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.

Report 27 December 2019

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 27/12/2019

The last update for 2019, for a weekend that promises to be sunny.

The storm last weekend brought with it a lot of snow at altitude, but also strong winds and with a warm period at the end.  This resulted in wet snow below 2000m, (risk of snow slabs detaching from ground level.) The off piste ski conditions often unpleasant, (a crust above a deep layer of soft snow and inconsistent hard snow at altitude).

The spell of bad weather on Friday, (27th,) put down 30cms of snow at 2000m and around 10cms of damp snow at 1000m. Above 2000m the snow cover has been affected by the wind.  Already on Friday there have been quite a few avalanches. (A thinnish layer of fresh snow sliding on an old, hard layer.)

Take care this weekend with the return of the sun and a rise in temperatures, (0ºC isotherm around 3000m on Saturday and Sunday.) There will be a lot of people about.  USE ALL YOUR SENSES NOT JUST THOSE OF YOUR TRANSCEIVER!

The snow cover is very good for the time of year above 1500m but remains poor below 1400m.

Most of the ski area is now open. You can see exactly what lifts and pistes are open in real time at: http://www.skiplan.com/bulletin/bulletin.php?station=chamonix&region=alpes&pays=france&lang=en

For ski tourers not wishing to use the lifts, one can start skinning e.g.  at Bettey, Le Tour parking, Vallorcine, Bel Oiseau and Col de la Forclaz.  To repeat, be careful with your route choice, given the potentially hazardous conditions due to the mixture of fresh snow, wind and rising temperatures.

There have been a lot of people asking about the Valley Blanche. It is still a bit too early and for the moment it is only suitable for very experienced ski mountaineers.  

There is no information about the gullies and mixed climbs.  It has been very windy.  The OHM is looking forward to receiving your reports!

Concerning the valley ice climbs, there is not much about, which is to be expected given the temperatures. There is some ice at Cogne, otherwise patience is needed, (to avoid everybody on the same icefall!)  Hopefully, conditions will improve in January.

The snow shoe tracks are open, (best above 1500m) : (https://www.ccpmb.fr/uploads/2019/12/TopoRaquettes_2019-20_light.pdf). The Company du Mont Blanc maintains some tracks at altitude, accessible by lift: (http://www.skiplan.com/bulletin/bulletin.php?station=chamonix&region=alpes&pays=france&lang=en). These would give access to the superb views from the Prarion or Flegere this weekend.

Take care and a Happy New Year to everyone

 

Report 20th December 2019

Following a period of winter there was an Indian summer!  The start of this year’s ski season has been very strange with big snowfalls interspersed with warm, foehn storms. 

Last week was dominated by windy, foehn weather with temperatures well above the norm, (up to 15ºC in the valley and with the isotherm above 2000m, even at night.)  For example, it was 6C° at Lognan at 8h00 this Friday morning.

 

Given this, you will understand that the snow cover has suffered.  There is no snow left in the valley floor or up to 1400/1600m depending on the orientation. The ski conditions both on and off the piste are not the best.  Hopefully, the forecast for precipitation this weekend will improve this situation in time for the Christmas holidays.

 

As far as ice climbing is concerned, patience is still needed!

 

Concerning the lifts, the Aiguille du Midi is now open since Thursday, (weather permitting). The Vallorcine and the Mer de Glace lifts open this weekend.  However, the Brevent cablecar will remain closed until January.  The "Col Cornu" piste is currently closed due to the threat of unstable snow.

 

Report 29 Nov 2019

A brief update for the weekend.

After the foehn storm last weekend, the snow has returned with snow down to the valley floor.  In the last 24h there has been between 80 to 90 cms of new snow at 2000m and 40 to 50 cms at the village of Le Tour.  There was knee deep snow in places on the way up to Chalet du Chapeau in places yesterday.

The Grand Montets ski area will be partially open this weekend, (more info on the Mont Blanc Natural Resort website).  The other ski lifts in the valley will remain closed.  There is no further news as to whether the Montenvers railway will be running this weekend.

The Courmayeur ski area will be open this weekend, including the Mont Blanc Skyway.  (N.B. the stairway down to the Toula glacier will be closed this year: more info ici).

Except for a few areas, (e.g the Balme sector with perhaps some walking in descent), the amount of snow below 1800m will probably not be enough for ski touring.  Above this and depending on the sector, take care with rocks, crevasses on the glaciers and avalanche risk, (not yet graded but more info available ici).

For hikers, it is best to keep to the valley walks, (Petit Balcons, Buvette du Chapeau, Cabane du Cerro, Alpage de Charousse etc.) and have good footwear.  The footpaths up to Montenvers remain closed.

Report 15th November 2019

Little has changed since the last, (05/11), report.  To recap, there is enough snow to make things awkward for hikers but not enough for skiing.

After yesterday’s foehn, (warm, wet winds), the bad weather last night put down 5 to 10 cms of snow in the valley and about 20 cms at 2000m.  

The amount of snow is not yet enough for even a partial opening of the ski areas this weekend, (16/17 Nov, e.g. Les Houches and Grands Montets.)

The Montenvers train is running every day, (the ice cave, with its cable car, is foreseen to open for the Christmas holidays).  The Aiguille du Midi cable car is planned to open on the 14th December. 

Ski touring: If you are not afraid to of a bit of ski carrying, there are possibilities above 1900m, (e.g. Balme area, Grands Montets/Argentière sector, Contamines).

Report 21 November 2019

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 21/11/2019

Little has changed since last week’s update apart from a partial opening of the Grands-Montets ski area this weekend, (more information ici).

The snow remains insufficient for off-piste skiing.

The open lifts will give ski tourers access to the top of the Grand Montets and so into the Argentière sector.  However, the season is just starting and from the information received so far, the glaciers, (Rognon, Argentière) are very treacherous, (numerous crevasses and fragile snow bridges.)

For the moment, skinning up at the Balme /Tour sector is feasible, (could change given a forecast for foehn, warm winds).  The descent below Charamillon is stony and involves walking.

The conditions for ski touring are more favourable in the Aosta valley.

There is little information concerning the mixed routes and “high mountain”. There is quite a lot of new snow but there is little cohesion and probably not much ice.  It is unlikely there will be much activity this weekend, given the forecasted foehn weather.

There is no change in the conditions for hiking.  It is recommended to stick to the valley trails, (below 1800m) and to be properly equipped, (good footwear, poles etc.)  The Montenvers train remains open.   

It is still too early in the season for ice climbing and snow shoeing.