Report 15th Jan 2021

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 15/01/2020

This was a week of mixed weather in the valley and the northern alps generally. The weather fronts from the NE have brought a lot of snow, with wind at altitude and a temporary re-warming, (giving some rain in the mid mountain.)

 

This has resulted in 50cm of new snow at the valley floor and 80cm to 1m at 2000m.

As one can imagine, the snowpack is particularly unstable. There is a high avalanche risk (4) which will remain for the weekend.   The avalanches could be impressive.

There is likely to be many people about, (especially tomorrow, Saturday, with a return of sunshine to the mountains.)  Nonetheless, caution is needed over the next days.

There will be numerous  PIDA* (avalanches set off by the pisteurs) on Saturday (lire l'info spéciale). Please, therefore, avoid these sectors at the times indicated.

Ski tourers should not go wherever.  Possible areas are at Les Houches, (Prarion), or where the slopes are less exposed ( < 30º) e.g.  Aiguillette des Posettes, there and back, chalets de Loriaz by the forest track, chalets de Chailloux, Tour des Ayères.

On foot it is best to keep to the signposted routes and to take snowshoes : e.g.  Granges loop (Vallorcine), Tines loop  (Chamonix), Bossons Glacier loop (Chamonix), Cerfs loop (Les Houches), Lac Vert loop (Servoz) and Barmus loop (Servoz). 

In general, the ice conditions are good but be aware of the avalanche danger, (on the approach and from the slopes above).  On Saturday morning the Argentiere true left bank is to be avoided due to PIDA. (setting off avalanches).

*PIDA (plan d'intervention de déclenchements des avalanches)

 

Report 06 Jan 2021

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 06/01/2021

The team at Chamoniarde wishes everyone a happy and successful year in the mountains.

The lifts remain closed, so the main activities are ski touring, snow shoeing and ice climbing.   

There is enough snow cover  to start skiing up from the valley floor, though be aware of stones on the descent, and also higher up in areas affected by the wind.

In the Chamonix valley the downhill ski areas, (Les Houches, Grands Montets, Balme) are popular with ski tourers.  Less popular are the Nants (Brévent) and Lanchers (Flégère) pistes.

Ski touring is also happening at Pormenaz from Plaine Joux, the Aiguillette des Houches, in the  Berard valley ("combat skiing" low down, average snow quality at Buet, better at the Col de Bérard) and in the Loriaz sector, (Tête de la Chevrette, Frête des Charmoz, Col de la Terrasse).

Glacier skiing has taken place to the Col du Tour Noir and over the Col du Passon (lack of snow low down on the Tour side, it is better to traverse to the Montagne de Péclerey path.)

Snow conditions are generally better at Val Montjoie, the Aravis and Chablais.

In Switzerland conditions are good at Bel Oiseau / Fenestral,  Catogne and the Col de la Forclaz (Croix des Prelayes, Pointe Ronde, Mont Arpille).

It is slowly getting colder and the conditions are improving for ice climbing. It is just possible to get something done at the Cremerie.  The artificial  site at Berard, (paid for and maintained by the Compagnie des Guides) is closed for the moment, (under formation.)  Conditions are good at the Argentière glacier, both at the rive droite (mur des Jumelles, count on 3/4 h for the approach with skis) and the rive gauche (mur des Dents de la Mer, EMHM : 1h30/2h ski approach).  Likewise, for the Cascade Loriaz area (here also best approached on ski).

Lastly, there are plenty possibilities on the signposted tracks, either with good footwear and poles or with snowshoes. The more adventurous can go to the chalets de Chailloux or Loriaz or in the Bérard valley. As a reminder, the buvette du Chapeau sector is closed because of a large landslip (lire l'arrêté).

 

Report 18.12.2020

 

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 18/12/2020

Some information at the start of the holidays.

The snow is well established in the valley.  Recently it rained up to 2000m which has degraded the snow quality (now often crusty or like concrete in places lower down).  There is just enough to ski tour at La Balme or Les Houches on what would normally be  pisted areas. However, as they are not pisted for the moment, one needs to be a good skier. The cover is thin and stones are never far away.   Conditions are better in neighbouring areas (Aravis, Chablais) where there is slightly more snow and the underlying terrain is grassier.

As a result of the snow conditions, hiking in the valley floor is limited.  Information on feasible signposted tracks is here.  Experienced hikers  with good footwear and poles could try the “petit balcons”, La Floria, Le Chapeau or the Mottets snack bar (from Les Bois).  

There is still not enough snow in the valley floor or on the dedicated trails, for snow shoeing.  More experienced snowshoers could consider going to the chalets at Chailoux or Loriaz.

Very little information is available for the high mountain, especially concerning conditions for mixed climbing. (If the weather allows, it is a matter of go out and see!)  Even though the glaciers are reasonably well filled in, it is just the start of the season.  The return by the true left bank of the Argentière glacier is very awkward.  

Do not hesitate to contact the Office de Haute Montagne to discuss the feasibility of your projects and to help others by logging your experiences in the cahier de course. (route book.)

 

Report 23 Oct 2020

Although snow remains above 2100m, this coming weekend should allow one to enjoy the beautiful autumnal colors at mid altitudes.

In the high mountains, the recent snowfall accompanied by strong winds makes route choice more difficult.

 

For hikers, not much has changed since our last update and even if the snow has receded a bit, progression can still be tricky without the right equipment and experience for snowy terrain.

You will find some recommended hikes on the Chamoniarde site.

 

In the high mountains, the wind has been blowing hard these last few days and it is difficult to say how this will have affected conditions.

The gully season has only just started and most of them are still very dry, so expect to use rock protection and have some technical ability in reserve.  

Some winter huts, for example the Albert 1er, can be particularly busy, especially on weekends.

Routes like Tête Blanche and Petite Fourche were done this week; snowshoes were not needed on 19th Oct but maybe so for this weekend.

 

As you will have understood, with all the disruptions and reduced activity this autumn, gathering information is far from easy.  We are therefore counting on you to send your feedback to Chamoniarde

 

Report 15th October 2020

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 15/10/2020

Not much has changed since the last update.

The weather remains wintery in the Chamonix valley for the start of the All Saints half term, (17th Oct to 2nd Nov in France),

A much hoped for improvement in the weather is needed before mountain activity can resume. There should be a weather window in the few days’ time.

The Aiguille du Midi cable car, the Montenvers train, (with the ice cave lift,) and the Flégère bubbles will be open during the holiday period.  See :(https://www.montblancnaturalresort.com/en/).

There has been little information coming in recently about the high mountain.  There has been a lot of snow, and if nothing else, making the glaciers “happy” :) !  To move about, skis or snowshoes are essential. Take care with the snow bridges which might not be consolidated yet.  Also be aware of avalanche risk, even if Météo France is not yet issuing bulletins on BERA.   Remember that all the huts are closed, (winter rooms accessible.)

As far as the mixed routes are concerned, what little information is available, (mainly from looking,) indicates conditions remain dry.  The new snow is very cold and has covered the ice and rocks without consolidating yet.  That said, some routes will be “climbable”.  Looking forward to your reports ! 

Some classic routes could be feasible : Aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche, Cosmiques Ridge, Pointes Lachenal and Marbrées traverses etc. More stability is needed before  committing to longer routes like Mont Blanc by the Goûter or the Dômes de Miage.

The hiking trails can be challenging.  They are often greasy and slippery, with care needed in places.  There is quite a lot of snow above 2000m, (depending on the aspect)   However, it is still too early to get out the snowshoes! As a reminder, some of the signposting has been removed for the winter.  The early arrival of the snow has caused some trees to fall onto certain paths, (especially those with leaves).

As stated in the previous report, some alpine paths remain impractical, (Nid d'Aigle, Jonction, Lake Cornu, Albert 1er, Buet etc,) as are the multi day treks (Tour des Aiguilles Rouge, TMB) unless one is in expedition mode,  :) . 

Due to the snow, certain classic hikes require one to be well equipped, (poles, good boots, maybe gaiters.) In the absence of footprints, the path is not always visible and it is easy to go wrong.

Possible objectives are:  the Aiguillette des Houches, Prarion via Charousse and the Col de la Forclaz, Bellachat hut, the Sentier des Pharaons above the Cerro chalet, Plan de l'Aiguille via  Grand Bois.  The Grand Balcon Nord (completed covered in snow and only suitable for  experienced hikers,) Alpage de Blaitière, Montenvers via Caillet or Les Mottets (possibility to continue, there and back, to the Signal Forbes), Planpraz, there and back, via the Plan des Chablettes and the Combe du Brévent, Grand Balcon Sud, there and back, from Flégère, Chéserys lakes (possibility to continue to Lac Blanc in the snow,) from Flégère or the Col des Montets, Aiguillette des Posettes from Trè le Champs (snow higher up), Bérard Valley, Loriaz chalets.

The via ferrata des Evettes should be feasible, with the Flégère lift open.  Likewise, for the Curalla VF at Plateau d'Assy (due to be closed from 02/11).

 

Report 7th October 2020

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 07/10/2020

Some brief  information for this autumnal start to October.

Since the last update, already some time ago, winter  has established itself early at altitude.  The  various weather fronts have deposited  snow, sometimes  below 2000m. There have even been snowflakes down to the valley floor.  All the mountain huts are now closed, (including the Plan d’Aiguille, Cosmiques, Torino which normally would still be open.)  Weather permitting, the Aiguille du Midi lift will stay open until 1st November (re-opening foreseen for 12/12).  Likewise, for the Skyway, (closes 02/11 reopens 25/11).  The Montenvers train also remains open this Autumn, (N.B. the ice cave and cable car are shut until the half term holidays.)   The Flégère  will also be open at half term,(17/10 to 1/11).

The high mountain activity is virtually zero given the amount of snow and lack of weather windows.  The rocks appear to be out of condition and there is no information for the mixed routes. One needs to wait until the weather improves .  The routes from the Aig du Midi could be feasible during the weather window foreseen in the next few days, (perhaps strong winds at altitude.)  Snowshoes could be useful.    Hiking is limited due  the early arrival of winter at altitude. For the same reason, some of the signposts are in the process of being removed; take a map!

In general, hiking is best below 2000m, for example: Chalets de Chailloux, Prarion via Charousse and the Col de la Forclaz, Chalet du Cerro, Alpage de Blaitière, Montenvers, Buvette du Chapeau, Chalet de la Floria, Grand Balcon Sud, Pierre à Bérard hut, Loriaz hut, the Cascades du Dards and Bérard.

Experienced hikers  (with walking poles and good footwear) could venture higher, though the paths might not always visible; for example :  Aiguillette des Houches, Grand Balcon Nord, Aiguillette des Posettes, Chéserys Lakes. The more alpine trails are not recommended, for example : Nid Aigle, Jonction, Cornu lake, Albert 1er and Buet.