News

AC Photographer Featured in John Muir Trust Exhibition

AC Photographer Featured in John Muir Trust Exhibition

Associate AC member Fi Bunn has had her work, 'The Matterhorn Fire', commended as a finalist in the John Muir Trust's Creative Freedom Exhibition. The exhibition, which runs from 18 March - 25 May 2024 at the Trust's Pitlochry Wild Space Visitor Centre, features works in a range of media, including paintings, comic books, photography, movement art, and VR. The included works were selected from over 600 entrants related to the Trust’s belief that society thrives when wild places are given the freedom to repair themselves.


'The Matterhorn Fire' by Fi Bunn

Writing on her website, Fi commented: "In the winter, the Matterhorn presents the well known image of snow and ice on a stunning, iconic peak popular with skiers. In summer, the mountains are now scored with grey as the ice retreats. The glacial tracks are disappearing at 25 metres per year. This is almost unnoticed in a single year, but over the past 2 years Swiss glaciers have reduced by 10%."

For those who can't make the exhibition in person, The Trust have provided a digital gallery of the selected works.

 

 

 

'The Everest Obsession' - New Radio Series Examines How the World's Highest Mountain is Managed

'The Everest Obsession' - New Radio Series Examines How the World's Highest Mountain is Managed

AC member and Mount Everest Foundation Chair Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to summit Mount Everest, presents a new five-part series for BBC Radio 4 which examines how the mountain is managed a decade on from the 2014 earthquake disaster which claimed the lives of sixteen Sherpa workers.

Speaking with commercial operators, mountaineers, including Sir Chris Bonington, and a number of Nepalis who work on or study the mountain, Rebecca deftly investigates what has and hasn't changed since that tragic day in 2014 and looks forward to how the continuing demand for guided summits looks set to shape the future of the mountain and of Nepal.

'The Everest Obsession' premiered on BBC Radio 4 in April 2024 and is available to listen to on-demand via the BBC Sounds App.

 

 

 

Report: 12 April 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 12 April 2024.

At last some decent weather, lets get out there!

The mercury has been rising for the last 3 days and activity has been picking up. Early starts and early finishes may be needed! And don't forget your sunscreen! Here's an overview of the conditions.

 

Conscrits

Skis on after the mauvais pas. The Dômes traverse is tracked. The glacier is well filled in. The summit of the Dômes is bullet hard. The Armancette descent is hard snow at the top, but then the skiing is quite good. Skis off at the lake at 1700m.

The first team of the season left this morning for the Durier.

The Tré la Tête was done yesterday (no further info).

Mont Tondu: several slides in the area due to the sand layer. A team on the Pain de Sucre earlier this week. The summit of Mont Tondu looks heavily corniced.

 

Grands Mulets

Regular activity on the Mont Blanc route. Access to the refuge via the Jonction (upper path). For those brave enough to set off on foot from the tunnel, access conditions are here. The north ridge of the Dôme is ice. Parties are therefore taking the Plateaux route. The Bosses ridge has some bits of blue ice (good crampons and good crampon technique needed). The north face has not been skied (hard snow).

 

Cosmiques

3 skiers set off this morning on the normal route of the Tacul and turned back below the serac in the middle of the face.

Teams on the Chéré (grey ice), on the Supercouloir. The Lafaille goulotte was climbed today in good conditions. The Modica Noury and the Gabarrou Albinoni (3rd belay damaged) were still going well 3 days ago. Conditions could change rapidly on the east face with the heat forecast.

By eye: small slide to the left of the Lachenal ridge. The traverse has been done on foot. The Cosmiques Arête is being done a lot (access on foot also possible).

Apart from these two routes, all other approaches need to be on ski.

 

Aiguille du Midi North Face

The gullies are dry. On Thursday, a team were seen finishing the Mallory, and this morning another team tried and turned back: hard work to reach the foot of the couloir despite a night in the Plan de l'Aiguille winter room.

 

Vallée Blanche

Lots of people with this beautiful weather window. The snow is changeable all along the route and quickly becomes heavy as the hours go by. Its a 10 minute walk to reach the Mer de Glace gondola (last ascent at 4PM). Last train back: 5PM.

 

Torino

The Aiguilles Marbrées and Aiguilles d'Entrèves traverses have been tracked. Approaching on foot is feasible, but snowshoes are still not a bad idea.

Tour Ronde: the Gervasutti couloir is in good condition, but the rimaye is a little tricky. The same applies to the normal route. The north face is very dry.

The Dent du Géant looks very dry.

Brèche Puiseux: very busy. The conditions of April 6 are still valid.

 

Couvercle

Access to the refuge is via the central couloir.

Activity on the Whymper couloir and Pointe Isabelle. The Aiguille Croulante couloir was skied a week ago.

Lots of people at the refuge this evening making the most of the W/E: so we should get some more info!

 

Argentière sector

No alpine activity in the sector. The faces are loaded. The gullies are dry. A team was seen in the Z on the Aiguille Verte (the Couturier is not in condition). A team has started today on the Lagarde couloir but is making very slow progress, no further info.

All the classic ski touring routes are tracked: Passon (ski de combat to get back to Le Tour) - Chardonnet - 3 cols - Tour Noir - d'Argentière.

The Aiguille d'Argentière was tracked by the Glacier du Milieu (see cahier de course) and the couloir en Y: rimaye OK, a pitch of mixed afterwards on the left bank.

The Barbey couloir was skied yesterday 11/04: good conditions overall, slightly wind-affected/crust at the start. Then powder on a hard base and finally heavy powder/spring snow on the left bank.

The Col des Cristaux (ice at the top) and the NE face of Les Courtes were also skied.

The Chevalier couloir on the Petite Verte is in poor condition.

Beware of the moraines: with the expected heat, beware of possible rock falls.

 

Lift closure: Sunday evening (14/04) for the Planpraz/Brévent - Flégère/Index - Vallorcine / le Tour - Col de Balme lifts. As a reminder, the lifts at Les Houches (Bellevue and Prarion) are already closed. So only the Grands Montets lifts will remain open.

 

Hiking: conditions are changing very slowly. The snow limit is around 1800m on the south-facing slopes and 1600/1700 m on the north-facing slopes. Above these altitudes, snow cover is deep and extensive. Remember it's not the time of year for the grands balcons nord and sud, and mountain lakes (whatever their colour!!). Be patient!

In the meantime, here are a few hiking ideas.

 

Via Ferrata: The Curalla and Bérard via ferrata are open.

 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

The Long Legacy of ‘53

Incoming Chair of the Mount Everest Foundation’s Committee of Trustees, Rebecca Stephens, reflects on the history of the MEF and considers how its past helps point the way to an active future for this vital grant-giving body.

Rebecca Stephens welcomes the opening of MEF grants to Nepali applicants at the Embassy of Nepal, London

Several remarkable charitable bodies sprung from the 1953 Everest expedition, not least the Mount Everest Foundation (MEF). Founded on the generosity of the expedition members who donated proceeds from lectures, a film, and in Col. John Hunt’s case, his best-selling book, The Ascent of Everest, (a must-have for every stocking that Christmas), to collectively raise an astounding £100,000, equivalent to almost £3.5m in today’s money. All this went into a pot to encourage the ‘exploration of the mountain ranges of the Earth’, an objective that is still honoured seven decades on.

Another charity that sprang from that extraordinary expedition of 1953, was the Himalayan Trust, founded by Ed Hillary to give back to the Sherpas who had played such an instrumental role in making the expedition a success. The two charities, though with different objectives, share values – a love of the mountains, the mountain people and cultures, a sense of gratitude and a desire to give back. So it comes as no surprise that they’ve joined forces to celebrate decennial anniversaries of Everest’s first ascent.

As a trustee of the Himalayan Trust UK, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many MEF trustees over the years. Thanks to Duncan Sperry I now step into his shoes as Chair, a decision not difficult to make – anything to counter our risk-averse, screen-obsessed culture where a neighbour anxiously informs me that my daughter is up an apple tree.

A Piolet d'Or-winning line. Paul Ramden on the MEF-backed first ascent of Jugal Spire - Tim Miller

I wonder if the founders would recognise much of the world we live in today, particularly if they cared to venture to Everest.  But I think they’d be pleased that the Mount Everest Foundation upholds its initial ethos: to encourage and celebrate the spirit of the pioneer, to take initiative and forge something new. To lead, not just to follow. In climbing, that’s evolved into purer alpine tactics, and, as the impact of tourism increasingly puts pressure on local communities, so it calls for increased sensitivity to the mountain environment and the people who inhabit it, always remembering that we’re visitors in someone else’s land. As such it seems entirely fitting that as well as donating money to young climbers keen to develop skills and awareness in extreme environments, the MEF also makes periodic donations to charities that support local people and the environments in which they’re likely to climb.

Hillary and Norgay climbing on Everest - The Royal Geographical Society

I’m quite sure, too, that the founders would endorse the MEF’s latest initiative, passed under Duncan’s leadership, to extend the eligibility of MEF grants to Nepalis as well as Brits and New Zealanders. After all, it was the citizens of three nations, not two, that put Hillary and Tenzing on the summit, and as the ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya pointed out at a celebratory gathering at the Embassy of Nepal, “better late than never.” I’m happy to report that, following this announcement, we have already received our first application from Nepal.

MEF-backed scientists at work on the Dona glacial lake in the Nepalese Himalaya

Another timely shift is a renewed emphasis on science; currently, around one third of the MEF’s grants are allocated to scientific research in mountain regions. There was a time when the environmental impact of climbing and trekking was measured for the most part as local: rubbish, pollution of rivers, and the felling of trees for firewood with resultant erosion of thin mountain soils. Today, what happens in the mountains is of global interest. The high mountains of the world are humanity’s water towers. With temperatures at altitude rising faster than at sea level, glaciers are retreating, the bedrock left bare, which in turn amplifies the warming rate and has consequences far beyond the immediate vicinity of the mountains.

The MEF now finds itself at the epicentre of the biggest existential threat to humankind. We are in a position to play a part in supporting scientific research. We support the pioneers – those pushing the limits in mountaineering, and intrepid young scientists in remote and lofty mountain regions who are the spokesmen and women of the effect of climate change. Never has the Mount Everest Foundation found itself in such an important position. As incoming Chair, I hope to see that it continues to rise to that challenge.

- Rebecca Stephens

 

 

 

AC Member Recognised in 2024 Derwent Art Prize

AC Member Recognised in 2024 Derwent Art Prize

AC member Polly Townsend has been awarded second prize in The 2024 Derwent Art Prize for her work 'Ice, Antarctica'. Her work, composed in charcoal, ink and watercolour, was among five awarded pieces selected from over 6,000 entries.

Townsend's Prize-Winning Work - 'Ice, Antarctica'

The work was inspired by Polly's residency in Antarctica in January 2023 and was commended by the selectors both for its "technical perfection and mastery" and "its silent yet commanding presence [which] prompts reflection on the fragile beauty of the Antarctic landscape juxtaposed against the stark reality of its melting ice cap."

The Derwent Art Prize, established in 2012 by art materials manufacturer Derwent, offers prize money and exposure to "the very best artworks made in pencil". In 2024, the five awardees received a total of £13,000 in prize money and art supplies.

An exhibition showcasing the 68 shortlisted works, including Polly's, is free to visit at gallery@oxo from 11AM-6PM from 4-13 April and from 11AM-2PM on the closing day, Sunday 14 April 2024.

 

 

 

John Colton

We have received the sad news that John Colton died on 27 March. An accomplished artist and mountaineer, John had been a member since 2013 and last year mounted an exhibition at Charlotte Road, playfully titled ‘Over the Hill’, of scenes sketched during his most active years in the Alps and recreated in watercolour during 2022. 

During the UK COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, John was one of the speakers at our ClubCast on Artists of the Alpine Club. You can watch a recording of the event below.

John’s funeral will be on Friday 19 April at 09:45 at Park Wood Crematorium (Elland) and a celebration of his life at Old Rishworthiens RUFC (Copley).

Join Us for the Launch of Dorothy Pilley's 'Climbing Days'

Join Us for the Launch of Dorothy Pilley's 'Climbing Days'

Dorothy Pilley was one of the most significant figures of early 20th Century mountaineering. A member of numerous mountaineering clubs and a founder of the all-women Pinnacle Club, she climbed extensively in the Alps and North America, alongside her husband Ivor Richards. In 1928, together with Ivor and the guides Joseph and Antoine Georges, Dorothy made the first ascent of the north-north-west ridge of the Dent Blanche.

This, and many of her other pivotal climbing experiences, were immortalised in Dorothy's autobiography 'Climbing Days'. Despite Dorothy's significance and the book's warm reception, the title has sadly been out of print for several decades. However, thanks to the work of Dorothy's Great-Grand Nephew Dan Richards and publisher Canongate Books, a new edition of the book is set to be published in 2024.

This new title, the first since 1965 to feature all of the original photographs, will become part of the Canongate 'Canons' collection and will receive its official launch on 2 July at the Alpine Club's premises at Charlotte Road London.

To help celebrate the book's re-release and Dorothy's remarkable life, the evening will include a discussion by Dan Richards (who has written a new foreword for this edition), writer and academic Dr Sarah Lonsdale and UKClimbing Editor in Chief Natalie Berry

The book launch is free to attend and there will be the opportunity to buy copies of the book on the night as well as to view a small display of some of Dorothy's posessions from the Club's collection. The event will start from 7PM and you can sign up to attend via the Google form below.

 

 

 

 

AC Members Feature in UIAA Podcast Discussion of Everest

AC Members Feature in UIAA Podcast Discussion of Everest

The UIAA (The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) has launched a new podcast for 2024. 'Mountain Voices', produced and presented by AC member Tarquin Cooper, provides a platform for experts from the UIAA and renowned figures from the world of mountaineering to discuss important contemporary topics. 

In the third episode of the current series, Tarquin is joined by Korean climber and anthropologist Young Hoon Oh and AC members Ed Douglas and Victor Saunders to discuss the development of Everest over the past 100 years and the current challenges facing the management of the mountain. 

You can listen to the episode here or by subscribing to Mountain Voices via your podcast app of choice.

 

 

 

2024 GRIT&ROCK Expedition Award Recipients Announced

2024 GRIT&ROCK Expedition Award Recipients Announced

Since 2017, the UK-based charity GRIT&ROCK has sought to encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents by provided funding to female-led expeditions. In its eight years of operation, it has provided $70,000 in grants to 30 female-led expeditions.

Nadine Lehrner, Isidora Llarena, and Rebeca Caceres who received a GRIT&ROCK grant for their 2023 expedition in Patagonia

The recipients of the 2024 grants are as follows:

Performance Category

Chantel Astorga and Fanny Schmutz received $2,000 towards their planned expedition to open a new route on east face of Shivling (6543m)

AC member Fay Manners and Michelle Dvorak were awarded £1,500 towards an exploratory expedition to Sikkim.

An all-female team of Lise Billon, Raphaela Haug and Babsi Vigl received $1,500 of funding towards an attempt at a full traverse of the Moose’s Tooth in Alaska's Ruth Gorge.


Exploration Category

Olga Lukashenko, Anastasia Kozlova and Daria Seryupova were awarded $1,500 for an exploratory expedition to Ashat Wall in Kyrgyzstan to attempt the first ascent of Argo and Sabakh peaks.

An all-female team of Canadian climbers, Flavie Cardinal and Jasper Pankratz, received $1,000 for an exploratory big wall climbing expedition to the Turbio valley in Argentina.


Apprenticeship Category

A team of six UK-based climbers: AC member Elizabeth Porter, Martha Gutteridge, Charlotte Krishik, AC member Isabel Jones, AC member Caitlin McHale and Jinjie Cheng were provided with $1,500 in funding for an exploratory expedition to the Rushan range of Tajikistan.

The jury also elected to continue their funding for the French National Female Alpine Team (ENAF) and the female members of the Alpine Club's Young Alpinist Group with grants of $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.


The Award is open to individuals and climbing teams of any nationality with a majority of female participants.

 

 

 

Report: 29 March 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 29 March 2024.
 
The weeks are rolling by and we get endless storms and and fohn. Mountain activity is virtually at a standstill...
 
This weekend looks set to be a stormy one again, with a powerful fohn system. The wind is likely to be strong in the valleys and mountains, even gale force. Once again, you'll have to adapt your activities and outings!
 
Activities in the high mountains are likely to be compromised, so stay tuned...
 
The opening of pistes and lifts may be disrupted. You can consult the forecasts and openings here.
 
Conditions for hiking remain the same, i.e. you should stay roughly below 1700m.
 
You will find a suggestion of hikes for this weekend here.
WARNING: strong winds forecast for the valley this weekend: risk of falling trees on forest routes. 
 
Some general information:

  • Mer de Glace access: The path between Montenvers and the bottom of the old cable car is closed by decree. If the new cable car is closed, access is via the new mountain route, which will require mountaineering equipment.
  • The opening of the Grands Mulets refuge has been postponed until 4 April, depending on the weather.


Have a good weekend!

 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Up Close with Klaus Thymann

Up Close with Klaus Thymann

Danish explorer and AC member Klaus Thymann is a walking multi-hyphenate. We caught up with him in December 2023 to discuss his work as a climate activist, his interest in equatorial glaciers and his thoughts on the failures and future of science communication.

To kick off, could you tell us a little about what you do professionally?

That is going to be a very long answer. I do a lot of things professionally. I have more hats than I have hair. So I used to work as a photographer, I've been a filmmaker my entire life and I’m an explorer. But my main focus is mapping. Without maps, we can't navigate. And without navigation, we can't actually solve some of the pressing issues. So for me, that's a logical first step.

I grew up as a teenager taking pictures and I became a professional photographer when I was 15. Then I became a filmmaker and the great thing about photography and filmmaking is that you can do whatever you’re interested in. If you like food, you photograph food. If you like adventure, you photograph adventure. And I've moved through a lot of different genres and themes in photography, but around 2008, I set up a charity called Project Pressure with a focus on triangulating climate change action, art and science. And, later, in 2010, I started a science degree. So I have a degree in Environmental Science and nowadays I would say that what I do professionally is focus on activism that is grounded in science and communication. I think, when we look at climate change specifically, science has failed on communication.

 

A lot of your climate change communication work has focussed on glaciers. Is there a reason for that choice?

When I founded Project Pressure, we wanted to create communication around climate change. At that time, climate change deniers were called “sceptics” and the media gave equal billing to deniers as to scientists even though 99% of scientists said that climate change was happening. That created a public perception that climate change was up for debate and we're still seeing the results of this now.

So when we started Project Pressure, we wanted to communicate in a way that was undeniable, scientific and bulletproof. Glaciers react to long-term warming trends. Glacier mass balances and mass balance losses are not part of the weather cycle, so showing their retreat illustrates climate change. And from an artistic perspective, it's one of the classic forms and so it made sense to create work around them.


The past and the present - recreating historic glacier photos in Uganda

2023 Meltdown Exhibition at  Kühlhaus, Berlin

You talked earlier about the failure of science to communicate, particularly in the early stages of climate change awareness. Do you think scientists failed because of false balance in the media, or was it a wider failing?

It's not a binary, it's not one or the other. The media played a big role in the problem and that’s also because most journalists are not trained scientists and most scientists are not trained in media. So you have two groups that are trying to do things that they're not trained to do.

The precautionary principle in science is part of it too. When you write scientific reports, it's a guiding principle. You cannot prove something, you can only disprove a lot of other things. So you cannot go out and say categorically what is. You can say something would have a certain likelihood.

When it comes to the environment, I think you have to look at the precautionary principle in a different context. Not from a scientific context, but from an environmental context. In an environmental context, that precautionary principle says that you don't destroy something without absolute certainty that you will not damage the systems. So one should take a precautionary approach to how we treat the environment. If there is a risk, the approach has to be changed.

 

I noticed that, perhaps in contrast to a lot of Alpine Club members, you’ve undertaken a lot of expeditions in equatorial regions. What is their appeal to you?

Mapping has always been a driving force for me. So going to the white spots on the map where it’s less documented was a big interest for me. I also have to say that when it comes to ice and mountaineering, there’s such a huge focus on the poles and Everest that it's not interesting. There's been so many other people there. I'm not going to be able to contribute anything.

By contrast, some of the equatorial glaciers are not named, they're not documented and they can be difficult to get to for a number reasons; conflict, logistics and so on. It’s an event just to get there and you come back with something new.

It also offers a different perspective. Those equatorial glaciers only have height. Once the temperature increases and the freezing point goes higher, they melt. It shows the effects of climate change on a global scale in a way that's maybe a little bit surprising to people.


View from inside a cave towards the dive entrance.
Tannic acid in the water creates the remarkable colours seen here

Thymann carrying a dive tank in Mexico

You’ve also done a lot of diving as part of your work. Do you think that there are similarities between mountaineering and diving?

So the diving I do is technical diving and a lot of it is cave diving. I would say the expedition mentality and the expedition planning is something that is similar. But ultimately it's very different. There are people in mountaineering who are risk averse and there are people that are absolutely not risk averse. In cave diving you die very quickly if you take risks, and in cave diving, we say “two is one, one is none”. Preferably there's a backup and then maybe there's a backup of the backup. If you're several kilometres into a cave, there’s no other option than getting back out the same way. And, if you know what you're doing, the limits are very well known. And I think, when you look at the way people treat mountaineering, people are forgetting the risks in a way that you can’t in cave diving.

 

To come back to photography and filmmaking - film and video are so ubiquitous now, how do you, as someone who uses it professionally, find what Werner Hertzog refers to as “the new image”? Something that's not been shown to people before.

Photography doesn't really interest me so much anymore. I think it's a medium that has done a lot, but as a standalone unit, it isn't a great vehicle for storytelling. Comparative image photography still does create a narrative. But if we accept that most people will consume their media on a digital device, it's the whole device that's much more interesting. You know, different mapping platforms different 3D environment and so on.

Project Pressure's 'Voices for The Future' Installation at the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit

 

Lastly, is there anything you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to highlight?

For a long time, I've been working on a story about the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Congo (DRC). And we’re currently seeking archival images of these mountains. So if anyone has something lying around in their drawers, please get in touch. We're trying to build a database of what the glaciers have done in this region and we have some of the historic photographs that were published by the first expeditions in 1906. But there are huge gaps in the ’50s and ‘60s and there’s very little from the ‘60s up until 2012.

 

You can learn more about Klaus’s work and get in touch with him via his website: https://www.klausthymann.com/

This interview originally appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of the Alpine Club Newsletter. Previous issues of the newsletter are available to read here.

 

 

 

 

'Going Up to Balliol' Exhibition

'Going Up to Balliol' Exhibition

AC member, Honorary Keeper of Artefacts and former Club Librarian Nigel Buckley has organised an exhibition at Balliol College, Oxford, looking at the college’s connections to mountaineering.

The exhibition features mountaineers including Arnold Lunn, Charles Evans, Tom Bourdillon and Stephen Venables and makes use of a number of items from the Club's collections, including Bourdillon’s Everest diary and down suit.

The exhibition, which is being held at the Balliol Historic Collections Centre is open to visitors at the following times:

  • Sunday 21 April, 11.00am—4.00pm
  • Thursday 25 April, 3.00pm—7.00pm
  • Friday 3 May, 11.00am—4.00pm
  • Wednesday 8 May, 3.00pm—7.00pm
  • Monday 13 May, 11.00am—4.00pm
  • Sunday 26 May, 11.00am—4.00pm
  • Wednesday 29 May, 3.00pm—7.00pm
  • Thursday 6 June, 11.00am—4.00pm
  • Saturday 8 June, 11.00am—4.00pm
  • Monday 10 June, 11.00am—4.00pm

There will be three evening lectures running alongside the exhibition:

  • From 7PM on 25 April, Tim Expley will present ‘Mountaineering to Alpinism: A Steep Learning Curve’
  • Balliol alum James Ogilvie will discuss ‘Getting High: Climbing the Seven Summits’ from 7PM on 8 May and
  • At 7PM on 29 May, Mick Conefrey will give a talk on the 1953 Everest Expedition.

The exhibition can also be viewed by appointment. Further details are available at the Balliol College website.

 

 

 

Report: 22 March 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 22 March 2024.


Some summary information:

Conscrits

Two hours of portage before the Mauvais Pas. You can hear the water flowing from Tré la Grande, but for the moment it's fine. The north face of Lée Blanche was skied on 20/03 in quite good conditions (no ice). The Dômes de Miage has been done there and back via the Col des Dômes. A team also did the traverse with descent via the Bérangère (watch out for cornices on the ridge to climb back to the summit). The Bérangère there and back is ok.

Grands Mulets

Pending the opening of the refuge scheduled for Easter weekend, here are the first observations in the sector: the lower track on the Jonction is blocked by a crevasse (ok 50m below). The higher Jonction path is fine for the moment (keep your skins on for the way up, and keep your ropes on for the way down). Watch this space.

At the moment, the north ridge of the Goûter is ice, not snow. A bit of activity on the Plateaux: nothing to report apart from a few serac falls, one of which crossed the Plateaux. From the slope below the Vallot, conditions become more technical, requiring a good crampon technique (and good crampons!): ice and "bullet hard" snow. The north face has not yet been skied.

Cosmiques

The snow was very wind-affected, packed and covered with orange dust during Wednesday night's storm. 

The arête Laurence and the Cosmiques arête are being steadily retracked (snow not too deep on the approach). The traverse of the Pointes Lachenal had been tracked earlier in the week in decent conditions. 

As far as goulottes: the Chéré was climbed in " fossillised ice " conditions. Climbers on the Modica-Noury (see the cahier de course on the website), the Super Couloir. M6 Solar was climbed in rather dry conditions.

Torino

The refuge has been open since March 1, but there are still few people in the sector. Some activity on the mixed routes of Le Flambeau. The Tour Ronde normal route was climbed on 19/03 with a descent on the Brenva glacier. The Maudit gullies are still very snow-laden. 

There are still 4 equipped abseils at 30m on the left bank of the old Toule stairs (at present, you can descend without abseiling).

Argentière

Little has changed since our last update, as the faces are still very loaded (only short weather windows). The Col des Cristaux and the NE face of the Courtes (very dry at the top) have been skied. No recent activity on the Aiguille d'Argentière, but no noticeable change (still at least one 20m abseil when descending the Glacier du Milieu). The Y-shaped couloir narrows are ok. You will need to spend the night at the refuge, as things are heating up fast and furiously! The col du Passon moraine is starting to dry out (skis off twice to reach the village of Le Tour).

Albert 1er

Good snow conditions: the cols du Tour, Supérieur du Tour, Fenêtre de Saleinaz, Col du Pissoir, Col du Midi des Grands have all been tracked in good conditions. The Aiguille du Tour is in good condition on the normal route. The couloir de la Table has not been climbed (visually very beautiful, but the entrance is very loaded). 

The Chardonnet has not yet had a visit and the gullies are quite dry. Petite Fourche also looks dry.

Aiguilles Rouges

The traverse from the Col des Crochues to the Col de Bérard is very tricky and exposed due to hard snow and avalanche debris. The crossing of the small bridge before the Bérard buvette is increasingly narrow.

The Dards, Belvédère and Beugeant cols heading towards Le Buet have all been done.

 

Hiking conditions have hardly changed since our last update.

 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Alpine Club Supports Pakistani Porter Training Workshops

Alpine Club Supports Pakistani Porter Training Workshops

Over the past several years, the tragic deaths of a number of high altitude workers in the mountains of Pakistan have brought the world’s attention to the fact that these workers are often untrained and poorly equipped for the environments in which they are expected to operate.

There is no single, simple solution to this problem, but the Alpine Club has been given the opportunity to contribute towards improving the situation for some high-altitude porters.

In 2021, renowned mountaineer and Alpine Club member Rick Allen was killed while climbing on K2. Rick left the Club a bequest to fund our ongoing work for members and the wider mountaineering community. Rick made many of his most famous climbs in the Karakoram and had a strong bond to both the area and its people. We have therefore decided to use part of Rick’s bequest to support mountain training in the region.

The Alpine Club Committee has agreed to grant £2,000 p.a. for three years to AC member Karim Hayat who has set up a training programme for Pakistani high-altitude porters. This modest sum will support a much-needed local initiative and hopefully provide leverage for further funding.

The first of these courses, run by Karim through the Gilgit Baltistan Mountaineering Council, has already concluded, with seven participants completing a 12-day basic mountaineering course. Before the expedition season begins, additional training on snow, including the supervised ascent of a 6000m peak, will also take place.

We are very proud that our funding has increased capacity on the course, equipping more participants with the skills required to operate safely in the mountains. In the coming years, we hope to see other organisations and government bodies working to address the pressing issues around porter welfare.

 

 

 

Report: 12 March 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 12 March 2024.


It's been a tough couple of weeks keeping track of the weather!

Weather conditions have been complicated, with alternating episodes of heavy snow and strong, even stormy winds at altitude, interspersed with a few fine but all too rare sunny days: you have to seize your opportunities as much as possible!

Ski touring is the main activity: 

We have been tracking, retracking and retracking again between storms. Snow conditions are good above 2000m. On southern aspects, the snow is softening very quickly on lower altitude mountains. In the high mountains, the cold snow is dense and alternates with wind- affected areas. Old and new windslabs are scattered around across the massif.

Activity has returned to all the classic cols of the Aiguilles Rouges: Crochues-Bérard, Dards, Bevédère, Beugeant and those of the Argentière basin: Passon, Chardonnet, 3 cols (a 60m fixed rope has been installed at the Col du Chardonnet to descend to the Trient side), Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière.

The return track to the village of Le Buet (skis off at the Bérard waterfall) and to the village of Le Tour remain in boardercross mode. 

Today, the Brèche Puiseux is being retracked. Tracks seen down from the Col du Tacul.

The marked Prarion and Trapette uphill ski touring tracks are no longer viable. The Lognan route is still being done despite a lack of snow lower down. The Le Tour up hill track (Caisets) is still popular, but the piste descent is shut.

 

 

Goulotte activity is becoming marginal. 

The Chéré goulotte was done in relatively dry conditions.

A major serac collapse occurred yesterday on the north face of the Tacul (see above photo).

One team bailed at the foot of the Gabarrou Albinoni (deep snow on the approach), but from the look of things, conditions were good in the goulotte, as well as on the neighbouring Modica-Noury, Supercouloir and Goulotte Lafaille. Another team also bailed on the very dry Pélissier Goulotte (Pointe Lachenal).

One team left this morning for Ice is Nice on the back of the Requin.  

No alpine activity so far in the Argentière basin. 

The north faces are well loaded at the bottom and rather dry at the top. Heavy accumulations at the bottom of the basin and towards the Aiguilles Rouges du Dolent.

At the Conscrits refuge, no activity since last weekend's opening. The snowpack in this sector has also been very wind affected (lots of wind slab). The Tré la tête refuge opens this weekend, March 16, as does the Albert 1er refuge.

 

Hiking conditions are largely unchanged:

All the marked snowshoe tracks at the bottom of the valley can be enjoyed on foot without any problems, as can the petit balcons north and south, access to the Floria and Chapeau chalets (open until mid-May), the Dard waterfall, the Cerro chalets and the Bossons glacier.

Following a very strong fohn episode on the night of March 9 to 10 (gusts of over 90 km/h in the valley bottom), you may find some trees across certain paths. Please report any feedbakc on this.

You'll have to walk up to around 1800m before putting on your snowshoes to reach the Loriaz refuge (open and guarded) and the Chailloux chalets. The bottom of the Bérard valley has very hard snow, and crampons are a good idea before putting on snowshoes.

The marked snowshoe tracks at altitude in the Prarion, Flégère and Tour-Vallorcine ski areas all have good snow conditions.

Contact us before you set off to find out if the route you are planning is suitable for snowshoeing, as the appearances from the valley floor can be deceptive!

 

That's the general overview of the Chamonix valley.

Now it's your turn to tell us what you find! 

 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Christopher Marshall

The club has learned of the death on 26 February of Christopher Marshall.  He joined the club in his sixties and was a member for thirty years.

The funeral is on the 23rd of March at noon at St. Michaels, St. Michaels Hill, Milverton, TAUNTON, TA4 1JS.  Everyone is welcome.

 

Robin Campbell

The Club has recently learned of the death of AC member and Scottish mountaineering stalwart Robin Campbell. Robin's contributions to mountaineering are too numerous to list, but he has been a loyal servant of both the SMC and AC, carrying out often unsung work to ensure the preservation of mountain heritage.  Our thoughts are with his friends and family. 

There will be a private funeral for Robin near his home in Fintry, Stirlingshire.  A celebration of his life will take place at a later date.  Further information will follow when known.

Tony Smythe

The Club was saddened to learn of the death of long-standing AC member Tony Smythe. Tony had been a member of the Club since joining the ACG in the 1960s. As well as being the son of noted Himalayan mountainner Frank Smythe, Tony was an accomplished climber in his own right and also a successful author, penning 'My Father Frank' and the iconic 'Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia' with fellow AC member John Cleare.

Tony died in Kendal on 24 February. His funeral will take place at 11am on Monday 18th March, at Beetham Hall Crematorium,  Beetham, Milnthorpe LA7 7BQ. All are welcome. If planning to come please contact Simon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Gareth Shellard

We have recently learned that ACG member Gareth Shellard sadly died on 29 January as the result of a climbing accident. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family at this difficult time.

 

 

 

Report: 23 February 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 23 February 2024.

Some quick bits of information before the weekend!

We’ve had a decent drop of snow at altitude from Thursday’s storm.

There has been a lot of rain at valley level and the cross country pistes are closed for the time being. On the other hand the Mer de Glace grotto opened last Saturday 24 February.

The Cosmiques hut opened last weekend.

The rain snow limit has been fluctuating around 1800m to 2000m, dropping temporarily to 1500m (a few centimetres of snow).

Above that there’s been an average of 30 to 50 cm of fresh snow at 2000 to 2500m. Around a metre at 3800 m. Very strong winds at all altitudes have been moving the snow around resulting in some big wind slabs.

The snowfall is obviously welcome and we should be able to make some great tracks.

Today’s avalanche control (PIDA) resulted in some big releases and therefore great caution will be needed in your choice of routes this weekend. See photos on the website from the Envers du Plan and Vallée Noire. 

Gullies will be heavily loaded for the next few days.

Not much change concerning walking and snow shoeing routes since our last update on the 15th February.

Please do not hesitate to consult us about your plans, whatever the activity and give us feedback on what you get up to. 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.