The rock is of cr*p quality on both routes and it's best not to look too closely at the stuff some of the belay bolts have been drilled into either. Most of the equipped belays are reasonably sheltered from falling ice, although the bottom of Easy Rider is a blatant exception. Trees are often used for belays on both branches of Holiday on Ice as well as at the top of Easy Rider. Rock gear definitely not needed.
Hope this helps.
Make sure you do Formes du Chaos as it's in amazing nick, the most atmospheric I've seen it in years. Especially the last pitch up the narrow cleft, truly magic.
Thanks for that Dan. Is it normal to ab off the route or can you walk down?
Am I right in thinking that ER is above the other routes so you walk up the GR path to get to it?
Thanks a lot
PS normally I'd just go and suss but I have a complete ice beginner with me so I want to give her some reassurance
i will have a beginner with me - is F du C suitable?
See how she goes on the other stuff but at the moment FduC is more like rock climbing as you thread your way up through the formations. When are you off and I'll stick up a couple of pictures so you have an idea what it looks like.
The logical way to do Easy Rider is to do one of the Holiday on Ice branches first as descending the GR path takes you very close to the start of Easy Rider. When I was there 3 weeks ago there was a traverse path linking the start of Easy Rider to the GR path. Otherwise, you're right, the base of Easy Rider is higher and it's a bit of a flog up the GR path to get to it. Don't be taken in by the 15m approach time to Easy Rider as given in the guide. It takes quite a bit longer. Descent from Easy Rider is by 2 abseils, one from a tree at the top and one from the bolt belay at the bottom of P2.
If I was climbing with a complete beginner, I'd do Holiday on Ice LH branch first. The RH branch is a bit steeper this year and this could be done on another day as they basically only share one real pitch at the start, which is short, steep (for a novice) but usually well stepped. If reassurance is needed, it's possible to belay right above the steep bit, either on a bolt on the right or on a tree on the left. Easy Rider, though shorter and slightly easier, may well be a more intimidating experience as a first route for a beginner.
Formes du Chaos is a much longer and more serious route, as indicated by the grade. As with all ice routes, it's difficulty does vary from year to year and it was much easier the second time I did it. There was a sustained 90 degree brittle ice pitch on it the first time - much closer to WI5 than WI4. Personally, I wouldn't go near it with a complete novice, but you are the best judge of that. Perhaps it'd be something to aspire to towards the end of your trip if things have gone well. An easy 5+ min walk from the car park will take you to the base of the route and from there you can see the meat of the route. As I've said, best to judge for yourself.
Current conditions & photos here: http://www.ice-fall.com/ri/Conditions/de/glace/307.aspx
Thanks a lot everyone.
Take it easy and try not to get under people - it's been very cold for a few days and it's extremely brittle, at least in Fournel, at the moment. I imagine it's similar at Celliac. But it does seem to be moderating over the next few days.
Perhaps will see you there next weekend.
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