I'm a woman

I'm a woman
Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
No reproduction on other media without the photographer's permission.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Birth of a man, by Stevie Haston.

A big front was coming through, and Alex a friend was coming over to climb, what to do? Prayer sometimes pays, or is it just the delusion of the super desperate. Prayer did the trick, my lapsed catholicism wasn't fooled, happenstance, and having almost divine knowledge of my local cliffs probably helped.

 Zee front of Doom.

Our first day out was really a gift from the gods, the clouds were really obedient and parted, the light was radiant and reverberated off every glistening grain of sand in the perfect sandstone we climbed. 9 routes gave in to our steely hands. Well one did offer a bit of resistance, Czech Diect tore a good chunk our of one of Alexs fingers, some Irish lilted swear words sang in the sparkling air, and we finished with a spray ridden belay above the operatically inclined heavy orchestra of the crashing waves. All good dramatic stuff.

 Second day.

Second day we ran out of options it had to be one thing, the Underworld! Visiting the Underworld is one thing, the tricky bit is getting out either in one piece, or with your soul whole.

 Is  it so cold in the Underworld that there is ice next to Africa?

The sixty meter abseil was the same, not one centimetre more, or one less! The routes were wet, clammy and covered in sea slime, perfect for Alexs cut finger to fester.

 Desperately seeking Suzan, or a way out?

Photos in the Underworld are very hard to take, on auto, the focus is tricked by the super saturated air and things become distorted, like a weak mind. At the back of the Time Tunnel the huge expanse of dark was seemingly darker than usual, a one hundred foot Cyclops could have appeared, and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. 
The day before in the wonderful mote spangling light, with the clash of titanic waves, Alex on one route had various rainbows appearing around his head! Today Alex had a few water spouts twirling in the sea behind him when we did Stix and Stoners. I am not sure he believed me about the first one and he was fully occupied controlling severe oedema of the forearm. When he turned around at the safety of the belay he saw one, reinstating my reliability re the truth, and goblins and daemons, and suck like mystical creature and physical weather/sea phenomena. At the top we coiled ropes in the dwarf flowers, mainly camomile, and resurfaced into Planet earth and the vicissitudes of the so called real world. We had crossed the Stix and come back, one day I will stay down there. We did a route down there called Everlasting and it was so long that I felt like I was watching Ground Hog Day, such is Magic.

Alex following the never ending story that is Everlasting, 44 meter pitch up very steep ground.

For any body who doubts the magic of this cliff, on the day I opened Everlasting, a Curveir whale appeared underneath, 7 meters long not a big whale by any means, but not at all common.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

New Horizon old vertical, by Stevie Haston.

I miss the mountains like an old lover, I miss the mountains like a lover I never had but hoped for with all my heart, I miss the mountains. They don't miss me ….they don't care…I am nothing to them.

 Italy looking and feeling like Nepal, even with burning leave smell, annual burning of chestnut pruning!

Returning to the hum drum of my small island after being intercontinental is sometimes depressing, a small life on a small pleasant island. Anyway some of the grandchildren came over to swim and climb.

 Grand children getting ready to lead me up a few routes.

Kids are always good to climb with, not always true, but this time yes. Nice to see they have improved with out me! So, I make them lead. Papi can be dragged up routes!

 this exit from a sea cliff route was too tight, damn my big chest, had to retreat, kids took the photos!

On a windy sea storm day two of the kids and I go for a little walk, and I solo down a little cliff and try to exit through a letterbox. Well-cant get through I huffed and puffed and my legs were dangling over the drop and the kids who where safely on top got a little concerned so I reversed. The waves got me, the waves had bombed the kiddies on separate occasions, they liked it, I will have to watch those kids,they don't like to wash but like to be sea bombed!

 Big cliff (140 meters) on a biggish day.

The powerful swirl of the sea seemed to draw us down, lots of routes to be done on this cliff but loose soft rock will make them fearsome.

 Little Leo, seconding a grade 5 which is a bit loose.

Leo my little grandson looks very like my father and is strong and shares his grandfathers logic, this is good and bad! He is a good little climber but also likes Canadian Kayak-well good he might get a strong back.

 Little Lilly giving scale to some of the mysterious Maltese Cart tracks.

On one day we went to see some interesting tracks, the mysterious Maltese Cart tracks. A new set of fantastic ones were found or rediscovered in an olive orchard.These tracks are prehistoric in origin and various ways for their construction have been put foreword because there is no erosion between the tracks and the tracks can often not be parallel. Nobody knows which in some ways is great, but sure leaves a puzzle, some people the animal that pulled the cart were flying birds!

Diego the little Italian Greyhound showing how perfect this track is.
These tracks are worth seeing, they remind me of Roman roads, possibly italians might have better ideas than us and the British who were here before.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Repentance, by Stevie Super Haston.

Have you repented? We need to repent! Are you a sinner? 
Do you know the route called Repentance Super? No matter if you don't, I'll give you a little picture with a few words. Repentance Supe is one of the best classic ice climbs you can do, and all the more worth talking about since ice climbing is so accessible to people today. Is it a classic, for sure it is, is it hard, well it can be, what level of joy and satisfaction do you get- big Big HUGE Satisfaction with big indelible memories.

  Sneaking up on Olie.

a few pitches up, with a little polemic, and a fall by another party, seclusion is now not always possible but ice reigns supreme.

"Why". this word was repeated slowly, I was waiting for Francois in the cold of the night, it was something very minus, and I was out side my flat in Italy! I only had travelling and work clothes, my boss Olie had successfully manoeuvred me into saying yes to a bit of Repentance and I was regretting it. Thin running tights with flashing silver highlights are probably not the best outfit for -12 and a red light district! Francois finally got to me before I froze or excepted one of the offered from the working girls. Like I said Repentance!

Repentance o the left.

I know the valleys of northern Italy fairly well but the high valleys of Aosta have been my home. Is Repentance my home? Well as a big sinner I have tried to repent and in truth Repentance I have done with the last ascent 6 times. I probably did the second ascent, at that time I was a very swollen headed and daft hombre, or if I am being kind to myself I just didn't care about reputations. Repentance was done by Grassi, Godfra Perrou, and Damillano, three guys who monopolised all the ice climbing press in Europe, when I did Repentance I thought it a very nice cascade, but only equal to Welsh Cascades done 20 years before. I wasn't that peeved, just noted down in my Black book not to trust certain people, and editors.

Walking up it looks really good.

Our team was Francois who lives  and works as a guide under the Matterhorn, and Olie my boss who lives in Aosta, and me the repenting one who once was a professional ice climber. At the carpark it was -20°C!I don't know about repenting, but I was regretting saying yes. As a man who lives closer to Africa than mainland Italy, the cold is no longer my favourite. We had the best gear apart from my clothes. My boots were summer boots, but were up to the task of -20°C which was not a surprise!

The walking along the main Cogne valley is flat and super beautiful with various cascades frozen into climbing perfection. I haven't climbed any of these cascades for many a year but know the valley from more recent runs, and snow boarding escapades. Even if you walk the valley it is still one unforgettable day. But if its a cascade on your mind, it really has to be Repentance.
We completed the climb to the top and abed off.

The team did well, we patted each other on the back, shook hands etc. My Boss was particularly pleased as I know he has wanted to do this for many a year! Francoise fourth ascent my sixth, just as good as the first time if not better. There was another team on it, they were great too, if you are reading this you guys from Torino, thanks. As for the young man who took a big whipper on the left side of the cascade, you looked solid going up the route on the right after you recovered, bravo.
the climbers bar afterwards.

We walked back sedately from the climb, very happy. I walked alone thinking of all the magnificent climbs I have done, thankful to my partners, thankful to conditions, and my very large portion of luck. If you see a chance take it as the song goes. Frozen cascades will be a rarity soon, they are the last Unicorn. For people who are gear nerds, we used Grivel ice axes, my companions didn't use leashes, I did. We all used G20 crampons, which it is simply impossible to beat, we used Scarpa boots, I used the Rebel which is really a summer boot but was good for me, the other two lads went one warmer. Grivel screws, a selection, but for me the 360° is still the best Ice screw on the market. All three of us used the Stealth Helmet which was great, its lightness makes it unnoticeable, I walked back with it on my head! My clothes were completely wrong as were my gloves!

Memories of Ice are sometimes very nice this was one of them!