La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 09 February 2023

With high pressure in situ, things in the mountains aren’t changing much. 



The wind has continued to affect the snowpack and you need to be canny to find good skiing. Powder is rare, but you will find hard snow, sastrugi, crust...etc. Make sure you have couteaux/harscheisen to hand.  

The ‘Z" is in place on the Aiguille du Midi arête. The Vallée Blanche has been well worked by the wind, but the skiing is not so bad as long as you are competent. The exit couloir of the Grand Envers behind the Requin hut (which is now open!) is steep and the passage is very delicate: rocks and ice on the surface. The vallée noire is also tricky: compact snow meaning it’s a no fall zone, only for good skiers!

Regular activity around the Brèche Puiseux, descent by the Mont Mallet glacier (which is very open!) in 60m or 2x30m with intermediate belay at the fixed rope level (which is quite damaged, do not use it). The Col du Tacul/Couloir du Capucin has been skied (see our cahier de courses).

We repeat, be careful when you get to the Mer de Glace, the track passes 1m from “moulins” (deep holes)! It gets really rocky below Montenvers and up to Les Mottets, basically you walk from the ice grotto. There are more and more rocks on the James Bond track on the way back, skis on and off several times. Depending on your timing and the love you have for your skis, taking the train may be a wise decision!

Argentière/Grand Montets: couteaux are recommended for the climb to the Col des Rachasses. Like many northerly aspect slopes, the Rognons glacier has been well trashed by the wind. The Col des Cristaux has been partially skied, in poor conditions. The N/NE faces of the basin are dry.

Aiguille d’Argentière: the milieu glacier is tracked on the right bank, no information on the upper slope (or the narrows?). The summit ridge (it changes from year to year) is also tracked. The Argentière and the Tour Noir cols are tracked, as is the Col du Chardonnet, the top of which is very dry. 30m abseil on the north side (+ crampon descent, rimaye OK).

Fenêtre de Saleina: tricky rimaye but OK. The Passon is being done regularly, variable snow on the descent to le Tour, even very bad at the bottom (crust).

Aiguilles Rouges: (and the “moyenne montagne" in general - Contamines, Plaine-Joux, Bel Oiseau, Col de la Forclaz...), most of the routes have been tracked. Rocks at the bottom of the Vallon de Bérard, and beware of the walkway between the Fontaine Froide bridge and the waterfall, which is closed by municipal decree. On the way up, a temporary footbridge has been set up to cross the river just before the closed one. On the way down, do not cross the Fontaine Froide bridge and stay on the left bank until you reach the temporary footbridge. Also be careful at the bottom of the roman road "Voie Romaine” in Contamines which is sheet ice and whose access is blocked by ribbons. A diversion is in place, plan to put your skis on your sac when going up and down. 



With the thaw, medium altitude ice climbing and those areas exposed to the sun have taken a beating! It goes without saying, but be sure to check the state of the ice before setting off. There is still climbing around Trient (Pétoudes), near Loriaz, on the right bank of Argentière (Shiva has collapsed, OK from Frénésie to the Mur des Jumelles. Good conditions on the left bank of Argentière (Dents de la Mer wall, EMHM...), Crèmerie sector (now well formed) and Dalles de l'Envers (Tout Shuss). The Bérard artificial crag is back in good shape! Always remember to book your slots.

Leaving the valley, there is also climbing at the Ruisseling of Notre-Dame-de-la-Gorge and at Armancette, at Stassaz, at Plan Désert, at Nant Burgeat, in the valley of Sixt, Cogne... With the forecast thaw, conditions are likely to change quickly.

A rise in temperature is at least a good thing for gully lovers! Activity above Plan de l'Aiguille (Mallory tracked, Fil à Plomb, Mini Blast regularly climbed), on the E side of Mont Blanc du Tacul, Modica & Gabarrou OK, Valeria OK), Pointe Lachenal (Pellissier OK - the crux is the rimaye passage), in the Argentière basin (no more info). As always, beware of heavy traffic.



Finally, all the marked snowshoe itineraries of the valley are practicable. Most of them are possible with crampons and poles, the snow having been well packed by lots of traffic.



Translated with 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.