Writer, Lee Fieldsend, shares an insight into exploring some of the more remote areas of the Val de Bagnes in search of Ice.

The ski pistes of Verbier may offer some fantastic skiing, but sometimes it can be a rewarding experience to escape managed areas with man-made constructions. Just a stones throw from the bustling groomed Verbier slopes is an incredibly beautiful part of Switzerland.

[quote_center]A place of magical untouched forests, frozen waterfalls and a peace and tranquility that is far removed from the rush of modern life.[/quote_center]

This is the part of the Val de Bagnes that I find myself in one winter morning. Only the crunching of snow under crampons and the sound of our exiting breath freezing in the surrounding air, betrays our presence. Our walk up through the snow laden forest brings us to our spot for the day. Nestled in the forest is a two stage frozen waterfall. As we climb up through the forest we glimpse parts of it through the snow laden trees and it fills us with excitement

Today parts of the waterfall are melting and in some places the ice is so thin that water can easily be seen continuing its flow. In places it spills out through holes and cascades down the ice making the only sound in the forest bar the clanking of our ice axes.

The climb is vertical, but as I gently tap in my crampon points and find a purchase for my axes, my confidence improves with the strength of the ice. After a few metres I pause to place an ice screw and then continue to climb. Above me is a steep ten metre pitch that finishes with an overhang. As I edge up I bridge my feet out to the left and right onto two ice pillars that jut out from the main waterfall. As I climb, ice and snow rain down on me. Bouncing off my helmet and the visor I wear to protect my face. All day we climb in this silent wilderness, until the darkness arrives. Our last two climbs are in the dark and our head torches illuminate the ice, throwing off amazing colours.

Eventually we are finished and with tired smiles and aching limbs we reflect on what we have accomplished. As we pack our kit we still have to descend through the forest and until that time we cannot let our guard down. Accidents are common on the return home as the tired mind and body drift in and out of concentration.

Exhausted, we begin our descent back down through the pitch black forest with only the lights of our head lamps to show the way. Below us, the twinkling of lights from a village in the valley, beckon us to safety. The black silhouettes of mountain ranges rear up on all sides, threatening or grudging in respect, it is hard to tell. As we leave the sleeping valley behind us the lights of home become a welcome sight replacing the brightness of the stars.