The "12 Month Challenge" is alive and well!!!
Despite work getting in the way big style this month, a ski descent was pulled out of the bag on the 31st August...
I had heard rumours of a 'legendary' cave that existed with a snowfield in the bottom of it which kept its snow all year round... last year with further research I discovered its name: the Chourum de la Parza.
Sitting in the Devoluy massif, South of Grenoble, the Chourum sees very occasional ski descents, mainly due to the difficulties in getting into it - 75m of abseiling to access it, followed by a climb back up the ropes to get out again!
Will testing out his 4x4 sandals:
Entrance to the Vallon de Truchiere:
Thar she blows! - The entry to the Chourum:
Don't forget some bolt hangers! - The top belay is rigged with bolts and nuts but no hangers - presumably to avoid casual users getting in over their heads?
25m down the top slabs, just the small matter of a 50m free-hanging abseil from here:
Luckily we had taken a 100m rope along with the 75, as the top of the snow was pulling away from the rock leaving a big, dark bergschrund - with 75s one person would probably need to stand holding the rope-ends at all times to avoid them drifting out of reach above the void!!
On top of the snow, looking back up the ropes:
Will starting the free-hanging abseil:
Will enjoying his first subterranean turns:
The snow was great - firm névé with a soft surface - after the first couple of metres which were covered in debris from above the surface was smooth & debris-free and with a steady angle of 35-40º perfect for skiing! After 80m or so the snow ran out onto a gentle area of rocks & dust; further exploration below the snow-line took us another 80m or so deeper into the cave, past quite a few bones (previous skiers?) to the cave bottom...
Will climbing up for another lap:
After a few laps of the 'indoor ski slope' we decided we should really think about getting out of there again...time for some suffering...50m jumaring up free-hanging ropes, in ski boots, with backpacks & skis hanging off the harness... enough to make anyone sweat. Will did a sterling job for his baptism into 'proper' rope climbing - good effort mate!
Will near the end of the big climb:
Almost back on dry land!:
Great views - the scenery was absolutely stunning - from the rocky peaks of the Obiou, to the Verdon-esque rock walls in the valley - and best of all - not a soul in sight!