We returned to the Elm valley on Sunday to take advantage of the last few cold days before the weather forecast predicted a rainy and miserable week. So Tereza, Vladimir, Arne, Luigi and I snowshoed to the same icefall as last week. This time we climbed the left section that the Swiss party occupied the previous weekend. Luigi, stoked to the max as usual, headed straight for the steepest ice he could find and got properly pumped on the first lead. Impressive work!
I teamed up with Arne and led the first pitch. Warmer temperatures improved the ice significantly so that instead of the shattering glass we encountered before, we enjoyed perfectly plastic ice instead. On the other hand you could also hear the water rushing beneath it which was new ;-) Halfway up my line I had to mantle up a ledge and smacked loose a dinner plate sized chunk of ice. It hit Arne straight on the head with a frightening *thud*. He switched belay with Vladimir to be on the safe side, but luckily he turned out to be OK. Always wear your helmets kids! Arne's now features a fracture from front to back and it was hit hard enough that we had trouble extracting the fabric of his hood which got stuck in the crack.
While Vladimir, Luigi and Tereza decided to continue with the second pitch and walk back down after topping out, Arne and my side of the icefall was more boring on the upper half, significantly less steep and with a lot of snow. So we decided to set up an Abalakov anchor and top rope and climbed a few variations of our initial line. Once the sun hit the slopes above the ice fall in the early afternoon rocks started zipping past us and we decided to bail.
We mostly had the valley to ourselves again except for one Swiss party and two figures on the other side of the valley who tried to climb a free standing pillar, but eventually gave up on it. We learned the next day that they were none other than our friends Iza and Rafal - the world is small ;-) On the way out we saw a big pillar of ice collapse, so it seems that conditions are indeed rapidly deteriorating.