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Report 26th April 2019

 

Some information for this weekend:

Following on from the recent Foehn winds there was fresh snow down to the valley floor last night, (Thursday).  On Friday morning there was : 

- 20 cm at the Grands Mulets hut (wind affected)  

- between 30 and 60 cms of accumulated snow at the Cosmiques hut  

- 20-30 cm at the Plan de l'Aiguille

- 25 cm at the Argentière hut

The weekend’s forecast is for wet weather, including the possibility of more snow.

The snow is melting quickly low down but remains above 1500m (south facing and 1700m, (north facing.)   

Most of the lifts are now closed, (Les Houches, Brévent, Flégère, Balme-Vallorcine). Only the Grands-Montets (closed on 2nd +3rd May and then closes definitively on the 5th,) the Aig du Midi, Montenvers and the Skyway MonteBianco, (Italy) remain open.

Ski touring is accessible in the Argentière sector from Grands Montets, for example : Col du Passon to La Tour, Col du Chardonnet, Aiguille d'Argentière via the Glacier du Milieu (more information in the OHM route book), Col du Tour Noir, Col d’Argentière. Concerning the N faces, only the Col des Cristaux and the NE face of the Courtes. (large bergschrund) are skiable, though not from the summit.

The Valley Blanche and the Brèche Puiseux remain feasible, (the descent ridge from the Aig du Midi is still equipped.)  Be aware of crevasses concealed by the recent snow and snow bridges weakened by the recent warm winds.  It is still possible to ski almost to the foot of the stairs leading to the Montenvers (ice cave) lift.

As far as Mont Blanc is concerned, the Three Monts route is not yet OK, (avalanche risk and Mont Maudit is not in condition.)  The N ridge of the Dome du Gouter is also not in condition, (ice.)  The Plateaux route is the most feasible option. Skiing the N face by the usual ramp is not possible, instead take the true left side, (40m wall of ice, for excellent skiers only.) N.B: the Foehn wind together with the recent snowfall means there is a significant avalanche risk.

No major changes for the Tour, Talèfre and Dômes de Miage sectors since the last update of16th April.

 

Some suggestions for ski tours which remain feasible and do not involve glaciers:

- Col de l'Encrenaz from (just below) the Col des Montets

- Bérard Valley (Beaugeant, Bérard, Salenton Cols and Mont Buet) from Le Buet (Walking for 15 mins to the Cascade buvette plus some walking sections after that.)

- Col de la Terrasse/ Cheval Blanc from the Emosson dam road, (closed still, some walking involved.)

 

For those still wanting to snowshoe, a possibility is to ascend the closed La Tour pistes to the Col du Balme and/or the Aiguillette des Posettes.

 

Spring has very much arrived in the valley and the trees are beginning to blossom.  However, appearances can be deceptive, many of the hiking trails are not yet in condition. 

Some suggestions for hikers are, (suitable footwear and poles needed for the higher paths) :

- Chalets d’Ayères from Servoz or Plaine Joux

- Chalet de Chailloux, there and back, from Flatière or Merlet

- Chalet du Cerro and its viewpoint

- Petit Balcon Sud : Gaillands - Les Praz / Les Tines. 

- Petit Balcon Nord between Chamonix and Argentière

- Chalet de la Floria, there and back, from Chamonix or Les Praz only (path free of snow).

- Chalet du Chapeau from Les Praz – Les Tines – Le Lavancher, there and back. 

- Buvette des Mottets from Les Bois (Filia path) or Les Planards (do not take the path for Montenvers via Caillet)

- Chalets de Loriaz

Check the feasibility of the paths at the Office de Haute Montagne and also for paths closed by council order,  (arrêtés de fermetures .) 

Report 16 April 2019

Information for the high and mid mountain during the Easter holidays:

Some of the ski areas are already closed (Les Houches, La Flégère, Vallorcine, Megève, Saint Gervais).

Areas still open are Balme/Le Tour, Brévent, Contamines (until 22/04) and Argentière/Lognan (until 01/05 then the weekend 4/5 May).  The Aiguille du Midi cable car and the Montenvers train remain open. More information on the CMB website.

Tour / Trient Sector

Not much has changed since the last update.  Access is either by the Balme chairlift and the Col des Autannes or from Lognan and the Col du Passon.

A bit of walking is necessary to reach Trient village.  All the cols are being done and are in condition. The Couloir de la Table is tracked, (the gully in the lower band is OK), as is normal route on the Aig du Tour, (by the E ridge and the col between the two summits.)  A party has done the Table ridge.

Some parties have traversed the Chardonnet, (up by the SE couloir and descent by the normal route.)

It is still just possible to ski all the way to La Tour, but expect some walking at the boardercross area soon.  

Argentière Sector

Depending on the chosen route one can get onto the Argentiere glacier by the return route (Passon, Chardonnet) or by the Col des Rachasses (Glacier du Milieu, Argentière hut, Col du Tour Noir etc).

- The Lognan hut closed on the 14 April.

- The N faces are not in condition (1 party on the Couturier and the Courtes NE 15/04)

- Col des Cristaux is in good condition, cramponning for the last 150m.

- The gullies are not formed, (not enough ice etc.)

- Cols d'Argentière/ Tour Noir/ Passon are OK.

- The Flèche Rousse ridge in good condition.

- The “Y” Couloir: bergschrund OK then a pitch to overcome the lower band, (ice on rock, 2 axes useful.)

- Aiguille d'Argentière by the Glacier du Milieu: good ski conditions up to the bergschrund, ski depot. then cramponning to the summit and back.   

- Col du Chardonnet: rock hard snow in the couloir on the Saleina side. More information in the OHM route book.

 

Talèfre Sector

Little change here, one can find the latest information in the hut blog.

 

Aiguille du Midi / Helbronner Sector

Due to the dry conditions there has not been much ice climbing, (Chéré and Contamine-Grisolle on the Triangle du Tacul, Gabarrou-Albinoni and Pas d'Agonie 1 have been done).

It is forbidden by a council order to enter the Glacier Rond area from 17th to 20th April due to work there on a pylon.

The Valley Blanche, Brèche Puiseux and Capucin couloir are still being skied.   

The normal route on the Tacul was tracked on skis the 13/04 exitting by the Shoulder.  The old ladder has been repositioned in order to cross the impressive bergshrund.

The Cosmiques ridge is in condition for the moment.  The rockfall area before the abseil is delicate but has a fixed rope for security.  A 40m or 50m ripe suffices for the abseil. 

Pointes Lachenal are still bare ice.

The Mallory on the Aig du Midi N face is tracked in ascent.

Rochefort Ridge was done on 13/04 in good conditions.  The party turned back below the Aiguille due to snow on the slabs.

 

Mont Blanc

Approach to the Grands Mulets hut: The best option is probably to start from the Plan de l'Aiguille. (Rock hard snow in the Cosmiques couloir and Glacier Rond, also they are forbidden until 19/04, see above).   Take the lower path, (as shown on the IGN map) to cross the Jonction. The higher path leads to an impassable crevasse. 

Higher up conditions remain complicated. The N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter is bare ice for 250m, (foresee 2 axes + ice screws for 50m pitches.). This makes progress very slow and has been enough to deter most parties attempting this way to the summit.

A party climbed Mont Maudit in bad conditions (“rock hard snow”) but no further information.

The remaining way to summit Mont Blanc is to ascend by the Plateaux, (good track keeping as far left as possible.)  This route is exposed to serac fall.  The decision to risk it or not is entirely up to the individual!

The N face is not in condition for the moment, ski depot at the Vallot.

Two skiers descended by the Corridor, (a rope was used to pass an ice cliff and at the bergschrund).

It is best to descend by the Para, (30mins of walking at the end to the tunnel) or to traverse to the Plan station. It is not advisable to descend the Bossons glacier; bad conditions in the gully above the Plateau des Pyramides on the left bank, rotten snow on the right bank, (15/20 minutes of walking.)

Miage Sector

Little has changed since the last update.

For the hut approach one needs to carry the skis as far as Nant du Tour, (circa 1 hour).

In general, very good conditions for the Miage traverse, (no ice) and for the descent of the Armancette (15 min of walking above the lake then skiing again down to 1700m.)

Mont Tondu is in good condition.

SW Couloir of the Aiguille de la Bérangère has been skied in good conditions.

There has been nobody on the N faces, which are bare ice, the foehn wind of 15/04 having stripped away the snow.

Hiking

It is necessary to remain at the lower altitudes.  Higher up there is a serious risk of falling.

Some examples of feasible hikes are:

- Lac Vert from La Côte (Servoz)

- Chailloux chalet from Le Bettey

- Petit Balcon Sud and the Floria chalet

- Chapeau chalet

- Loriaz chalets from Couteray, Vallorcine, (higher up snowshoes useful.)   

Due to work replacing the Flegere cable car, access to this sector, including the way to Lac Blanc, is blocked this year.  Lac Blanc remains accessible from the Col des Montets.  The paths leading up to Flégère have been closed by order of the council.

The Curala via ferrata (Plateau d’Assy) opened on the 15th April. The Gorges de Bonnant (Saint Gervais) opened on the 10/04, starting from the 2nd escape, known as "Maurice Lenoir".

 

Report 11th April 2019

 

Tour / Trient Sector

The descents down to Trient are in good condition (the snow being firstly frozen then crusty then spring snow). It is possible to ski all the way to the ski du fond pistes, (then a further 15 minutes of walking to reach the village).

The Col du Pissoir is good (no ice), as is the Col Supérieur du Tour (hard snow but a good track, carrying the skis for the last 5m.)  The Col du Midi des Grands was very dry but should have improved with the latest snowfall.

No information for the normal route on the Aiiguille du Tour which should now be in good condition. The lower part of the Table Couloir is very dry, (a rocky narrow passage of 15/20m) but the upper part has plenty of snow, feasible in ascent.

It is still possible to ski all the way down to La Tour.



Argentière Sector (5 cm of fresh snow this morning, Thursday).

Average amount of snow for the time of year, (crusty).

On the Aiguille d’Argentière, the Glacier du Milieu (the top slope not skiable in descent), and the Y Couloir, (bergschrund and lower band OK) are being done

Nobody on the N faces, except for the Col des Cristaux.

Ski tourers on all the usual cols, (Passon, Chardonnet, Tour Noir, Argentière).

The return by the true left bank of the Argentière glacier remains good.

 

Talèfre Sector

To reach the Couvercle hut, it is better to use the central couloir, (one passage to walk,) rather than the Pierre à Béranger (feasible if very early.)

There has been nobody on the Whymper since the last snowfall, (party foreseen for Friday12/04). The way across the bergschrund, which had collapsed, looks to have filled in again and is should go on the true right.  

The south facing slopes are in good condition, (e.g. col des Droites).  The snow is crustier on other aspects.

The Pointe Isabelle is in condition this year (glacier OK, skin up to the shoulder then mixed climbing up the ridge to the summit.)

 

Aiguille du Midi Sector (4 cm of fresh snow this morning, Thursday)

The Valley Blanche is still in reasonably good condition Some treacherous crevasses in the cwm before the Requin hut and on the traverse to the Salle à Manger. The snow quality is variable, with the crusty snow on the slopes exposed to the sun, (e.g. Grand, Moyen & Petit Envers). The classic route has better conditions.

The Cosmiques couloir (60m abseil then hard snow for 200 m) and the Rond glacier (rope useful at the start) are being done daily, (30 minutes of walking from the old station passing by La Para). 

The Cosmiques Ridge is now tracked. The left summit of the Pointe Lachenal is also being done, (no further information.)

The Chéré couloir is popular, though fairly dry and more technical than usual, (black ice above the bergschrund, pitch 2 dry: gravel, rock.)  The same is true for the Modica Noury and Gabarrou Albinoni (some belay bolts have been replaced.)

For the moment, the normal route on the Tacul does not look to be in condition, (large bergschrund and threatening seracs.) 

 

Helbronner Sector

The traverses of the Aiguilles Marbrées and the Aiguille d'Entrêves are very popular

For the Tour Ronde, it is still necessary to go via the Col Freshfield. The Gervasutti couloir is being done. No news for the N face which looks to be feasible.

The rocks on the Dent du Géant are covered in snow. Before this last snowfall, the Aiguille de Rochefort was tracked and in good condition.   

Goulotte Valeria (Petit Capucin) was done on 10/04, conditions very dry!  

 

Mont Blanc by the Grands-Mulets

The glacier approach is well filled in. The Jonction goes by the lower track, (as shown on the IGN map.)

Mont Blanc was done on 09/04 by the Plateaux. Conditions on the N du Dôme ridge have improved but there is still ice just below a layer of fresh snow.  The Bosses ridge is OK, (avoiding the ice with short detours).  The N face has been skied on the true left, (good skiers only; 5m of ice in the funnel, rope useful).

 

Dômes de Miage Sector

Generally good conditions in this sector except for the N faces, (they are holding some snow but not yet enough to fully cover the ice.)   About 12cms of snow fell on Wednesday.

It is still possible to start skinning from Plan (30 minutes of walking then again for some short sections.) However, the snow is rapidly melting up as far as Nant du Tour.

Very good conditions for the Dômes de Miage traverse.  There are some, avoidable, ice sections to reach the ridge and on the descent to the Col de la Bérangère.  The ridge is snow.

Good skiing on the Armancette, walking for 15 minutes above the lake then possible to ski again almost to La Frasse.

 

Aiguilles Rouges

Pleasant ski touring on all the classics, (variable snow quality). Still possible to ski down the Berard valley all the way to Buet.  Some ski carrying is needed for Loriaz, Bel Oiseau and Pointe Ronde.

 

Grands Paradis

The recent snowfalls have improved conditions though the snow cover is still poor, expect to carry skis at the start.

 

Report 28 March 2019

As Spring arrives the snow is disappearing in the valley up to 1500m on the S slopes and 1200m on the N slopes. There is still plenty of snow in the mid altitudes. The snow quality varies with the aspect.  It is still possible to find some powder, (albeit rare,) in some N facing, wind protected pockets. On the other hand, the snow is likely to be very hard in the morning on those S facing slopes exposed to the wind.  The snow softens quickly with the sun and the large, daily range of temperatures at all altitudes.

The conditions are like those reported on 21st March, with the following extra information:

 

Valley Blanche
Still in generally good condition, though some treacherous crevasses are beginning to appear.  There snow is starting to disappear on the descent down to Chamonix meaning several ski carrying sections and a 30 minute walk at the end.  

 

Torino Sector
Parties on the Aig Entrèves et Marbrées traverses: overall good conditions.

 

Aiguilles Rouges
The Bérard valley still OK, (need to carry the skis at the little wooden walkway near the Cascade.)

The Loriaz hut shuts on Sunday evening 31 March.

 

Mont-Blanc

Grands Mulets route: The Grands Mulets hut is open. Good snow cover to reach the hut.  The north ridge of the Dôme is difficult (200 m of bare ice); needs to be pitched. Serac collapse risk at the level of the Petit Plateau.  Also take care of the seracs on the true right bank of the Grandes Montées (between the Petit et Grand Plateau). The N face is not appealing due to dry conditions and the effects of the strong winds this winter. The route being used for the summit is there and back via the col du Dôme. Steel crampons are strongly recommended. (ice below the Vallot) 

Goûter route: Some parties on this route, no further information.

3 Monts route:  The route does not look to be in condition and is not being done; impressive bergschrunds on the Tacul and Maudit.

 

Argentière Sector
The Bochard lift is still closed, (hopefully it will open next weekend.)

Glacier du Milieu: Near the summit take care, the ice is just below a thin snow cover.

The rock routes behind the hut are dry. 

 

Albert 1er Sector
The hut opens this week, (no warden on Wednesday or Thursday.)

 

Couvercle Sector
The hut opens this weekend.

 

Leschaux Sector
Couloir SW de l'Eboulement (26/03): Crossing the bergschrund went OK but the party turned back because the couloir was not in condition for skiing., (narrow, icy).

 

Conscrits Sector
An hour of carrying the skis at the start of the hut approach. The traverse of the Dômes de Miage is overall in good condition.  There is a track on the ridge, but some short sections of ice require good crampons. The Armancette glacier is in condition, (the snow runs out just above the lake but then it is possible to ski again shortly afterwards, almost down to La Frasse). 
The Bérangère, Pain de Sucre, Col des Glaciers are being done.

 

The Drus (23/24/03)
N Face – Lesueur route: OK dry tooling – not much snow – start by the Alain Leninger route then the classic. Descend by the North Couloir on abalakovs and in-situ abseil points on the route.

 

Thank you to all those who posted their information in the online Route Book.

 

Report 21 March 2019

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 21/03/2019

 

The weather has improved this week allowing for an increase in activity in the mountains, especially ski touring.   In general, the snow cover is good up to 3500m, (with powder on the north facing slopes,).  Above this, conditions remain dry for both the mixed climbs and the high mountain routes e.g. Mont Blanc.

All the classic ski routes are tracked and in good condition.

 

Tour/Trient Sector

The climb up to the Col des Autannes and the descent to Trient is OK.

Col du Passon is tracked, with good conditions for the descent to Le Tour. The Albert 1er hut opens this weekend.

 

Argentière Sector

The N faces remain very dry. Due to the progressive melting of the Verte summit ice cap, the Couturier couloir is now threatened by a serac.  Also, there is a crevasse that is very difficult to cross. It has not been tracked and is not really to be recommended.  If attempted, then the “classic” exit straight up would appear to be the best option.

There has been no activity on the Droites or both the N face and NE of the Courtes. For the latter, the latest information is that the bergschrund is awkward but does go on the left, and the snow is rock hard on the upper part.

The Col des Cristaux was skied in good snow, (the top 60m being dry, need to abseil or down climb.)

A track on the SW couloir of the Amône, no further information.

The Cols d'Argentière and Tour Noir are in good condition. Take ski crampons as the snow is icy in some sections.  

Aiguille d'Argentière:  The “Y” couloir is in good condition, (bergschrund OK, lower band icy, snow all the way up the rest of the gully.)  Good conditions also for the normal route by the Glacier du Milieu, (good skiers are setting off from the summit.)

The Col du Chardonnet is tracked on the true right bank. There are 80m of abseils on the Saleina side, (a 50m rope suffices.)

 

Mer de Glace / Aiguille du Midi Sector

It is no longer feasible to exit in safety onto the Mer de Glace from the Pas de Chèvre.   

There has been no more information about the Whymper couloir since the good weather period last February but it looks to be feasible. The S facing classics in this area also look feasible.

Brèche Puiseux (50 m abseil), Couloir du Capucin (60 m abseil), Tacul Shoulder (30 m abseil) and Col du Tacul (there and back), are all been done regularly and are in very good condition.

Valley Blanche is generally in good condition. There is a short passage of ice to reach the start of the climb back up to the Mottets which needs care and a good skiing ability.  It is still possible to ski down to Chamonix with two short walking sections and then a final 15min walk. Care is needed to control one’s speed. 

The Glacier Rond (2x 15m abseils from the summit), Couloir des Cosmiques (60 m abseil then icy snow for 200m) are being done. It is possible to ski to the tunnel, either by the Para slope or the Combe des Glaciers.

The Laurence and Cosmiques ridges are tracked.  The traverse of the Pointes Lachenal not recommended; bare ice.

Some ropes have been on the Vent du Dragon and the Chéré Gully. Some of the other gullies appear to be feasible but are still very dry (e.g. Modica-Noury, Gabarrou-Albinoni.) This makes these routes harder than their given grades; take short screws and rock protection.

The Mallory on the N face of the Midi has been re-tracked, (still bare ice at the top)

The N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter is not in condition and is not thought to have been done this year.  There is a lot of ice and has a problematical bergschrund.  The descent by the Plateaux appears to be in good condition, (done in February.)

The Trappier couloir is being skied regularly.

Helbronner Sector

The main ski descents on the Italian side are in good condition, (Marbrées, Toule Glacier, Col d'Entrêves, Brenva). There is some walking in order to reach the base of the valley.

Conscrits Sector

The Tre la Tete hotel and the Conscits hut both opened on Wednesday.  The skis can be used after the Rocher des Plans, (30 to 45mins of walking first.)   The Mauvais Pas has a section of icy snow and there is also a risk of falling ice blocks.  It is recommended to pass it between 10am and noon.  The glacier has a good track. Some parties left today, (Thurdsay) for Mont Tondu and the Dômes de Miage, (hoping to descend the Armancette glacier).

The gorge leading to the to the Combe Blanche looks to be OK in descent.

 

Aiguilles Rouges

All the Aiguilles Rouges classics are in condition.  There is some walking above La Flatière for the Aiguillette des Houches. The Bérard valley is in good condition, (icy snow lower down on the path by the true right bank of the river).  It is possible to reach the Loriaz chalets from Couteray, either by ski or snow shoe. The Col de la Terrasse is tracked. The exit from the Très les Eaux valley is complicated, as a build up of snow prevents bypassing the stream bed at one point, meaning wet feet, (abseil).  Not much snow near Granges and what there is risks being heavy.

 

Snow Shoeing and walking paths

The valley paths are possible with good footwear and hiking poles.  Snow shoes are only useful once one has gained some height. Examples are:  using the Prarion lift for the loop there and the Vallorcine lift for the Aiguillette des Posettes.

 

Ice Climbing

It is still just possible to find some climbing on the true left bank of the Argentiere glacier or the Patri sector at Cogne.

No information for the beginner ice climbing areas.

 

Report 16th March 2019

A quick update following the return of the sun this weekend.

 

The recent weather fronts brought with them not only snow but also strong winds.  This makes it very difficult to estimate the amount of new snow, (on average 50 to 80 cms above 1800/2000m). A small amount of snow fell at the valley level which has temporally improved conditions there. At mid and higher altitudes, the snow depth has been significantly increased but is not stable. The avalanche risk, both natural and provoked, has been high since Friday with numerous and large windslabs breaking away. Today, Saturday, the rapid rise in temperatures has resulted in the snow sliding off the sun affected slopes. Caution is needed over the coming days. BERA has put out a warning for this Sunday: “the snow pack remains treacherous at altitude”.

 

It is also difficult to assess the snow quality. Chamoniarde has not received many reports.  The snow has been compacted and affected by the wind and the variations in temperatures together with the sun this Saturday.  The snow conditions are very variable.  They are generally good on the northern slopes above 2000m but crusty below this. They are less good on slopes affected by the sun, as the snow has not yet transformed and therefore crusty and with slide/avalanche debris in places.

 

The Trapette ski tour track at Argentiere was reported to be good condition on Saturday.

For snow shoers, even though there was some fresh snow down to the valley floor, a better option is at altitude on the signposted tracks prepared by the Pistes and Paths service and the Company du Mont-Blanc. (https://www.ccpmb.fr/eau-air-nature-environnement/les-sentiers-de-randonnees/itineraires-raquette-a-neige/)   (http://www.skiplan.com/bulletin/bulletin.php?station=chamonix&region=alpes&pays=france&lang=en)

 

Following the recent weather, the conditions have completely changed.  Activity in the mountains is slowly picking up as of this weekend.  The forecast is for more clement for next week.  

 

Enjoy your outings, take care and let Chamoniarde know about them, (online at OBS-ALP , or the cahier de course, or by telephone, or a message on the Chamoniarde Facebook page.)  Thanks in advance.