It's fair to say that since the last update, there hasn’t been much change (all the classic ski touring routes are being done) but above all La Chamoniarde are still struggling to get info! So please think about them when you're out and don't call them just to ask for information.
The birds are singing, the snow is melting, the crocuses are coming out... In short, it's spring!
A warm spell of scirocco covered the surface of the snow with a thin layer of sand, no significant snowfall expected. Not goodl! Let’s see how this will affect the skiability and the mountains (we can expect an acceleration of the melting of the snowpack, also watch out for a potential influence on weak layers in the short and longer term).
Be careful in the next few days with a mediocre refreeze expected!
Before the thaw and the sandstorm, all the classic ski routes were being done, in OK conditions (variable skiability). The snow cover is generally a bit poor, but there is just enough to go around.
Nothing special to report if you are starting from the top of the lifts. For departures from car parks, you will need to walk a bit and it’s not going to get better. It’s a long walk from le Bettey for the aiguillette des Houches; 10 minutes for the aiguillette des Posettes from the le Tour car park; 15-20 minutes for Loriaz; 25 minutes for Bel Oiseau (short snow-covered sections on the road + steep part of the forest). No information from Plaine Joux (Pormenaz) and the Col de la Forclaz (Pointe Ronde). On the other hand, you can ski from Le Buet (until when?) and at the Col des Montets as well as at Notre Dame de la Gorge (crampons are useful for the first 150 metres of the Roman way).
All the classic routes in the Aiguilles Rouges and Navarre are possible: lacs Jovets/Cicle sector, Armancette, Pointe Noire de Pormenaz, Crochue-Bérard traverse (section under the Alphonse Favre very hard snow in the mornings, reserved for good skiers); Glacier du Mort, Col des Dards and Belvédère (up and down the same way); N side of the Belvédère pass quite dry; col de Beugeant, col de l'Encrenaz, Buet, col de la Terrasse, Bel Oiseau, col de Fenestral.
In the high mountains, it is still dry. The faces and couloirs are either little or not filled. The glaciers are starting to open up even though it's only mid-March. Lots of crevasse rescues have been going on (vallée Blanche, glacier d'Argentière). Remember to routinely rope up on the way up, even if we all find it hard to get into the habit.
The Conscrits hut opens this Friday 18th March. The Dômes de Miage have been done. On the ascent, it's walking until the end of the forest (45 min/1h). The Mauvais Pas (bad step) is OK. Stay on the right bank of the glacier, arête in good condition (no ice). The beginning of the descent between the summit and the col de la Bérangère has been well worked by the wind (sastrugi) but was still skiable. Short skis off section above the lac d'Armancette and then skiing in the bed of an avalanche (from the beginning of the season) until the bottom of the valley.
No real activity yet on Mont Blanc from the Grands Mulets. The “jonction” is passable (“mode gruyère" - lots of crevasses). Higher up the atmosphere is Himalayan (not recommended for the moment): to be continued...
The same goes for the “trois Monts” with a Mont Blanc du Tacul that is far too dry to climb.
The Vallée Blanche is still going strong (writing this on the 16th of March feels a bit weird... sad) but is more than ever only for good skiers. Crampons are still necessary for the Midi arête. Some tricky crevasses especially near the Gros Rognon. Good bumpy terrain "à la Grospiron” (a famous French Olympic skier) before the Salle à Manger which is already starting to open up. The Vallée Noire is quite easy but you need to be a good skier (patches of ice, crevasses, avalanche debris).
It's getting a bit more dicy descending to Chamonix by the Mottets. You will need to take skis off 2-3 times on the glacier. Beware of the ice (it's hot) which overhangs the place where you take off your skis to go back up to the buvette. The slabs under the buvette have also dried out with the sun and traffic. You will have to walk for 8-10 minutes before the Orthaz couloir and then another 10 minutes on the bends before les Planards.
Still some activity around the Brèche Puiseux. The N face of Pointe Yeld is unrecognisable. Dry atmosphere also on the épaule du Tacul and in the Capucin couloir (2 rappels of 60 m at the last news).
Access to the Talèfre basin is via the Pierre à Béranger (so you have to go early). The central couloir looks too dry. A few teams have climbed the Whymper couloir on the Verte (no more information). Some teams have also been on the Col des Droites and the Pointe Isabelle (no more info). The Y couloir will have been done.
In the Argentière basin, the refuge remains closed for the moment. The winter room is not accessible. The N faces are desperately dry, even the Lagarde couloir is not practicable (very dry at the bottom, cruxes not protectable, the only rope party that has been there recently did not like it!) For the record, a rope party has done the Tournier spur. No news from Petit Viking and co. The Y to the Aiguille d'Argentière is still possible (without access to the refuge, logistics are a bit more complicated!). The summit part of the glacier du Milieu (above the rimaye) is quite dry (ice on the surface) and said to be more technical than usual. Col du Tour Noir and d'Argentière: clear. Dry access to the Col du Chardonnet (crampons). A 60m fixed rope is in place on its N side but the descender does not fit: you will have to manage with an alternate method.
Col du Passon: OK down to le Tour. The Albert 1er refuge opens on Friday (18/03). As a reminder, access is via the Col du Passon at this time.
On the Swiss side, the Trient hut is open. On the other hand, "following incivilities and depredations affecting the security of the building, we have unfortunately had to take the decision to close the Cabane de l'A Neuve completely. Access to the interior of the hut is prohibited until further notice. There is therefore no access possible in winter. It will be reopened for the summer season." Very sad.
Concerning the gullies, the activity is still concentrated around the Aiguille du Midi:
- Vent du Dragon, Burnier Vogler. INFO of 16-03: rockfall in the Passerelle couloir, the belays could have been impacted.
- Chéré couloir, Pellissier, Gabarrou-Albinoni, Modica-Noury, Supercouloir (L1+L2 completely dry). Do not exit at the top of Le Tacul but abseil the routes.
- Lafaille, Valeria.
- N face of the Tour Ronde + Gervasutti couloir (rimaye passes on the right, mixed exit) with descent by the Freshfield couloir.
For ice climbing, you can still climb near the cascade Bérard but you will have to hurry!
It also feels like the end for snowshoeing! It hasn't snowed for a long time and the itineraries at the bottom of the valley can be done with good boots, poles and a small pair of crampons. At altitude (access from the lifts: Prarion, Flégère, Index, aiguillette des Posettes + refuge de Loriaz), they can still be useful when the snow is soft (it's warm) and not sufficiently packed.
We are about to enter an "in-between" period: it is spring in the valley bottom but there is still snow at altitude. Hiking activity should therefore be limited to below 1600-1800 m depending on the sector. The paths are slippery, there may be ice or couloirs to cross.
Report translated from La Chamoniarde.