Suddenly it’s summer. As you have probably noticed, it's getting hot. As is often the case at this time of year (well, normally in June), conditions are unpredictable in the high mountains for snow routes: a lot of snow has yet to settle, high temperatures during the day, and poor refreezing. The rock is already a sure bet at the end of May.
The 2022 spring ski season will not live long in the memory. You can still skin a bit around Emosson but you will have to hurry up ("y'a le feu au lac" as they say in French).
Aiguille du Tour on skis is still possible (skis on not far from the refuge but they save time on the descent) or an Aiguille d'Argentière (skis on below Lognan).
More activity on Mont Blanc by the Trois Monts (see report from Guitariste on the cahier de course).
A similar situation around the Grands Mulets. There is a long portage from the tunnel entrance (skis on 200m below the gare des Glaciers). A better way is the lower route from the Plan de l'Aiguille (skis on/off a few times). The same goes for the return trip to avoid crossing under the N face of the Aiguille du Midi, it's hot. The Jonction is best crossed low down. The N ridge of the Dôme is still in good condition (icy but 1 ice axe is enough if you feel comfortable). The crevasse on the Bosses arete can be avoided either by crossing the entire N face of Mont Blanc to reach the Rochers Rouge or turn it on the left and get back to the ridge. Otherwise there is the option of going via the “plateaus” and the Corridor route. On the descent, the N face has become technical (sastrugi at the top, bumps and then an icy section following a serac fall). Descending by the Corridor route is better (a few meters of hard snow at the level of the Mur de la Côte). Then a long boardercross between the crevasses to the Jonction!
The mountaineering and rock climbing season is upon us. Generally speaking, the mountains are quite dry and the refreeze often mediocre. This has a big effect on snow & mixed routes with several rescues last weekend for teams stuck on slopes/couloirs with soft snow on top of ice or because of rock falls/collapses. Trail breaking may also be hard on approaches and on ridges. Trails are gradually being made. At the moment, the feasibility of snow & mixed routes depends almost exclusively on the quality of the refreeze (and of course on your technical and physical level).
Le Tour area: It’s almost snow free up the crest of the moraine to the refuge (snow 100m below the refuge).
Aiguille du Tour (VN, Table ridge), Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche, Purtscheller S ridge OK.
The Forbes arete was climbed last weekend (difficult as there is still a lot of snow). Teams also on the Migot spur (for info one team baled this morning because of a bad freeze, watch this space for the teams planned for tomorrow!): the glacier is well filled in to access the foot of the face without going up high but beware of snow bridges with a poor freeze. Rimaye OK. First ramp all snow. Mixed section in good condition. Black ice on the summit slope. Like last year, a wrong track leads too much to the right on the descent and leads to poor abseils and a dead end. The route is not easy to follow between the (big) crevasses below the col Adam Reilly.
Argentière basin: No recent information. Skis are certainly still very useful for the approaches. Some teams have climbed the Couturier. Be careful with time keeping and descend the Whymper as early as possible. No information about the Flèche Rousse. Many rock routes are waiting for you.
Charpoua/Couvercle: No need for skis here.
One team baled on La Naïa last weekend. At the same time, a few teams on the ‘couloir en Y’ but it already feels like the end. The Whymper is being done when Miss Meteo allows (and she's a bit moody at the moment). No info on the Arête du Jardin, the VN des Droites or the Courtes traverse.
Envers des Aiguilles/Requin: No info but climbing on the lower sectors should be possible soon. Don't forget crampons and ice axe for the approaches.
Helbronner sector: The Skyway and the hut are closed until May 28th. No information yet about the Rochefort arete. The Dent du Géant, the Marbrées and the Aiguilles d'Entrêves traverse should be possible.
On the Tour Ronde, the N face, Gervasutti couloir are still possible. Descent is now by the Freshfield couloir (2 abseils possible). Rebuffat couloir done but no more information.
The Kuffner has been tracked. The section between the La Fourche bivi and the Gendarme is "scrappy" and doesn't go. It is therefore necessary to do the direct start using the couloir.
The ridge is quite dry (very mixed up to the demi-lune) but mostly on rotten snow/sugar which doesn't make progress easy. Variable snow on black ice on the descent from the shoulder. It is better to go around by the summit and the col du Mont Maudit or by a traverse (exposed) that joins the track via the N face of the Maudit.
No information about the arête du Diable (a team is planned tomorrow). You can climb on the side of the satellites: Grand Capucin, Roi de Siam, Pointe Adolphe Rey, E ridge of the Pyramide du Tacul (rimaye ok but exposed approach).
Aiguille du Midi Sector: Lift and Cosmiques refuge open. As a reminder, the abri Simond is closed. Bivouacs are tolerated for one night from sunset to sunrise.
You can climb on the S faces: Aiguille du Midi, éperon Cosmiques, Lachenal.
It’s curtains for the gullies except on the Triangle: Contamine-Negri OK, Contamine-Grisolle (see cahier de course), Chéré OK, goulotte des Allemands fine, rock protection. One team on the Bodin-Afannassieff (quite dry at the bottom but good ice conditions afterwards).
Midi-Plan good after a good freeze (one team left for the Chamonix aiguilles traverse but no further info). The Cosmiques arete is dry as far as the abseils, then go around the N side. Pointes Lachenal OK.
Mont Blanc du Tacul is being done by skiers and walkers. The Trois Monts route can be considered on foot there and back (plan an abseil on an Abalakov to cross the second Mont Maudit rimaye), two axes needed depending on your ability.
Plan de l'Aiguille Sector:
The Mallory has been done but no refreeze and the exit is ice. It's still a bit early for the Frendo spur (snow in the rocky sections), the exit is also not great by eye (very black ice) from the end of the snow arete.
Papillons arete is dry, bring ice axe and crampons for the descent. It seems a bit early for the summit of the Peigne, the routes on the slabs and the gendarme 3009.
The Red Pillar of Blaitière is dry by eye (crampons and ice axe needed for the approach) as well as the Frêtes des Charmoz and the NE ridge of the M.
Mont Blanc by the Aiguille du Goûter: No activity yet but it wont be long. The refuges are about to open. The conditions are similar to those of the end of June. There is snow above the alpage de l’Are.
Sector Bionnassay/Dômes de Miage
Skiing is pretty much all over in this sector (2h30 of portage on the Armancette glacier descent). Mettrier arete in good condition. The SE ridge of Bionnassay is also in good condition (nice track).
The bridge on the Conscrits path won't be in place before mid-June (until then it won't be passable). It will be necessary to go via the Mauvais Pas. The Dômes should be possible on foot.
Do the Gonella refuge and the Pape route still exist? We haven't heard anything about them all spring!
The snow is receding more and more, but not everything is practicable.
Here is a short but not exhaustive list of accessible hikes (including those that were not accessible at the time of our last updates):
Prarion, Aiguillette des Houches, Refuge de Bellachat, Planpraz, Charlanon, Flégère, Grand Balcon Sud (attention Planpraz and Flégère lifts closed until June 11th), Lacs des Chéserys, Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard, Refuge de Loriaz, Aiguillette des Posettes, Peclerey, Tête de Prapator, Montenvers via Caillet (buvette open every day for drinks and then for lunch and dinner from June 1st) or Les Mottets (reminder: the moraine path is closed, you have to go by the “viaduct” path), Blaitière Alpage and then Signal Forbes (access from Montenvers closed until June 11th, access possible from the the start of the Grand Balcon Nord), Plan de l'aiguille by Grand Bois, Chalet des Pyramides. ..
You will still have to wait for :
Lac de Pormenaz, Lac du Brévent, Lacs Cornus, Lacs Noirs, Lac Blanc, Buet, Col de la Terrasse, Refuge Albert 1er, Argentière Glacier point de vue, Grand Balcon Nord, Jonction...as well as treks of several days (Tour des Fiz, Tour des aiguilles Rouges, Tour du Mont Blanc).
For our snowshoeing friends, go and watch the tennis on TV (Rolland Garros has started)!
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.