News

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.

 

 

 

Eurostar Clarifies Position on Mountaineering Equipment

Eurostar Clarifies Position on Mountaineering Equipment

After enquiries from a number of UK-based climbing and mountaineering clubs, Eurostar have happily clarified that their luggage policy with regard to mountaineering equipment has not changed and that equipment of this type, including ice axes, can be carried on their services.

A climber stands on a snowy alpine ridge, leaning on the head of his ice axe as he smiles at the camera.

Climbing equipment had been listed under the "Dangerous Sports Equipment" category of the Eurostar website, indicating that passengers could not travel with mountaineering equipment in their luggage, but this has now been updated. Instead, Eurostar request that "any passenger carrying this kind of equipment makes themselves known to a member of the Eurostar team in the station on arrival so that they can ensure the smooth passage through the security/baggage check".

If you are concerned that you may be refused access when travelling with mountaineering equipment, we recommend travelling with a copy of this letter from Eurostar which clarifies the position.

This news will doubtless come as a relief to the many mountaineers who aim to reduce the impact of their trips to the Alps by travelling via train and who may have previously been put off using Eurostar's service for fear of being turned away.

 

 

 

 

VACANCY: BMC International Committee Chair

VACANCY: BMC International Committee Chair

The British Mountaineering Council are currently seeking a Chair for their International Committee.

The International Committee was founded in 1973 and has responsibility for the awarding of expedition grants, oversees international meets, lobbying foreign governments and advising all arms of the BMC on mountaineering-related matters.

The ideal candidate will have a good working knowledge of international mountaineering, experience of partnership-building and excellent communication skills. The position is voluntary with renumeration provided for travel and accommodation expenses. The successful candidate will be expected to commit roughly 10 days a year to the role for an initial term of three years.

Further details on the Committee and the role of Chair, including how to apply, are available here.

 

 

 

Report: 17 March 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 March 2023

The long-awaited snow is here! Well, at least above 2,000m. At the end of this 10 day blip, it’s time for a quick update.
 


Skiing
 
Snow cover at altitude has improved considerably, but has unfortunately got worse below 1,800 m. As has often been the case in recent years, snowfall was accompanied by strong winds. This had the effect of covering/filling in the glaciers, but also of creating snow bridges that are not always solid, as well as accumulations that are sometimes substantial. So be careful! Spring is on the doorstep and it is getting warmer and warmer, even at altitude: beware of being late! Sleeping in a refuge can be comfortable or necessary depending on your choice of outing. And the timing is good because most of them are now open or will open in the next few days: the Requin, Argentière, Loriaz and Les Prés huts are open. The Conscrits, Cosmiques (17/3), Albert Ier & Lac Blanc huts (18/3) will open this weekend. As a reminder, the access to the latter in winter is a ski touring itinerary and is not suitable for snowshoeing or hiking (risk of slipping). Finally, the Grands Mulets and the Couvercle will open on 1 April! 

On the Vallée Blanche, conditions have improved considerably. However, be careful on the Petit Envers itinerary, the track passes over a hole. Be careful at the Salle à Manger and watch out for the “moulins" (ice holes) on the Mer de Glace. You can ski down to the grotto again now. 

All the classic ski touring routes are being done. Make sure you cross any moraine (Col du Passon, Col du Chardonnet) early to avoid exposure to stone fall. There are two possibilities for the abseil descent on the Swiss side of the Col du Chardonnet. Firstly, three abseils on the right bank. The first 45m and the others shorter, bolt belays. The alternative is 3 x 30m abseils down the left bank (check the belays, the first is on a large block with two “maillons rapides”, the second block with a sling, the third a bolt with 2 maillons). It’s still possible to ski down to Le Tour, as well as to the Bérard buvette and the hamlet of Couteray. 

Climbing

For the gullies, the activity will resume slowly. As you know, it has snowed well up there and the faces have been well plastered: it should settle down and purge over the next few days! The ice climbing season is coming to an end. There is still a bit of climbing at Bérard, and possibly at the Crèmerie or Déferlante (make sure to check the state of the ice before you start).

Snowshoeing

There is a lot of activity on snowshoes: the snowy weather has helped the high altitude itineraries which are all in good condition (Prarion, Flégère, Posettes, Loriaz). Further down, you can walk on the valley floor trails (petit balcons nord & sud, Cerro, Dard, Floria, Chapeau...), and more generally up to 1,500m on the north side and 1,700m on the south side.
 
 

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.

 

 

 

Up Close with Guidebook Author Lina Arthur

Up Close with Guidebook Author Lina Arthur

Lina Arthur is a guidebook author and editor based in the Lake District. In this interview, conducted in December 2022, we dig into Lina’s experience of writing a selective guide of British winter climbs and discuss some of the current challenges facing the publishing industry.

Lina Out and About for Work - Photo: Steve Broadbent

How did you start climbing?

I've always loved walking and scrambling in the hills, but for some reason it never occurred to me to try climbing, despite a long-since-forgotten climbing session at Cheddar as a child. When I started my DPhil, a friend suggested joining the Oxford University Mountaineering Club and, undeterred by initial trips to the Peak District in November, I've been climbing ever since.

 

Can you tell us a little about your job?

I write and edit climbing guidebooks and mountain literature, primarily for the Oxford Alpine Club. This means that some of my job involves heading out into the mountains with a camera, checking routes and walk-ins, taking topo photos and so on. This can be brilliant if the weather is nice, but in fact, the majority of my job is computer-based, transforming all the information and images I and others have gathered into written book form.


In the Office - Photo: Dave Arthur

On Tower Ridge in Winter - Photo: Steve Broadbent

Your own guidebook 'Snow & Ice' came out in 2021. What were you hoping this guide could offer that other winter climbing guides don't?

When I first started winter climbing, I found that many guidebooks omitted “easy” routes entirely or offered limited detail, particularly about things like descents. In Snow & Ice, I wanted to highlight the brilliant range of lower grade routes that the UK has to offer and to inspire people to climb them, but I particularly wanted to make winter climbing as accessible as possible. I wanted to create a guide which provided all the information needed to get to a route, climb it, and descend on one page, and which was as helpful as possible to the climber.

 

Are there particular challenges to writing a selective guide? 

Narrowing down what goes in it! That was very tricky, and continued to change right up to the last minute. I wanted to include popular routes, but also to include lesser-known ones that are just as good. Inevitably I couldn’t include all my favourites, let alone anyone else’s, but I hope there is something for everyone.

Another challenge was that where a definitive guide focuses on one area in detail, my selection had me crisscrossing the country, chasing conditions. With limited space, it was a challenge to do justice to so many different areas. 


'Snow & Ice'

Making the First Ascent of 'Don Turquoise' (HVS, 4c), Akaltine Edge, Tafraout 
- Photo: Steve Broadbent

What are you working on at the moment?

One of the nice things about my job is that it's so varied. Since the publication of Snow & Ice, I've worked on the second edition of The Alps, A Natural Companion (by Jim Langley and Paul Gannon, which was published in June) and I'm currently nearing completion of a guide to UK dry tooling, which should be available early in 2023.

 

It feels like publishers are currently going through quite a tough time with the price of paper, inflation, postal strikes...etc. Do you think this difficult period will pass or does it herald wider changes for the industry? Is there anything customers can be doing to help?

These are certainly tricky times. The guidebook industry suffered massively during the COVID travel restrictions, and paper prices have been rocketing ever since. I think that things will stabilise; while postal strikes are hugely detrimental to sales, particularly as this is the busiest time of year for bookselling, they are a temporary issue. More generally, publishers will have to adapt. That will mean that some great books are simply not financially viable to publish so there may be less variety, but I believe that there will always be demand for high-quality books.

The most helpful thing customers can do is to buy guidebooks! And, if possible, buy them directly from the publisher so that as much of your money as possible is directly helping to pay the costs of producing the book, thus ensuring that more books will be published in the future. Pre-orders and reviews are also very helpful and are always appreciated.


Lake District Days - Local Ice Climbing - Photo: Aileen Robertson

Lake District Days - Climbing 'Free Falling' (E4, 6s) on Steel Knotts Crag - Photo: Steve Broadbent

You're based in the Lake District. How important is it to you to live in one of the UK's mountain regions?

It's incredibly important, both for my spare time and for my work life. One of the main reasons I moved to the Lake District is that I was spending a lot of time driving to and from the mountains, and I wanted to reduce that. Being based here makes it much easier to get out into the mountains and I feel very lucky to be able to do so. The Lake District is relatively central; not only is there climbing practically on my doorstep, but North Wales and Scotland are also very accessible. It would have been impossible to write Snow & Ice while I was living in Southern England, but from the Lakes I was able to snatch good weather days whenever they occurred, and the odd day-trip to Scotland made a big difference in completing the book.

 

You're a fairly active Twitter user (going as far as live-tweeting a route earlier this year). Is social media something you enjoy using to share your climbing or is it more of an obligation as a writer?

I feel I should say that live-tweeting a route was a one-off way of appreciating the absurdity of a very tedious situation until I could escape onto an adjacent route! One of the things I love about climbing is that it lets me get away from a screen and focus on enjoying the moment, so I'd hate social media to be a distraction from that. That said, I love talking about climbing and sharing the wonderful places that it takes me and it's hugely rewarding to hear from people who are using and enjoying my books, so I definitely don't see it as an obligation. My job can be quite solitary, but Twitter has introduced me to many fellow outdoor writers and it's lovely to be part of an online community that shares my passions.

 

 

 

Doing Good with Old Mountain Gear

Doing Good with Old Mountain Gear

My gear room is full. Most of it with items that reflect my age. Vintage, cool, historic. And I know I’m not alone! We all hate throwing things away and, in the age of the circular economy, many of us are searching for ways to prevent these once cherished items from going to waste. Luckily, for much outdoor kit, there are lots of options! In particular warm clothing and waterproofs can almost always be used by someone else.

You can sell your items on the usual sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace. Even Décathlon offers a reselling service. But you won’t get much, so why not do some good by donating your items to the homeless instead?

The best items for donation are unquestionably warm clothing, but don't forget waterproof trousers. They are very useful for the homeless. As for sleeping bags, just make sure that they are not too worn out and remember that down is not a great option in the British wet!

 

First Point of Call: Outdoor Retailers

Some retailers have systems in place to collect second-hand items and in various ways distribute the proceeds to charities. Having checked most of the shops in London, the bins are not obvious. You’ll often need to ask a shop assistant to help you locate them.

But many of the outdoor shops which recycle do not give to charities. Instead they sell the recycled items to a large company that in turn sells them on the second-hand market in Eastern Europe and Africa where the unusable items are transformed into fibres. Not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing - at least items do not go to landfill. But it is not a charitable action.

The only UK retailers I have found who donate their collected clothes to charities are:

  • Outside – Our very own Dick Turnbull has set up a scheme, run by his sons Robert and James, to receive second-hand outdoor clothing. These are refurbished when needed and sold. The proceeds are then donated to local homeless charities. Sleeping bags are donated immediately without reselling. 
  • Ellis Brigham – You can bring in your old outdoor clothes and they will donate them to homeless charities.
  • Rohan – Has a “Gift your Gear” scheme whereby donated items are gifted to a wide array of charities which are listed on their website. 
  • Alpkit Continuum – Kit can be donated in store or sent free of charge via a Royal Mail Tracked service. There is a comprehensive list of charities served on the Alpkit website
  • Mountain Warehouse – Items will be sold by the charity New Life which will use the funds to buy equipment for disabled children. 
  • The Climbers Shop and Joe Browns – Will send your gear to the Brathay Trust for their youth projects and other charities. 

 


Details of Outside's Re-action Scheme

 

Second Point of Call: Give Directly to Charities

As a volunteer in a homeless daycentre, I know that it’s best not to give directly to homeless charities unless you have ascertained that they need your stuff. Don’t just drop a bag in front of their door. I have been on the receiving end of such generous but ill-advised donations. We end up spending a lot of resources in manpower and space to store and sort donations. In the end, we get very few items that are actually usable by our population of homeless who have very specific needs.

That is why I set up KindWinter, with the support of the Rotary Club, to solve this pain point of sorting random donations. At KindWinter we procure the specific equipment that is needed by the homeless in order to withstand sleeping out. We either get gear directly from companies or fundraise and bulk-buy exactly what people need: warm clothing, warm underlayers, waterproof outerlayers, synthetic sleeping bags, bivvy bags…etc The homeless get the right kit, new and clean.

If you are in the outdoor industry, or know someone who is, please consider giving KindWinter a helping hand by donating your surplus stock. 

Alternatively, anyone can make a financial contribution at any time by donating via our website.

 

And next time we are bivvying, let us all be grateful for the opportunity we have to watch the stars even if we are cold and uncomfortable. Because we are doing so out of choice rather than necessity and, unlike so many others, we have a comfy bed waiting for us back home.

 

Françoise Call is an Alpine Club member and the founder of KindWinter. 
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

 

 

Ron James MBE

We are saddened to learn of the death of Ron James MBE, a member of the Alpine Club since 1974, author of ‘Dolomites West and East’ and founder of Ogwen Cottage.
 

Webcast details for the service for Ronald James MBE at 10:15 on Wednesday 15th March, at Colwyn Bay Chapel, Colwyn Bay Crematorium run by Tom Owen & Son are as below:

Watching webcast live and watch-again: https://watch.obitus.com/EHVytp User name fosi8600 Password 114143

 
 
 
 

Report: 01 March 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 01 March 2023

Almost six weeks without significant precipitation, but it’s looking....well, lets not jinx it...

As a result, conditions aren't changing much.

Skiing

Off-piste, it's not good: poor snow cover, often hard snow. You have to be a very good skier. Be careful not to take on routes with too little snow, in poor nick or not suited to your level given the current conditions. Let's hope that March will give us some nice turns. The conditions are still good on piste, but here again you have to ski carefully.

When ski touring, you can find a bit of everything, but rarely very good: hard refrozen snow, smooth snow, windblown snow. In short, you must adapt your choice of outings to these particular conditions and not be too ambitious!

A good technical knowledge is necessary to practice at this time, whether it is for the ascent or the descent. Couteaux (ski crampons) and even boot crampons are often necessary even for classic runs. Beware of falls and slides with this often hard snow. In spite of everything, the skiability is sometimes good thanks to the two or three small (very small) falls of snow. Snow cover at the bottom of the valley has taken a serious hit. It is sometimes green up to 2,000m on the south side. You have to plan a little portage from Notre Dame de la Gorge (20-25 minutes on the descent), from Le Buet/Couteray, from Finhaut and probably also from Plaine-Joux or the Col de la Forclaz. It's not really worth taking the skis in the Aiguillette des Houches sector. The classic routes of the Aiguilles Rouges are frequented in variable conditions. Very hard snow at the bottom of the Bérard valley, some even put on crampons.

Conditions are also technical on the glaciers. Some information in summary:

- Col du Midi des Grands even drier. (See photo below).
- Couloir de la Table: Good conditions to go up. (Narrows with mixed climbing low down).
- Forbes Arête done there and back.
- Col des Rachasses: Use crampons on the traverse at the end (bullet hard).
- Col du Passon: Descent towards Le Tour in bad condition (hard snow, unpleasant exit).
- Col du Chardonnet: Dry access from the Argentière side, beware of rock fall. Descent on Saleina side: 2 new belays on the col. The rimaye has collapsed. It is necessary to make a rappel on a dead man (bring one because nothing is in place for the moment and there's no real possibility to make a snow mushroom because the snow is unconsolidated) or otherwise on the last belay (need to check this) with an “escaper" + 50m rope (or 2x50m). It is overhanging and is unlikely to be climbable on the way up: go via the secondary couloir on the left.

- The Argentière refuge opens this Saturday 4 March.
- Glacier du Milieu (now also called Couloir du Milieu) on the Aiguille d'Argentière: 15m abseil to pass the narrows on the way down. Rimaye ok, two short mixed pitches above - bring protection - top a bit dry.
- NE face of Les Courtes tracked on the way up (no info on skiability - no doubt it will be better with new snow) with a traverse and descent by the normal route on the Talèfre side.
- Still some activity on the Couturier. Bad conditions for skiing (it's dry) in the Whymper (but ok on the way up). So plan to abseil/downclimb. It's long and it heats up fast = be early at the top.
- No info yet on Pointe Isabelle.
- A bit of activity on the Brèche Puiseux but a decent snowfall would be good. The Mont Mallet glacier is not in very good condition.
- Vallée Blanche: Arete and ‘Z' equipped. The classic or the Rognons routes are best. Smooth snow and bumps mainly. Traces of serac falls on the traverse to reach the Requin, dont hang around here. "The bottom track at the exit of the salle à manger is very dangerous (a crevasse that's opening up and risk of falling), it is better to take the top track...". An unusual crevasse also at the exit of the salle à manger. The Vallée Blanche is therefore reserved for good skiers! Its a 5 minute walk to reach the grotto. The descent via the Mottets is no longer relevant unless you have no choice!
- The last cabin for Montenvers is at 4PM until 17 March, 4:30PM from the 18. "Every evening we have latecomers that we try to wait for, but sometimes we are obliged to close down in order to make the last train of 4:30PM leave on time.
- Vallée Noire reserved for very good skiers (hard snow, steep and exposed at the bottom).
- Still no activity on the Grands Mulets, it will have to snow because it doesn't look inviting (glacier filled in but a lot of wind-affected snow).
- Dômes de Miage has been done: "Departure from Cugnon, we put on skis at 1,700m. The Mauvais Pas is ok on foot without crampons but not on skis. Glacier hard snow and well-tracked ridge in good snow. We put our skis on at the top, sastrugi, alternating hard snow - light crust until about half way down, then hard snow with more or less good grip. Good skiing needed! Then it's hard snow transforming around 12-13h. Skis off above the Armancette lake and then back on but not for long."
- The start of activity on Chamonix-Zermatt with very dry conditions. The descent to Zermatt from the Col Valpelline is said to be complex. More info to come when the activity is more consistent.
- Bad conditions (little snow, bare glaciers) on the Grand Paradis. The refuges (Chabod and Vittorio Emmanuelle) have postponed their opening until 30 March.

Climbing

A few changes concerning the goulotte activity. Some information in summary (if no information please refer to our last update): 

- Complicated access to the Ravanel-Frendo and Claire Chazal (steep traverse above the rimaye).
- Pépite: One step to cross the rimaye - “couic” (hard) snow at the bottom -3rd pitch: left corner dry, the right one is just OK - unconsolidated snow at the top.
- Mini-Blast always very busy (approach exposed to seracs/avalanches). As elsewhere, the numerous passages make it easier to progress but that's no reason by itself to go there without having the necessary skills.
- Fil à Plomb (1 thin plate after the crux) and Mallory retracked after the snowfall. A few ropes on the Eugster Diagonal (first technical pitch difficult to protect - rest OK).
- Chéré (dry); Modica-Noury; Gabarrou-Albinoni; Pellissier, N face of Tour Ronde still frequented. Some ropes also in M6 Solar, Pas d'Agonie, Laratoune (quite dry conditions). A few ropes on the Supercouloir (mixed start, abseiling at the end of the ice pitches). The season is progressing and some routes (depending on their orientation) are no longer possible to consider sensibly off the first lift.
- The Cosmiques and Torino huts are closed. Overnights are possible in the abri Simond or in the winter room of the Torino.
- Fairly good general conditions for the moment on Ice is Nice and Sorenson-Eastman above the Requin.

Ice climbing is still possible at the Bérard site (booking needed), at the Crèmerie, on the left bank of the Argentière glacier (Déferlante/Mini-couloir sector) and probably at Cogne.


Snowshoeing

It's game set and match! (“La raquette” is French for snow shoe).

At least for as long as it doesn't snow! The classic routes (+ Floria, buvette du Chapeau...) are possible with crampons. Be careful not to get into too exposed positions, turn back when there is still time! "The atypical snow conditions can sometimes give the feeling that spring is just around the corner when winter is not yet over”.  

 

As a reminder, except for a few exceptions (Chalets de Chailloux, Loriaz by the 4x4 track – snow slides before the bridge on the forest path make the passage tricky, several accidents), the classic hikes in the valley (lakes, grands balcons paths...) are not practicable in winter! 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

RGS Events to Mark 70 Years Since the Ascent of Everest

RGS Events to Mark 70 Years Since the Ascent of Everest

The Himalayan Trust (UK) and the Mount Everest Foundation have organised a day of talks at the Royal Geographical Society, London on 13 June 2023 to mark 70 years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Mount Everest.

Mount Everest framed against a purple sky

Split into two sessions, an afternoon and an evening, the events will feature contributions from Peter Hillary and Jamling Tenzing; AC members Leo Houlding, Kenton Cool, Melanie Windridge and Stephen Venables; as well as Adriana Brownlee, Hari Budha Magar and Ray Mears.

The afternoon session is aimed at a younger audience and is centered around the theme of inspiration. Speakers Peter Hillary, Jamling Tenzing, Ray Mears, Leo Houlding, Adriana Brownlee and Melanie Windridge will speak about the inspiration they have all taken from the 1953 ascent. There will also be contributions from Duke of Edinburgh Young Ambassadors reading from the letters of expedition leader John Hunt. The talk is well-suited to school and youth group bookings. Further details are available via Eventbrite.

The evening session will include contributions from Peter Hillary, Jamling Tenzing, Kenton Cool, Hari Budha Magar and Stephen Venables who, in 1988, became the first Briton to climb Everest without the use of supplemental Oxygen when he made the first ascent of the mountain’s Kangshung face. The session is titled ‘Collaboration in Exploration’ and will look at how relationships have shaped the lives and ascents of all of the speakers as well as their relationships with Everest ‘53. Further details are available via Eventbrite.

All proceeds from the events will be split equally between the Himalayan Trust (UK) and the Mount Everest Foundation, two charitable organisations which were founded as a direct result of the 1953 expedition.

The evening is part of a worldwide programme of celebrations highlighting the continuing legacy of the Everest ’53 expedition. You can find out more at Everest70.com

 

 

 

A Remarkable Winter in the Alps

A Remarkable Winter in the Alps

It has been a prolific season in the Alps. So much so that, at times, it has been hard to keep track of all the first ascents, first solo ascents and first winter solo ascents that have been achieved.

An extended period of high pressure has allowed alpinists to commit to long, challenging routes and, more often than not, to succeed in their attempts. Below we lay out the timeline of this extraordinary season, with links to more detailed reports.

The season really kicked into gear over the weekend of 28 – 29 January when two teams, operating on opposite sides of the Alps, both succeeded in establishing new routes on iconic peaks. On Saturday 28, Giuseppe Vidoni, Richard Tiraboschi and Tommaso Vection, made the first ascent of 'Happy Birthday' which climbs the south face of the Grandes Jorasses to the Aiguille de l’Évêque via a 1,000m couloir. Vidonia and Tiraboschi had attempted the line a few days earlier but had been forced to retreat when warm conditions on the face above sent a stream of meltwater down the couloir. On returning with Vection, they were able to take the route to the summit, offering a grade of A1, IV, M6, ED.

                                                                      

At the same time, on the Barre des Écrins, Benjamin Védrines, Nicolas Jean and Julien Cruvellier were busy on another 1,000m couloir. 'La Gorge' on the mountain's south face is prone to rockslides in warmer weather and so, despite being an obvious line, it has waited many years for a first ascent. With good, cold conditions, the team of three climbed the route over the weekend, surmounting difficulties of M7, A1, V+, ED+. The trio dubbed their new route 'De L’Or en Barre'.

                                                                      

Just a few days later, on 03 February, Italian climbers François Cazzanelli, Emrik Favre and Stefano Stradelli put up a new WI4+, M7 line on the east face of Mont Blanc du Créton. 'Sognando l’inimmaginabile' was a line that Cazzanelli had been considering for some time but had avoided trying due to concerns about the feasibility of its upper half. With strong winds ruling out their first choice of objective, the team of three chose to give it a go and discovered not just a viable route, but an enjoyable one. Speaking to PlanetMountain, Cazzanelli described the route as “Overall a pleasant outing, difficult, with several demanding but incredible pitches.”

While the three previous routes were first ascents, achieved by strong trios of climbers, Thibault Sibille’s repeat of the Rebuffat route on the northwest face of the Grand Pic de Belledonne was a solo affair. The 32-year-old climbed the line over three days in early February, with two bivouacs on the face. This was the first time that the line had been climbed solo in winter.

                                                                      

Sibille’s was far from the only extended stay on the north faces. The following week, Symon Welfringer, Charles Dubouloz (returning to the Grandes Jorasses after his solo ascent of Rolling Stones in 2022), and Clovis Pauline spent five days on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, making the first repeat of Patrick Gabarrou and Herve Bouvard’s 1986 route ‘Directissime de la Point Walker’. The route was originally climbed in summer with some aid, but the French team succeeded not only in making the first winter ascent, but also in climbing the line free.

At the same time that this French threesome were finding success on the Grandes Jorasses, the Italian trio of François Cazzanelli, Emrik Favre and Stefano Stradelli re-teamed to establish a 600m line on the western flank of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey. The ‘Isiah Couloir’ was established over two days (including a very damp spindrift-laden bivy) and breached difficulties up to M8, 7a/7a+ and WI 5.

Also returning to the headlines at this point was Benjamin Védrines, this time climbing with Leo Billón to make the first single-day winter ascent of the 1,100m ED/+ ‘Gousseault-Desmaison’ on the Grandes Jorasses. The pair set off from Chamonix at 1AM on the morning of 15 February, reaching the summit at 4:38PM. There was even time for the ascent to be reported on the same day!

                                                                      

We may yet see more historic achievements before the winter is through. But even if this list of ascents remains unchanged, it will still have been a remarkable season. We cannot know exactly what it presages for the future. Will conditions like those found in 2023 persist in future years or will this prove to be a one-off? What we can be more certain of is that many of these climbers are at the beginning of their alpine careers and we can look forward to seeing much more from them in the coming years.

Edit: In the period since this article was published, news has broken that Jerome Perruquet and Stefano Stradelli have made the first repeat and first winter ascent of 'Diretta allo Scudo' on the Matterhorn.

 

These were far from the only notable ascents from this extraordinary winter, but they are the most significant in terms of “firsts” and are likely to be the ones remembered in the years to come. However, if we have missed anything, don’t hesitate to let us know.

 

 

 

Report: 17 February 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 February 2023

Spring seems to be coming earlier and earlier! 

Skiing

The thaw has allowed a relative improvement of the skiing conditions on south facing slopes, where melt/refreeze processes are now well in place (hard snow in the morning, softening during the day) - subject to new weather conditions. On shady faces, it's not the same: alternating between hard snow (often with a good grip), crust and sastrugi. Demanding skiing! Be careful, on hard snow falls are difficult to arrest. Couteaux (harscheisen), and even boot crampons depending on the itinerary, should be an integral part of your equipment list. 

In the valley, all the marked ski touring routes are open - except for the Nants and Les Praz pistes. The snow is starting to disappear at the bottom of the Prarion track. 

The lack of snowfall for a month now has not improved the condition of the glaciers either. The 'Z' on the Aiguille du Midi arête is icy. The Vallée Blanche is 'tracked' snow, that is to say smooth and hard with good grip, sometimes bumpy. Sizeable holes are opening up in several places, notably below the Petit Rognon and at the level of the Salle à Manger.

Speaking of opening, the Requin refuge is also open and that's more pleasant news! Conditions for the climb to the Brèche Puiseux haven't changed too much compared to our last update, but the Mont Mallet glacier is more and more open. One crevasse in particular is tricky to cross and may soon become problematic (see photo below). Always be careful on the Mer de Glace, the track still passes by deep “moulins". It’s no better past the grotto where where rocks are more and more visible on the way to the Mottets buvette. 

Lognan: the final part up to the Col des Rachasses is tricky although a track has been cut with a shovel. Beware of the rimaye at the Col des Grands Montets! The passage under the moraine des Rognons, on the left bank of the Argentière glacier, has become very technical. In the glacier basin, many itineraries are being skied in more or less good conditions (it's up to you to evaluate them, it's often preferable to go up and look): 

- Chevalier: Some ice in the middle of the couloir 

- NNE face of the Courtes and SW of the Brèche de l'Amône: No more information, especially on the rimayes 

- Cols d'Argentière and Tour Noir: Nothing to report 

- Aiguille d'Argentière: Y (the top of the left branch is quite dry) and Glacier du Milieu (dry gully at the bottom, summit ridge OK) 

- Col du Chardonnet: Very dry at the top, 1 or 2x30m abseils on the north side. 3 cols climbed without more info. 

- Col du Passon: Moraine on the right bank of the Argentière glacier tricky (rockfalls during the day), difficult snow conditions on the lower side of Le Tour (crust). 


In the Aiguilles Rouges/Haut-Giffre, little change. The classic routes are all being done. In the lower Bérard valley, the footbridge has been renovated and the closure order ends today. A little further on, our Swiss friends have warned us that ski tourers have been seen crossing the Emosson reservoir. With the new pumping station at Nant de Drance, the level of the Emosson and Vieil Emosson lakes is changing much faster than before, making the ice very fragile. It has therefore become extremely dangerous to venture onto the two lakes, even if they are completely frozen! 


Climbing

Keeping with the theme of ice, this wonderful ice climbing period is coming to an end. Routes exposed to the sun are gradually cracking and collapsing. A few protected high altitude ice falls are still possible, notably on the left bank of Argentière (Mur des Dents de la Mer, Crèmerie, EMHM OK but the bottom is not good/hard to protect, better to abseil down the left bank of the icefall and top rope the first pitch), Armancette, Stassaz... As always, be careful about the conditions and their evolution! There's still climbing at the Bérard artificial site (reservations here)

The goulotte season is starting. Beware of overcrowding! There are frequently more than 5 teams on the same routes, so be creative! The Plan de l'Aiguille sector is a good example with a lot of people on the Mallory-Porter and Fil à Plomb. The Col du Plan goulotte has been done (variable snow, difficult to protect). Mini Blast is also being done a lot (double rimaye OK for the moment, very well tracked gully, be careful during the abseils as the belays in place are 60m long or even a little more). 

Géant/Vallée Blanche: Several reports in our “cahier de courses". The Tacul triangle is quite dry, Goulotte Chéré certainly OK). On the Pointe Lachenal, the Pellissier is still acceptable, and the rimaye still tricky. Scotch on the Rocks climbed - 1st pitch hard to protect, rest rather well supplied with ice. The Modica-Noury is rather deficient in ice but still OK, whilst the Gabarrou Albinioni is relatively well supplied (last pitch still rather dry). Supercouloir OK by eye. The Valeria rimaye is complicated, conditions OK in the gully, last pitch dry. The north face of the Tour Ronde rimaye is also tricky, conditions OK in the narrows (some ice), upper slopes are black ice, descent by SE ridge and E face in good conditions.

Activity on the Verte! The Whymper was skied in OK conditions but must have deteriorated a lot this week. Rimaye OK (passes well to the right), narrow summit ridge. Some big purges are reported during the day, as always watch out for the timing of the descent. The Couturier has been climbed: the rimaye also passes well on the right, 15/20m of ice in the lower narrows. Further on in the Argentière basin, Petit Viking was climbed but the rimaye is very complicated (a step of M4/M5) then fine ice and snow without cohesion at the top.


Snowshoeing

Finally, no change for snowshoe lovers: All the marked routes in the valley are practicable. Most of them can be done with crampons and poles, the snow having been well-packed by lots of people.

 

 

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: 09 February 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 09 February 2023

With high pressure in situ, things in the mountains aren’t changing much. 

 

Skiing

The wind has continued to affect the snowpack and you need to be canny to find good skiing. Powder is rare, but you will find hard snow, sastrugi, crust...etc. Make sure you have couteaux/harscheisen to hand.  

The ‘Z" is in place on the Aiguille du Midi arête. The Vallée Blanche has been well worked by the wind, but the skiing is not so bad as long as you are competent. The exit couloir of the Grand Envers behind the Requin hut (which is now open!) is steep and the passage is very delicate: rocks and ice on the surface. The vallée noire is also tricky: compact snow meaning it’s a no fall zone, only for good skiers!

Regular activity around the Brèche Puiseux, descent by the Mont Mallet glacier (which is very open!) in 60m or 2x30m with intermediate belay at the fixed rope level (which is quite damaged, do not use it). The Col du Tacul/Couloir du Capucin has been skied (see our cahier de courses).

We repeat, be careful when you get to the Mer de Glace, the track passes 1m from “moulins” (deep holes)! It gets really rocky below Montenvers and up to Les Mottets, basically you walk from the ice grotto. There are more and more rocks on the James Bond track on the way back, skis on and off several times. Depending on your timing and the love you have for your skis, taking the train may be a wise decision!

Argentière/Grand Montets: couteaux are recommended for the climb to the Col des Rachasses. Like many northerly aspect slopes, the Rognons glacier has been well trashed by the wind. The Col des Cristaux has been partially skied, in poor conditions. The N/NE faces of the basin are dry.

Aiguille d’Argentière: the milieu glacier is tracked on the right bank, no information on the upper slope (or the narrows?). The summit ridge (it changes from year to year) is also tracked. The Argentière and the Tour Noir cols are tracked, as is the Col du Chardonnet, the top of which is very dry. 30m abseil on the north side (+ crampon descent, rimaye OK).

Fenêtre de Saleina: tricky rimaye but OK. The Passon is being done regularly, variable snow on the descent to le Tour, even very bad at the bottom (crust).

Aiguilles Rouges: (and the “moyenne montagne" in general - Contamines, Plaine-Joux, Bel Oiseau, Col de la Forclaz...), most of the routes have been tracked. Rocks at the bottom of the Vallon de Bérard, and beware of the walkway between the Fontaine Froide bridge and the waterfall, which is closed by municipal decree. On the way up, a temporary footbridge has been set up to cross the river just before the closed one. On the way down, do not cross the Fontaine Froide bridge and stay on the left bank until you reach the temporary footbridge. Also be careful at the bottom of the roman road "Voie Romaine” in Contamines which is sheet ice and whose access is blocked by ribbons. A diversion is in place, plan to put your skis on your sac when going up and down. 

 

Climbing

With the thaw, medium altitude ice climbing and those areas exposed to the sun have taken a beating! It goes without saying, but be sure to check the state of the ice before setting off. There is still climbing around Trient (Pétoudes), near Loriaz, on the right bank of Argentière (Shiva has collapsed, OK from Frénésie to the Mur des Jumelles. Good conditions on the left bank of Argentière (Dents de la Mer wall, EMHM...), Crèmerie sector (now well formed) and Dalles de l'Envers (Tout Shuss). The Bérard artificial crag is back in good shape! Always remember to book your slots.

Leaving the valley, there is also climbing at the Ruisseling of Notre-Dame-de-la-Gorge and at Armancette, at Stassaz, at Plan Désert, at Nant Burgeat, in the valley of Sixt, Cogne... With the forecast thaw, conditions are likely to change quickly.

A rise in temperature is at least a good thing for gully lovers! Activity above Plan de l'Aiguille (Mallory tracked, Fil à Plomb, Mini Blast regularly climbed), on the E side of Mont Blanc du Tacul, Modica & Gabarrou OK, Valeria OK), Pointe Lachenal (Pellissier OK - the crux is the rimaye passage), in the Argentière basin (no more info). As always, beware of heavy traffic.

 

Snowshoeing

Finally, all the marked snowshoe itineraries of the valley are practicable. Most of them are possible with crampons and poles, the snow having been well packed by lots of traffic.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Details Announced for 2023 Rick Allen Memorial Lecture

Details Announced for 2023 Rick Allen Memorial Lecture

The University of Birmingham Mountaineering Club and the Midland Association of Mountaineers have announced that the 2023 Rick Allen Memorial Lecture will take place on 22 February at the Teaching and Learning Lecture Theatre 2 of the University of Birmingham.

Rick Allen climbing on the Aiguille du Chardonnet

The lecture, 'The Anatomy of a Himalayan Climbing Expedition' will be given by experienced expedition climber Surgeon Rear Admiral Andrew S Hughes and will focus on the key elements involved in climbing a new Himalayan objective.

The talk will start at 7:30PM and will be broadcast live on Zoom for those who are unable to attend in person. Interested parties can sign up for the Zoom link via the UBMC website.

Rick Allen was tragically killed in an avalanche on K2 in 2021 while attempting a new route on the mountain's south-east face. Rick was an Alpine Club member and one of the most accomplished mountaineers of modern times. He was perhaps best known for making the first complete ascent of Nanga Parbat's Mazeno Ridge with his long-term climbing partner Sandy Allan.

 

 

 

New Routes Established in the French Alps

New Routes Established in the French Alps

At the end of January two strong teams, operating at opposite ends of the French Alps, both established new lines on iconic alpine peaks.

                 

on 28 January, Giuseppe Vidoni, Richard Tiraboschi, and Tommaso Vection, made the first ascent of 'Happy Birthday' which climbs the south face of the Grandes Jorasses to the Aiguille de l’Évêque via a 1,000m couloir. Vidonia and Tiraboschi had made an intiial attempt on the line a few days earlier, but had been forced to retreat when warm conditions on the face above sent a stream of meltwater down the couloir. On returning with Vection, they were able to take the route to the summit, offering a grade of A1, IV, M6, ED. The route name was chosen to mark Vection turning 30 the day after the team's ascent.

                 

At the same time, on the Barre des Écrins, Benjamin Védrines, Nicolas Jean and Julien Cruvellier were busy on another 1,000m couloir. 'La Gorge' on the mountain's south face is prone to rockslides in warmer weather and so, despite being an obvious line, it has waited many years for a first ascent. With good, cold conditions, the team of three climbed the route over the weekend of the 28 and 29 January, surmounting difficulties of M7, A1, V+, ED+ with Jean reportedly dispatching an extremely commiting pitch just as the team was about to admit defeat. The trio have dubbed the route 'De L’Or en Barre'.

 

 

 

Report: 27 January 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 27 January 2023

 

Skiing

As we said in the last update, the snowfalls of the last week have allowed ski touring to really get going. It's a pity that the wind spoiled the quality of the snow in the most exposed places but the skiability remains generally very good. 

All the classic routes in the Aiguilles Rouges have been done.

Couloir de la Chorde OK near the Pointe Noire de Pormenaz.

Aiguillette des Houches: you can skin from le Bettey, the Combe de la Vogealle is seeing a lot of traffic.

Be careful at the bottom of the combe du Pouce: somebody went through a snow bridge above the stream in the gorge (there is still a lot of water in the streams at the moment). Variant on the left bank in the alder bushes “varosses" for those who know it (exposed).

There are some “rimayes" between which it is necessary to navigate at the foot of the steep slope on the N side of the Col Belvedere (see cahier de course).

No fixed rope at the top of the Col de Beugeant. A new belay has been installed for those who are not comfortable (40m descent).

Trè les Eaux: stay on the right bank of the gorge (short ascent, a small 1m jump, then a short 15m abseil, but “not scary"). Then the snow cover is good in the woods to get back to Les Granges.

You can skin from Le Buet/Couteray. As a reminder, there is now a charge for parking at Le Buet: one more reason to take the train!

There is also plenty of activity around the Bel Oiseau and the Col de la Forclaz, Pointe Ronde, Croix de Prélaye).

The glaciers have had a good whitewash! The summer took its toll and some are still very chaotic. We are still at the beginning of the season and the snow bridges can be fragile.
Activity on the glacier des Grands, Passon, Col du Tour Noir, Col du Chardonnet. No information about the Trois Cols.

There is a lot of activity in the Vallée Blanche (only for good skiers). The arête is equipped (stakes, fixed ropes on each side) but not the kink half way down. Crampons are therefore recommended. It is always better to stay on the classic route or the slopes of the Rognon (less crevassed). The wind has been blowing but it's still pleasant to ski (soft sastrugi, better snow in the sheltered parts). The salle a manger is fine and then you can swoosh gently to Montenvers. Be careful not to fall asleep on the Mer de Glace, the track passes 1m from “moulins” (deep holes). A fall there last week miraculously ended not too badly. The most resourceful who don't have new skis can always do the "integral" by descending to the buvette at les Mottets (lots of ski scraping on the glacier).

In strong winds, the gondola may be closed. In this case you have to go back up on foot by the stairs and then follow the diversions set up because of the closure of the classic path linked to the work on the new lift which has become dangerous.

The Pas de Chèvre exit couloir was disfigured by the hot summer. We can only advise against it at the moment until it is better covered with snow.

 

Climbing

Gully activity was quite reduced because of the cold and the wind but it's starting again. We have very little information since 10 January except good conditions in the Pellissier gully (cahier de course) and in the Gabarrou-Albinoni ("not too deep snow at the bottom, firm nevé + ice at the top"). Mini Blast ok too (one of the abseils is a bit more than 60m). Teams have done Petit Viking, Modica-Noury, Lafaille without more info.

The return of the cold weather allows a nice resumption of the ice climbing activity. We can now find something to fiddle around on at the Crémerie.

Bérard: some lines can be climbed, remember to book your slots on the Compagnie des Guides website.

There is climbing around Trient (Pétoudes), Loriaz, Rive Droite (from the mur des Jumelles to the Frénésie, Icelander perhaps OK) and Rive Gauche (Mur des Dents de la mer, EMHM) off the Argentière glacier, Les Houches (Bellevue waterfall, Sainte-Marie viaduct), Notre Dame de la Gorge (Ruisseling), Cascade Armancette, Stassaz...

 

Snowshoeing

There is snowshoeing on the marked routes or around Loriaz/Chalets de Chailloux.

 

 

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.