MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 18/02/2019
Some more information following the weekend:
The re-freezing is in places limited, areas in the sun are becoming very warm during the day. Avoid being caught out later in the day when there is a significant risk of (wet snow) avalanches. Though the weather is more like April, it is still only February and too early for many of the high-altitude routes, most of which are still dry.
Tour/Trient Sector: The Three Cols route is tracked; the descent either to Trient or Le Tour is in good condition, (as is the Col du Passon.)
Argentière Sector: Col des Cristaux has been skied with good snow, (starting 40m below the col as above is dry). The Couturier is tracked in ascent, conditions look to be OK. Courtes and Droites are still dry (NE also). The bergschrund for the “Y” on the Aiguille d'Argentière looks problematical, but no further information. The Cols du Chardonnet, du Tour Noir and d'Argentière are tracked, (sometimes Spring snow, sometimes powder, depending on the aspect.) The return by the true left bank of the glacier to Lognan is good.
Talèfre Sector: Very average conditions for the “Y” on the Aiguille Verte, (lower band in bad condition, more information in the cahier de course). On the other hand, the Whymper is in good condition, (the bergschrund goes on the left ascending, couloir completely on snow, softish, allowing step kicking.) The central couloir gives the best exit, (right couloir has ice, Pierre à Béranger couloir has avalanche snowballs.)
Géant / Helbronner Sector: Aiguille du Midi Ridge: Crampons essential, rope recommended. Note, one needs to descend a little further than usual, to the second flat area, as the first step is bare ice.
Good conditions for the Valley Blanche, the descent from les Mottets is beginning to suffer but still OK. Brèche Puiseux is very popular, (50 m abseil), likewise the Capucin couloir (60 m abseil) and the Aiguillette du Tacul. Spring conditions on the Italian side (Marbrées, Toule: hand rail to get to the stairs, Col d'Entrèves, Brenva.) Need to be there at the right time of day to get the best ski conditions.
The Mallory on the Aiguille du Midi is tracked in ascent. The rock fall at the end of last summer is causing some problems on the Cosmiques Ridge, (there is an unstable section if it is not frozen, 2 abseils, 50m rope suffices.)
Grands-Mulets: N Ridge is not in condition. Some parties have skinned up by the Plateaux, (fragile snow bridges on the slope beneath the Small Plateau,) and then the ridge to the Vallot hut, (rock hard snow on the Bosses ridge, good snow on the descent.)
Tête Rousse Sector: Trappier Couloir in good condition, with the ascent via the Rognes. Désert de Pierre Ronde is tracked. A roped party has ascended Mont Blanc from Bellevue, without snow shoes, must have been a struggle!
Aiguilles Rouges : ski touring just about everywhere, (descent to Valloricine, Buet and Plaine Joux OK.) Be aware of the avalanche risk on slopes exposed to the sun and the possibility of cornices collapsing.
Ice Climbing: Still a lot to go at, if not exposed to the sun, (Notre Dame de la Gorge, Left bank of the Argentière glacier, Pétoudes.) It is probably over for the Argentière Right bank. The Barre des Charcotains is finished. Still plenty to do at Cogne.