Wednesday, 1 September 2010


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:

Almost down:

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!


  1. Can't remember now how I found this post/site, but I'm glad I did - what a laugh! :-) Skiing, caving, climbing, and an amazing location all in one day's adventure!

    PS. I suspect the hanger-less bolts (spits) at the pitch head is from caver's explorations... It's normal for cavers to place this type of fixed belay. I wonder if there is a continuation down there - probably through some cold, wet, and tight squeeze - all the water (melting snow etc.) has to go somewhere...

  2. Hi Pete, yes, the cave is pretty well rigged - 2 re-belays down the top slabs to avoid the ropes pulling off loose stones from the top slabs while you're on the main pitch... Suspect the top bolts are left hangerless to dissuade "casual" use...
    The cave continues below the snowline for another 100m or so, but comes to a dead end...