One expedition with an Icopro Team in “Les Oules de Freissinières”
On September 27th 2017, Panos Papakostas (Instructor 2,Greece) comes in Hautes Alpes french department by train to meet 4 others Icopro members: Elsa Gasnier (Trainer, France), Gustavo Schiavon (Trainer Photographer & Instructor 1, Brazil), Adrien Paris (Trainer & Instructor Photographer, France) and Etienne Corti (Photographer & Assistant Instructor, France). In this valley called “Champsaur”, close to Massif des Ecrins, drinking a bottle of wine and having a good meal, we prepare all our equipment to get ready for the expedition! Weather is good, equipment is full, the team is now ready and motivated to wake up at dawn and to drive to the mythic canyon of “Oules de Freissinières” (V5-A6-IV).
After driving a long hour, the car stops on the parking at the bottom of the valley. In front of us, this amazing waterfall of “Chichin” canyon next to “Les Oules” brings us in the atmosphere!
After a quick look on the pool under the bridge, we check the water level and the flow: it’s good, quite low. The team starts the approach walk, leaving behind them a dozen people from the french canyoning guides school (DEJEPS) who came to “Oules de Freissinières canyon” for technical practice.
Forty five minutes later, with the bright automn tree colours, and an amazing view on the valley and Dormillouse village, the team reaches the riversides of the stream. Once we put our wetsuits on, we are finally ready to get into the cold water (around 6°C) of this famous French Alps’ canyon.
This canyon is divided in two parts
The first one is very aquatic and the second one is more technical, therefore needing a progression mainly followed on ropes.
We are faced with a series of slides between 8 and 14 meters ending in beautiful pools carved by erosion. Water movements are not strong but we can imagine difficulties that could appear if it was more important.
After a few jumps and a small walk, we arrive on a 15-meter slope, which we have to manage to rappel without landing in the pool because of a strong undercut. So we have to step over the main flow to reach a small step on the opposite side. Small jumps, rappels and slides keep rolling a bit and we leave the last exit behind us. We arrive to a suspended pool, giving us a splendid view on the Chichin waterfall and Dormillouse village.
We decide to take a break before starting the most technical part of the canyon. After 1h30 in the cold water and a breakfast in our stomach which is now long past, it’s so good to take some calories again!
However, the Dejeps groups catch up on us and give us no choice but to let them go first. But they are here to practice their rope techniques, which results in being a long wait for us.
Because cold arise, Adrien and Gus decide to make a fire with a few twigs and leaves they found. This small fire was more to warm our minds than our bodies and we spent a good time in a friendly atmosphere. After having waited for 1h30, we began the final part.
After a 20-meter rappel, we arrive in a big pool where it is possible to jump in only from half the height of it. It follows a dry rappel which bring us to the departure of the famous geyser, that has made the reputation of this canyon.
Underneath it, it’s not difficult to progress and the atmosphere is fantastic! At the bottom, Panos sets up the handline, allowing the team to go down to the next rappels. It’s a series of waterfalls between 15 and 20 meters high, sometimes landing in deep pools. We finally reach the final 20 meters before the exit.
A short walk brings us back to the parking where we can enjoy the sunshine, take a beer and share our feelings and experience about this long and beautiful day.
We needed 5h30 to do this canyon (including 1h30 of waiting) with a correct flow, quite low.
An unforgettable experience among friends!
Etienne CORTI – Assistant Instructor and ICOpro Photographer
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In Canyoneer Level 1 manual, you will learn about ICOpro, the activity basics, canyoning equipment, knots, communication, behaviour and environment, hydrology, geology, physiology, tour preparation, physics, horizontal rope progression, vertical rope progression, and basic rock climbing. After you learn this manual, you will have all the necessary foundations for techniques covered in Canyoneer Level 2 manual and beyond.