La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 February 2023
Spring seems to be coming earlier and earlier!
The thaw has allowed a relative improvement of the skiing conditions on south facing slopes, where melt/refreeze processes are now well in place (hard snow in the morning, softening during the day) - subject to new weather conditions. On shady faces, it's not the same: alternating between hard snow (often with a good grip), crust and sastrugi. Demanding skiing! Be careful, on hard snow falls are difficult to arrest. Couteaux (harscheisen), and even boot crampons depending on the itinerary, should be an integral part of your equipment list.
In the valley, all the marked ski touring routes are open - except for the Nants and Les Praz pistes. The snow is starting to disappear at the bottom of the Prarion track.
The lack of snowfall for a month now has not improved the condition of the glaciers either. The 'Z' on the Aiguille du Midi arête is icy. The Vallée Blanche is 'tracked' snow, that is to say smooth and hard with good grip, sometimes bumpy. Sizeable holes are opening up in several places, notably below the Petit Rognon and at the level of the Salle à Manger.
Speaking of opening, the Requin refuge is also open and that's more pleasant news! Conditions for the climb to the Brèche Puiseux haven't changed too much compared to our last update, but the Mont Mallet glacier is more and more open. One crevasse in particular is tricky to cross and may soon become problematic (see photo below). Always be careful on the Mer de Glace, the track still passes by deep “moulins". It’s no better past the grotto where where rocks are more and more visible on the way to the Mottets buvette.
Lognan: the final part up to the Col des Rachasses is tricky although a track has been cut with a shovel. Beware of the rimaye at the Col des Grands Montets! The passage under the moraine des Rognons, on the left bank of the Argentière glacier, has become very technical. In the glacier basin, many itineraries are being skied in more or less good conditions (it's up to you to evaluate them, it's often preferable to go up and look):
- Chevalier: Some ice in the middle of the couloir
- NNE face of the Courtes and SW of the Brèche de l'Amône: No more information, especially on the rimayes
- Cols d'Argentière and Tour Noir: Nothing to report
- Aiguille d'Argentière: Y (the top of the left branch is quite dry) and Glacier du Milieu (dry gully at the bottom, summit ridge OK)
- Col du Chardonnet: Very dry at the top, 1 or 2x30m abseils on the north side. 3 cols climbed without more info.
- Col du Passon: Moraine on the right bank of the Argentière glacier tricky (rockfalls during the day), difficult snow conditions on the lower side of Le Tour (crust).
In the Aiguilles Rouges/Haut-Giffre, little change. The classic routes are all being done. In the lower Bérard valley, the footbridge has been renovated and the closure order ends today. A little further on, our Swiss friends have warned us that ski tourers have been seen crossing the Emosson reservoir. With the new pumping station at Nant de Drance, the level of the Emosson and Vieil Emosson lakes is changing much faster than before, making the ice very fragile. It has therefore become extremely dangerous to venture onto the two lakes, even if they are completely frozen!
Keeping with the theme of ice, this wonderful ice climbing period is coming to an end. Routes exposed to the sun are gradually cracking and collapsing. A few protected high altitude ice falls are still possible, notably on the left bank of Argentière (Mur des Dents de la Mer, Crèmerie, EMHM OK but the bottom is not good/hard to protect, better to abseil down the left bank of the icefall and top rope the first pitch), Armancette, Stassaz... As always, be careful about the conditions and their evolution! There's still climbing at the Bérard artificial site (reservations here).
The goulotte season is starting. Beware of overcrowding! There are frequently more than 5 teams on the same routes, so be creative! The Plan de l'Aiguille sector is a good example with a lot of people on the Mallory-Porter and Fil à Plomb. The Col du Plan goulotte has been done (variable snow, difficult to protect). Mini Blast is also being done a lot (double rimaye OK for the moment, very well tracked gully, be careful during the abseils as the belays in place are 60m long or even a little more).
Géant/Vallée Blanche: Several reports in our “cahier de courses". The Tacul triangle is quite dry, Goulotte Chéré certainly OK). On the Pointe Lachenal, the Pellissier is still acceptable, and the rimaye still tricky. Scotch on the Rocks climbed - 1st pitch hard to protect, rest rather well supplied with ice. The Modica-Noury is rather deficient in ice but still OK, whilst the Gabarrou Albinioni is relatively well supplied (last pitch still rather dry). Supercouloir OK by eye. The Valeria rimaye is complicated, conditions OK in the gully, last pitch dry. The north face of the Tour Ronde rimaye is also tricky, conditions OK in the narrows (some ice), upper slopes are black ice, descent by SE ridge and E face in good conditions.
Activity on the Verte! The Whymper was skied in OK conditions but must have deteriorated a lot this week. Rimaye OK (passes well to the right), narrow summit ridge. Some big purges are reported during the day, as always watch out for the timing of the descent. The Couturier has been climbed: the rimaye also passes well on the right, 15/20m of ice in the lower narrows. Further on in the Argentière basin, Petit Viking was climbed but the rimaye is very complicated (a step of M4/M5) then fine ice and snow without cohesion at the top.
Finally, no change for snowshoe lovers: All the marked routes in the valley are practicable. Most of them can be done with crampons and poles, the snow having been well-packed by lots of people.
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.