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Report 30 March 2017

The blue skies and above average temperatures continue for the moment, though a passage of unsettled weather, (Foehn,) is forecasted for the weekend.

 

Here follows the latest information on mountain conditions, (and thank you to all those who have contributed to this.)
Albert 1er Sector: the approach is via the col du Passon.   Some people doing the Haute Route are using this way. The Couloir de la Table, (passage on rock near the start,) the Normal route on the Aiguille du Tour, the Tête Blanche/Petite Fourche and the Col du Midi des Grands are being climbed.

Argentière Sector: Y couloir is in condition. The Barbey couloir has been skied, descent “delicate”, with ice hidden under a thin layer of snow near the summit. Return via Fenêtre du Tour down to Vormaine, taking the skis off once at the moraine.

The Lagarde couloir : Bergschrund awkward due to inconsistent snow. Thin ice in the lower part, better mixed climbing higher up.
Couturier couloir: was done again on 28 March, good snow for half of gully, ice at the “kink” and exit by a dome of deep snow. Descent in good conditions down the Whymper, (if you are early enough.)  The way down onto the Leschaux glacier is either by the Central couloir or the Pierre à Béranger. 

Aiguille du Midi Sector: the snow in the Valley Blanche is still good. The Valley Noir, (Italian side) is OK. There is about a five minutes walk to reach the approach for Montenvers, (ice cave area.) The Fil à Plomb has been done, the Mallory skied and rock climbers on the S Face of the Aiguille du Midi.
Brèche Puiseux: Good conditions for the most part.  There is a fixed rope at the breche, (col).  You need 2x40m if you descend directly from the Périades bivouac.  The ski down the glacier is not inspiring!
Since the last snowfall, the Tour Ronde face now looks white, (i.e snow not bare ice.) The Gervasutti couloir is feasible, with descent either by the normal route or, if it is getting late, by the SE ridge.
A group of ski tourers left for the Trois Monts, (Mont Blanc) yesterday.  On the normal route up the Tacul there were sections of hard nevé, it is necessary to alternate between skis and crampons. No further information on the route, though the snow looks deep on the climb up to the Col du Mont Maudit.  Returned by the same route.


Grands Mulets sector:   The hut is now open with a warden. The route via the Dôme du Goûter, N ridge was done this morning. It is preferable to be roped up for the traverses of the Bossons glacier and the Jonction; conditions OK.


Conscrits Sector: Obviously, there is a lot of ski carrying on the way up to the Tre la Tête from Cugnon.  The rest of the way up to the Conscrits hut goes well. There is a small section of ice on the traverse of the Dômes de Miage. Good snow conditions for the Aiguille de la Bérangère and Mont Tondu. The Armancette glacier is skiable, down to about 1800m.

With the rise in temperatures, the signposted ski touring trails, except for the Col du Balme, from Charamillon are no longer feasible.  
Please remember, it is forbidden to go upwards, (skinning, snow shoeing etc,) on the ski pistes.

 
The strong winds in the valley, together with falls of wet, heavy snow have resulted in numerous trees being uprooted, often with stones/boulders coming onto the paths.  Mountain bikers be warned !  The responsible services in the Chamonix valley are working, bit by bit, to put the paths back in order.

Report 21 March 2017

Now Spring has arrived the conditions are evolving rapidly.  It is important to respect the timing (early starts) and take on board the latest information on conditions.


Here are the results from reports received since the last update:
The Valley Blanche is still popular, now ending at Montenvers, using the cable lift and train to get back to Chamonix. The Valley Noire, on the true right bank of the glacier, is still OK.   Ski tourers are regularly doing the Col d’Entrèves, the Brèche Puiseux and the Col du Tacul.
Stonefall has been reported on the normal route of the Tour Ronde.

The gullies remain very dry, though there has been some activity near the Cosmiques Ridge.

Conditions are OK on the Aiguille de l’Eboulement and the Whymper Couloir. The approach, (and descent,) to the Couvercle hut from the Leschaux glacier is best via the central gully.

A party has climbed the Frendo Spur, (with a bivvy), no further info.

A party also climbed the Eugster Diagonal in difficult conditions.
There was a party on Lesueur, N face Drus and another on Rolling Stones, N Face Grandes Jorasses.  The routes were very dry, but were not a problem for the climbers involved.
Argentière sector:  the classic ski tours are popular, e.g. the cols Argentière, Tour Noir and Passon.  It is important to respect the timing, especially on slopes that get the sun early in the day. There is a fixed rope on the descent from the Col du Chardonnet but, apparently, it does not quite reach the foot of the gully
Some parties on the Aiguille d’Argentière by the Glacier du Milieu and the Y Couloir.
Conditions on the NE des Courtes and Col des Cristaux are also OK.
Couloir Couturier: the bergschrund goes on the right, which is then followed by snow with some sections of ice, 50m at the kink and 30m hard ice to exit.

On the Droites, the Rhem-Vimal and the Lagarde Gully have been climbed.

In the Aiguilles Rouges the snow varies, depending upon aspect and time of day.  The slopes warm up rapidly, so it is important to get away early.

The Dômes de Miage and Mont Tondu are tracked.  Likewise, the cols in the area, e.g.  Cicle, Chasseurs, Bonhomme.
One needs to gain about 400 to 500m in height before skis can be used towards the Tré-la-Tête. The roman road is still OK, though crampons maybe necessary soon.


The Grands Mulets hut should open on 28 or 30 March, depending on conditions.

 

There are less options for snow shoers.  However, the Prarion plateau, the Loriaz hut, the Bérard valley and the Aiguillette des Posettes, (from the Vallorcine bubbles,) remain feasible.
Hikers are recommended to stay below 1500m, to avoid risks. 

It looks like the weather is going to be unsettled for the next few days, which will limit the activity at altitude.
We encourage you to report to the OHM the conditions experienced on your outings.

Report 15th March 2017

At the moment, ski touring is the main activity, with a reasonable snow cover above 2000m.  Snow conditions are becoming spring-like, so it is important to respect the time of day, especially on routes exposed to the morning sun, in the lee of the wind and regardless of altitude. Hard packed snow exists on the shaded slopes sometimes either polished or sculptured by the wind.
Despite already a lot of avalanches, more are to be expected, either spontaneous or from weighting, (e.g. skiers).

 

Some recently received information:
- Albert 1er Sector: the Couloir de la Table was done on 13/03, no further information other than a rock barrier near the bottom.
Nobody on the Chardonnet, the gullies are all very dry, but the Forbes Ridge looks feasible.

Be warned, some of the slopes near the Signal Reilly look to be still unstable.  Do not take the summer route from Charmillion to the hut. Snow conditions gave difficult skiing down from the Col du Passon on 14/03. The telephone is not working at the hut, use the mobile number to contact the warden.
- Argentière Sector: The cols in this area are been done regularly but the conditions are variable and not as good as last weekend. 

No news from the N faces, which remain very grey looking.
Col des Cristaux is tracked, the bergschrund being passed on the right, (looking up.)

- Vallée Blanche Sector: 
The Pas de Chèvre has not been practicable for several days now!

There was a party on the Drus N Face, (no further info.)
The Valley Blanche is still OK, but do it early.  The descent by Mottets, (snack bar open,) is still possible for a few more days.  You have to walk some bits, about 20 mins in total.  Since the large avalanches last week, the Brèche Puiseux and the Col du Tacul have been re-tracked, (no further info.)
Whymper done on 12/03 in poor conditions, (inconsistent snow).

- Aiguille du Midi / Torino Sector:
Pointes Lachenal, the Cosmiques Ridge, the Marbrées and the Normal route on the Tour Ronde have all been done recently.
The gullies are still very dry.  However, the Chere, (1st pitch dry, better above.)  the Contamine-Mazeaud, the Pellissier Gully and M6 Solar have been climbed, though placing ice screws can be difficult.
The Tour Ronde N Face is black ice. None of the gullies near the Torino have been climbed recently.
- Aiguilles Rouges Sector: there is activity in this sector but sadly the OHM has not received any feedback on snow conditions.  An early start is, again, important! 

Concerning snow shoeing, the information remains the same as in the last update of10/03.

Report 10 March 2017

With the improving weather, people are slowly going back into the mountains.

The storms last week increased the snow cover.  However, there were accompanying strong winds followed by a rise in temperatures.

It has rained up to 2000m making the snow heavy.

There have been numerous snow slides and there is a marked avalanche risk, especially in the heat of the day.


There has been no information received for the “mixed” routes, the wind appears to have stripped the faces and the gullies remain bare.
This morning, (10th March,) there were still no tracks on the Cosmiques Ridge.

 

The Valley Blanche has been skied but conditions are difficult and there is an avalanche risk on the steeper sections. An expert ski ability is required. No information yet about the return to Chamonix but it will certainly involve some walking.  Care needed when crossing the couloirs between Mottets and Chamonix!

  

The Pas de Chèvre is not in condition and moraine exit is impassable.  

 

Ski tourers need to be very careful and away from the suspect zones before the day warms up.
The significant rise in temperature means the snow is very wet up to about 2500m. Above this, conditions are very variable due to the wind.

The cols above the Argentière glacier are tracked again, (no other information.)

The Argentière and Albert 1er huts are now open.
A large slide, (avalanche), came down from near the Col du Tacul, crossed the Périades glacier reaching the Salle à Manger.  Therefore, the climb up towards the Brèche Puiseux is not advisable.
In the Aiguilles Rouges, the way to the Lac Blanc was tracked yesterday, as was the Bosse des Charmoz above Loriaz.
Bad conditions reported for the Pointe Ronde.

For snow shoers the following areas remain practicable:  Granges Loop, Loriaz, Samoteux (Coupeau), Prarion Plateau(Les Houches), Lac Vert/ Barmus/ Ayères, (Plaine Joux).

Report 22 February 2017

The warm weather continues to degrade the snow conditions in most areas. There has been virtually no new snow since 6th February.

When ski touring one often has to walk for a bit in the lower sections, for example, the Berard valley or the return from Loriaz.  Crampons can prove useful.
The main areas for touring remain the same as last week.

Some extra information:
- Brèche Puiseux is tracked, it can be very warm in the couloir so one needs to be up it early. There are two 30m abseils on the Mallet side. The lower part of the des Périades glacier does not have much snow, so roping up is recommended.
- The Cols du Passon, Tour Noir and Argentière remain popular. The Col du Chardonnet is also being done (2 abseils of 30m minimum, depending on your ski ability). Glacier du Milieu is tracked, conditions OK, though treacherous on the lower part.  No information on the upper part, (it looks to have enough snow.)  The Y Couloir on the Aiguille d’Argentière is OK except for upper part of the right branch, which is ice.

- Col des Cristaux and the Courtes NE are tracked, the upper parts lacking snow.

 - Ski touring remains popular in the Aiguilles Rouges an on Mont Buet.
- Col des Autannes in good condition, as is the Pointe de Bron from Trient.
- Conditions are good above Contamines (e.g.Tête N des Fours). The Roman road has bare ice in places.
- Dômes de Miage was tracked on 16/02, starting from Cugnon. No specific problems. Descent by the Armancette, not much snow but still feasible.  Lots of wet snow slides, avoid coming down late!

 
The dry conditions are not favourable for gully climbing but, nevertheless, some lines have been attempted:
- A party did 3 pitches of the Claire Chazal on 15/02; A track was seen towards the Ravanel-Frendo, no further information.  
- A lot of ice on the Couturier, sometimes with a thin covering of snow; exit completely on ice for 150m. Whymper in good condition except for bare ice in the top part

- Goulotte du Col des Petites Jorasses: the bergschrund goes well, first 2 pitches on ice, the 2nd finishing on snow plastered rock.  The remaining pitches in better condition.  Abseil descent.
- Couloir de l’Eboulement tracked, conditions OK, some stones at the start of the route.

- Cristalliers Direct on the Aiguilles Marbrées in good condition but take care if it gets any warmer, serious stone fall risk.

The Valley Blanche is still popular, the upper part has the better ski conditions.  The snow cover is getting thin near the Requin and towards Montenvers. Prudence and a good ski ability needed.
The Valley Noire (Italian side) goes OK on the true right bank.

No important changes for snow shoers or hikers since the last bulletin.


We take this opportunity to remind you that, even though the snow conditions have made it awkward to do some activities, it is forbidden to go upwards on the ski pistes, whether on foot, ski or with snow shoes.

Some routes have been set up to avoid these forbidden areas.  See:
http://www.chamoniarde.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Espace-ski-de-rando2visu.pdf
http://www.chamoniarde.com/?page_id=730

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.