The period of high pressure continues, giving no new snow and very dry conditions.
The dryness combined with the higher than usual temperatures means the icefalls have not formed yet, both at Cogne and the Chamonix valley. Best to leave your axes and crampons in the cupboard for a bit longer!
N.B. The area around the “Fallo di Plutone” icefall is out of bounds for the season because of bird nesting. (Bearded vulture).
There has not been much information concerning the mountain routes. Most areas remain very dry and so the gullies are not in condition.
The Aiguille du Midi remains closed until the 17th. The Skyway and the Torino hut has been open since last week.
It has been reported that the Aiguilles Marbrées and the Aiguilles d’Entrêves have been traversed in wintery conditions, (hence more technical.) The N face of the Tour Ronde has been climbed in OK conditions, the bergshrund not presenting a problem, especially on the left. The gully section contains “aerated” ice, but is still protectable. The final 30 to 40m are on very hard snow. The descent was by the “true” normal route, with one short abseil. This route is also being done in ascent. The Gervasutti Couloir does not look inviting and the Rebuffat Gully looks very dry.
The Valéria gully was done on 4/12 in difficult conditions. The Maudit sector is dry, the crux on the Baxter gully, (Mt Maudit) is bare, Laratoune, (behind the Grand Cap) dry and the SuperCouloir is as dry as it was in August.
As for the Albert 1er sector, one can start skiing at around 2000m, but conditions are reported to be poor. A party did the Grand Fourche on 4/12, mainly on crusty snow, though conditions were a bit better on the exposed slopes.
A party was seen leaving for the Chardonnet, but no further information.
Concerning the Argentière sector, the Grands Montets top station is open.
The gullies in this area look dry and there is no information about recent ascents.
The Col d’Argentière appears to be the best choice for ski tourers. The Col du Tour has also been done, though the snow cover is poor at the level of the moraine. The return down the glacier to Lognan is awkward and requires taking off the skis in places.
The Dolent was done 8/12 from La Fouly/La Léchère. There is about 30min walking before one can put on the skis. Conditions were generally good. The traverse between the Col du Petit Ferret the Bivouac Fiorio was in good condition. The rest of the route was also OK, with hard snow in the upper part and the final slope to the summit being done on foot. The ski back down in the afternoon was reasonable.
The Y gully on the Aiguille Verte was climbed on 6/12. The bergschrund went on the right, and there was no snow at the foot of the gully (smooth slab of 1.5m). This was followed by a series of ice steps for 100m then a steep snow gully on the left for 20m before exiting on the left on mixed ground. The descent was by the Whymper, without major problems. The bergschrund was crossed on the true right. Lower down on the glacier there is a huge crevasse which was by-passed by going up towards the start of Moine Ridge. Return by the Egralets.
For the moment. snow shoes are unnecessary at the mid altitudes. However, good hiking boots and sticks are needed and crampons could prove useful, or even essential, in places. Below 2000m on southern slopes and 1700m on the northern ones, there should be no problems. The areas around the Lac Vert/ Ayères, the Prarion, the Chailloux chalets and Loriaz huts are all feasible for hikers. There is potentially some danger higher up, for example: Lac Blanc and the Chéserys, and these areas are not recommended during this period of seasonal change.
Walks in the valley floor such as the Petit Balcon Sud, the Floria, Charousse as well as Mottets or Chapeau, are perfectly OK for the moment.
The same is true for climbing at Barberine and at the Gaillands.
Fresh snow is not expected in the immediate future, so it may be necessary to adapt your plans accordingly.
As always, the OHM looks forward to receiving your route reports so that they can be included in the next update.