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Mountain Conditions  15/02/2019

Here is the update for this week of beautiful weather.


The amount of snow (about 30 to 40 cm above 2000m). deposited during the bad weather last weekend is difficult to estimate because of the accompanying strong winds. Spring weather has arrived for the first week of the half term holidays.  The freezing level is climbing very high during the day, (above 3000m.)  As you may guess, this heat can cause wet snow slides/avalanches, especially on the sunny slopes.  The snow quality is variable, frozen and often affected by the wind on the north facing slopes, frequently crusty where exposed to the sun.  (Further transformation is needed before it becomes ideal for skiing.)


Ski touring remains the most popular activity for this winter.  Conditions are generally good, though it is important not to be too late in the day.  There is snow right down to the valley floor and the mid-mountain classics are popular.  For example: at Contamines (Monts Jovets, Cols de Fenêtre/Cicle/Chasseurs), at Plaine Joux (Moëde Anterne, Pointe Noire de Pormenaz), in the Aiguilles Rouges (all the routes), at Vallorcine (Buet, Loriaz, Col de la Terrasse), and in the neighbouring Switzerland (Bel Oiseau, Carraye, Pointe Ronde).


This good weather has also meant the start of the ski mountaineering season.  The “Z” track from the Aiguille du Midi is open but very icy, (crampons essential).  The Valley Blanche is basically in good condition and it is possible to ski down to Chamonix.  The way up to the Brèche Puiseux is tracked, as is the descent to the Mont Mallet glacier (icy snow in the exit couloir). On the Italian side, all the classics are tracked (Marbrés,Toule, Col d'Entrèves, Brenva) but respect the time of day. There is skiing has also in the Argentiere sector, (the hut opens today, Friday), e.g. Col des Grands Montets, traverse of the Col du Passon, Three Cols, Col du Tour Noir and Argentière are all tracked.  However, the is no information concerning the north faces, which look to be very dry. There has been activity in the Trient sector, (e.g. Glacier des Grands), the return is good.


Conditions for ice climbing are changing rapidly with this warm weather.  It is recommended to avoid areas that catch the sun, (e.g. right bank of Argentière)). Even in shaded areas be very careful to check the conditions.


Still little or no information about winter mountaineering and the mixed routes.  The Cosmiques Ridge is being done regularly.