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Photographer's Note

At the beginning of December I went with a friend to Cogne in the Italian Alps to do some ice climbing.

The previous day at work had been my first day back after having the flu, I felt really ill and was struggling to focus on my computer screen. Up popped an email from my climbing partner saying "are you all set for our trip to the Alps tomorrow?" All set? I thought we were going next week, I had my dates all mixed up!

Hastily I organised time off work, packed my gear and met him at the airport the next evening. We arrived in Geneva at 9.00pm and then drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Cogne and Lillaz at the head of the valley. It was midnight and we slept in the car and it was -15!

Before dawn my friend woke me up and after much groaning and grumbling I struggled out of my sleeping and into the very cold dark morning. "What the hell am I doing here?" I wondered. Feeling utterly sick, cold, tired and confused we set off up the valley in the dark to look for ice.

It wasn't long before the coughing and hacking had me bent over double by the side of the trail throwing up. I was having enough trouble walking so the prospect of climbing steep ice seemed ludicrous! But then the sun started to rise and the mountains all around us started to reveal themselves as we peered through the dense pine forest. Only 24 hours earlier I had been tucked up in my sick bed watching poor daytime TV and feeling sorry for myself. Through the fug of flu remedies I had been transported to the Alps without pondering where we were going or what we were doing, unware, in the dark of night, of the beauty and wonder that surrounded us on all sides.

As the light changed and the still morning steadily lightened I soon forgot how crap I felt and viewed the landscape as though I had never seen such a thing before. This is how great moments are made. It was as though I had been transported as blind man and now I had regained my sight. The day turned into one of my best days of climbing as we ascended 6 pitches of perfect green ice and didn't see another soul all day.

This and other valleys surround the small village of Lillaz a few miles from the town of Cogne in the Italian Alps, a couple of hours from Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco and the border with France. These valleys are a mecca for ice climbers as there are a plethora of ice climbs of outstanding quality, including some mixed climbs that are world class.

Note: I realise that the tree branch in the top right hand corner is a bit distracting. I could have cloned it out but prefer it when photos are left alone. This shot was taken in dense forest as I peered through a small gap in the trees. The shot looks like I am in an open clearing but in fact the trees were only a few feet apart! And they say the camera never lies!

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Additional Photos by Richard SG (escher1) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 30 W: 5 N: 240] (1268)
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