La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 9 June 2023
Summer’s almost here! Here's a quick look at the current conditions.
Hiking / Trail
The valley's ski lifts are off to a flying start! The ski areas of Les Houches (Bellevue, Prarion), Brévent (Planpraz, Brévent), Flégère (Flégère gondola, Index) and La Balme (Charamillon, Autannes) all open this Saturday 10 June!
Although the snowpack is gradually melting in the “moyenne montagne", there is still plenty of snow above 2,200/2,300m on the south-facing slopes and 2,000/2,100m on north-facing slopes. Good boots, crampons, poles and a good mountaineering head are essential if you want to climb safely above these altitudes! Good navigation skills (and of course GPS, map and compass) are all the more essential when the trails are obscured by snow.
More information about hiking and trail running here.
In the high mountains, rising temperatures are allowing the snow to gradually settle, even if this is regularly disrupted by unstable weather, which sometimes causes problems with refreezing. Overall, conditions have changed little since last week's update.
Tré-la-Tête / Miage / Bionnassay
Most of the routes in this sector are in good condition (Dômes de Miage traverse, Mettrier arête, traverse of the Aiguilles de Tré-la-Tête, etc.)
The Durier refuge is currently being cleared of snow and will open on Saturday 10 June. The direct ascent from Plan Glacier (open) has been done, but is not the most advisable route given the current snow depths. It seems wiser to go via La Mettrier. The Durier - Bionnassay - Dôme du Goûter traverse has been done in good conditions.
Ditto here, with little significant change to the classic routes on the French side and generally good conditions. On the other hand, our Italian neighbours are gearing up! On the Italian normal route first of all: the Gonella opens this weekend and the Pape route has been done today. Conditions aren't exactly ideal at the moment. A large rockfall from the Aiguilles Grises has wrecked the Dôme glacier and destabilised some (now worrying) seracs. There is also breakable crust with unconsolidated snow beneath as far as the Col des Aiguilles Grises. Better conditions above. The Tournette Spur has been climbed: unsurprisingly, there's a lot of snow on the route!
Aiguille du Midi / Helbronner / Envers des Aiguilles
All the classics are being done. The Mallory has been done in ascent, while the Eugster is finished (the veneer of snow in the bottom gully has collapsed). It's still too early for the Frendo, but the first attempts have been laborious! On the Midi-Plan traverse, teams have only been going as far as the Rognon. The traverse of the Vallée Blanche is fine on foot and on skis. On the Triangle du Tacul, the Contamine-Mazeaud has deteriorated so much that you can't exit at the top. The Perroux goulotte has been climbed, but not in good nick! The first team to cross the Aiguilles du Diable had to keep their crampons on all the way: it's still a bit early. There were a lot of people on the Kuffner, and the conditions were good, but they had to be careful about the timing: things heat up quickly up there. Most of the teams descended from the shoulder of Mont Maudit, but a crevasse is starting to open up: be careful! Still good conditions on the Tour Ronde on all routes. The “historic” normal route is starting to look bad (rockfalls on the lower left bank), so a descent via the Freshfield couloir or the Col d’Entrèves is preferable. The Dent du Géant is being done, but some pitches are still in near-winter conditions, particularly the second pitch on the normal route. The Rochefort arête has been done as far as the foot of the Aiguille.
If you want to rock climb, the faces with the best exposure to the sun are drying out one after the other. As well as the S face of the Aiguille du Midi, the Eperon Cosmiques and the Pointe Lachenal, we're now enjoying our beautiful granite on the Pointe Adolphe Rey, the Grand Capucin (still a little snow on the less steep sections, a little early for the voie des Suisses for example) and the Trident du Tacul. It's also gradually drying out around the Envers des Aiguilles (Tour Rouge and Tour Verte are dry, and other areas will certainly be in the near future).
Access to the Couvercle was described in last week's update. Around here, refreezing conditions seem to be more complicated than elsewhere. It's often an act of faith to access the faces! But when you don't stumble on the approach, the conditions above are pretty good! In addition to the route of recent weeks, the Whymper rimaye is now also crossable just below the secondary couloir. The latter is full of snow (two technical axes best). The snow conditions are still good in the main couloir. For the descent, most of the abseil points are in place. The S couloir on the Col Armand Charlet has been climbed in good conditions. Lots of people on the Droites normal route, using both access routes (diagonal or via the glacier). Complicated snow conditions above the ramp (second snow slope via the diagonal), this can be avoided on the left but makes the route more technical. The snow is more supportive higher up. The traverse of Les Courtes has also been done in good conditions (watch out for cornices!). For all these routes, keeping to a decent schedule is obviously crucial! There is still a lot of snow on the Jardin ridge.
It's always hard to get information when the hut is closed and we don't get any feedback Just kidding, thanks to all the generous climbers who call us, drop in or fill in the “cahier de courses"! The Couturier was climbed at the start of the week in good conditions (easy approach, rimaye passes well on the right, hard snow above the step). Climbing is starting around the hut (which opens next weekend!), on the Vierge for example. A little further up on the Aiguille d'Argentière, the Flèche Rousse ridge has been climbed.
Here too, the classics are being regularly climbed: Aiguille du Tour (normal route, couloir and Arête de la Table - the narrows in the couloir is easy to bypass), Tête Blanche, Grande Fourche, etc. Good conditions on the Chardonnet too, with lots of people on the Forbes Arête, the Migot Spur and even the Charlet - Bettembourg! On the descent, the rimaye is opening up a little: plan an extra 25m abseil.
With the opening of the ski lifts on Saturday 10, the alpine climbing season in the massif is about to begin! Most of the ridges have already dried out, but you'll need to bring crampons and ice axe for the approaches!
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.