Today we got back to Ceillac area and decided to do a local mega-classic – Les Formes du Chaos ( eng: “Shape of Chaos”) around 250meters WI4. The guidebook suggests 6 pitches, but as it goes with icefalls, your mileage may vary. When it condition it’s meant to be a must do for all aspiring climbers.
Unfortunately, because of the recent warm spell it was half melted and quite difficult to navigate, pretty much from the very beginning.
The middle of P1 was completely gone, right hand side was almost ready to go. Water was running everywhere.
We all arrived together and as usual split into 2 teams (Peter & me, Ronan & Sarah).
I hugged the left hand side and set of on P1 (WI3), arriving at the 2nd belay (skipped the first bolts) at around 35m. Meanwhile Ronan moved along slightly right to me and finished 10m above me. There was no one ahead of us, at this point, but soon enough other teams started to line up behind us.
Pitch 2 wasn’t particularly interesting, and very short, so peter wasn’t super happy about it (I made it up to him later, by letting him do the ‘money’ pitch – more above it later).
Pitch 3 was supposed to be very nice (WI4). And it would be, if not for the fact that it was a stream of running water pretty much at its entire width. I learned it the hard way – Started in the middle and immediately felt the water pouring. I escaped to the left, but it wasn’t much better. I decided to just keep going, since the freshly melted water already penetrated my outer layer and was going down my thighs. Unfortunately the belay was on far right, so I had to traverse through all of that water again.
In the mean time another team caught up behind us. It was getting very crowded. All of the left and middle of the next 2 pitches was gone, so traffic jams were inevitable.
P4 (WI4+) was definitely the hardest one. The picture above is distorted (it doesn’t show the angle or the lenght), but it was as steep as it gets at that grade (85deg). Peter lead it (as he described it himself, not in the best style) like a champ and I quickly followed (upon changing my outer layer, and discovering I only brought 1 set of gloves! FAIL).
The other team was keeping up, and were also directly below us at this point.
By the time I reached the top of that pitch I had another 4 or 5 climbers breathing down my neck. Now it was super busy, and people didn’t seem to care about queuing, very often overtaking causing all sort of rope cluster tangles.
Next Pitch (P5, WI3) was also Peter. By the time he finished now I people passing me and I had to wait to avoid climbing directly below them…
I got to the belay as quick as I could, we swapped over and I moved on P6 (very long, but about WI2). The plan was to climb as far as easy terrain goes, so we run out the full rope length, and then simul climbed around another 20 meters.
What I found on the top is something I haven’t seen yet. A pool of water with a free hanging piece of ice, that was so thin that you could nearly see through it. And people were climbing it!
All the teams (but one) that overtook us just folded the gear and went right, towards descent path. Peter was contemplating trying that (non mandatory) pitch, but I wasn’t very keen. It’s not the sort of risk I’m after. This ‘leap of faith’ was a bit too much for me.
The Italians (that we got friendly with over last few pitches) caught up and they wanted to give it a go. I asked Peter to see if he wanted to go with them, and I’d just meet him by the car. And that’s what we did.
The Italians faffed for a bit (almost an hour passed since I got to the pool) but eventually one of them put up the rope and his friend as well as Peter followed.
I went right towards descent path, however ended up in the wrong place (the top of next climb – Sombre Heroes, some 10m walk away), and had some “type 2” fun abseiling on one 50 meter rope (Peter had the other one on him – a mistake we should have avoided.).
The first abseil was particularly sketchy as I wasn’t 100% sure I’ll reach the next station… (although I could see the next belay tree, so that was good). Eventually I was 1 meter short, which was enough to make myself safe, pull the rope and after two more abseils (one of them free hanging, pretty cool experience) and I was on the ground.
Meanwhile Ronan and Sarah got in to the pool pitch and also decide to skip it. They wandered around a bit in search of descent path, but finally found it and safely got into the car.