Report 6th March 2020

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 06/03/2020

Some (brief) information for the weekend.

One spell of bad weather has been quickly followed by another, making the good weather windows very short. The main activities, therefore, have been off piste skiing, ski touring and snow shoeing, (on the trails at the head of the valley.)

On Thursday, there was 50cms of fresh snow at Vallorcine and a bit more in Courmayeur, (due to pockets of cold air). In the Chamonix valley and the Prealps, (Chablais and Aravis,) it rained up to 2000m

At altitude, there has been 40 to 50cm of new snow reported since Thursday morning. PIDA, (Avalanche Patrols) have released unstable snow with depths of 40cm to 1m, sometimes in large quantities.  

Concerning the off piste, the snow is relatively good and the successive snow dumps have increased the chance of making “fresh tracks”.  Be aware of the avalanche risk.

The three designated ski touring trails (Les Houches, Trapette at Argentiere and Le Tour) are feasible.

All the classic ski tours could be OK but be aware of the avalanche danger. It is possible to start skinning from Notre Dame de la Gorge, Plaine Joux (Pointe de Pormenaz), La Flatiere (Aiguillette des Houches), Buet (Bérard Valley / Buet), Couteray (Loriaz sector), Finhaut (Bel Oiseau sector) and Col de la Forclaz (Pointe Ronde).

Concerning the glaciers, the Argentiere sector is popular, (hut open, telephone working again.) It is still probably too early for the Aiguille d’Argentière by the glacier du Milieu, even if the recent snows have improved the lower part.

No information for the Brèche Puiseux or the Conscrits sectors, (weather windows often too brief.)

The recent snowfalls have improved conditions for the lower part of the Mer de Glace and it is possible to reach Montenvers without problems. The people responsible for the ice cave have put out a warning that the old, (lower,)  ice cave is at risk of collapsing.  It is therefore best not to pass this way but to approach the steps from above.  

The descent by the Mottets snack bar, (open this weekend,) down to Chamonix is possible, with some rocks showing through on the lower part of the glacier and on the bends before the Planards Farm, (not to be recommended to people with new skis!)  

The marked snow shoe trails at altitude are feasible but check first for those managed by the Company du Mont Blanc on their website: : http://www.skiplan.com/bulletin/bulletin.php?station=chamonix&region=alpes&pays=france&lang=en). The more experienced snow shoers can consider the unmarked trails up to Chailloux or Loriaz.

 

For the hikers, it is best to keep down in the valley on the signposted paths.  Please check the avalanche risk before doing certain routes.  For example, the way up to the Chapeau cafe, normally practicable this winter, has frequently to be avoided during the last few weeks due to avalanche risk

Following a stonefall, the path beside the Arve between Les Monquarts and the Eaux Rousses path is closed until 13th March.

There is still icefall climbing on the true left bank of the Argentière glacier, (Déferlante sector) and at Cogne, (Patri, Lillaz gully, Patinaggio Artistico etc).

There is no recent information for the gullies, except for a party seen on the Pellisier (Pointes Lachenal) last weekend.

A party did the Fil à Plomb on Wednesday: deep snow, crux still with ice but too thin for ice screws.  

The gullies on the N face of the Aig du Midi, (Vent du Dragon etc ), and the Triangle du Tacul look to be very dry.

 

 

Report 21 February 2020

Some information for the weekend!

The Argentière and Cosmiques huts open this weekend. The Requin, Torino, Loriaz and Lognan huts are already open.

The recent snowfalls  have improved ski conditions. There are still some ice plates or hard snow, notably on the moguls or convex slopes, (drop offs). In general conditions are reported to be good, even if some areas are wind affected.   It was warm on Thursday and the snow on the slopes receiving the sun is being transformed, (could be crusty).

 

Most of the classic ski tours should be feasible this weekend, plus the forecast is for good weather.  

At mid altitudes: for example,  Crochue-Bérard traverse, Cols des Dards and Bélvédere, (there and back), Col de Beugeant, Mont Buet, Col de l'Encrenaz from the Col des Montets, Col de la Terrasse, the Bel Oiseau / Fenestral sector, (some walking low down), Contamines sector: Col de la Cicle / Jovets lakes, (roman road icy, crampons useful).

On glaciers: Helbronner sector (the Marbrées, Toula glacier, col and shoulder of the Entrèves, Brenva glacier were done on Thursday 20/02), Brèche Puiseux, Argentière sector (Col des Grands Montets, Col du Passon, Col du Chardonnet + 3 cols. N.B. the glacier du Milieu is very dry and not recommended. Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière), descents towards Trient (this sector has been affected by the wind, it is only just possible to get to the parking on skis.)

All the Valley Blanche variations were skied on Friday 21/02, (good snow, in the process of being transformed,). The Salle à Manger passes reasonably well.  There are still some plates of icy snow on the Vallée Noire, but it is OK.

There is a lack of snow in the lower part, but the last two snowfalls have made it possible, (for the moment,) to ski within 50m of the ice cave without too much bare ice or rocks. After the Salle à Manger it is best to keep to the true right bank until the junction with the Leschaux glacier. 

During this holiday period the lifts, (Aiguille du Midi and Montenvers train) are very busy. Think about reserving a “benne”, (Aig du Midi) and having spare time at the end of the day.

 

Some information on the "couloirs", (the conditions can change rapidly.)

- Cosmiques couloir and  Rond glacier: very hard snow at the top, walking foreseen from below the ancient Para station or the Combe des Glaciers.

- Gervasutti couloir on the Tour Ronde is skiable but better suited for alpinism!

- Capucin couloir has been done; no further information.

- NNE of the Courtes (the summit part is probably fairly dry) and the Col des Cristaux were skied with good snow on 20/02.

- Aiguille d’Argentière: Barbey couloir was skied last weekend, (“concrete” high up, better on the lower two thirds.)  No information for the “Y” this winter.

Concerning the ice gullies: little or no change since the last update of 12/02, (most of the climbing is in the Valley Blanche sector.)  The ice plating on « Beyond Good Evil” is now very thin.  

The approach behind the Requin was tracked by ski on 20/02. (Ice is Nice : looks thin but with ice  + Sorenson Eastman: the bergschrund is no longer passable, need to use the rocks, then good conditions until the narrow gully near the top which is very dry.)

No major changes concerning the hiking or snowshoe trails.  Likewise, for the icefalls.

 

Report 12th February 2020

A complicated winter!

A quick overlook of the recent weather:

  • A series of weather fronts and storms at altitude
  • Very strong winds
  • Rain on Monday for several hours, up to 2300m
  • Little or no fresh snow below 2500m, (no info for above.)

Therefore, activities in the high mountain are not obvious during this holiday period.

The information the OHM has received indicates that the ski conditions remain “special”.

Concerning the pisted ski areas, the snow cover is still satisfactory and most of the pistes are open, weather permitting.  Only certain areas at low altitude are suffering from insufficient snow.

In general, ski conditions are OK.  Certain pistes, (particularly the steeper ones,) have hard snow with ice plates starting to show through during the day.  Choose pistes in accordance with your ability and control your speed!

Conditions off piste are “variable,” drifted snow alternating with plates of hard, icy snow, (risk of breaking away in places.)

The langlauf tracks are suffering from a lack of snow and coldness in the valley floor.  The best choice is at Argentière, though there are some pistes open at Chamonix and Vallorcine. More info on what is open at:  https://www.chamonix.com/ouverture-des-pistes,129,fr.html

The avalanche transceiver practice area, (DVA park) at Savoy is closed since today, due to lack of snow.

The snow shoe tracks and the winter walking trails in the valley floor, ( Lac Vert loop, Bossons glacier, Cerro chalet, Cerfs loop, Tines loop) are all possible without snow shoes, Hiking is also possible, (with proper footwear, hiking poles and walking crampons,) near the Ayeres chalets, the Charousse alp and the Chapeau buvette.

Snow shoers need to go to Vallorcine (Granges loop) or at altitude using the lift system, (Prarion, Montenvers, Flégère/Index, Col de Balme and Aiguillette des Posettes from the top of the Vallorcine bubble lift.)  With the recent weather, the snow is hard rather than powdery.  

Concerning ski touring, the OHM has not received any info yet following the good weather this Wednesday.  Last weekend all the classics in the Aiguilles Rouges (Pointe de Pormenaz, Crochue-Bérard, Pointe Alphonse Favre, Col des Dards, Col du Bélvèdère, Beugeant, Buet), in the Argentiere sector, (Col du Passon, Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière) and in the other sectors nearby (Bel Oiseau, Val Montjoie) were done. Generally good conditions, (20-30cms of fresh snow on a hard base), though ski crampons and sharp edges are needed because of plates of hard, icy snow in places .

Hopefully, the conditions have not deteriorated too much since.

The Valley Blanche is being done.  Good conditions high up, but “complicated” lower down due to the lack of snow.

Concerning the alpine ice gullies, there have been ascents on the Pointe Lachenal (Pellissier in good conditions), Cecchinel-Jager and Scotch on the Rock (no further info,) E face of the Tacul (Modica-Noury, Gabarrou-Albinoni), the Combe Maudite (Grassi-Comino), the Col des Grands Montets (Pépite) and the Col des Pélerins (Beyond Good Evil)...

Concerning the icefalls, it is still possible to climb on the true left bank of the Argentière glacier, (Deferlante sector, EMHM) and at Cogne (Lillaz, Patri, Acheronte, some more info here: https://www.iceclimbingcogne.com/ice-conditions/). It is finished for the Crèmerie, (unless there is another cold spell.)

 

Report 31 January 2020

A quick update between two periods of unsettled weather.

Following the large dump of wind affected snow at the beginning of the week, (between 40 and 80 cm depending on altitude, plus drifting), on Thursday night it rained night up to 2300m, with some snow falling above this.  

 

From Thursday morning onwards, some off piste skiing was possible near to the lifts.  By Friday, probably some ski tours being done.  (There was a track towards the Col du Passon, no further information.)

The Valley Blanche was also done.   The return route to Chamonix has much improved, (snow quality variable, some rocks between the ice cave and the exit from the glacier, and on the bends down from the Mottets buvette, one section of walking.)

 

The large drifts and the presence of weak layers on certain slopes means great care is needed in the choice of route.  The forecast is for heavy rain above 2000m, starting on Saturday.  This will moisten the snow cover.

 

There is very little recent information concerning the icefalls.  Conditions have not changed much since the last update, (still climbing on the true left bank of the Argentière glacier, the Crèmerie, etc.).

 

Due to the fresh snow and the very short weather windows, there has been no activity in the high mountain.  

 

Finally, the marked snowshoe trails are feasible, including those in the base of the valley.

Report 21 January 2020

 

There are few changes since the last update despite the fresh snow on Friday the 17th Jan.: 20/30cm at 2000m on a hard base – about 50 cm at 3500m

This snowfall however has been transformed, (scoured, some might say!) by a strong north/ north-easterly wind that has been blowing since Sunday, giving the high mountain a particularly cold feel. The slopes affected by this wind have become very demanding to ski (snowbanks, icy layers, hard coxcomb formations and sheets of wind-polished snow to contend with.)

Ski Touring has been taken up in earnest since Saturday with activity reported in all the classic sectors of the Mont Blanc range: Aiguilles Rouges (Belvédère - Dards - Beugeant - Encrenaz - Crochues-Bérard - Salenton - Buet)  - Val Montjoie (Cicle - Chasseurs) – Loriaz. It is possible to set off ‘skis afoot’ from the Buet, from Couteray, from Plaine Joux, from Contamines, (the roman road is already icy in places,) from Trient.  Ice axes and crampons are often proving to be useful.

 There has also been plenty of activity above the Argentière Glacier, (glacier des Rognons - col du Passon - col du Tour Noir) and the Vallée Blanche (glacier du Mallet - col du Tacul – towards the Brêche Puiseux).

Vallée Blanche : The ridge and the ‘Z’ are now well equipped (roped). However, take care as the recent windy conditions have led to the formation of numerous weak snow-bridges, (there has been much falling in to crevasses recently!)  Conditions are very variable between the start and end of the descent. It is possible to ski down to Chamonix, though there is a lot of exposed rock at the end of the glacier section.

On the ice-climbing side of things, conditions are little changed since the last update with plenty of parties enjoying routes on the true left bank of the Argentière Glacier (Ressac - Déferlante - mini Couloir - Home Wet Home - EMHM), and also some parties on the right bank (Grand Bleu - 8 Mont-Blanc).

High Mountain: our info is now dated to before the last snowfall. Lagarde Direct (14th Jan) bergschrund  tricky- conditions are good on the whole – exit is mixed but ok. The way down by the Talèfre face will be loaded now (high avalanches risk). The Couloir Couturier: the bergschrund has collapsed, a tortuous way through the pile of lorry-sized blocks (10m) is possible to the right of the highest point (fragile). In the couloir one needs to meander across bands of ice.  The Whymper Couloir is fairly dry, (two pitches on rock but keep in mind this info dates to before the recent snowfall)

The Cosmiques Ridge has been tracked, (approach possible on foot without rackets)

The North Face and the Couloir Gevasutti on the Tour Ronde have been done regularly.

People have turned back from the Ravanel/Frendo because of too much snow.

With the drop in the wind, the Aiguille des Pélerins - the Pointe Lachenal (Pellissier - MC Solar) – the E face of the Tacul (Modica Noury - Gabarrou Albinoni - Goulotte Lafaille) - Petit Capucin (Valéria) are being climbed. It is likely that the Combe Maudite and Requin sector are also in condition.

 

For the hikers: snowshoes are not needed until about 1500m.  Below this altitude and on the paths in the valley floor, the snow is very hard, (good shoes, hiking poles and walking crampons recommended.) 

 

Report 7th January 2020

Firstly, Happy New Year from the team at Chamoniarde; wishing you many great outings in 2020.

The anticyclonic conditions have allowed for increased activity in the mountains after an Autumn and December of unstable weather.  

For ski tourers: all the classic outings, (Val Monjoie, Pormenaz, Aiguilles Rouges, Loriaz/Bel Oiseau sectors/Col de la Forclaz,) are popular.  The snow cover is good above 1500-1800m but can be sparse below this.  The snow quality is very variable, often wind or sun affected but still mainly giving pleasurably skiing.  It is possible to start skinning directly from Plaine Joux, Buet, Couteray and Trient.  As a reminder, the Loriaz and Lognan huts are open for the season.

Ski touring is also possible on the glaciers: Glacier des Grands, Col du Passon (awkward to ski avalanche debris in the lower part), Col du Chardonnet, Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière, Tour des Périades, Glacier del Toula etc.  The Valley Blanche has black ice on the ridge, which is not yet equipped other than some belay stakes.  The snow quality is variable, with a weak cover below the Salle à Manger and there are quite a lot of stones between the ice cave and the way up to Mottets. The descent to Chamonix "acceptable"

You are reminded that it is still early season and many crevasses are still open.  Good skills at reading the terrain are essential.

The anticyclone which has brought agreeable temperatures to the high mountain has also helped with the formation of ice and led to a return of activity.  In general, the conditions remain thin, so it is difficult to talk of “good conditions”.  However, certain routes are being done frequently.  Some examples: Couloir Lagarde direct, Couloir Couturier, Beyond Good Evil, Fil à Plomb, Mallory-Porter, Eugster Diagonal, Modica-Noury, Pellissier Gully, M6 Solar, Lafaille Gully and Valeria Gully.  The routes behind the Requin and in the Combe Maudite look to be feasible. There is no information for the Chardonnet or the Pointe du Domino.

It is difficult for someone to be totally objective when reporting on conditions, especially as their technical abilities have such an effect. In addition, with social networking, it is not unusual to find conditions not as good as expected but with still a crowd at the start of the route! 

Concerning ice climbing, the routes are coming into condition on the upper true right bank of the Argentiere, (Mur des Jumelles, Résurgence) and the left bank, (Déferlante...). Conditions are also improving at Cogne.  Please note, as last year, climbing in a sector in Valnontey is forbidden due to bird nesting.  The icefalls concerned are: Gusto di Scozia, Flash Estivo, Flash Estivo colonnata centrale, Fiumana di Money, Fallo di Plutone, Coupè di Money, Mistiria, Coupè Money variante, Cascata della pazienza, Cascata della rassegnazione, Meeting 2000, Sweet Valentina, Voglia di tenerezza....More information here: : https://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/alpinism/valnontey-cogne-ice-climbing-ban-to-protect-bearded-vulture.html ).

 

Snow shoes are not necessary for the marked trails below 1800 m (well tracked by many people), but good footwear and poles are.