Whilst most people are enjoying the summer at the beach, or at least outside in the sun, MINT snowboard instructors David Gladwin and Tammy Esten along with Italian relegate Max Ruffo spent a gorgeous August day in a cave. Not just a normal alpine cave, this cave, known as La Grande Glacière du Parmelan, was filled with ice and in perfect condition for a day of summer ice climbing! And what an epic day it turned out to be!
They set off from Morzine with just a beat up, scribbled ‘map’ giving a very rough location and layout of the cave and an indication of several long abseils. Once eventually found, the cave entrance turned out to be pretty intimidating, with a 60 meter abseil into the cave through a hole. Dave went first, over the edge and into the unknown; this was already turning out to be way better than your average adventure!
The following abseil, was equally impressive, taking them down a 20 meter vertical ice wall into complete darkness below. Minds were already wondering ‘how the hell are we going to get out of here?’. After one further abseil and a squeeze through a narrow passageway they had finally reached the chamber in which floor to ceiling were largely covered in ice.
And so climbing began, with routes available from relatively easy grades up to seemingly impossible overhangs. Experienced ice climbers Dave and Max gave novice Tammy a quick intro and she was soon happily at the top of a pillar of ice. Next was the challenge of a much more technical route overhanging as the wall curved into the ceiling of the cave. After a brave lead by Dave, the others quickly followed and soon all had aching arms.
Any concept of time is quickly lost in such an unusual environment, however eventually down jackets were not sufficient to keep out the cold and it was time to leave. The climb out was another epic, being a fairly technical grade ice climbing route, it took longer than expected and there were a few hairy moments. By the time they made it all the way out and back up into daylight, the three rather soggy & cold explorers were happy to reach the 25℃ evening heat. It was already time to start thinking about the next adventure, unsure as to how to better ice climbing in a pitch black cave in August…