The Alpine Countries and the Caucasus

It is hard to say enough here about the Alps, and since hundreds of books have been written with the Alps as their subject, what follows is only a superficial survey of what is available.

The Mont Blanc massif is perhaps the finest mountaineering playground on the planet. Ice climbs of all types and levels of difficulty are available here, usually not too far from a tílépbériqut station or hut. Year-round it is possible to ascend elegant snow aretes or climb classic snow and ice faces. During winter or in cold spring and fall conditions, great frozen "cascades" form on the Brouillard and Freney Faces; in cold summers, the northeast couloir of the Dru and the Super Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul are modern grade V classics.

The limestone peaks of the Eastern Alps offer scope for any type of ice climbing, from serious, classic "Weizenbach" north faces, such as the Fiescherwand, to 1,200-foot frozen waterfalls in Salzburg and near Vienna, Cood waterfalls are found throughout the Alps, and in recent years, the valleys below the peaks in Italy, as well as in France, Austria, and Germany, have seen intense development.

Perhaps the densest concentration of high-standard, high-quality frozen waterfalls in Europe is found in the Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees, which has dozens of routes ranging in height from 500 feet to Dominique Julien's 1,500-foot Voie de l'Overdose.

The Caucasus of Eastern Europe have a long history of ice climbing. In 1868 and 1874 the long snow slopes and glaciers of 18,000-foot twin-summited Mount Elbrus were first climbed by mixed parties of English, Russian, Swiss, and French climbers. In 1946 a Russian party climbed the North Face of Ullu Tau, a classic ice route comparable to the great climbs of the Swiss Oberland, such as the Lauper Route on the Northeast Face of the Eiger. The state-of-the-art in Caucasus ice climbing is represented by the direct route on the Northwest Face of the North Peak of Ushba, This climb, made in 1986 by the English team of Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders, is, according to the first ascensionists, comparable in difficulty to the Cecchinel/Nomine Route on Mont Blanc's Grand Pilier d'Angle. Long classic pure ice and mixed routes, aretes, and faces of all levels of difficulty are available in these wonderful mountains.

New Zealand

New Zealand provides ice climbers with a variety of challenges. As Mont Blanc is to the Alps and Denali is to Alaska, so is Mount Cook to New Zealand. Mount Cook presents classic snow ridges, ice aretes and faces, and mixed climbs.

Extensively glaciated, the mountain has provided generations of climbers with alpine-type climbs and excellent experience for tackling the greater ranges in other parts of the world. On the surrounding lower (under I t,000 feet) peaks of Mount Tasman and Mount Hicks, routes of a very high standard are available, some of the best being the Balfour Face, the Yankee/Kiwi Couloir, and Heaven's Door—all first-rate mixed climbs of about 2,000 feet. In the Haast Range, the South Face of Mount Aspiring is one of the great modern ice climbs.

The Darren Mountains are the site of some of the best frozen waterfall climbing in New Zealand. In recent antipodean winters, climbs have been made on some startling ice pillars.

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