The AC / CC Ice Meet in L’Argentiere La Bessee started out with 3 days of appalling weather, raining at valley level and dumping lots of snow higher up. The main areas of Fornell and Freissenieres were not easily accessible. At this stage the trip was already spoilt by the loss of our leader to the flu. Smiler couldn’t come. By the end of day three everyone had found something to climb or ski on but spirits were low. Then it all changed. Clear skies and lower temperatures brought a smile to everyones faces. 

Murray Hamilton met us on the first night. He gave us some invaluable hints on where to climb that saved us a lot of time. Bénédicte who ran our Gîte “Le Moulin Papillon”, was also the source of useful hints about where to climb. Bénédicte seemed to run the gîte virtually single handed and wasthe provider of excellent food. We all enjoyed it and there wasn’t a single scrap of food left at the end of each meal. 
Ceillac - Y gully left - Marjan Schoeke - photo by Matt Guy

Ceillac got the most attention. Everyone spent at least a day there climbing routes like Sombre Heros (5), Y Gully left and right (3-4) and Les Formes du Chaos (4). Sombre Heros is a spectacular cascade of ice hanging over the lip of a cave although hooked it was great entertainment. 

While Ceillac got the most attention other areas such as La Grave, Les Orres, Aiguilles to mention a few were also visited. The setting of La Grave was fantastic, sitting below La Meije and the climbing easily accessible. Routes included La croupe de la Poufiasse and Les Formes du Chaos both (4). 

Ceillac, Sombre Héros (5) under siege – Photo Steve Barrett

On the last day some of us headed for Freissenieres. The Freissenieres road was dug out by snow ploughs late in the week to give access to the Ice Festival. Unfortunately we weren’t the only ones who wanted to climb there and it was very over crowded. Ice Pocalypse (4) was the only route climbed and that took an Alpine start to beat the crowds. Some of us failed to get up early enough and gave up the struggle at the car park and headed off to Les Orres. Eventually we had time for the first pitch of Dancing Fall (5+). It is definitely a route to come back to and beautiful little valley to climb in. 

Les Oules, Freissinières Valley, Dave and Steve on Les Larmes de Nicodeme, Freissiniers - photo by steve brown

The deep powder snow higher up in the mountains gave the skiers amongst us some fantastic days on the slopes as well. Good Ice was found to keep us happy although it was in limited supply and much sought after by a significant number of other climbers who had turned up for the local Ice Festival. I would very much recommend a return visit to the area and to the Gîte “Le Moulin-Papillon” although it would be a good idea to avoid the Ice Festival next time.

Smiler thanks for organising the trip even if you couldn’t make it.

Stephen Jenkins (Apprentice Meet Leader)