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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.  

Report 5th March 2019

After a long period of good weather, two days of bad weather, (1st and 4th of March,) have resulted in some 40cms of new snow at 2000m.  Strong winds, (gale force at altitude,) have caused severe drifting, stripping away the snow in some areas and probably creating windslab conditions in others.  The amount of snow will vary depending on aspect and altitude.


There is not sufficient snow for snow shoeing below 1100m, north facing, 1400m south facing.  The signposted paths in the valley floor are, however, good for walking with the correct footwear and sticks.

 

Better weather this morning (5th) has seen the return of mountaineering in the range.

Report 18th February 2019

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.

Report 15 February 2019

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. 

Report 8th February 2019

Mountain Conditions 08/02/2019

An update for this weekend and the start of the school holidays.  The conditions are becoming favourable for winter sports.  Unsettled weather this weekend but sunshine is forecast for next week.

For skiers, (piste, hors-piste and touring), the snow is overall good.  However, there remains an important risk of avalanche which will become difficult to spot with the snowfall and wind foreseen for this weekend.  Many professionals have observed avalanche activity in areas not usually affected, take care! 

 

During this holiday period there will be a lot more skiers on the pistes, adapt your speed accordingly!

For ski-tourers, conditions are mainly good, though some rocks are exposed here and there.  There is a cornice threatening the true right bank of the ENSA couloir, (notably if there is a wind or a warm period.)

The Valley Blanche is generally in good condition.  The ridge is equipped with rope handrails and stakes but the « Z » is not tracked yet.  There are quite a few rocks on the Mer de Glace between the ice caves and the climb back up to Mottets. From Mottets the descent down to Chamonix is OK.

The classic ski tours remain popular, (Contamines valley, Aiguilles Rouges, Bel Oiseau / Col de la Forclaz sector etc.) Good conditions also higher up on the glaciers, (Brèche Puiseux, Argentière sector, Col du Passon etc.)

Generally good conditions also for ice climbing.

However, for the mixed routes, as has been the case for the last two years, conditions are very dry with little or no activity.

Enjoy the mountains safely and the Chamoniarde team look forward to hearing about your experiences on: https://www.chamoniarde.com/montagne/cahier-de-courses