Summer has arrived quicker than we expected!
It is now the turn of the high mountains to be between two seasons, the skiing season and the summer mountaineering season. In general, skis (or snowshoes) are still essential for getting around in the high mountains, even if you have to carry them for a fair bit lower down. The possibilities for skiing are diminishing but it is a bit early to think about the big ridge routes (large amounts of snow not yet completely transformed and/or not freezing well).
There has been little change around Le Tour. You can ski from around 2,100 m. You can easily get up on foot if you stay on the crest of the moraine (snowshoes seem to be very useful to go beyond the refuge). The Aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche, Petite & Grande Fourche are all fine. Teams on the Migot spur but no more information. Teams are also expected on the Forbes arete, to be continued...
Around the Argentière glacier, you will need to carry skis for 400m vertical on the way up. Skis seem to be more suitable than snowshoes in this area. The good news is, the Argentière refuge winter room is open, while waiting (we hope) for the refuge itself to open soon.
Not much news in the area except that the Couturier couloir is being done (no more info). The conditions for skiing must have deteriorated on the N faces. The Y couloir should still be possible to climb. Col du Tour Noir, d'Argentière, Aiguille d'Argentière should be OK on skis. The time will come for the Flèche Rousse soon. The rock should also be dry!
Montenvers info: as a reminder, there is work going on all summer for the construction of the new lift. Some of the paths and ladders are closed (all the info here). Below is a press release from the Compagnie du Mont Blanc for the attention of mountaineers only:
"We would like to inform you that from 16 May to 3 June, except for occasional modifications, which may be linked to technical and safety issues, and in particular on days still to be defined for the annual technical visits, we will operate the gondola exclusively for mountaineers under the following conditions:
- 30 minutes of operation of the TC MDG in the morning from 9am to 9.30am
- 30 minutes of operation at the end of the day from 16:00 to 16:30
This will allow us to respond to the need expressed by climbers to descend to the glacier in good conditions and to climb back up. However, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the gondola will only operate in these time slots."
Access to the Talèfre basin is still possible on skis from the Aiguille du Midi (central couloir still possible even if the lower part is quite dry and the moraine is still a moraine...). The option on foot from the Montenvers seems more and more logical (it’s dry as far as the Couvercle via the Egralets ladders, which will soon be dismantled) taking the snowshoes for the approaches after the refuge. Access by the new Charpoua route is not feasible (snow).
If there is a good freeze, conditions should be good for the Whymper (beware of overcrowding). Teams are planned for Naya (a gully on the Verte) and the Y couloir; to be continued but the window of opportunity may be short.
Still a few skiers around the Brèche Puiseux (night in a hut the day before) but it feels like the end.
There is not much interest in the Vallée Blanche (which still goes but you should allow an hour's walk to reach the grotto) except for accessing or returning from the routes. There has already been rock climbing around the Dent du Requin! It seems a bit early for the Envers (snow).
As a reminder, the Skyway is closed until May 26th incl. Activity around the Tour Ronde (with ski access from the Aiguille du Midi): Gervasutti couloir in good conditions on the way up (rimaye passable in the middle, snow couloir, a bit of mixed at the top); N face possible by sleeping at the hut (rimaye crossable straight up but it might not last long). The "normal winter route" was still doable at the beginning of the week but given the warmth, it will quickly change (you'll have to go via the Freshfield couloir, which is filled in).
No information yet about the Rochefort arete or the Kuffner (snow is still settling and can probably be done when it refreezes). The Midi-Plan was done at the beginning of the week with a lot of snow. Conditions should improve as the days go by.
The warmth rang the death knell for the goulottes in the Combe Maudite and Tacul E face. We can retreat to the Triangle du Tacul (Chéré, Contamine-Grisolle, Contamine-Negri), the exit to the summit of the Tacul is tracked.
The Cosmiques arete and the traverse of the Pointe Lachenal are fine.
You can rock climb on the S faces: Aiguille du Midi, Pointes Lachenal. You can certainly consider climbing the steep faces of the satellites (Grand Capucin, Pointe Adolphe Rey).
Lots of activity on skis (but also on foot) on the normal route of the Mont Blanc du Tacul.
The Trois Monts has a green light! Mont Maudit took a long time to be tracked because it was loaded. Needless to say, the seracs are still there (as they are on the Tacul!). There are three rimayes to cross: skis off at the first one and then a bit of ice (25-30 m at 40°, the 2nd one is easy to ski, the 3rd one is a bit tricky but the last slope under the col du Mont Maudit is on snow! Be careful on the traverse to the col de la Brenva (icy, crevasses). Then all good up to the summit.
Around the Plan de l'Aiguille, the Mallory was tracked in ascent last Sunday. It is still possible to sleep in the refuge (winter room)! One team in the Carli-Chassagne, Thursday 12 May, without more information. It's still too early for the Frendo as well as for the rock in the area.
Still a lot of activity on Mont Blanc on skis via the Grands Mulets (beer bottling at the refuge in progress). The snow is receding above the Para (skis on at about 2,000m). No change from the Plan de l'Aiguille with the recommended approach being the lower one. On the way back, you can cross "high" under the N face of the Aiguille du Midi.
The Jonction needs to be crossed low down. Then, two options:
- N ridge of the Dôme (in good conditions, no ice) then the Bosses ridge (technical because you have to go around the crevasse) or
- via the Plateaus then the Corridor route.
A serac fall at the bottom of the N face complicates the passage a bit (ice blocks). With the warmth, the quality of the snow is changing but the conditions remain good overall!
From the Trè la Tête, skis need to be carried as far as the Mauvais Pas (bad step). Crossing of the Dômes : nothing to report. On the way down, skis off at 1,800 m above the lac d’Armancette.
Good conditions on the Mettrier arete (skis on a little above 2000m) with a track that’s improving with use (no ice).
The NW face of the Lex Blanche was skied (mostly on the right bank, ice on the left bank of the serac).
No information yet from the back of Mont Blanc...to be continued!
Some ski touring is possible from the Emosson dam (Pointe de la Terrasse, Cheval Blanc) but it won't last very long this year!
Concerning the hiking, please refer to our last update. Not much change, don't go too high!
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.