ask for a typical ice axe.
Interesting can be trekking pools. I have some project in my mind.

How is going on the international market?

Eliteclimbs are recognized in many countries. Salamandras and shovels were used in Romania, Pakistan, USA, UK, Norway, and Switzerland.

A big success was Ouray Ice Festival, where we have been the first polish company. We have some new contacts in America.

Below short movie about production Eliteclimb


Abour Raptors

To 2017 you can buy Kruk and Salamandra. This last one was technical ice tool with a shape like in Petzl Quark and was dedicated to alpine climbing. There wasn’t ice tool like Petzl Nomic or BD Fusion. This empty space fills Raptor.
Raptor is technical ice tool (dedicated to ice and mixt technical climbing) with rounded shape and grip for your hand. It weighs 430 gram.


Construction is “easy”. We have kevlar and tendon coal, also steel pick.
The pick is universal. For rock and ice - in this second terrain we can place steel plates from Nomic to give more weight to our ice tool (better swing). Pick also has a minimal hammer.
At the top of ice tool, we have the hole for carabiners (we can place our tools to harness).
Shaft and grip are from hybrid carbon and Kevlar composite. Everything is profiled for best rigid. At the bottom is an aluminum blade (adze).

One Raptor cost 1300 zł (~270 euro)


How did they perform?

My favorite tools for winter climbing are Petzl Nomics (version 2), which are great construction. So in many cases in this article, I will compare Nomics with Raptors.


First about what you think is weight. First time in my hands I had a feeling that this is plastic :). After some time you get used to but tools are very light.
In total, you have two ice tools with weight 900 grams. In comparison Nomics weight 1270 gram. It is almost 400 grams of difference!

Attack angle

Raptor is designed for mixt and ice climbing in vertical or overhanging terrain. Of course, it will be good also in slab terrain and at roofs.
The shape is similar like in Petzl Nomic or Black Diamond Fusion. But Raptors are a little bit bigger


In hard mixt climbing (especially dry tooling) is important to have “feeeling” of your tools. When you put your weight on small crimps you “feel” if your tool catch hold. Another detail is jamming of your tools. For example, Nomic has a little bit flexible shafts. When you hang on the roof (especially on figure 4 or 9) Nomic can increase his length and return when you lighten. Sometimes in this situation grip of Nomic can jam.

From opposite is Fusion Black Diamond, where a shaft is very rigid. How is with Raptors?

The shaft is also flexible. Maybe smaller than in Nomics, but there is something. But you know - They are built not from an alloy of metal but from hybrid carbon and Kevlar composite. Something
Raptor is leashless, but it has a small hole for something - BD Fusion weight 672 gram and Raptor 430 gram.


Another important point is a grip on your tools. Good ergonomic handle is treasure, which gives us huge benefit on overhanging routes
Grip in Raptors is ok, but not so good like in Petzl Nomics or Cassin X-dream. The shaft in Raptor is covered with special abrasive paint for better grip. But soon (if you climb in overhang routes) or later (if you climb in alpine terrain) this paint go away and friction will be not so good.
At this point, I feel a difference in dry tooling (big overhangs and roofs). Not so bad but Fusion, Nomic and Cassin X-dream have better grip. The solution can be grip tape on the shaft and… training ;).
The shape of the grip for me is too thick (better is in Nomic and X-dream).
Carbon and kevlar grip is better in alpine terrain. This material is warm for your hands and snow did not glue to your shaft.

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Raptor has 3 grip rest. First at the bottom of the handle is quite big and protect our hand from hitting ice&rock. He has a serrated blade which gives us the opportunity to put ice tool in snow (easy terrain).
The second grip rest is at the top of the handle. Third in the middle of the shaft (which is good in easy alpine terrain or in overhang dry tooling routes).



Raptor is leashless, but it has a small hole to put cord there.



I use Raptor 2 winter seasons. Two pairs (prototype and new - actual - version). Last part quite often. I’m curious how strong will be a tool from carbon fibers. Carbon and Kevlar don’t brake suddenly (like a shaft in Nomics a ). First, we hear cracking sound. Maybe in hard dry tooling after years of using you have the chance for that. But in alpine/mixt/ice climbing I doubt. There is not so many force to break your shaft.

Another point is picks

They weigh ~140 gram (almost like in Petzl Nomics). The profile is for ice and mixt climbing in vertical and overhanging terrain. There is only one picks profile (some producents have picks for ice and mixt).
Picks have wide 4mm on the tip. An alloy of picks for me is a little bit softer than in picks from original Nomics. Maybe in this season picks will be harder. One pair of picks cost 25 euro (in Poland).





Dry tooling

I climb with Raptors a lot. Usually in terrain harder than M6. To grade M7+ they are excellent. Good “feeling” of tools and light weight is quite good for this type of dry tooling.
I climb with them in harder terrain - big overhanging routes (also roofs). “Feeling” of your tools is also good.
Problem is with grip. It is not so good like in Nomics or X-dreams. We must use more force of our arms. Maybe a solution is to stretch grip tape on shaft and grip.


Dry tooling on Zakrzówek (Kraków, Poland)

Mixt climbing

I use them usually in Tatras. In rock, they are similar like in dry tooling. Placing your tools in ice, consolidated snow and frozen grass without problems.
Their great advantage is weight :-). On approach and descent, we have almost ~400 grams less in our backpack.


Photo Bartek Szeliga

Climbing in ice

Artur Małek says that Raptors are born for ice :). I didn't climb with them in hard ice (WI5+ and harder) then I don’t have the comparison with Nomic.
I use Raptors more in rock than ice. But I do several hundred meters on icefalls (about 150 of grade WI5+) and they were ok. I climb without pick weights and I think that Nomic is a little bit better on ice.
Unfortunately, I didn’t test with one Raptor and Nomic at one icefall.

Who should use?

Good question. Buying a new pair of ice tools is a big investment in climbing gear. Raptors are specialized tools for:
winter mountaineering, steep technical alpine climbing. Everywhere where we don’t have long routes in overhanging and roofs. Every cent will return on approach and descents.
Big mountain expeditions where weight is crucial.
The light person, where a weight of ice tools is important. For example, girls which weight is under 55 kg.
Climbing on long icefall in water ice.
Climbing in snow/ice couloirs.
For climbers, who prefers climbing in big overhangs and roofs, Raptors will be not so good. The good climber will climb with them, but you will need more grip strength.


Raptors from Eliteclimb are interesting ice tools. If you are rather Mountaineer (to M8) than dry tooling monkey then you should consider this purchase. But if you go too long mountain expedition then buy them ;).

]]> (Damian Granowski) Gear Tue, 08 Aug 2017 06:00:00 +0000