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Report 15 February 2017

The snow conditions are changing fast due to the recent Spring like weather.  

At the higher altitudes the snow cover has been greatly affected by the wind so its suitability for skiing depends very much on the sector and aspect.  The avalanche risk remains high, at 3 out of 5 above 2200m.

The south facing slopes are already in Spring conditions, with crusty snow and numerous sloughs, to be avoided later in the day.
On the shaded slopes sheltered from the wind, it is still possible to find powder.

In the Aiguilles Rouges the classic ski tours are been done regularly, though in very warm conditions.  It is important to start early and to be off the slopes before they become dangerous.

In the main Mont Blanc massive the routes in the Argentière basin are tracked, despite very variable and not always good snow conditions.  The return down the glacier to Lognan is OK for the moment.

The col du Chardonnet and the Fenêtre de Saleina were tracked on 11/02, with the descent by the Col du Pissoir.  An abseil of at least 30m is needed from the Col du Chardonnet, (no fixed rope in place).
The Col du Passon is popular at the moment.

Some parties on the Courtes NE, (no further information.)
A party turned back at the bergschrund of the Couturier couloir on 13/02.

The Valley Blanche is being regularly skied, but in conditions that require a very good level of skiing.  The Rognon slopes are mostly in good condition. The gullies behind the Requin hut are too dry. The moraine to get from the Grand Envers to the hut also lacks snow and so requires excellent ski ability.  The Salle à Manger traverse is OK but requires care.

The Valley Noire, (Italian side) is tracked, as is the climb up to the foot of the Brèche Puiseux. No information concerning the rest of the route other than ski tracks returning to the Valley Blanche from the foot of the gully.
For the return to Chamonix, it is still possible to ski down via the Mottets snack bar, but this is unlikely to be the case for long.

On the Swiss side, the route up the Pointe Ronde was in good condition on 13/02 with powder down to the tree level then “skied out” snow, not always pleasant.
On the Italian side, the conditions at Courmayeur are reported to be generally good.

 

The recent hot weather has not favoured ice climbing, though conditions are better in Cogne.


 Not much activity reported for the gullies, though a few lines have been climbed recently:
- “Pas d’Agonie III” on the Gros Rognon in generally good conditions, albeit with thin ice.

- “Le Temps est assassin”, (Trident du Tacul), with some good ice in places and dry in others, (the party descended by the Allemands Couloir, which was iced up.
- « Goulotte Pellissier » on the Pointes Lachenal.
There are no tracks leading to the Gabarrou-Albinoni or the Modica-Noury.
Super Couloir is dry.

For snow shoers, the conditions remain the same as in the last update, (10/02).

With this warm period the paths below 1500m often have sections of bare ice, a pair of walking crampons could prove useful.

Report 10 February 2017

Some information for the weekend:

The recent snowfalls have significantly improved ski conditions above 2000m.
In the 3 days leading up to 7th February, a metre of fresh snow fell at the Loriaz hut. The warm weather since means this snow has already partially settled and become heavier. The BERA (Avalanche reports from Meteo France) gives a 3/5 risk above 2500m for the weekend, so be warned.

The OHM has been informed that the following ski tours are tracked: Crochues/Bérard, Brèche de Bérard, Glacier du Mort, Col du Belvédère, Col des Dards and Col du Tour Noir.
The Bosse des Charmoz is tracked above Loriaz, as well as up to the Col de la Terrasse, (but not the summit, due to a cornice.)

The signposted ski touring routes at Le Tour, the Trapette, (Argentiere) and  Prarion are accessible, (ski crampons recommended.)

The Valley Blanche has been done with the descent right down to Chamonix, by the Mottets, feasible for very good skiers, (not advisable for snowboarders.); care needed from the Requin onwards.
It would appear that there is only one fixed rope on the descent ridge from the Aig du Midi for the moment.

No information concerning the icefalls, other than some activity at the Bérard icefall and the Crémerie on the true left bank of Argentière. Conditions are better at Cogne.


Conditions are much improved for snow shoeing, though it is still best to gain some altitude, e.g.  Prarion, Chailloux chalets, Loriaz and Vallon de Bérard.

Have a good weekend, and do not forget to pass on your experiences to the OHM.

Report 3rd February 2017

A quick update for the beginning of the half term holidays even though the situation is largely the same as in the last bulletin, (31 Jan.).

 

During the last few days, the conditions at lower altitudes have deteriorated due to the rise in temperatures. The snow cover is very patchy below 1200m or even 1500m.

Most of the footpaths along the valley floor are iced over and walkers need to take great care.

The marked snow shoe routes are practical for walkers but require good boots, hiking poles and crampons, (just in case.)

There are signposted trails from the lifts systems at Flégère, Lognan, Montenvers, Vallorcine, and Prarion. 

Away from the marked trails, snow shoeing is possible at Loriaz, Chailloux, Charousse, Carlaveyron, Ayères and Aiguillette des Posettes.  However, before setting out it is best to check the conditions.  
The recent snowfall at altitude (15cm at 2000m, 20/25cm at 2500m) has improved the conditions in the ski areas.

Ski tourers have been active in the Argentière and Aiguilles Rouges sectors, (though be aware that with the warmth, some exposed slopes are prone to purging.)   Even though the snow cover remains shallow for the beginning of February, the avalanche risk is still relatively high, (level 3,) above 2000m.

Concerning the Valley Blanche: the route is being done by some guides and experts in this area.  However, the conditions are far from normal and are potentially dangerous.  It is recommended to wait until the situation improves.
Concerning ice climbing: The icefalls have certainly suffered during this recent warm spell and it is difficult to make a judgement on the ice quality.

 

The overall conditions are likely to evolve rapidly during the next few days.

Report 31 January 2017

Following the last few days of warm weather the conditions have deteriorated in numerous sectors.

This morning (31st January) there was about 12 cms of windblown snow above 1900m

 

Last week there was a lot of ice climbing activity, (Eau Noire, right and left banks of the Argentière glacier, Loriaz icefall, Notre Dame de la Gorge, Bérard valley…)  However, with the recent warm weather the ice is now very soft and fragile. It is therefore recommended to wait until conditions improve again.


Concerning ski touring, one has to be fairly shrewd to find any powder, though the classic routes remain reasonably skiable.  However, it will only be when the good weather returns that the effect of the rain on the lower parts of the routes will be seen.
Whatever the route, ski and boot crampons are strongly recommended, (quasi essential)

No recent news for the high mountain routes but the classics like Cosmiques ridge, Aiguilles Marbrées, Tour Ronde or Aiguille du Tour should still be possible.

THE VALLEY BLANCHE: conditions have got a lot worse and it is best to wait until they improve.  The section from the Gros Rognon to the bifurcation with the Leschaux glacier is particularly awkward, with a real crevasse danger.  The lower part of the route, to reach Montenvers, has very little snow cover.

The areas for snow shoeing are basically the same as in the last report: Prarion, Chailloux, Loriaz, Ayères, or, using the lifts, the Aiguillette des Posettes and the Index.  For the moment, routes such as the traverse from the Plan de l’Aiguille to Montenvers are not practical.

  

The footpaths at the valley floor and the Petit Balcon Sud have ice patches. A good pair of boots and walking poles are essential and walking crampons could prove very useful.

  
The forecast for the next few days is for the weather to remain unstable. No significant snowfall is forecast before next weekend (to be confirmed).  Patience is needed.   

Report 23 January 2017

Since the last update the snow conditions have changed as a result of the warm period linked to the foehn wind on Sunday.  The snow quality remains inconsistent.

Ski Touring:
In the Aiguilles Rouges, the Col des Dards and the Col du Belvédère are popular.  The return to Flégère is awkward due to lack of snow.
The Crochues-Bérard traverse is also being skied, with the descent of the Berard valley just about OK.
The Buet has been skied, (no further information.)
There has been activity at Loriaz where the Col de la Terrasse and the Bosse are tracked, (some rocks exposed at Les Charmoz.) The Veudale is also tracked but not the Tré les Eaux valley.  The snow is generally well packed and OK to ski.

Snow conditions are more variable in the Pormenaz area with a lack of snow by the Souay torrent.

In the Argentière sector the Col du Tour Noir and the Col d’Argentière continue to be skied, though the return to Lognan remains complicated.
The Col du Passon is tracked but the conditions are not very good.

Concerning the “high mountain” activity, the gullies remain very dry, especially at the head of the Argentière glacier.
The Claire Chazal has been climbed albeit in very thin conditions.
The Couturier has (foot) tracks on the true left side; technically harder than usual. A lot of snow on the descent by the Whymper.  
No information from the “heart” of the massive, except for the Cosmiques Ridge.
The Valley Blanche, though possible, remains complicated and only suitable for very good skiers/alpinists with glacier travel skills.

Many of the icefalls are in condition.
At Trient “Une colonne de glace peut en cacher une autre” and “Cascade difficile” have been reported to be in good condition. The approach is quicker on skis.
In the Argentière sector conditions were good on 19/01 at the true right bank, e.g. “Lolly Pop”, “Enzo”, “Les Jumeaux”, “Icelander” and “Grand Bleu”. Careful though as conditions can change rapidly, especially with the re-warming on Sunday.  The true left bank has less ice. However, many of the routes are OK, especially in the “beginners” areas.
Though the Bellevue icefall at Les Houches has been climbed recently, it is now no longer in condition.

At Cogne the long cold spell has created good conditions.  See the Hotel La Barme website: http://www.iceclimbingcogne.com/

Snow shoeing is possible at altitude: for example, the Prarion plateau, the Samoteux area, the Chalets de Chailloux at Les Houches, the climb up to Loriaz and Granges loop near the Buet village. The Aiguillette des Posettes is also possible, starting from the top of the Vallorcine lift.

The trails at the valley floor are lacking in snow but can be hiked with good boots and a pair of poles.

Report 18 January 2017

It is feeling very cold, (low temperatures and a continuous breeze,) so despite the anticyclonic weather, ski touring is only starting up again slowly. The snow quality is very variable: mediocre and crusty in those sectors affected by the wind, better in the sheltered areas.

Below 2000m, care is needed while descending as there is not a proper snow base yet.

In the Aiguilles Rouges, the Crochues/Bérard, Dards and Belvédère cols are tracked. In the Argentière sector, the Passon, Tour Noir and Argentière cols are being done.  The return by the lower flat section of the Argentière glacier towards Lognan still has little snow and is awkward. Snow depth remains poor below 2800m in numerous areas, (bare ice, protruding rocks, crevasses).

Recent parties down the Valley Blanche, (Petit Envers – Moyenne Envers,) found the routes to be awkward and crevassed.  (Note: the ridge is not equipped yet, though some stakes in place.)  Good technique is necessary, the snow being crusty and difficult to ski in areas affected by the wind.  Below 2800m there is a serious lack of snow, with bare ice and exposed rocks in the gullies in the Requin area. The return to Montenvers by the Mer de Glace remains awkward, (side slipping between stones.)  We do not have any information about the “classic” Valley Blanche and so do not know the conditions at the serac zone.

Concerning ice climbing; the Crèmerie is popular. We would remind you to walk in from the Grand Montets parking, (and not to park at the Crèmerie restaurant or the CMBH Drop Zone). We have no information yet concerning the other icefalls.  
We are also waiting for information on the state of the gullies at altitude.  The recent snow and the intense cold has not encouraged activity

The dedicated snow shoeing tracks are proving popular.

The ski pistes are now all open, as are the signposted  trails for ski tourers, see: http://www.chamoniarde.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Espace-ski-de-rando2visu.pdf

 In a word, winter has arrived, but some more snow would be most appreciated.