News

Report: 22 June 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 22 June 2023


Some bits and bobs of news before the sun comes back this weekend.



As a reminder, the basic rule in the high mountains is not to start on routes when the weather is poor (wind, bad visibility). The PGHM rescuers were "surprised" to see a lot of activity on Mont Blanc (Trois Monts, Gonella) and Bionnassay with the bad weather over the last few days.

A few days of SW wind have certainly stripped off some snow.

The first two photographs (above and below), provided by the Leschaux guardians, are very telling.



The refreeze has been very, very bad and the snowpack has taken a beating in some places, which may have made some sections worse or more technical. It could snow or rain this Thursday on a snowpack that's already very wet, which could lead to special conditions over the next few days (poor snow consolidation).

Let's hope that the refreezing improves quickly so that we can get back to snow routes.

We're entering a period where we'll have to watch out for snow bridges on the glaciers and start looking out for the risk of rockfall.


Le Tour / Trient

There’s still snow on the way up to the Albert 1er refuge. The Trient hut has been renovated and is waiting for you!

The classic routes are all being enjoyed in good conditions: Aiguille du Tour (no more Couloir de la Table, Arête de la Table OK, Voie Normale via Col Supérieur du Tour OK), Tête Blanche (Voie Normale, no news about the N face), Petite Fourche (Voie Normale). The S ridge of the Purtscheller is dry. The Dorées traverse is well-travelled (the Copt Couloir is no longer doable). A 40m abseil on a dead man (in situ) to cross the Col Blanc on the Trient side.

There's also activity on the Chardonnet when the weather permits.

Forbes Arête (info from 18/06): Good route up to the “bosse". A bit of ice on the bosse but OK with 1 ice axe. Lots of snow on the arête: good progress but difficult to protect. Poor conditions over the last few days with no refreeze: soft snow on the arête, serious.

Migot Spur: Still being done but getting worse. Rimaye looks OK but icy higher up.

The Escarra and Charlet-Bettembourg goulottes are drying out.

Descent /Voie Normale: Good conditions, last I heard only 1 abseil of 25 m on bolts to pass the rimaye, otherwise it's possible to down climb but it could change quickly. 


Argentière Glacier

Until the Plan Joran lift opens on 1 July (every day), access to Plan Joran is possible from Monday to Friday by arriving at 8am sharp. Descent at 4.30pm. Ski passes must be purchased from the on-site ticket machines.

Access to the refuge is still possible via the glacier (most teams pass first along the left bank and then along the right bank, which is covered in snow), but beware of crevasses. Another option is via the ladders, which have been cleared of snow, but there is still a lot of snow afterwards. Follow the yellow dots until you see the glacier. Then traverse 200-300m to the right and descend to the glacier over névé. The classic passage under the Rognons moraine is too snowy and steep for the moment.

Glacier du Milieu: OK if it refreezes well, all snow, 20m of ice at the “narrows" above the rimaye, hard snow at the top.

Arête du Jardin (Aiguille d'Argentière): still a bit of snow (and therefore water!) but it's still a bit early. A window of opportunity is sure to open very soon!

Flèche Rousse: a few passages that are drying out but OK.

End of the day for the Y-shaped couloir (Aiguille d'Argentière).

Col du Tour Noir : OK

Nobody on the N faces of the basin and it seems to be over already...

There were still a few climbers a short while ago, but it's the end of the road for the Couturier, which has been washed away over the last few days (400m of ice).

As for rock, it's all dry but access is snowy and often steep (crampons + ice axe). 


Charpoua / Couvercle / Leschaux

A team did the traverse of Les Drus last weekend, but there's still a bit too much snow (same on the N face). The right window of opportunity should be opening soon!

The path up to the Couvercle is almost dry (there is still a névé at the foot of the Moine). On the other hand, you'll need crampons, ice axe and mountaineering experience to continue towards the Leschaux hut (descent to the Talèfre glacier and steep, snowy couloir before Leschaux).

S ridge (+integral) of the Aiguille du Moine is dry. However, don't forget your crampons and ice axe as, despite appearances, the normal route is still very snowy (and quite technical in these conditions). No activity on the Contamine yet, but from what I can see: rimaye OK, first and second pitches dry. The rest of the route is likely to be a bit snowier.

There's still a lot of snow on the Nonne - Evêque traverse (both on the ridge and on the descent paths), so no one's out there yet. A high skill level will be needed for those considering the route.

It's far too early for the Moine ridge on the Verte. The rimayes from the Whymper to the Col Armand Charlet - access couloir to the Jardin ridge are still OK, but they're getting bigger!

Whymper: lower bit of the couloir is “mixed", then main couloir: snow. Summit ridge in good conditions.

There and back to the Grande Rocheuse is fine.

Col Armand Charlet: same as Whymper, mixed at the bottom then snow to the col.

Arête du Jardin: good conditions if there is a good freeze (although the rimaye may change). Couloir is full of snow. Chimney below the ridge is dry. Arête well covered with snow (best if the snow is frozen, more complicated if not).

Droites normal route : the rimaye in the oblique couloir is a little high but still passable (some rock outcrops in the couloir itself). Otherwise, the classic route is fine. Above, the mixed section can be "scary" depending on the conditions as it is very snowy. Watch out for a track that goes round to the right (more technical mixed route). Rappels for the descent OK with 2x50m.

Les Courtes (there and back): OK if good refreeze, good crampon technique needed for the descent in the passage under the Col des Droites (it's steep!). Some teams on the traverse, but you have to keep to schedule and get up early (wake up at midnight in the refuge!). The descent via the Col des Cristaux goes well (snow). On the traverse, the snow is often softer (hence the importance of keeping to schedule).

Pointe Isabelle: good conditions, although many teams bail at the large crevasse below the serac (which can be impressive) or on the plateau (running out of time).



Not much changing at the Leschaux hut. The hot spell signals the end of the mixed climbing on the N face of the Grandes Jorasses (see photo above). For snow routes, there has to be a freeze (Brèche des Périades tracked; glacier du Mont Mallet filled in but keep an eye on your watch). South couloir of the Aiguille de l'Eboulement with a descent of the normal route done in good conditions. Routes behind the hut are dry. The west face of the Petites Jorasses may be in condition soon (still a bit of snow here and there). The glacier approach looks OK. 


Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

There is still snow to reach the Envers hut (watch out for the "snow bridges" which are easy to cross). There’s climbing on the lower crags (crampons and ice axe for the approaches): Aiguille de Roc, Tour Rouge, Tour Verte... A team did the voie normale of the Aiguille de la République (cross rimaye well to the right then traverse to the left, a little snow on the ledges). Descent via the République Bananière abseils (too much snow to be climbed at the moment).

No news from the Grépon-Mer de Glace but here too the right window of opportunity is looming (probably still snowy though). No attempt at the Ryan, so no news! A team failed on the S face of the Fou, but we have no further information.

For the moment, you go up to the Requin via the right bank.

A few climbers have come down from the Midi-Plan. The ascent of the vallée blanche is still fine, with a bit of crevasse dodging. The rock has dried well, and the first climbers are expected this weekend!


Helbronner

Still a lot of people on the classics: Rochefort arête, Dent du Géant, traverses of Marbrées and Aiguilles d'Entrêves.

With the warm spell, things are changing, but not for the better on the N face and the Gervasutti couloir (rimaye) on the Tour Ronde. The SE ridge is still passable when the freeze is right.

The Kuffner is still a popular route, and the procession takes place on days when the weather is favourable: "Good access couloir with 2 rocky passages. Quite a few large unstable boulders at the first rock bastion! L'Androsace goes very well".

The Aiguilles du Diable traverse still has a long way to go (we'll have to see if it snows again in today's thunderstorms).

There’s climbing on the satellites (rimayes OK). Crossing the vallée blanche still OK (for the time being!). 


Aiguille du Midi

A bit less snow here too... Ice is appearing in the Triangle du Tacul. With a good freeze, Contamine-Negri; Contamine-Grisolle; Contamine-Mazeau; Chéré are all possible.

Still some activity on the Trois Monts. It rained at the Cosmiques hut, so we'll probably have to be careful on the Tacul and have good crampon skills. Mont Maudit is still going well (a bit of ice above the rimaye). Two abseils (30 then 45m) on the descent from the Col du Mont Maudit are best (dead man needed).

Some activity on the Lachenal traverse (50m rope sufficient for abseiling, a belay has been added) as well as on the Cosmiques ridge and Midi-Plan.

Rock climbing remains a safe bet around here!


Plan de l'Aiguille Sector

The Mallory has come to an end. It's very soft and, above all, the snow is gradually giving way to passages of (bad) rock.

If we find good refreezing conditions (for the approach and the exit), the Frendo should still be possible (rock sometimes wet). Lots of ice on the left exit. A good pitch of black ice as you exit to the right to find the snow slope below the arête.

Crampons and ice axe are still required to access the rock routes in the area.

Peigne: the Papillons ridge is dry, there's still snow in the couloir below point 3009 and a bit of snow on the quartz ledge. It's too early to consider the Peigne - Pélerins - Plan traverse. No information about the Grutter.

There’s climbing on the red pillar of the Blaitière and the Aiguille de l'M (frêtes des Charmoz, NE ridge, Couzy, normal route...) or the Petits Charmoz. No information yet on the Cordier pillar.


Mont Blanc via the Grands Mulets

It smells like the end! The quality of the skiing is no longer guaranteed, but it's worth checking out!

More and more portage from Plan de l’Aiguille. The Jonction has changed a lot and needs to be re-tracked; the lower track seems to be a better option.

There is more and more ice on the N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter. 


Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter

The snow is melting gradually on the way up to the Tête Rousse and you now go up via the summer path. You can still descend via the névés on the right bank of the Bionnassay glacier.

The Goûter couloir is still full of snow, but a large gully has formed in its centre as a result of slides caused by the severe thaw (see photo 2). It is currently difficult to traverse.

The cable should be replaced on Friday by the guides from St Gervais. Good conditions above.



Miage / Bionnassay

Some teams heading for the Tricot Arête , watch this space!

Mettrier Arête: access to the ridge via the variant route (see last update) now includes a 25m gravel passage in the middle of the couloir. Otherwise, you will have to do the “integrale” (and again, you'll be wandering through some not-so-great rock at the bottom). The rest of the ridge is mixed (snow/rock) but no ice.

The ascent to the Durier via Plan Glacier and the Miage glacier goes well, you just have to be careful not to be too late.

With a good freeze , with no 100km/h winds or fog, the traverse of the Aiguille de Bionnassay is in good condition (no ice or cornices).

The Conscrits footbridge is in place, but there are still some exposed snow patches. The ascent via the Mauvais Pas and then the left bank as indicated in our last update is still going well. No major changes in sight for the routes in the sector. The route on the Trè la Tête glacier will change depending on the crevasses. Good conditions on the Dômes de Miages traverse. The descent to the refuge from the top of the Aiguille de la Bérangère is still made easier by the snow.


Gonella / Monzino

Mont Blanc via Gonella: No change since our last update.

Eperon de la Tournette climbed in good conditions.

Little change around the Monzino. The rock routes (Innominata, Croux) are accessible if there is a decent freeze. Teams have climbed to the Eccles via the glacier to continue on the Innominata ridge (information on C2C).

The Bonnatti-Oggioni to the Pilier Rouge may still be covered in snow (Gabarrou-Long and Anneaux Magiques, which are steeper, should be OK). It's also a bit early for the Freney pillar.

The S ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey is dry. The window of opportunity is closing for the complete climb!


Aiguilles Rouges

In the Aiguilles Rouges, crampons and an ice axe are often useful for approaches and descents!

For all the latest news about walking, check out our dedicated news page.

 

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.

 

 

 

Report: 16 June 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 16 June 2023

Autumn is just around the corner! Oops no! There's summer first :)


Hiking and Trail Walking 

With most of the valley's ski lifts now open, the hiking season is well under way! Most routes are now accessible, with the exception of those at the highest altitudes. 

Although the snowpack is gradually melting in the mid-range mountains, there is still plenty of snow above 2,200/23,00m on the south-facing slopes and 2,000/2,100m on the north-facing slopes. Good boots, crampons, poles and a good mountaineering head are essential if you want to climb safely above these altitudes! Good navigation skills are all the more essential when the paths are obscured by snow.

The following are NOT yet accessible (except for the most experienced among you):

- Lac du Brévent - Lac Cornu / Lac Noir - Lac Bleu
- The Albert 1er refuge
- Le Buet
- La Jonction
- Le Brévent and the col du Brévent

More information about the Tour du Mont Blanc and hiking in general here.

___


As is often the case at this time of year (lots of snow, short nights), activity in the high mountains is highly dependent on refreezing conditions (which in turn depend on the presence of wind or clouds during the night...).


Tré-la-Tête / Miage / Bionnassay

The Conscrits hut can still be accessed via the glacier, but it is not advisable to climb up the snow slope on the right bank (on the left as you climb up): the torrent flows strongly underneath and the snow bridge becomes fragile. Instead, you need to head rightwards to reach the left bank of the glacier (see illustration below). The summer footbridge should be in place this weekend. There are still good conditions on most of the routes in the area (traverse of the Dômes, Tré-la-Tête traverse, etc.)



The Plan Glacier and Durier huts have also got their season off to a good start. A slight change of route on the classic Mettrier ridge (see image below). The intégrale could be considered! The direct ascent to the Durier is not recommended in the afternoon, because of the numerous purges from mid-day onwards. With a good freeze, conditions will be good on the Durier - Bionnassay - Goûter traverse. 




Monzino

The refuge opens today! Access is almost dry (a 10m section of névé with a handrail in place that should melt quickly). Crampons are still useful if you are coming from the Col des Chasseurs.
Here too there is a lot of snow at altitude and the activity depends on the refreezing. The Aiguille Croux and the Punta Innominata (crampons and ice axe needed for the approaches) are possible.
No one has climbed to the Eccles yet. It's too early for the Ratti-Vitale on the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey. On the other hand, we're all set for the S ridge.


Mont Blanc

On the Italian side, the Gonella refuge is open and there's snow halfway up the Miage glacier. The normal Italian route is in good condition: good refreezing, good tracks, the glacier passes well.

There was snow on the exit to the Col des Aiguilles Grises. The Piton des Italiens ridge is in good condition (not too narrow, no ice). Some teams headed for the Tournette spur, but no further information!

On the French side, the Tramway du Mont Blanc is inaugurating its new trains this weekend! There will be 3 mountaineering shuttles a day to and from the Nid d'Aigle (reservations must be made in the refuge): see the timetable here, under the mountaineering shuttles tab. Some additional information, to be confirmed: "The shuttle will stop between the two tunnels at the paravalanche. Take the path outside the last tunnel, then a new path in the moraine above the track work (start next to the old TMB chalet, follow the cairns)".

Otherwise, there are good conditions on the classic French routes (voie normale via the Aiguille du Goûter, Trois Monts, Grands Mulets/arête N du Dôme). On the last-mentioned route (on foot and skis), be careful at the Jonction: the glacier is gradually opening up.


Plan de l'Aiguille / Aiguille du Midi

Things are starting to happen around the Plan de l'Aiguille, with teams heading for the Aiguille de l'M (dry NNE ridge, couloir de la Bûche + approach and descent in snow) or the Papillons ridge (crampons and ice axe required).

Some keen climbers got their boots out on the W face of Blaitière, but unsurprisingly it's still quite wet!

Regular ascents of the Mallory-Porter, in good conditions. The window of opportunity for the Frendo Spur will open soon, but a good refreeze is essential: many of the teams failed last week...

Higher up around the Aiguille du Midi, no significant change in the sector since last week's update


Helbronner

The Vallée Blanche has a good track. The classics of the sector are widely climbed when the refreeze permits:

- Arêtes de Rochefort in good conditions. It's too early to consider crossing the Jorasses.
- Dent du Géant ok but there's still a bit of snow and in particular névé on the second pitch.
- Traverse of the Marbrées and the Aiguilles d'Entrêves: Okay
- Tour Ronde via Freshfield or the full SE ridge okay, Gervasutti okay too. A rock fall on the left side of the N face, but apparently it's still possible to climb it.
- Daily teams on the Kuffner arete (see the cahier de course).
- A few teams on the Aiguilles du Diable traverse. Rimaye and access couloir OK. There's quite a bit of snow on the rock, so crampons stay on a lot.
- Satellites du Tacul: all the rimayes are fine! Probably a bit more snow on the terraces of the Suisse/O Sole Mio routes (Grand Capucin). 


Requin / Envers des Aiguilles 

The Requin hut is open! The ascent of the Vallée Blanche has been done! The Envers du Plan glacier too! The rock looks dry (Chapeau à Corne ridge, Aiguille de Pierre-Alain, still névé on the descent of the Dent du Requin but probably not a problem).

The refuge de l'Envers is also opening this weekend! The lower sectors are in good condition: Tours Rouge and Verte, the first Pointe des Nantillons... There's still quite a bit of snow on the upper slopes.


Leschaux / Talèfre / Charpoua Basins

The Mer de Glace balcony path as far as Couvercle is virtually dry: only a steep and exposed 10-metre section of névé remains to be crossed. Watch out for the last snow slope just below the refuge! There's still a lot of snow on the balcony path as far as Leschaux, so crampons and ice axe are a must! Alternatively, you can get to the refuge - which opens this weekend - without stepping foot in the snow, via the Leschaux glacier!

The snow routes around Les Périades and the Aiguille de l'Eboulement are in good condition, when the freeze is right, of course. Visually, the west face of the Petites Jorasses is dry! Headlamps have been spotted on the N face of the Grandes Jorasses, a matter to be followed up...

A few teams on the Courtes traverse with good conditions overall, although there are still a few small cornices. No news from the Droites for a few days, but there are still a lot of people on the Verte and especially on the Whymper. The rimaye has changed over the last few days (see photo below) and the first couloir is increasingly bottlenecked with stones sticking out, but it's still going well. The Jardin ridge is still waiting for some motivated people to clear it! 



The Charpoua refuge is still under construction. Opening planned for 29 June if all goes well!


Argentière Basin


The refuge is open! Plan Joran lift: one lift at 7.45am and one lift down at 4.30pm. The gondola will run continuously from 1 July. On the N side of the Verte, the Couturier is in good condition (of course, you need to get to the top very early). For snow routes a little further afield, the Col du Tour Noir and the Pointe Supérieure des Améthystes are in good condition. On the Aiguille d'Argentière, climbing the glacier du Milieu requires experience of steep snow slopes (40°). The Flèche Rousse ridge is in good condition and most of the rock routes around the refuge are dry!


Le Tour

The access paths from Charamillon and les Autannes still have steep névé: they are therefore reserved for mountaineers equipped with crampons and ice axe! Otherwise, not much has changed up here: most of the snow routes are in good condition, particularly the classics in the Aiguille du Tour sector (normal route, arête de la table), Tête Blanche and Petite Fourche.

Good conditions also on the Aiguille du Chardonnet. Some teams on the Forbes arete, although the large quantities of snow sometimes limit the possibilities for protection. The ice is not far away at the top of La Bosse, ice screw placement possible. The Migot spur is also crowded. The access ramp after the rimaye is made of loose rock: make sure you space your teams well apart and don't climb below each other on this passage to avoid unpleasant surprises! Otherwise, the conditions are still good higher up. The Charlet-Bettembourg gully is being done in good conditions. The normal descent is still well covered in snow, but you should plan a 25m abseil to get past the rimaye.

The Trient hut is open! No information on the Aiguilles Dorées traverse. We'll have to climb on the S face instead.


Aiguilles Rouges 

With the opening of the ski lifts, the climbing season in the massif has begun! Most of the routes are dry, but you'll need to bring crampons and ice axe for the approaches!



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.

 

 

 

Report: 9 June 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 9 June 2023

Summer’s almost here! Here's a quick look at the current conditions.


Hiking / Trail 

The valley's ski lifts are off to a flying start! The ski areas of Les Houches (Bellevue, Prarion), Brévent (Planpraz, Brévent), Flégère (Flégère gondola, Index) and La Balme (Charamillon, Autannes) all open this Saturday 10 June! 

Although the snowpack is gradually melting in the “moyenne montagne", there is still plenty of snow above 2,200/2,300m on the south-facing slopes and 2,000/2,100m on north-facing slopes. Good boots, crampons, poles and a good mountaineering head are essential if you want to climb safely above these altitudes! Good navigation skills (and of course GPS, map and compass) are all the more essential when the trails are obscured by snow.

More information about hiking and trail running here.

___

In the high mountains, rising temperatures are allowing the snow to gradually settle, even if this is regularly disrupted by unstable weather, which sometimes causes problems with refreezing. Overall, conditions have changed little since last week's update.



Tré-la-Tête / Miage / Bionnassay

Most of the routes in this sector are in good condition (Dômes de Miage traverse, Mettrier arête, traverse of the Aiguilles de Tré-la-Tête, etc.)

The Durier refuge is currently being cleared of snow and will open on Saturday 10 June. The direct ascent from Plan Glacier (open) has been done, but is not the most advisable route given the current snow depths. It seems wiser to go via La Mettrier. The Durier - Bionnassay - Dôme du Goûter traverse has been done in good conditions.


Mont Blanc

Ditto here, with little significant change to the classic routes on the French side and generally good conditions. On the other hand, our Italian neighbours are gearing up! On the Italian normal route first of all: the Gonella opens this weekend and the Pape route has been done today. Conditions aren't exactly ideal at the moment. A large rockfall from the Aiguilles Grises has wrecked the Dôme glacier and destabilised some (now worrying) seracs. There is also breakable crust with unconsolidated snow beneath as far as the Col des Aiguilles Grises. Better conditions above. The Tournette Spur has been climbed: unsurprisingly, there's a lot of snow on the route! 


Aiguille du Midi / Helbronner / Envers des Aiguilles

All the classics are being done. The Mallory has been done in ascent, while the Eugster is finished (the veneer of snow in the bottom gully has collapsed). It's still too early for the Frendo, but the first attempts have been laborious! On the Midi-Plan traverse, teams have only been going as far as the Rognon. The traverse of the Vallée Blanche is fine on foot and on skis. On the Triangle du Tacul, the Contamine-Mazeaud has deteriorated so much that you can't exit at the top. The Perroux goulotte has been climbed, but not in good nick! The first team to cross the Aiguilles du Diable had to keep their crampons on all the way: it's still a bit early. There were a lot of people on the Kuffner, and the conditions were good, but they had to be careful about the timing: things heat up quickly up there. Most of the teams descended from the shoulder of Mont Maudit, but a crevasse is starting to open up: be careful! Still good conditions on the Tour Ronde on all routes. The “historic” normal route is starting to look bad (rockfalls on the lower left bank), so a descent via the Freshfield couloir or the Col d’Entrèves is preferable. The Dent du Géant is being done, but some pitches are still in near-winter conditions, particularly the second pitch on the normal route. The Rochefort arête has been done as far as the foot of the Aiguille.

If you want to rock climb, the faces with the best exposure to the sun are drying out one after the other. As well as the S face of the Aiguille du Midi, the Eperon Cosmiques and the Pointe Lachenal, we're now enjoying our beautiful granite on the Pointe Adolphe Rey, the Grand Capucin (still a little snow on the less steep sections, a little early for the voie des Suisses for example) and the Trident du Tacul. It's also gradually drying out around the Envers des Aiguilles (Tour Rouge and Tour Verte are dry, and other areas will certainly be in the near future). 


Talèfre Basin

Access to the Couvercle was described in last week's update. Around here, refreezing conditions seem to be more complicated than elsewhere. It's often an act of faith to access the faces! But when you don't stumble on the approach, the conditions above are pretty good! In addition to the route of recent weeks, the Whymper rimaye is now also crossable just below the secondary couloir. The latter is full of snow (two technical axes best). The snow conditions are still good in the main couloir. For the descent, most of the abseil points are in place. The S couloir on the Col Armand Charlet has been climbed in good conditions. Lots of people on the Droites normal route, using both access routes (diagonal or via the glacier). Complicated snow conditions above the ramp (second snow slope via the diagonal), this can be avoided on the left but makes the route more technical. The snow is more supportive higher up. The traverse of Les Courtes has also been done in good conditions (watch out for cornices!). For all these routes, keeping to a decent schedule is obviously crucial! There is still a lot of snow on the Jardin ridge. 


Argentière Glacier

It's always hard to get information when the hut is closed and we don't get any feedback  Just kidding, thanks to all the generous climbers who call us, drop in or fill in the “cahier de courses"! The Couturier was climbed at the start of the week in good conditions (easy approach, rimaye passes well on the right, hard snow above the step). Climbing is starting around the hut (which opens next weekend!), on the Vierge for example. A little further up on the Aiguille d'Argentière, the Flèche Rousse ridge has been climbed.


Le Tour

Here too, the classics are being regularly climbed: Aiguille du Tour (normal route, couloir and Arête de la Table - the narrows in the couloir is easy to bypass), Tête Blanche, Grande Fourche, etc. Good conditions on the Chardonnet too, with lots of people on the Forbes Arête, the Migot Spur and even the Charlet - Bettembourg! On the descent, the rimaye is opening up a little: plan an extra 25m abseil.


Aiguilles Rouges 

With the opening of the ski lifts on Saturday 10, the alpine climbing season in the massif is about to begin! Most of the ridges have already dried out, but you'll need to bring crampons and ice axe for the approaches!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Alpine Club Receives Pelmo d'Oro Award

Alpine Club Receives Pelmo d'Oro Award

The Alpine Club has been awarded the 25th Pelmo d'Oro Award by the Italian region of Provincia di Belluno. The Pelmo d'Oro, also known as the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Special Award, is given annually to an organisation or individual who has helped to promote, protect, chronicle or in some other way contribute to the ongoing history of the Dolomites.

This year's award recognises the contribution of the Alpine Club's first President John Ball who, in 1857, made the first ascent of Monte Pelmo - one of the iconic symbols of the Dolomites.

Monte Pelmo by Elijah Walton (1832-1880), Alpine Club Collection

In explaining their decision, a spokesperson for the Provincia di Belluno said the following:

"The Alpine Club, the first of its kind in the world, was founded in 1857. This initiative was inspired by the venture John Ball had accomplished a few months before: accompanied by a guide from Borca di Cadore, he made the first mountaineering ascent to Mount Pelmo, one of the symbols of the Dolomites. The first mountaineers were also the main observers and communicators of those aesthetic, scientific and landscape values, which are universally appreciated today, and are fundamental to the recognition that UNESCO has given to the Dolomites in 2009."

John Ball (1818-1889), Naturalist, Politician & First President of the Alpine Club

Current Alpine Club President Simon Richardson, who will travel to Italy to receive the award, said: 

“The Alpine Club is very proud to receive the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Special Award. At its heart alpinism has always maintained a deep respect for the mountain environment and it is fitting that the Alpine Club, Provincia di Belluno and UNESCO all seek to celebrate and preserve these special landscapes for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

 

 

 

Report: 2 June 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 2 June 2023

At last, the seasons seem to be getting their act together! At the start of June, conditions look like...well, the beginning of June. The winter snow is slowly but surely melting in the mid-mountains, while it is settling and transforming in the high mountains.


Hiking

Although the high altitude classics are still inaccessible (Grand Balcon nord, lacs Blanc/du Brévent/Cornu/Noirs/Bleu/Pormenaz, Buet, Albert 1er, Jonction, Brévent, etc.), more and more routes are becoming accessible. 

You can find more information in our updated hiking article here

On the Tour du Mont Blanc, conditions are still tricky, with heavy snow covering all the cols: Col du Bonhomme - Col de la Seigne - Grand Col Ferret - Col de Balme - Col du Brévent.


Tré la Tête / Miage

No major changes around here. The Conscrits hut is still reached via the glacier, and there's snow once you're past the Mauvais Pas. It's fine on foot all the way to the hut, but it's better to have snowshoes on, especially for the descent. 

The N face of Tré-la-Tête has been done, with 40m of ice below the summit ridge. The traverse of the Aiguilles de Tré-la-Tête was done in good conditions all the way to the Dôme des Glaciers, which is rare enough to be worth mentioning!

On the Miage, the conditions on the Dômes traverse were “formidables". The ridge between the col and the Aiguille de la Bérangère is narrow and snowy, which might be imposing for some people.

The Mettrier arete is also in superb condition (see our “cahier de courses"). The Plan Glacier hut open this week end.

On the Armancette descent, its skis off at 2,100m, or 2,000m for the more adventurous!

The North Face of Mont Maudit, Taken on 28 May 2023


Mont Blanc

Things are off to a flying start on the normal route! The Tête Rousse and Goûter refuges are now open and conditions are generally good. As for uplift in the area, the Bellevue cable car opens this weekend (Saturday 3) but you'll have to wait until the 10 June for the TMB. A special feature this year is that the terminus will be at Bellevue or the Col du Mont Lachat. Only three trains/day will continue to the Nid d'Aigle (departure from Le Fayet 7am, 11am, 3pm; descent from NA 8.10am, 12.10pm, 4.10pm) and these will be reserved for mountaineers with a valid refuge reservation. Departure only from Le Fayet or St Gervais for the moment. As for access to the Goûter refuge, the couloir is filled with snow. It's fine for the ascent, but be careful on the descent: more than ever, you need good crampon technique to avoid slipping/falling. There is a good track from the hut to the summit. The NW face of the Aiguille de Bionnassay has been skied regularly over the last few days, in varying degrees of difficulty (beware, the conditions are changing quite a bit at this time of year).

A start has also been made for the Trois Monts, which can be skied and hiked in excellent conditions (little or no ice, and only one axe needed).

The Mont Blanc ski season via the Grands Mulets is continuing nicely! Little has changed since the last update, we're still favouring the Jonction low down on the way up, and the Dôme's N ridge is still covered in snow (with underlying ice in places) but it's slowly easing off. Bosses arête in motorway mode with the opening of the normal route refuges. Cold snow on the N face as far as the Grand Plateau, the two rimayes at the bottom of the face still going well (the one at the top is crossed on the right). You can ski as far as the Plan de l'Aiguille.


Aiguille du Midi

All the classic alpine routes are being done: Vallée Blanche, Pointes Lachenal, normal route on the Tacul, arête “Lolo” (Laurence) and the Cosmiques Arête. Conditions have deteriorated a little on the Triangle du Tacul, with ice showing a little on the Contamine Grisolle and Mazeaud. Still good in the Négri and the Chéré. A few teams on the Mallory (ascent), but no further information. The Vent du Dragon and Jottnar gullies have been climbed, dry and in decent conditions respectively. There are still a few tracks descending the VB, but the passage through the Salle à Manger is becoming really tricky.

On the other hand, the rock season is gradually kicking off: the Rébuffat on the S face and the Eperon des Cosmiques have been climbed (snow at the end of the 5th pitch on the former, an exit in inconsistent snow to reach the ridge on the latter). The Contamine on the S face of the Aiguille du Midi looks dry (from a distance), and the Contamine on the Pointe Lachenal has also been climbed and is also dry.  


Helbronner

As elsewhere, all the classics are well-travelled, and approaches are being done on foot: the Dent du Géant, traverses of the Marbrées and the Aiguilles d'Entrèves, the Tour Ronde via the Gervasutti couloir, the N face, the "winter normal route" (make sure you descend before 10am as it gets very hot) or via the Col Freshfield or the full SE ridge. Some teams turned back on the Rochefort ridge traverse last weekend: too much snow but no news since. The Kuffner ridge had also been done, looks in good condition (approach on foot, very easy descent from the shoulder to pick up the Trois Monts path).


Envers des Aiguilles

It's slowly drying out up here. Due to glacial retreat, access to the foot of the ladders is not easy. There is snow 150m above the top of the ladders, so take care on some exposed spots to reach the refuge. Average freeze in the area over the last few days. The Tour Rouge and Tour Verte are dry and teams have started to climb.


Talèfre Basin

Access to the Couvercle is still tricky. For the Egralets ladders, you have to go well beyond the ladders to climb up to a big rock on the Leschaux glacier. Be careful about the timing of the climb: snow residue can release rocks balanced on the slabs above! Also be careful on the snow slope below the refuge. Higher is better. Here too, snowshoes are still good to have for the approaches and returns (skis are beginning to be less useful). The Whymper is still in good condition, as is the Pointe Isabelle (all snow). The normal route on the Droites has been done, with a step to get past the rimaye. The traverse of the Courtes is good. Arête du Jardin will soon be OK, but still too early for the Moine.


Argentière Glacier

This area is waking up! There may be a few people using the winter room. The approach is on foot (snowshoes are still far from a luxury!) and on skis. Skis on just above Lognan.

Some people in the Couturier, but no further information. The Y to the Aiguille d'Argentière was climbed in good conditions, the lower step is all snow (2m, steep). Glacier du Milieu can be climbed on foot (down climbing the narrows) and on skis (abseil).

Watch out for construction machinery on the Pierre à Ric during the week! 


Le Tour

Great conditions up here too. The ascent to the Albert Ier refuge is still via the moraine, with snow at around 2,300m. On the Chardonnet, the Migot spur and the descent have been done on foot in superb conditions: a little ice on the spur for ice screws, the rest snow. Average freeze over the last few days, with a few exceptions. The Forbes Arête and the other gullies are untracked. The ridge from the Fenêtre supérieure du Tour to the Grande Fourche has been done out and back in good conditions. Normal route on the Aiguille du Tour, Tête blanche and Petite Fourche on foot, also very good conditions. North face of Tête blanche climbed yesterday, rimaye visible in places. Couloir de la Table and Arête de la Table very good and tracked despite the large amounts of snow. 


Emosson

You should be able to ski up here for another couple of weeks. The track along the lake after the dam has been cleared of snow, which adds a little portage before heading towards the Veudale gorge. The Perrons traverse could be considered for mountaineering (ice axes and crampons required).


Aiguilles Rouges

The climbing season has started at Les Chéserys! Otherwise, there's still plenty of snow higher up.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Report: 24 May 2023


La Chamoniarde
 mountain conditions report for 24 May 2023

It's time for a change! Winter is gradually giving way to spring and big boots are bit by bit replacing ski boots. The poor weather of the past few weeks is gradually giving way to better weather for mountain activities.

Despite everything, there is still a lot of snow above 1,900m on north facing slopes and above 2,100m on southerly slopes. For the moment - and this is likely to change relatively quickly - skis or snowshoes still seem to be pretty necessary for most outings in the high mountains, while crampons are often good to have at the bottom of the bag for hikes in the “moyenne montagne" (see the dedicated Spring Hikes article).

Tré la Tête / Miage:

Skis on after the Mauvais Pas to go up to the Conscrits refuge. A poor refreeze and lots of purging around the refuge. A bit of activity on the Dômes de Miage, which are being done there and back. On the Armancette you can ski down to about 2,100m. The N face of the Dômes de Miage is quite white, probably quite loaded as well. The guardian of the Plan Glacier is going up this weekend.


Mont Blanc: 

The normal route is about to get going. The Tête Rousse and Goûter open this weekend (respectively the 26th and 27th). There is a track in on foot and on skis to reach the two huts. As everywhere in the massif, there is still a lot of snow up there! Beware of purges on the slopes of the Goûter, plan to climb early. The Grand Couloir was skied in good conditions a couple of days ago, but it's been hot since. 

Still good conditions for the ski ascent by the Grands Mulets! The low track on the Jonction is good. The Plateaux has been tracked in ascent and descent (beware of seracs...). More people have been up the N ridge of the Dôme (recommended!). There is some ice under the snow for 10 meters on the arête, otherwise it's good. More comfortable with 2 ice axes though. There is no track on the right side of the arête as there is ice in places. A nice ski track higher up, which goes around the ice under the Vallot (bring couteaux, hard snow). Bosses arête OK. Good skiing on the N face of Mont Blanc this morning. 

The Trois Monts are still waiting but it shouldn't be long now. The Maudit north face in particular looks good compared to previous years. Be careful with the large amounts of snow on this route.

Aiguille du Midi:

The snow is starting to settle with a reasonable refreeze at the Col du Midi. For the moment, the sector is about the only one where approaches can be considered on foot. Teams in the Pélissier gully turned back at the penultimate pitch (inconsistent snow difficult to protect and a threatening cornice at the summit), but conditions were OK until then. The Lachenal traverse, the Arête Laurence and the Cosmiques Arête are being done regularly in good conditions. Top conditions also in the Triangle du Tacul, where all the classics such as the Contamines and the Chéré are being climbed at the moment (a bit of black ice in places at the start of the Mazeaud). The north face of Mont Blanc du Tacul has been tracked up and down, on skis and on foot.

A team did the Midi-Plan and came to a stop at the Rognon: lots of snow. Some people on skis on the N face of the Aiguille du Midi: Eugster, Mallory, Col du Plan ... not in super conditions. 

It's almost the end for the Vallée Blanche, now reserved for experienced skier-mountaineers: the Salle à Manger is still passable but it's opening up a lot, lots of purging on the southerly slopes below the Requin hut with brown snow below. Skis off at the bend in the glacier then once at the grotto you have to walk back to Montenvers (grotto and gondola closed).

The N faces of the Aiguilles du Plan and du Midi, and in the foreground the Grand Balcon Nord still entirely under snow
(and therefore not accessible for hiking, as you can see!)

 

Talèfre Basin:

The "least bad" access to the Couvercle at the moment seems to be the Egralets ladders, the others presenting either risks of purging and falling, or risks of rockfalls. The moraine under the ladders is still unstable and you must be careful. The Whymper was climbed this morning in good conditions (alpine, not for skiing). The S faces of the basin (Droites, Courtes col des Cristaux...) as well as the Pointe Isabelle are quite white and the rimayes are well covered. What about the quality of the snow over there though? And as some people have asked: it's too early for the Moine or other rocky routes in the area, as elsewhere in the massif.


Argentière Basin 

Not much activity and therefore not much information on the area. Skis on just below Lognan. For the rest, the webcams of the Argentière refuge are your friend.


Le Tour

The ascent to the Albert I hut is by the moraine, which is dry until above the water intake. The refuge is reopening this Saturday! Above, tracks on foot (keen people!) and on skis towards the Aiguille du Tour. 


Emosson

A lot of people in the area since the opening of the road! Towards the gorges de la Veudale / Pointe de la Terrasse : skis on just after the dam and the conditions are pretty good beyond, with the precious spring snow which has been so absent this season.


Aiguilles Rouges / Buet


It's still too early to consider rock climbing in the area. A bit of activity on le Buet, where there is snow just above the Pierre à Bérard refuge.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Report: 17 May 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 May 2023

What can we say...

Certainly beautiful weather for the mountains and the rivers, but difficult for actually getting out in the mountains! “Capricieuse” and unpredictable weather in this month of May. We could say go south and climb, in Finale, in Sardinia or to go to Lourdes but it's not much better there! Weather windows have been rare.

On the positive side, it's snowing high up. Faces, couloirs and glaciers continue to get healthier before the summer. Skis and snowshoes are essential to get around in the mountains.

There has been very little activity in the mountains in recent weeks. So here are a few brief news items:

  • The road to the Emosson dam will be open from this Wednesday evening.
  • A few people have been up to the Albert 1er refuge. Up the moraine path, snow at the water intake at about 2,000m. Then a good trail on foot to the refuge. There are no tracks beyond that point, so you'll need skis or snowshoes to get around.
  • As the work has progressed faster than expected, the decree which regulated access to the Argentière basin has been repealed.
  • The Mer de Glace gondola and grotto are closed until 2 June.
  • The Couvercle refuge is open, but access is rather complicated. Contact the guardian who should have a bit more information today!
  • The Aiguille du Midi cable car is open, as is the Cosmiques refuge. The Skyway will reopen on 26 May. The arête is now completely unequipped. Climbing teams have been to the Pointes Lachenal, Contamine-Negri, Chéré, Voie Nomale on the Tacul (beware of avalanche risk), Cosmiques Arête. The approaches have been tracked. For the Trois Monts, waiting for a suitable weather window. The traverse between the Col du Mont Maudit and the Col de la Brenva will be on ice (to be confirmed).
  • The Grands Mulets refuge is also still open (25 cm of snow between yesterday and tonight). Access is fine (skirt the Pélerins glacier and the Jonction low down). An attempt via the Goûter N ridge led to the summit last Saturday, a great way to optimise the time slot!
  • The huts on the normal route of Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter have again postponed their opening dates (Tête Rousse on Friday 26 May; Goûter on Saturday 27 May) due to the weather conditions and the heavy snow cover.
  • The Plan Glacier hut opens tomorrow until Sunday 21 May, then from 26 to 29 May and finally 7 days a week from 3 June. Trainers up to the second moraine.
  • The Conscrits hut (30cm of fresh snow over the last 24 hours) is also open. The snow starts just after the Mauvais Pas. Mont Tondu and the N faces of Tré la Tête look good. On the descent by the Armancette glacier, skis off at around 2,000m.

As far as hiking goes, the snow is slowly but surely receding! No big change then. Many of the high altitude hikes, as well as treks lasting several days, are not yet possible. We regularly update the practicable hikes in our dedicated news.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Tom Hornbein

We are saddened to learn of the death of Honorary member Tom Hornbein on 6 May 2023 at the age of 92.

Graeme Nicol

We have learned of the death on 30 April of Graeme Nicol.  He became a member of the ACG in 1959, and on retirement from the ACG. an AC member from 1978.  The funeral will take place on Friday 12th May at 13:15 at the Crematorium at Hazlehead in Aberdeen.

Everest Kangshung Face - First Ascent of the Neverest Buttress | Alpine Journal Extract

Everest Kangshung Face - First Ascent of the Neverest Buttress | Alpine Journal Extract

In 1988, a small team of climbers from America, Canada and the UK made the first ascent of a new route on Everest's Kangshung Face. In the process, Stephen Venables became the first Briton to summit the mountain without the aid of supplemental Oxygen. In a piece for the Alpine Journal, he detailed the ascent. What becomes clear from Stephen's prose is the incredible allure that the adventurous nature of this expedition held for him: to visit the Kama Valley, to set foot on this incredible face and to be a key cog in such a small, interdependent team. What also shines through are the friendships he formed with his compatriots, men who he had not met prior to the expedition but with whom he became lifelong friends. 

The original piece is reproduced below to mark 35 years since the day that Stephen reached the summit.

At 6.30pm on Tuesday, 10 May 1988, Robert Anderson, Paul Teare, Ed Webster and I broke through a cornice at the top of the Kangshung face and stepped out on to the world's most desolate mountain pass. We were the first people ever to reach the South Col from Tibet. Two days later I stood on the summit of Everest. Seven days later - after a protracted, harrowing retreat which nearly cost us our lives - we were all safely down at Advanced Base on the Kangshung glacier.

Everest - Kangshung face 1988. Paul Teare climbing fixed ropes on the lower buttress.

If we had died on Everest, we would perhaps have been dismissed as irresponsible fools but, because we returned, both the public and the mountaineering world have been indulgent, brushing aside uncomfortable questions about some of the risks we took in their eagerness to praise. People like success and ours was a dramatic success. We made the second ascent of the notorious Kangshung face, by a completely new route, starting with some of the most sensational technical climbing ever achieved on the mountain. Our four­ man team, climbing without any support and without supplementary oxygen, was the smallest ever to achieve a new route on Everest, and I was the first Briton to reach the summit without oxygen.

The genesis of 'Everest 88' was haphazard. In 1985 an American climber, Robert Anderson, spent eight days above 8,000m on the West Ridge Direct, eventually being forced to retreat only 250m from the summit. He applied almost immediately for another attempt on Everest; the first available permit was for the Kangshung face in the spring of 1988. The W ridge attempt had been a huge overstaffed shambles, but this time Robert would be leader and the team would be small. He invited two of his companions from 1985, Ed Webster and Jay Smith, who recommended the Canadian Paul Teare. Then he employed Wendy Davis in New York to raise the money. The expedition became the '35th Anniversary Assault', with Peter Hillary also invited on the climbing team and Tenzing Norgay's son, Norbu, on the support team. The leader of the 1953 expedition, Lord Hunt, agreed to be 'honorary leader' of this anniversary attempt, on condition that a British climber was invited to join what was essentially an American venture. And so in the autumn of 1987, quite out of the blue, I was asked to join the team.

I felt honoured, flattered and very grateful to John Hunt, but I had to think hard before accepting. The only previous ascent of the E face of Everest, in 1983, had been the work of a large team using sophisticated ropework, complete with motorized winches, to tame a gigantic rock-buttress and gain access to the central glaciated spur. Robert proposed tackling the face with half the number of climbers, by a route further left which, although shorter and therefore more feasible, was possibly more threatened by the notorious Kangshung avalanches. If his plan worked and we did reach the South Col, there would be no possibility of carrying up oxygen for the remaining 850m to the summit. The risks of oxygenless climbing had been graphically illustrated on K2 in 1986 and, of the 20 people who had so far climbed Everest without oxygen, four had not returned.

Several leading American climbers, including John Roskelley, declined invitations. Jay Smith dropped out. Peter Hillary decided not to come after all. That left just four climbers - Robert, Paul, Ed and myself - for now, by Christmas, I had decided to accept. A visit to Tibet's Kama valley, the beautiful approach to the Kangshung face, was an opportunity not to be missed. And if we did actually set foot on the face...it was the biggest and most spectacular on the mountain, and it would be an interesting problem. With just four of us there would be no redundancy, for each person would be fully stretched, sharing equally in the drudgery of load-carrying and the excitement of leading. It had to be worth a try.

My hunch that this improbable expedition had a chance of working was reinforced in January 1988, when I met Robert and some of the support team in New York. Six weeks later I met the other two climbers, Ed Webster and Paul Teare, in Kathmandu. Now we were on our way to the mountain and, in the best tradition of the pre-war expeditions, it was to be a gentle leisurely approach. Instead of the usual modern rush, we had time to enjoy radiant mornings at the Swoyumbunath temple and to bicycle out to Bakhtepur, time to wait two days at the Chinese border without fretting, time at Xegar to climb up a 5,000m hill and contemplate the great snow-plume streaming from the summit of Everest.

The walk-in from the roadhead at Kharta, which was supposed to take four days, took 23, because heavy snowfalls reinforced the Tibetan porters' traditional antipathy to the work ethic. But again, this gave us the chance to get to know each other, to unwind and acclimatize. Four times we broke trail up to the 5,500m Langma La, and on every occasion the light was different as we enjoyed one of the finest mountain views in the world - Chomolonzo, Makalu, Pethangtse, Lhotse and Everest, encircling the meadows and glaciers of the Kama valley.

When we did eventually reach Base Camp on 29 March, we must have been one of the best-prepared teams ever to attempt the mountain. We were perfectly acclimatized and reasonably fit; but, more important, we were mentally prepared. There was a calmness and confidence which no amount of 'training' at home could have achieved. And now we knew each other, appreciating our complementary qualities. Paul, like me, was no great rock­ climber - more an all-round mountaineer, with a streak of impatience. Our tastes and personalities were very different, but I and everyone else found him warm-hearted and funny, and it was mainly his banter which had kept the porters sweet during the approach. Ed was quieter, more contemplative, slower, perhaps more sensitive to the risks; but he had enormous reserves of strength and experience and was certainly the most talented climber on the team - our chief technician. Robert, as chairman, made the right decision to keep us swapping partners - avoiding a destructive 'A Team'/'B Team' mentality - and as instigator of the whole mad project he maintained an insuppressible optimism that inspired us all.

We made an efficient four-man climbing team, but we needed relief from each other at Base Camp. Mimi Zieman, our doctor, Joe Blackburn, the photographer, Pasang Nurbu, the cook (whose first Everest expedition had been under Angtharkay in 1962) and Kasang Tsering, his young assistant from Kharta, brought our numbers up to eight. Without their company it would have been a much duller expedition, and I doubt whether we could have climbed the mountain. Our only disappointment was that the additional support team never reached Base Camp because of the delayed approach. Wendy Davis, helped by Miklos Pinther of the United Nations and Sandy Wylie from New Zealand, had secured sponsorship from American Express, Burroughs Wellcome, Kiehl Cosmetics, Lindblad Travel, Kodak, Petroconsultants, Rolex and the Weaver Coat Company, thus making the expedition possible. Robert Dorival had done a superb job in organizing the food. Norbu Tenzing had organized all the travel, and it was a great shame that he never saw the E face of the mountain about which he had heard so much from his father.

Base Camp was at about 5,000m in a grassy ablation valley on the north bank of the Kangshung glacier. We kept on 20 porters to do one carry to Advanced Base so that we could install ourselves immediately, at 5,450m, ready to start work on 3 April.

Robert offered me first lead, so that on my very first day's climbing on Everest I found myself exploring interesting ground - in this case an 80m wall of banded granite and quartzite, smeared with enough ice to make it interesting­ probably Scottish Grade 4. We fixed nearly 400m of rope that day, and during the following five days we continued to make steady progress up the initial buttress. I tend to succumb too readily to superlatives, but I really think that those six days were amongst the best I have ever spent in the mountains. Contrary to popular myth, an Everest expedition can be enormous fun. The actual climbing - technical, varied and demanding- would have been a delight anywhere; but it was the surroundings - la grande ambience, as the French guidebooks would have it- that made it so special. Our buttress projected from the back of a huge amphitheatre, with the unclimbed 3,000m NE face of Lhotse on one side and the Americans' 1983 buttress on the right. It was a fantastic world of huge striated rock-walls, exquisitely fragile snow-flutings and improbable ice-towers, which soon acquired names like Big Al, the Greyhound Bus, the Gargoyle and the Cauliflower Towers, prompted by familiarity tinged with fear. Sections of the route, particularly the great seracs of the Cauliflower Ridge, were a little dubious, but certainly no more dangerous than the Khumbu ice-fall in an average year.

Everest Kangshung face. Ed Webster on the easy middle section starting for Camp II on 9 May.
The spectacular 1983 buttress rises out of the clouds.
Khartse, climbed by Mallory in 1921, is the obvious pyramid on the left horizon.

On Day 5 Ed climbed the gently overhanging ice of Webster's Wall at 6,400m, and we thought that we had almost cracked the buttress. However, the next day we were stopped dead by a huge crevasse spanning the entire slope, so we all retired to Base Camp, very conscious that we were due for a rest. Sieging a big route with only four climbers is hard work. During this and later weeks on the mountain we often spent three days in succession leading and load-carrying and they were long days, with perhaps 12 hours spent on the route. In 1975, at the same altitude in the Khumbu ice-fall, the SW face sahibs tended to work only on alternate days, saving themselves for higher up. With our heavier work-load we had to be extremely careful to pace ourselves, so we now spent three days at Base Camp doing some serious eating.

The second phase on the mountain was much slower, hampered by bad weather. While Paul and I ferried loads up to Camp 1 on the Cauliflower Ridge, the other two slept there for three nights and dealt with the crevasse, abseiling into it so that Ed could aid his way on ice-screws up the 30m overhanging wall on the far side. It took another day to fix ropes across the gap, then Paul and I had a turn in front, marvelling at the Tyrolean over the Jaws of Doom, then stomping up deep snow above and fixing a final 100m length of rope through a dangerous jumble of seracs. Now we had finally broken through the lower lip of the hanging glacier and reached the easy undulations of the upper snow-slopes. At 6,650m we had cracked the technical-crux of the route and the way was open to the South Col.

The weather, however, was not good and every day the upper face was becoming more dangerously laden with new snow. So once again we retreated to Base Camp, where we waited a week before returning to the mountain.

There are many attractive reasons for going on expeditions. One is the opportunity during rest periods for unlimited sleep; another is the chance to get some uninterrupted reading done, usually on subjects that have nothing whatsoever to do with mountains. However, on this occasion we did have a small climbing library of Bill Murray's Story of Everest, Audrey Salkeld's Mallory book and White Limbo, the account of the 1984 Australian expedition. During the days of watching and waiting we were all acutely aware of our predecessors, particularly E H Norton and his solo push to 8,600m in 1924. Surely, if he, Wager, Smythe and Wyn-Harris could get that high in the 1920s and 1930s without oxygen - surely we, with our vastly improved climbing gear and clothing, could reach a little higher now? But, of course, far more important than equipment was the huge psychological advantage of knowing that what Messner and Habeler had done 10 years earlier had been repeated by others.

The Australians' 1984 ascent of the N face without oxygen was the greatest inspiration because they, like all of us except Robert, had never been to 8,000m before Everest. Also like us, they were a small team climbing a new route. Ours started lower, with much harder climbing, but theirs finished with Norton's insecure traverse out of the Great Couloir, whereas we would complete our ascent by the easier SE ridge. We were now approaching optimum fitness and acclimatization and wanted to make the big push before we started to deteriorate. Our original plan had been to complete the route to the South Col, leave a cache there and descend to rest before the final push. Now, however, we changed that plan - partly because of delays, partly because of the precedents on the N face. In 1984 the Australians only went once to about 7,000m before leaving on the final push. Messner, during his 1980 solo, and Troillet and Loretan in 1986, barely went higher than 6,500m before dashing for the summit. The message was clear: get really fit and acclimatized between 6,000 and 7,000m, but don't waste energy burning yourself out at 8,000m before the final push - particularly if, like all of us in 1988, you have no fat reserves. So the plan now was to reconnoitre only as far as Camp 2 - 7,450m- and never to sleep above Camp I until the summit push.


Everest Kangshung face. The 1983 buttress is at extreme R. The 1988 buttress is L of the huge central
depression (Big Al Gully) and rises to the South Col.

Everest Kangshung face. Venables, Teare and Anderson leaving Camp II for the South Col on 10 May. Peak 38 is on the extreme R.
In the centre is the skyline of Chomolonzo (L), Makalu II and Makalu.

It was a tense time with all these calculations, hopes and fears going through our minds, even on the beautiful day when Ed, Joe and I walked up towards Khartse, the snow pyramid which Mallory had called the loveliest peak in the world. It would have been fun to have taken Mimi and Joe climbing on some of the lower snow peaks, and to explore further in such magnificent walking country; but, like Mallory, we were compelled to concentrate on the job in hand. Everest, like no other mountain, is a place of history and tradition, and we had a chance to take our place in that tradition. It was very poignant to watch the evening clouds, backlit by great shafts of setting sunlight, swirling around the NE ridge, and to think of Mallory, Boardman and Tasker, and to ponder the problems of ambition. By all accounts, Mallory wanted desperately to finish the job in 1924 so that he would not have to come back again. Boardman and Tasker seem to have been similarly driven in 1982, as were Julie Tullis and Alan Rouse in 1986, on K2.

The third phase started on 28 April, when we returned to Advanced Base. The weather was now much better as Ed and I did two carries to Camp 1, while Robert and Paul started to break trail towards Camp 2. On 1 May all four of us carried loads to the Flying Wing - a huge roof of ice at 7,450m which would provide total protection for Camp 2. This middle part of the Kangshung face, once one has surmounted the spectacular lower cliffs, lies back at a gentle angle - meandering hanging glacier terrain, similar to but less steep than the Lhotse face on the normal route. We had always been concerned about avalanche danger. Judging Himalayan snow-slopes is an extremely inexact science, but these particular slopes did seem quite safe, and we picked a careful route through the hummocks and crevasses, avoiding steep undercut slopes and staying close to the crest of the spur, well clear of the giant avalanche gullies on either side.

It took 11 hours to reach Camp 2, marking the route with wands. On the final stretch I slowed to two steps at a time, with three breaths per step, but I was pleased to discover that I had no headache when we reached the haven of the Wing. We left the supplies for Camp 2 there, then slid back down to Camp I in 1½ hours. Everything was now in place for the summit attempt, but we were frustrated for another week by changing weather before we could finally leave Advanced Base at 4am on 8 May.

The journey to the South Col was long and slow. On 8 May we rested, ate and drank at Camp 1, enjoying the familiar view down to the valley to Chomolonzo. On 9 May it took 14 hours to break a new trail to Camp 2. It snowed most of that day, but the 10th dawned clear; we left at 8am, carrying tents, stoves, gas, food and all our personal gear, and leaving just three gas cylinders and some scraps of food for the descent. In spite of the 20kg load on my back I was enjoying myself, feeling incredibly lucky to be up here on this beautiful morning, completing our new route on the E face of Everest. However, as the day wore on and it began to snow again, elation gave way to resigned drudgery, and in the end it took us 11 hours to reach the South Col.

The Kangshung face from the Langma La. A big plume blows from Lhotse on the L. Everest is on the R, with the 1988 route partially visible,
rising to the South Col in the centre.

We emerged into a blasting wind which continued all night, shaking and battering our tents, pressing the icy fabric against our faces and intensifying breathless claustrophobia. Pasang, who had been here in 1969, had advised us to rest only briefly at the Col before pressing on to the summit. But our plan was starting to disintegrate. Even though we had deliberately placed Camp 2 only 550m below the Col, it had taken us 11 exhausting hours to cover that final stage. We were too tired, and in any case the wind was too strong on 11 May for us to continue to the summit.

Paul was ill that morning, possibly developing oedema, and the only choice for him was to descend immediately. We uneasily accepted his decision to go down alone and he set off, bitterly disappointed, for Advanced Base, which he reached in just seven hours. That left three of us waiting and hoping at 8,000m, eating some food, drinking lots of liquid and discovering that, contrary to received wisdom, it was possible to recuperate slightly at this altitude. By the evening, when the wind miraculously dropped, I felt much stronger.

We left the South Col at 11pm on 11 May, each carrying just one long ice axe, one prusik loop, camera, spare mittens, bar of chocolate and a litre of Rehydrate juice. Our only hope of completing the remaining 850m was to travel light like this, and we hoped to be on the summit, taking lovely photographs in the early light, by about 11 the next morning.

But at 11am on 12 May I was still below the South Summit. Robert and Ed were lower still and I was beginning seriously to doubt whether I was capable of reaching the top. However, after an hour's rest I decided to give it a try. One of the biggest problems, after four nights with little or no sleep, was staying awake, so I took two caffeine pills. They seemed to help and with a new determination I continued to the South Summit, reaching it at 1.30pm. Once again, in spite of chronic exhaustion, I was swept along by emotion and instinct, thrilled to be up there, looking down, down to the Western Cwm and Pumori, and across to the W ridge and the big traverse on the SW face and, just ahead of me, the final narrow crest of the SE ridge leading across to the Hillary Step. I continued, confident that I could reach the summit, turn round by 4pm and return to the South Col before darkness fell at 7pm.

For a while my instincts were correct. I found myself enjoying the rock scrambling beyond the South Summit. The Hillary Step sported the expected fixed ropes and I was able to safeguard myself with a Bachman Knot. Then, on the final 300m or so to the summit, I was thrilled to find the snow firmly crusted and at last, after all the hours of trail-breaking on loose slabby snow, I could walk on the surface, keeping well to the left of the big cornices and stopping every three or four steps to rest and cough, telling myself that it really was time to give up smoking. At 3.40pm, just ahead of my revised schedule, I stepped on to the crest of the W ridge, turned right and took the remaining three or four steps to the summit. Three empty oxygen cylinders left by the Asian Friendship Expedition on 5 May were adorned with prayer flags, the letters 'CNJ' for China-Nepal-Japan and some remains of television transmission equipment.

So far instinct had served me well, but when I started down at 3.50pm the clouds, which had been building up steadily, enveloped the summit ridge completely. Suddenly I was struggling for my life, terrified of re-enacting Mick Burke's sad fate in 1975, as my glasses froze over and I groped my way through the mist, collapsing several times from oxygen deficit, hyperventilating furiously to refill my lungs. I had always suspected that the problem would not be climbing Everest without oxygen, but getting down again, and now for the first time in my life I was having to draw on a whole new reserve of will and strength. I had grossly underestimated my level of exhaustion and the problems of orientation in the mist, so that when darkness fell I had still only just crossed back over the South Summit. Our tents on the South Col were far below and, even with my head-torch, I could not find the correct route.

The only safe thing to do was what we had tried so hard to avoid by leaving the South Col so early - settle down for a long lonely bivouac in the open at about 8,600m. Luckily the afternoon storm had blown over and it was a fine night and, like most of the people who have spent a night out hereabouts, I survived.

At about 3.30 that afternoon Ed had reached the South Summit, frightened by hallucinations and the possibility of blacking out and, like me, very conscious of Mick Burke's fate. He had wisely decided to turn back, soon passing Robert, who later also reached the South Summit before retreating. The two of them had descended as far as an abandoned Japanese tent in the big couloir, where they spent the night sheltering without sleeping bags. In spite of the numbing effects of cold and hypoxia on my dulled brain, I felt incredibly moved when I rejoined them early the next morning and the three of us tied symbolically to one rope to descend the remaining 300m to the South Col.

After all that trail-breaking up the E face, all those sleepless nights, the ridiculously slow 16½-hour ascent to the summit and now another sleepless night, we were exhausted. We knew perfectly well that we should descend immediately, but we were so desperate to lie down, drink and sleep that we stayed another day and night at our Camp 3. On 14 May lethargy started to take over and when we finally left at 3.45pm we had been 93 hours above 8,000m. We had broken the rules and we were to continue to break them - allowing heat, hunger and thirst to reinforce our lethargy as we delayed feebly, wasting another whole day at the Flying Wing, so that when we started down from 7,450m on 16 May, we knew that this was our final chance to escape alive.

Lying in the snow on that final morning, taking one hour to find the strength to stand up, I thought with detachment that this was how they must have felt on the shoulder of K2 in 1986, and we did not even have the excuse of a major storm. We were luckier and we all returned safely, despite many questionable decisions - agreeing to Paul's solo descent, climbing unroped to the summit, allowing lethargy to get the better of us; delaying dangerously, fooling ourselves that it was a good idea to descend unroped so that we could glissade more easily, leaving Robert behind on the fixed ropes on the final night of the descent...However, in our defence I have to point out that, although we ate virtually no food for four days, we still had spare gas for melting snow at the Flying Wing and further reserves and tents at Camp 1. Tackling such a big problem with such a small team obviously has its risks, but we all knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Although people on the Nepalese side saw us above the South Col, we never saw them and we never seriously considered the possibility of outside help, preferring to rely on our own prepared line of retreat down the E face. Our descent to 6,650m was marked, albeit sketchily, with wands and below that we had a safety line of meticulously fixed ropes. It took a whole night excavating and abseiling those final 1,600m of descent, but it was rewarding to discover that one did still have the instinct and control to cope safely with all the changeovers at anchors.

We were too weak to help each other physically, yet I am convinced that during that harrowing retreat we were spurred on by an extraordinary, intangible bond. Afterwards all three of us admitted independently to a strong sensation that Paul had also been on the mountain, and I think that each of us, in his private struggle, was sustained by the close team-spirit that had made the whole climb possible. Down at Advanced Base Paul, Joe, Mimi, Pasang and Kasang took over, nursing us back to some semblance of health for the return to Kharta. Robert eventually lost half a big toe from frostbite. I lost 3½ toes. Ed lost parts of three toes and eight fingers. Many people would say that Ed paid too high a price. I cannot answer for him - only report the courage and humour he has shown throughout the trauma of operations, without the sustaining bonus of those final 80m to the main summit of the mountain. I was luckier and, although I am saddened by the loss of toes, it seems a price worth paying for an incomparable adventure with people who will always remain good friends.

Addendum (2023)

On May 12th this year I shall miss my customary Summit Day call from Ed Webster.  As you may know, he died suddenly and unexpectedly last November, aged just 66.  He was full of plans and had just embarked on his long envisaged biography of Fritz Wiessner. Ed’s climbing friend from early pioneering days in New Hampshire, Henry Barber, has set up a memorial fund with two purposes: to help support Ed’s daughter Joyelle through college and to preserve and make publicly available Ed’s unique archive, which includes not only Ed’s own superlative photos, but also a treasure trove of historical photos, maps, books and correspondence.

You can donate here.

 Ed diarising on Everest, 1988. Photo: Stephen Venables

 

 

Report: 3 May 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 3 May 2023

We are finally seeing the sun again for more than a few hours...!

High mountain activity is starting up again, we will have more information in the next days.

It snowed a lot at altitude this weekend (about 1 m above 3,500m). The snowpack is settling, the couloirs and faces are purging. There are still large amounts of snow depending on the aspect and altitude. You will have to choose your route carefully and get home early, the sun is heating up strongly and the isotherm will rise again over the next few days. Beware of the quality of the refreeze which could be altered by overcast skies or a SW wind at night. You are likely to find all sorts of snow and conditions are not always easy for skiing!

It is the off-season and most of the lifts and refuges are closed.

The Montenvers train and the Aiguille du Midi cable car remain open.

As for the refuges, the Couvercle, the Cosmiques, the Grands Mulets and the Conscrits are still staffed. 

 

Some bits of random information:

  • The Emosson road will not open before May 15.

  • Access to the Argentière basin may be complicated at times due to a local decree.

  • Access to the Couvercle refuge via the central couloir (also possible via the Pierre à Béranger but be careful as soon as it gets hot = rock falls).  Some teams are planning the Whymper, normal route on the Droites and to Pointe Isabelle tomorrow.

  • The Vallée Blanche is still possible. The Z has been unequipped but the rope on the ridge will remain in place for another ten days. Be careful with the crevasses of the Salle à Manger, as it will start to change. 15-20 minutes walk to reach the grotto, but that’s fine. Average skiability in the Vallée Blanche (undergoing transformation), Vallée Noire well ravaged by avalanches. Ascent to the Brèche Puiseux tracked without more info. One team turned back this morning heading to Pointe Yeld (loaded N face).

  • Some alpine activity around the Aiguille du Midi. The Cosmiques ridge was done yesterday, it is very snowy. Some teams today in the Chéré couloir without more information (except that it is still quite dry) and the Pellissier. The traverse of the Pointes Lachenal can be considered but the ice was not far away on the ascent to the first Point last week. Contamine-Negri tracked by skiers, Tacul being tracked and skied down.

  • Activity has resumed at the Grand Mulets. For the most courageous, skis on above the old La Para lift station (around 1,800m). From the Plan de l'Aiguille, descend below the station to follow the new summer path to bypass the moraines of the Pèlerins glacier from below. The lower track of the Jonction seems the safest. The N ridge of the Dôme was retracked this morning. There is an ice pitch, so bring steel crampons. It's a long way down and it might be a good idea to spend a second night at the refuge on the way down.

  • We are waiting for your feedback to feed the information chain!

 

Hiking conditions haven’t changed much. The website has the possible hikes at the moment. As every year, it is too early in May to have a go at the competition routes such as the 90 km...etc!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

SAFETY UPDATE: MONT BLANC ON SKIS VIA THE GRANDS MULETS

SAFETY UPDATE: MONT BLANC ON SKIS VIA THE GRANDS MULETS


After the miracle of last weekend, two people were less lucky and sadly lost their lives very early this morning (19 April) following a serac fall on the Petit Plateau. The toll could easily have been much worse as there were forty people on the route at the time.

 
Mont Blanc by Andrea Caramello
 
As indicated in the previous La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report, we remind all those who wish to climb this route that:
 
  • The plateau route is highly exposed to serac falls. The only way to protect yourself is not to expose yourself to it.

  • There is an alternative route to the ascent, admittedly longer and more technical but safer: the north arete of the Dôme du Goûter (unfortunately used by less than 20% of teams, often due to a lack of technical skill). The N ridge is currently tracked with 5-6m of ice on the exit (possibly blue ice) and can be done by all those who have the necessary skill and kit.

  • Mont Blanc on skis is a serious ski mountaineering route that is done in winter, in the high mountains. It is long and high, it is cold and often windy, the objective risks (crevasses, seracs, avalanches) are present all along the route, the ski descent is done in all types of snow. It is only for experienced ski-mountaineers who are physically and mentally prepared and adequately equipped (notably to protect themselves from the cold and wind and to do the ice pitches: proper steel crampons are necessary for the N ridge of the Dome and the Bosses ridge).

 

Translated with permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Mark Bicknell

We have only recently learned that Mark Bicknell died last December.  He was a longstanding member who was admitted  in 1957.

Report: 15 April 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 15 April 2023

A beautiful finish to the season (we are talking about mountain conditions!)

The episodes of good weather and poor weather continue to come and go. The snow cover keeps improving above 2,000m, and this is certainly a help to the glaciers and the faces at high altitude!

Generally speaking, we have had some good skiing lately. All the classic routes are possible. However, beware of the risk of avalanche which is, and will remain, present.

On the other hand, the good weather slots have been a bit short to engage in technical mountaineering (too much snow). Good conditions also in the Aiguilles Rouges massif.

The Flégère and Brévent lifts (except for the Planpraz TC, the Parsa chairlift and the Altitude 2000 TK which are extended until 23 April) are closing this Sunday. You can ski down to just above the Bérard buvette. More portage to get to Loriaz (refuge closed). A bit of portage from the Col de la Forclaz for the Pointe Ronde but good conditions too.

The Balme/Vallorcine ski area is also closing this Sunday.

Rachasses

On the Grands Montets (lifts open until 1 May), a "road" is being tracked by a piste machine (it will allow a digger to go up to the top of the pistes in order to start work as soon as the ski area is closed) at the level of the old Point de Vue piste (on the Argentière glacier side of the Col des Rachasses). So be careful in case of bad visibility!  

Still good conditions on the Vallée Blanche. Beware of falling seracs in the combe below the Requin hut, don't hang around. You can ski down not far from the grotto.  

No or little activity for the moment on the Trois Monts route. It's loaded with snow and we'll have to wait for a longer window for it to stabilise. The normal route on the Tacul was, however, tracked last weekend (not an easy route, especially to get out at the top, quite exposed to seracs from bottom to top). One team even went as far as the col du Mont Maudit without any further information. 

The ascent of Mont Blanc from the Grands Mulets hut started with a bang. As announced in our last update, the Jonction can be crossed quite well, the route by the Plateaux is in good condition (glaciers filled in) but the seracs remain. This was well shown by the huge serac fall that swept across the whole of the Petit Plateau and the track on Monday morning, with miraculously no one there at the time. The N ridge of the Dôme was tracked by the left side of the ridge to avoid the ice (5m of ice on the exit). It is certainly longer and more technical but "safety has a price". The summit has beeen reached by the Corridor route (again, a serac fall was reported) and via the Bosses ridge (no precise information but it did not pose any problems for the climbers). The N face has been skied (hard snow at the top). A reminder to all aspiring skiers: Mont Blanc is a serious route and you need to be "strong": it is long and high, the objective risks are important (crevasses, seracs...), it is cold: you need to be physically and psychologically prepared!

Snowshoeing is over! For hiking, there haven’t been any developments given the snowfall (see dedicated news).

When the weather is good, we can climb on the lower valley crags!

Because of nesting in progress, it is requested not to climb in the sector "Dièdre Frendo" and "la raflée” on Gaillands until the end of May (exact end date to be specified).

 

The Curalla via ferrata (Passy) is open!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Records Broken on The Haute Route

Records Broken on The Haute Route

Within the space of a week, both the solo and team speed records on the famous Haute Route, which links Chamonix and Zermatt, have been broken.

On 5 April, British climber and IFMGA Mountain Guide Calum Musklett completed the route solo and unsupported in a time of 24 hours and 30 minutes. His time shaved several hours of the previous record set by Aaron Rolfe in 2021.

The achievement is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Muskett hadn't intended to tackle the route on his own. Writing on his Instagram after completing the route, he explained: "I hadn't intended to go solo and unsupported, in fact, I'd rather have shared the experience with somebody else, but my days off, good weather and snow conditions, didn't overlap with the two other people who were keen for an attempt. Knowing that I might not have the fitness, conditions and time off again for quite some time, I decided to go solo. My main aim was to complete the trip rather than target a time..."

                        

Five days after Muskett's crossing, the route was again completed in record-setting time, on this occasion by ski mountaineer Samuel Équy and alpinist Benjamin Védrines. Starting from the Chamonix church at 12:43AM on Monday 10 April, the pair arrived in Zermatt less than 15 hours later, (15 hours, 54 minutes and 54 seconds to be exact), breaking the previous record of 16 hours and 35 minutes set by Bastien Fleury and Olivier Meynet in March 2016.

 

 

 

Report: 06 April 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 06 April 2023

 

Good weather has now taken over from the unsettled weather (which did do the mountains and the glaciers a world of good). Snow cover is now almost normal at altitude (above 2,200m).

Ski touring and high mountain activity is starting up again. We need to give the snow time to stabilise, to settle down and to transform. The wind has been pretty active in some places in the past few days! Trail breaking and clearing are often the order of the day if you are first up there.

At the bottom of the valley, spring continues to settle in despite the cool temperatures of the last few days, but hiking remains limited due to the snow cover at altitude. You can find a more detailed update in French here.



Aiguilles Rouges

Another week of opening for the lifts (Brévent/Flégère). All the classics are tracked. There is still some powder snow on shady slopes. Elsewhere “moquette” (smooth, spring snow) is developing. The Lac Blanc refuge is open, as is the Loriaz refuge (skis need to be carried right up through the forest - not a good ratio of walking to skiing). In the Bérard valley, you can ski as far as the buvette at the waterfall!



Albert 1er / Trient

The Albert 1er refuge is open, as is the Trient hut. The Le Tour lifts will close on 16 April.

Good general conditions for ski touring in the area with a lot of activity linked to the Haute Route (Chamonix-Zermatt). All the main cols (Col Sup, Col du Tour, Col Blanc) are OK. The Col du Midi des Grands is still very dry (unstable terrain on the le Tour side). Otherwise, in general, the glaciers are relatively well filled in! You can still get down to le Tour on skis via the left bank of the glacier. There is more and more walking to reach Trient (discontinuous snow from 1,700m).

 

Argentière Glacier

Here too the main activity is ski touring!

The refuge and the lifts are open. The col des Rachasses is OK, as is the passage along the slabs on the left bank of the Argentière glacier.

All the classic cols are in good condition: Passon, Chardonnet, Tour Noir, Argentière. The slope at the top of the glacier du Milieu is hard snow and it's not softening at the moment. The couloir en Y is hard snow and can only be done going up. Quite good conditions on skis in the Barbey couloir the last few days. There is also some activity on the N faces: col des cristaux, NE face of the Courtes. The Couturier has also been tracked (summit icy, descent by the Z variant).

On the other hand, we have had no mountaineering activity. In the gullies it's very dry (lots of snow and no ice underneath) so no or little activity for the moment. Ditto on the N faces of the Droites and the Courtes. 

 

Talèfre Basin

The Couvercle hut has opened its doors! Access to the hut is via the Central Couloir, and for a few more days via the Pierre à Béranger, but it won't last long (see photo below).

For the Whymper, the rimaye is not obvious: you have to go down inside and climb up 4/5 meters (unless anyone can find a better route). Once in the couloir, some people failed this morning: a struggle in variable snow with a thin surface crust. Watch this space!

The S face of the Droites has been tracked, the rimaye of the oblique couloir is complicated then trail breaking on the face. There is also a surface crust and inconsistent snow underneath. 

The last news was that the Pointe Isabelle was being tracked. More info to come, by eye the upper part is ice. A little further south, the NW gully of the Pointe de Fébrouze was climbed without more info.

 



Aiguille du Midi

The Cosmiques hut (bookings until 01 May by phone or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., then it will be online - launch of the platform around 20 April) and the Requin hut are open. The Torino hut remains closed (winter room available).

Everything is going well in the Vallée Blanche where you can find a bit of everything in terms of snow. The glacier is now relatively well filled in but watch where you ski! Skis off 50m from the grotto. There is a lot of activity on the Brèche Puiseux (good ascent trail, 2 abseils of 30m at the brèche or at the bivouac) or on the col d'Entrêves/Combe de la Vierge etc. There were also many people at the Pointe Yeld and the Capucin glacier.



The N face of the Tacul was done yesterday, Wednesday 05 April, without any further information, notably regarding the route at the top of the face. For Mont Maudit, you'll have to go and see what it looks like (watch out for the stability of the snow cover with the wind of the last few days).

Gullies: the Pellissier and the Valeria were climbed in very good conditions. One team on Pas d'Agonie I ("quite a lot of snow, pitch 3 dry even after the narrows"). No need to remind you that from now on you must overnight in a hut! Quite a few teams in the Chéré despite the still very dry conditions on pitch 1. Contamine-Negri also tracked.

Arête Laurence and the Cosmiques arete have been tracked. Still no one on the Lachenal traverse.



Mont Blanc by the Grands Mulets

The refuge is open!

Concerning the access to the refuge, it's fine from the Plan de l'Aiguille. From the tunnel entrance , you can put skis on at the old Para station (1,685m). The Jonction goes well higher up. There is also a path lower down.

The plateaus have been tracked in good conditions (the glacier is well filled in, but the seracs are still there!) The N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter looks icy but "not bad for the time of year". The climbing teams stopped at the Vallot because of the wind and cold. The slope below the Vallot is really icy so you need proper steel crampons. 



Dômes de Miage

The refuges (Tré la Tête and Conscrits are open). Skis on as you leave the woods (1,750-1,800 m). The Mauvais Pas is OK (on foot; still some snow).

Regular activity on the Dômes traverse. The wind has hammered the ridge. All kinds of snow on the descent of Armancette (starting to transform). Skis off above the lac d'Armancette (around 1,900m).

Some people on the Pain de Sucre of Mont Tondu (also tracked from the lacs Jovets).

No one on the N faces (Lex Blanche etc), as far as I can see the wind has had a big effect and the ice is probably not far away.



And elsewhere...

Very dry conditions even if they have improved on the Grand Paradiso. The Vittorio Emmanuelle and Chabod huts opened on the 06 and 07 April respectively, closing on 07 May.

The same is true of the Italian side of Monte Rosa.

The Chamonix-Zermatt traverse is fine!



Snowshoeing

It will soon be time to get back to tennis!

You can still get out on the marked itineraries on the Index and Flégère or on the Prarion (lifts will be closed on Sunday 09 April) or on the Posettes from the Vallorcine cable car.

 

Ice Climbing

The end of the ice climbing season! 

 

Hiking

Even if the flowers and spring are well established in the valley bottom, it is still winter in the mountains. The snow is still very present from 1,500/1,600m depending on the aspect. The ski areas are still open and the main activity of the moment is still skiing.

The possibilities for hiking are therefore greatly limited. Most of the classic itineraries, especially the most popular ones, are absolutely impassable (grand balcon paths, high altitude lakes etc...). Almost all the mid-mountain refuges in the valley are closed and inaccessible (except for the Loriaz refuge).

The paths are often greasy and slippery: be careful! You will probably have to cross some snowy passages, which will not be a problem if you have "mountain feet" and if you are properly equipped (good boots and poles). Temperatures can be cold in the mountains and the feeling of cold is reinforced when there is wind. Make sure you are well equipped (warm clothes, windproof jacket, gloves, hat, sunglasses...).
 
 

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.

 

 

 

Bill Norton

We are saddened to learn of the death on 3 April of Bill Norton, a member since 1992. The Memorial Service will be held at 12 noon on Monday 3rd  July in the hall of Winchester College.  The Funeral is for family and invited friends only.

 

Tom Livingstone and Symon Welfringer Establish A New Line on the Aiguille des Pèlerins

Tom Livingstone and Symon Welfringer Establish a New Route on the Aiguille des Pèlerins

AC member Tom Livingstone and French alpinist Symon Welfringer have climbed a new line on the north face of the Aiguille des Pèlerins. Over two days, the pair established 'La Croisade', continuing directly through a steep, overhung roof from the line of 'Flammes de l’enfer' with the use of aid both in the roof and for one section above it.

They have named the route 'La Croisade' and have suggested a grade of M7+/A2/5+, with Welfringer commenting that freeing the route will be "quite a cool challenge for the next ones..."

You can read Symon's full report on the route via his Instagram.