La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 06 April 2023
Good weather has now taken over from the unsettled weather (which did do the mountains and the glaciers a world of good). Snow cover is now almost normal at altitude (above 2,200m).
Ski touring and high mountain activity is starting up again. We need to give the snow time to stabilise, to settle down and to transform. The wind has been pretty active in some places in the past few days! Trail breaking and clearing are often the order of the day if you are first up there.
At the bottom of the valley, spring continues to settle in despite the cool temperatures of the last few days, but hiking remains limited due to the snow cover at altitude. You can find a more detailed update in French here.
Another week of opening for the lifts (Brévent/Flégère). All the classics are tracked. There is still some powder snow on shady slopes. Elsewhere “moquette” (smooth, spring snow) is developing. The Lac Blanc refuge is open, as is the Loriaz refuge (skis need to be carried right up through the forest - not a good ratio of walking to skiing). In the Bérard valley, you can ski as far as the buvette at the waterfall!
Albert 1er / Trient
The Albert 1er refuge is open, as is the Trient hut. The Le Tour lifts will close on 16 April.
Good general conditions for ski touring in the area with a lot of activity linked to the Haute Route (Chamonix-Zermatt). All the main cols (Col Sup, Col du Tour, Col Blanc) are OK. The Col du Midi des Grands is still very dry (unstable terrain on the le Tour side). Otherwise, in general, the glaciers are relatively well filled in! You can still get down to le Tour on skis via the left bank of the glacier. There is more and more walking to reach Trient (discontinuous snow from 1,700m).
Here too the main activity is ski touring!
The refuge and the lifts are open. The col des Rachasses is OK, as is the passage along the slabs on the left bank of the Argentière glacier.
All the classic cols are in good condition: Passon, Chardonnet, Tour Noir, Argentière. The slope at the top of the glacier du Milieu is hard snow and it's not softening at the moment. The couloir en Y is hard snow and can only be done going up. Quite good conditions on skis in the Barbey couloir the last few days. There is also some activity on the N faces: col des cristaux, NE face of the Courtes. The Couturier has also been tracked (summit icy, descent by the Z variant).
On the other hand, we have had no mountaineering activity. In the gullies it's very dry (lots of snow and no ice underneath) so no or little activity for the moment. Ditto on the N faces of the Droites and the Courtes.
The Couvercle hut has opened its doors! Access to the hut is via the Central Couloir, and for a few more days via the Pierre à Béranger, but it won't last long (see photo below).
For the Whymper, the rimaye is not obvious: you have to go down inside and climb up 4/5 meters (unless anyone can find a better route). Once in the couloir, some people failed this morning: a struggle in variable snow with a thin surface crust. Watch this space!
The S face of the Droites has been tracked, the rimaye of the oblique couloir is complicated then trail breaking on the face. There is also a surface crust and inconsistent snow underneath.
The last news was that the Pointe Isabelle was being tracked. More info to come, by eye the upper part is ice. A little further south, the NW gully of the Pointe de Fébrouze was climbed without more info.
Aiguille du Midi
Everything is going well in the Vallée Blanche where you can find a bit of everything in terms of snow. The glacier is now relatively well filled in but watch where you ski! Skis off 50m from the grotto. There is a lot of activity on the Brèche Puiseux (good ascent trail, 2 abseils of 30m at the brèche or at the bivouac) or on the col d'Entrêves/Combe de la Vierge etc. There were also many people at the Pointe Yeld and the Capucin glacier.
The N face of the Tacul was done yesterday, Wednesday 05 April, without any further information, notably regarding the route at the top of the face. For Mont Maudit, you'll have to go and see what it looks like (watch out for the stability of the snow cover with the wind of the last few days).
Gullies: the Pellissier and the Valeria were climbed in very good conditions. One team on Pas d'Agonie I ("quite a lot of snow, pitch 3 dry even after the narrows"). No need to remind you that from now on you must overnight in a hut! Quite a few teams in the Chéré despite the still very dry conditions on pitch 1. Contamine-Negri also tracked.
Arête Laurence and the Cosmiques arete have been tracked. Still no one on the Lachenal traverse.
Mont Blanc by the Grands Mulets
The refuge is open!
Concerning the access to the refuge, it's fine from the Plan de l'Aiguille. From the tunnel entrance , you can put skis on at the old Para station (1,685m). The Jonction goes well higher up. There is also a path lower down.
The plateaus have been tracked in good conditions (the glacier is well filled in, but the seracs are still there!) The N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter looks icy but "not bad for the time of year". The climbing teams stopped at the Vallot because of the wind and cold. The slope below the Vallot is really icy so you need proper steel crampons.
Dômes de Miage
The refuges (Tré la Tête and Conscrits are open). Skis on as you leave the woods (1,750-1,800 m). The Mauvais Pas is OK (on foot; still some snow).
Regular activity on the Dômes traverse. The wind has hammered the ridge. All kinds of snow on the descent of Armancette (starting to transform). Skis off above the lac d'Armancette (around 1,900m).
Some people on the Pain de Sucre of Mont Tondu (also tracked from the lacs Jovets).
No one on the N faces (Lex Blanche etc), as far as I can see the wind has had a big effect and the ice is probably not far away.
Very dry conditions even if they have improved on the Grand Paradiso. The Vittorio Emmanuelle and Chabod huts opened on the 06 and 07 April respectively, closing on 07 May.
The same is true of the Italian side of Monte Rosa.
The Chamonix-Zermatt traverse is fine!
It will soon be time to get back to tennis!
You can still get out on the marked itineraries on the Index and Flégère or on the Prarion (lifts will be closed on Sunday 09 April) or on the Posettes from the Vallorcine cable car.
The end of the ice climbing season!
Even if the flowers and spring are well established in the valley bottom, it is still winter in the mountains. The snow is still very present from 1,500/1,600m depending on the aspect. The ski areas are still open and the main activity of the moment is still skiing.
The possibilities for hiking are therefore greatly limited. Most of the classic itineraries, especially the most popular ones, are absolutely impassable (grand balcon paths, high altitude lakes etc...). Almost all the mid-mountain refuges in the valley are closed and inaccessible (except for the Loriaz refuge).
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.