Cogne Ice Opening 2018 Event Report

picture by Hugo Vincent Photograpy

picture by Hugo Vincent Photograpy

The Cogne Ice Opening 2018 is now history!

A huge THANK YOU goes out there for everyone joining! It has been a blast!

Our Clinics which took place each day from Friday 14th till Sunday16th were fully attended! The event kicked off traditionally at the Bar Anais in Lillaz on Thursday evening. Thanks to Angela and Gerbore for the warm welcome. 

Every Morning 55 to 60 participants joined their allocated group. We were happy to recognize amongst them Norwegians, Finns, Swedes, Swiss, French, Italiens, Germans, Russians as well as people from the UK, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Slovenia, Poland, Amerika, Greece, Holland and Belgium. They made for the international flair we appreciate and love so much and are the proof that the love for ice climbing is universal and all through the globe! The event connected again those with passion for ice climbing and is a strong mark against any kind of Nationalism. 

All pictures by Hugo Vincent Photography

Participants took advantage of the possibility to test the latest ice climbing gear from our Sponsors: Ice-tools and crampons could be tested over the day by Black Diamond, Petzl and Grivel. La Sportiva offered to try out some of the best ice climbing boots on the market. Blue Ice showed off its super light ice climbing harness.

English  All Mountain Athlete and Mountain Guide Jon Bracey, Norwegian and Chamonix based Guide Krister Jonsson and the local Italien A. Guide Bovard Roger led the Ice Clinic at Loi.  Another pure Ice group ventured into the Valnontey with well known French Mountain Guides and Ice Experts Pierre Labbre and Max Bonniot, who would also be amongst the speakers the coming evening, accompanied by the Italien Mountain Guide Marco Clemenzi.  

All pictures by Hugo Vincent Photography

Mixed Ass, Mountain Guide and Rescuer Jeff Mercier taught together with legendary Korra Pesce the art of Mixed- and Ice climbing on the beautiful Crags rising from the frozen river of Urtier.

Our „Female Squadra“ gathered at the local pure Drytooling crag of Lillaz Beach. Female legend Anna Torretta, Swedish A.Guide Johanna Smilla Stalnacke and German-Italian Mountain Guide and Co-organizer Heike Schmitt taught the tips and tricks of Drytooling from real beginners to advanced. Dolomite based Mountain Guide Mauro Dorigatti joined the crag, putting in his years of competition expertise.

picture by Hugo Vincent Photography

picture by Hugo Vincent Photography

A huge thanks goes to all our other Mountain guides not mentioned here.  Due to their expertise in the field of ice climbing participants got a glimpse into the fascinating world of climbing on frozen water.

Temperatures were lower than expected. Nevertheless committed climbing and hot beverages made for a joyful atmosphere.

At around 4 pm all groups finished the workshops and resembled at the Event place. We want to say a warm thank you at this point to the site owners and operator of the Bar Cascate Anna Jeantet and Claudio Bionaz for their help and support. Thank you so much, without you the Event would not be possible!! Also thank you Deborah Bionaz for her commitment in the run-up of the Ice Opening!

Hot soup, bread and local cheese was provided in the Bar Cascate and made for the regaining of energies and relaxing after the cool temperatures and pure excitement!Hot showers and warming up in one of our hotels and Residences did their own magic to refreshen the very last participant before the Cultural Events started.

At 5.30pm participants as well as Mountain guides and the local ice community assembled for the seminars. 

Grivel chief Oliviero Gobbi was the first to start the line of varies seminars centered around the world of climbing. He gave a brief insight into the history of Grivel: originally a family of blacksmiths working in Courmayeur, Grivel soon became one of the most important inventors and players in the history of alpinism. Through different modifications to the normal work men’s pick axes and in direct collaboration with passing mountaineers the first Ice Axe or „Piolet“ was born. The following improvement and history of Ice tools as well as crampons were explained by Oliviero in a very entertaining way and participants could actually understand, follow and take part in this evolution by examining with their own eyes and hands the original hardware of the old days till today.

Jeff Mercier took over the microphone talking about ’10 mistakes’ to avoid in the mountains and while climbing Icefalls. His french presentation was translated by Chamonix based Korra Pesce in English language. Here was the occasion to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of an Alpinist and long time professional Rescuer who committed his life and his passion fully to the mountains and brightly shared his expertise on this evening.

Jérôme Blanc-Gras finished the talks by venturing in the difficult topic of evaluating the grades in ice, giving a short insight into the development of extreme ice climbing. He also spoke about the impact of social media, the compelling alertness to the ever changing material ice and appealed to all participant, beginners as well as advanced to have fun out there but to also pay attention and to play safe!

All pictures by Hugo Vincent Photography

With participants as well as guides and climbers getting very hungry, dinner was served around 20.00. A typical Italian culinary three course menu was dished up on long tables and for a certain time there was the prevailing sound of voices murmuring and cutlery clattering against plates.Thanx to Andrea Farcoz and his wife everyone was served, satisfied and ready to go on.

The evening would continue with our special guests Pierre Labbre and Max Bonniot. Both extremely talented and passionate for ice climbing, they presented a film showing their impressive ascent of Fosslimonster, a 1000meter long ice line including delicate mixed-climbing in Gudvangen, Norway, which attracted a lot of attention in the world of ice climbing.They continued the evening with a second epic film of a committing ascent of Pandra in Nepal.

Italien climber Paulo Marazzi presented two films. The first one told the story of a group of climbers venturing to Greenland by sailing boat, ascending new, unclimbed routes. The epic landscapes of Greenland and the wildness of the ocean combined with the incredible sunsets of this film kept the audience in awe. His second elaborate created film told the story of his quest for the most esthetic line on the remotest Mountain, a film which made people dream, laugh and suffer with the ups and downs of real adventure, the misery days while bad weather, the unforeseen mess while traveling with jeeps, Kajaks and by foot and the excitement, joy and fear while climbing never touched rock. Although the film was presented in Italien language, Paulo entertained the crowd in brilliant English.

Last but not least Jon Bracey gave a brief insight into his outstanding ascents at the Lofoten Island with Luka Krajnc in winter. Held in British manner ‚Fucking the Hedgehog‘ gave a brief insight into a cosmos of scary Mixed-climbing, cold weather, British understatement mixed with Slovenian hardcore and ladykiller tales. The Evening ended around 11pm with everyone heeding assumingely straight to bed.

Next morning started early with participants showing up at around 8am. As on the previous day ice climbing gear was rented and groups assembled. By 9am all groups had left for the various Ice- and Drytooling Clinics. By 4pm all groups were back gathering again at hot soup and bread at the Bar Cascate. By 7 pm Pizza was served at the Hotel Ondezana. A great thank you at this point to Andrea Vercellotti and his Crew making the impossible possible in a little kitchen and serving nearly 80 people with Pizza!

At 8.30 pm over 100 people gathered before the doors of the Presentation Room at the hotel Arolla.

Shortly after the Evening was opened by Tanja Schmitt, Co-Organizer of the Ice Opening Event thanking participants, Sponsors, Hotels, Residences and Bar owners for making this Event possible. 

This year’s Piolet d Or winner and committed Alpinist Hélias Millerioux was the first to present his film telling the story of the ascension of the vast South Face of Nuptse Northwest (NUP II 7742m) together with his not attendant peers Benjamin Guiguonnet and Frédéric Degoulet. Not only could the audience watch stunning images but also participate in the evolving dialog between Masha Gordon asking the right questions and thus getting to know all the details around this major ascent: the stories accompanying the big mountains, personal issues and the many incidents that went unplanned including his major injury while coming down after the successful ascent. Many participants used the occasion for asking personal questions which were brightly answered.

The second speaker of the day was a son of the Aosta valley, a climber born and raised in Cervinia. Skiracer, Skialpinist, Mountain Guide, Everest ascender and passionate climber and Alpinist François Cazzanelli. Well known inside The Valley of Aosta Francois has become a name in the international world of climbing. This evening he presented his project  Matterhorn 4x4. His film showed the incredible endeavor of climbing all four ridges of the Matterhorn (Hörnli, Furgen, Zmutt, Leone)in 16 hours and 4 minutes together with Andreas Steindl from Zermatt. His second film reflected his personal story and intense relation with the Cervino and his idea to open up a new route on its flanks his father had already dreamt of. Through longtime planning, observing and searching possible ways through the mountain he finally realized his long term project of heart, opening up a new route at the Cervino, the ‚Diretta allo Scudo‘.With Italien ambiance and flair this sensitive film gives away the very heart and spirit of Italien climbing and way of living in the mountains by one of its leading protagonists.

The last film of the evening showed the team of Tanja Schmitt, Heike Schmitt and Matthias Scherer, international well known Pro Ice climbers,  venturing again into the far North of Norway in a quest for wild, long, remote and committed ice falls. With images of ephemeral ice structures, rising directly above the incredible vast northern sea, harsh weather conditions and mythical illumination by the northern light the film carried off the audience into the world of ice climbing in all its beautiful and challenging facets.

All pictures by Heike Schmitt

After some more questions four lucky guys were selected by batch in our raffle.The lucky ones would win a pair of Nomics Ice Climbing tools by Petzl, climbing shoes by La Sportiva, a harness from Blue Ice and a helmet from Black Diamond.

After the excitement everyone gathered for a chat outside or went to their hotels.

Next day was Clinic day again and participants were eager also on this third day to go outside climbing. A small layer of snow had fallen, which made for a magic ambiance.

Courmayeur guides Giorgio Passino as well as Mario Ravello joined the Drytooling Clinics today. Also present were Manu Ibarra.The day ended a bit shorter than the previous ones, since some of the participants were already planned to catch flights home.

Luckily many opted however to stay for our first editions Legend’s Dinner starting from 7.30 p.m in the Bellevue Hotel & Spa in Cogne. Invited by Laura Roullet the Cogne Ice Opening had the honor to celebrate the last cultural event of the Ice Opening in an incredible place like the Bellevue Hotel & Spa.

Fitting for this occasion the french Grande Hommes of Ice Climbing, François Damilano, undeniable one of the most extreme and celebrated ice climbers with unfathomable first ascents around the globe, international well known Guide book and book author accepted our invitation and made this Evening very special.

Between selected gourmet dishes François talked about his first ascent of ‘Repentance’, his relation with The Aosta Valley, his personal relation to faith and belief and about the title of his forthcoming book written by Cédric Sapin-Defour and published by Guérin, editions Paulsen  „Les Sept Vies de François Damilano.“ With professionalism, passion and sympathy François enlightened this last gathering of the Cogne Ice Opening 2018 and shared some of his most formative experiences in his ice climbing career with the audience. At the end of the evening all attendees had the possibility to get a signature of his book with a selected personal dedication from the ice master himself! Films of François shown at the basement of the Hotel Bellevue completed the Evening with images of his extreme solo ice climbing taking place nearly 30 years ago in the Canadian Rockies and sequences of last winter when François restarted ice climbing after a terrible accident.

Thank you so much for joining the Ice Event and making it special François!

Gotten late again participants heeded home for another night and assembled for one last breakfast together at the Hotel Les Nigritelles. A huge thanks to Elisa and Carlo for this delicious and hearty start in the morning. With this breakfast the Ice festival officially ended and everyone went his way! Thank you all again for making four unforgettable days!!!

See you next year!