News

Report: 16 March 2022

We're back!

It's fair to say that since the last update, there hasn’t been much change (all the classic ski touring routes are being done) but above all  La Chamoniarde are still struggling to get info! So please think about them when you're out and don't call them just to ask for information.

 

The birds are singing, the snow is melting, the crocuses are coming out... In short, it's spring! 

A warm spell of scirocco covered the surface of the snow with a thin layer of sand, no significant snowfall expected. Not goodl!  Let’s see how this will affect the skiability and the mountains (we can expect an acceleration of the melting of the snowpack, also watch out for a potential influence on weak layers in the short and longer term). 

Be careful in the next few days with a mediocre refreeze expected! 

 

Before the thaw and the sandstorm, all the classic ski routes were being done, in OK conditions (variable skiability). The snow cover is generally a bit poor, but there is just enough to go around. 

 

Nothing special to report if you are starting from the top of the lifts.  For departures from car parks, you will need to walk a bit and it’s not going to get better.  It’s a long walk from le Bettey for the aiguillette des Houches; 10 minutes for the aiguillette des Posettes from the le Tour car park; 15-20 minutes for Loriaz; 25 minutes for Bel Oiseau (short snow-covered sections on the road + steep part of the forest). No information from Plaine Joux (Pormenaz) and the Col de la Forclaz (Pointe Ronde). On the other hand, you can ski from Le Buet (until when?) and at the Col des Montets as well as at Notre Dame de la Gorge (crampons are useful for the first 150 metres of the Roman way). 

 

All the classic routes in the Aiguilles Rouges and Navarre are possible: lacs Jovets/Cicle sector, Armancette, Pointe Noire de Pormenaz, Crochue-Bérard traverse (section under the Alphonse Favre very hard snow in the mornings, reserved for good skiers); Glacier du Mort, Col des Dards and Belvédère (up and down the same way); N side of the Belvédère pass quite dry; col de Beugeant, col de l'Encrenaz, Buet, col de la Terrasse, Bel Oiseau, col de Fenestral. 

 

In the high mountains, it is still dry. The faces and couloirs are either little or not filled. The glaciers are starting to open up even though it's only mid-March. Lots of crevasse rescues have been going on (vallée Blanche, glacier d'Argentière). Remember to routinely rope up on the way up, even if we all find it hard to get into the habit. 

 

The Conscrits hut opens this Friday 18th March. The Dômes de Miage have been done. On the ascent, it's walking until the end of the forest (45 min/1h). The Mauvais Pas (bad step) is OK. Stay on the right bank of the glacier, arête in good condition (no ice). The beginning of the descent between the summit and the col de la Bérangère has been well worked by the wind (sastrugi) but was still skiable. Short skis off section above the lac d'Armancette and then skiing in the bed of an avalanche (from the beginning of the season) until the bottom of the valley. 

 

No real activity yet on Mont Blanc from the Grands Mulets. The “jonction” is passable (“mode gruyère" - lots of crevasses).  Higher up the atmosphere is Himalayan (not recommended for the moment): to be continued... 

 

The same goes for the “trois Monts” with a Mont Blanc du Tacul that is far too dry to climb. 

 

The Vallée Blanche is still going strong (writing this on the 16th of March feels a bit weird... sad) but is more than ever only for good skiers. Crampons are still necessary for the Midi arête. Some tricky crevasses especially near the Gros Rognon. Good bumpy terrain  "à la Grospiron” (a famous French Olympic skier) before the Salle à Manger which is already starting to open up. The Vallée Noire is quite easy but you need to be a good skier (patches of ice, crevasses, avalanche debris). 

 

 

It's getting a bit more dicy descending to Chamonix by the Mottets. You will need to take skis off 2-3 times on the glacier. Beware of the ice (it's hot) which overhangs the place where you take off your skis to go back up to the buvette. The slabs under the buvette have also dried out with the sun and traffic. You will have to walk for 8-10 minutes before the Orthaz couloir and then another 10 minutes on the bends before les Planards.

 

Still some activity around the Brèche Puiseux. The N face of Pointe Yeld is unrecognisable. Dry atmosphere also on the épaule du Tacul and in the Capucin couloir (2 rappels of 60 m at the last news). 

 

Access to the Talèfre basin is via the Pierre à Béranger (so you have to go early). The central couloir looks too dry.   A few teams have climbed the Whymper couloir on the Verte (no more information). Some teams have also been on the Col des Droites and the Pointe Isabelle (no more info). The Y couloir will have been done. 

 

In the Argentière basin, the refuge remains closed for the moment. The winter room is not accessible. The N faces are desperately dry, even the Lagarde couloir is not practicable (very dry at the bottom, cruxes not protectable, the only rope party that has been there recently did not like it!) For the record, a rope party has done the Tournier spur. No news from Petit Viking and co. The Y to the Aiguille d'Argentière is still possible (without access to the refuge, logistics are a bit more complicated!). The summit part of the glacier du Milieu (above the rimaye) is quite dry (ice on the surface) and said to be more technical than usual. Col du Tour Noir and d'Argentière: clear. Dry access to the Col du Chardonnet (crampons). A 60m fixed rope is in place on its N side but the descender does not fit: you will have to manage with an alternate method. 

 

Col du Passon: OK down to le Tour. The Albert 1er refuge opens on Friday (18/03). As a reminder, access is via the Col du Passon at this time. 

 

On the Swiss side, the Trient hut is open. On the other hand, "following incivilities and depredations affecting the security of the building, we have unfortunately had to take the decision to close the Cabane de l'A Neuve completely. Access to the interior of the hut is prohibited until further notice. There is therefore no access possible in winter. It will be reopened for the summer season." Very sad. 

 

Concerning the gullies, the activity is still concentrated around the Aiguille du Midi:  

- Vent du Dragon, Burnier Vogler. INFO of 16-03: rockfall in the Passerelle couloir, the belays could have been impacted. 

- Chéré couloir, Pellissier, Gabarrou-Albinoni, Modica-Noury, Supercouloir (L1+L2 completely dry). Do not exit at the top of Le Tacul but abseil the routes. 

- Lafaille, Valeria.

- N face of the Tour Ronde + Gervasutti couloir (rimaye passes on the right, mixed exit) with descent by the Freshfield couloir. 

 

For ice climbing, you can still climb near the cascade Bérard but you will have to hurry! 

 

It also feels like the end for snowshoeing! It hasn't snowed for a long time and the itineraries at the bottom of the valley can be done with good boots, poles and a small pair of crampons. At altitude (access from the lifts: Prarion, Flégère, Index, aiguillette des Posettes + refuge de Loriaz), they can still be useful when the snow is soft (it's warm) and not sufficiently packed. 

 

We are about to enter an "in-between" period: it is spring in the valley bottom but there is still snow at altitude. Hiking activity should therefore be limited to below 1600-1800 m depending on the sector. The paths are slippery, there may be ice or couloirs to cross.

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Jon Bracey & Matt Helliker Climb Probable New Line on Aiguille Noire de Peuterey

Jon Bracey & Matt Helliker Climb Probable New Line on Aiguille Noire de Peuterey

At the end of February this year, AC member Matt Helliker and British Mountain Guide Jon Bracey made what is likely the first ascent of a line on the ENE face of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey.

Climbed entirely on trad gear, the pair have dubbed the line 'Mad Vlad' and graded it M7 R, IX/8 with Helliker describing the crux pitch as "serious, run out, steep and questionable".

Further details at PlanetMountain.

 

 

 

 

Simon Gietl Makes First Traverse of the Rosengarten Skyline

Simon Gietl Makes First Traverse of the Rosengarten Skyline

Italian alpinist Simon Gietl has, over three days, made the first traverse of the Rosengarten Skyline in the Italian Dolomites. Gietl had initially planned to complete the route with Egon Resch but the pair were forced to abandon the route after Resch was hit by rockfall. Undeterred, Gietl returned on his own and, from the 1 to 3 March, succeeded in reaching all of the major summits in the range.

More details are available at Planet Mountain.

 

 

 

First Winter Ascent of 'Padre Pio Prega Per Noi + Echelle Ver le Ciel'

First Winter Ascent of 'Padre Pio Prega Per Noi + Echelle Ver le Ciel'

On the 1 March, after 3 days of climbing, the Italian team of François Cazzanelli, Emrik Favre and Francesco Ratti topped out on the link up 'Padre Pio Prega Per Noi + Echelle Ver le Ciel' (1,870m, 7b) on the South Face of the Matterhorn.

'Padre Pio Prega Per Noi' is a 700m line which finishes on the Pilastro dei Fiori pillar. It can be continued to the summit via 'Echelle Ver le Ciel', giving the complete 41-pitch link up. This was the first repeat of the complete route and the first ascent of the line in winter.

Further details are available at Planet Mountain.

 

 

 

Alpine Club Statement on Ukraine

Alpine Club Statement on Ukraine

The Alpine Club Committee deplores the invasion of Ukraine and stands united with the people of Ukraine in the face of Russia's violent aggression.

We also support the many Russian climbers who have expressed their opposition to what their government is doing.

We welcome the suspension of the Russian Mountaineering Federation from the UIAA. No alpinists or mountaineering officials from Russia or Belarus should be allowed to participate in UIAA events and all Russian and Belarus delegates should be excluded from UIAA working groups, committees and commissions, until Ukraine's sovereignty is respected and all Russian troops are withdrawn.

 

 

 

Report: 02 March 2022

Some very brief information!

Not much has changed since the last report.

There is still a lot of ski touring happening. All the classic routes are being done daily.

Generally speaking, it’s possible to find "powder snow” on shaded slopes that have not been exposed to the wind. There is spring snow on the southerly slopes. In the high mountains, the wind has worked the snow well but the skiing is still quite pleasant. Ski crampons (couteaux/harscheisen) are becoming more and more useful.

Good snow on the descent between the Brévent and the Pont d'Arlevé. It's not so good in the combe du Pouce (a small gap in the exit canyon).

As is often the case, the traverse between the Col des Crochues and the Col de Bérard is on hard snow especially below the Pointe Alphonse Favre: you need to be a good skier. Very hard snow at the top of Mont Buet, couteaux are recommended.

The Bérard valley is still ok well down to le Buet (some rocks below the Bérard waterfall).

There will be a little bit of portage to go up to Loriaz (the path is quite icy: best to stay on the 4WD path). Same thing to go up to the Aiguillette des Posettes from the le Tour car park.

There is a good track in to go up to the col des Autannes (couteaux and boot crampons useful). The descent from the col de Passon to le Tour is fine. The col supérieur du Tour is fine (50 m of easy mixed climbing at the top).

Some activity around the Aiguille d'Argentière with the Y being done in ascent (a mixed pitch at the bottom), the Barbey couloir (upper third in hard snow/ice then good), the Glacier du Milieu (quite dry above the rimaye with a lot of ice, the narrow bit is fine)

Vallée Blanche: after the wind, there is ice back on the arête: you will need crampons. The quality of the snow is variable but the snow cover is good. There is still some ice in the exit couloir of the Grand Envers which should be avoided. A few patches of ice and skis off in the last few turns before the Planards farm.

Still good general conditions on the brèche Puiseux.

The Cosmiques arête is tracked.

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Report: 24 February 2022

The ski touring season is in full swing. Mostly very good conditions. The snow cover is quite good (except under 1700-1800 m where you can hit the ground depending on the sector). The quality of the snow is also good where the sun has not yet warmed it up too much. Let's hope that the wind today and in the next few days does not damage the quality of the snow too much! 

All the classic routes are being done: Contamines, Anterne/Pormenaz, Aiguilles Rouges, Bérard valley, Bel Oiseau, col de la Forclaz (rather thin snow on the path leading to the Giète alpage). 

Good conditions also on the glaciers which are relatively well filled in: col du Passon, 3 Cols, col du Chardonnet, col du Tour Noir, col d'Argentière, brèche Puiseux.  

The Vallée Blanche is also in very good condition. The snow is still a bit sparse at the Salle à Manger and on the Mer de Glace, but it is skiable. At the moment you can ski down to the buvette des Mottets. You will need to take skis off twice on the way to Les Planards down the James Bond track. 

The entry to the glacier Rond needs crampons. There was a "frozen crust" on the upper slope. The exit corridor is well filled. Couloir des Cosmiques skied in good conditions on 24/02. Exit on the right bank of the glacier quite technical, it's narrow between the crevasses and the rock. Maybe better to cross to La Para than go down the right bank of the Bossons glacier (little snow and lots of rocks). 

As a reminder, the Requin and Torino huts are open. The Cosmiques hut opens this Saturday, 26 February. The Argentière hut will open on 6 March. 

On the other hand, we are approaching the end of the season (which has not been exceptional in the valley) for the ice climbing. 

Gully activity is on hold after the snowfalls but it should start again soon. Beware of overcrowding and temperatures: we are moving towards spring and the sun is beating down fast (you will have to think about sleeping in a hut!)

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Dr Jim Milledge

The Club will be saddened to learn that Dr Jim Milledge, a past Vice-President, and renowned for his research on the physiology of altitude, has died.  

The funeral service will be held on 17 March - more details later.

 

 

French Trio Complete 'Winter Alpine Super Trilogy'

French Trio Complete 'Winter Alpine Super Trilogy'

The team of Benjamin Védrines, Léo Billon and Sébastien Ratel from the French GMHM have finished off their tour of classic north faces with an ascent of the Gogna-Cerruti (A2, 6b, M7) on the Matterhorn. 

In less than a month, the trio have climbed the Harlin Route on the Eiger (its first ascent in winter), Directe de L'amitié on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses (free) and now the Gogna-Cerruti. Not only does this mark the completion of the so-called 'Winter Alpine Super Trilogy,' of north faces, but the team have also set a new benchmark in terms of style; climbing their chosen routes quickly and with improvements to the previous style of ascent.

More details are available at the French publication Alpine Mag.

                             

 

 

The First Winter Ascent of Nanga Parbat | Alpine Journal Extract

The First Winter Ascent of Nanga Parbat - Journal Extract

On 26 February 2016, Simone Moro, Alex Txicon and Ali Sadpara reached the summit of Nanga Parbat via the Kinshofer route to make the first winter ascent. Nanga Parbat was first attempted in winter in 1988-89 by a Polish team and more than 30 expeditions have tried since. Moro reflected on both the historic and his personal journey to the first winter ascent in a piece for the 2016 Alpine Journal.

The Diamir face of Nanga Parbat. Moro switched from the Messner route to the Kinshofer due to unusually risky conditions on his favoured line.
(All photos courtesy of Simone Moro)

It was a cold dream, one almost 30 years in the making, on an epic mountain, the biggest in the world even if it isn’t the highest. In the course of those three decades I spent a whole year either under or on the slopes of Nanga Parbat before finally realising my ambition of climbing to the summit in winter, and with a unique group of people. To realise big dreams you have to accept long waits and numerous defeats; rework strategies, teams and tactics. In a nutshell, you have to be willing to be mentally very strong as well as physically.

A winter expedition to an 8,000er is not the cold version of a spring or summer expedition. It’s another world, a way of doing alpinism that’s completely different; one that has to be learned, understood and experienced. Cold is certainly one of the elements with which you have to cope, but there is also the constant wind, freezing and damn loud, a wind that can force you to stay in your tent at base camp even if the sky is clear and the sun is shining. Good weather windows are very rare and brief so acclimatisation phases are often irregular and incomplete; staying on the mountain for gradually increasing periods is incredibly difficult. Days are also very short and so the potential period for active climbing is reduced.

The times you leave and reach camps or for a summit bid are very different from those in summer. You can’t be out in the dark, out of your tent and sleeping bag. Gas cans used to melt snow and provide water often freeze and must be kept warm. You never leave high camps up; tents are taken down and packed every time you leave them to return to the valley. There are so many technical details and protocols that must be respected when climbing an 8,000er in winter. Our climb of Nanga Parbat this winter was all this, but with a human drama and a sequence of events spread over nearly three months, which eventually focused on six days and five nights spent on the mountain in late February, days that were unforgettable and ultimately historic.

There were so many of us this year dreaming of the first ascent of the penultimate winter summit of an 8,000er. These dreamers formed six expeditions, four on the Diamir side, totalling nine climbers, and two on the Rupal side, with 10. Routes chosen were the Messner-Eisendle-Tomaseth and Kinshofer for the Diamir side and the Schell for the Rupal. These were the three lines along which our dreams ran last winter; all had been attempted before in the years since the first winter attempt in 1988-89, when a Polish team led by that brilliant expedition leader Andrzej Zawada made the first winter attempt on Nanga Parbat, on that occasion via the Kinshofer.

Jumaring a fixed line on the summit bid.

But there was something different this year to all my previous winter expeditions. I felt something in my soul, in my heart and mind. I’ve never wanted a mountain like I did this year and this desire was sweet: it was love. I didn’t think about defeating the mountain, I never thought like that; I wanted instead to have a good relationship with her, I wanted to court her, to take things gently. I was already prepared to accept a third failure in winter following those of 2012 and 2014, but this time I was sure, really strongly confident that Nanga Parbat would be granted me after so many years.

I had learned a bit about the Himalayan giants; I had the experience of 15 winter expeditions. Although I had already climbed three 8,000ers in winter, both in the Himalaya and the Karakoram and always with several companions, I realised that for a special dream like Nanga we wanted a special team and a special atmosphere. For this reason I chose Tamara Lunger: we had shared some mountaineering projects since 2009, but only recently, in the last year, had we become climbing partners, following my long association with Denis Urubko. In 2015 Tamara and I attempted Manaslu together in winter, and although we didn’t make the summit, we climbed two smaller peaks via two new routes alpine style, and I realised that Tamara was the right one, even for an adventure in winter. She is strong at altitude [Editor’s note: Lunger was the second Italian woman to climb K2 without oxygen and is a highly regarded ski mountaineer], stronger than most I’ve met in my 25-year career, she is always in a good mood, and most of all she was also in love with Nanga Parbat and high altitude.

As a team of two people of different sexes, taking a different approach from usual made sense; we decided not to communicate with the outside world for the whole of the expedition. We weren’t in a hurry, we had more than three and a half months, all of the winter season, and we knew we wouldn’t be back home until 21 March. We chose not to report anything, not to update websites or have a dedicated blog; that was the second surprise, and I knew this decision was at odds with others on the mountain.

It was 6 December when we flew from Milan to Islamabad and as always happens on any expedition, especially winter, things did not go as expected. We wanted to acclimatise on the 7,000m peak Spantik, before going to Nanga Parbat, but our local agent did not respect our agreement, and tried to quadruple our fee; we knew there would probably be further increases when we got back from base camp, and that we had no other option but to accept. So we cancelled the first part of the expedition and headed to Nanga Parbat base camp, which we reached on 27 December.

Two months passed, intense, beautiful and fascinating months, before the day arrived when all our waiting and efforts paid off. Before that, however, Tamara and I tried for a month to climb the Messner route, more dangerous this year than usual. That month was spent going backwards and forwards up the Diama glacier, always briskly, and then going as high as possible on Ganalo Peak while still getting down during the day to the base of our route. It was nearly 15km to base camp from that quiet and wild place. The Pole Tomek Mackiewicz and his expedition partner Elisabeth Revol had the same goal but with different methods and strategies from our own, although with the same belief in the beauty and appeal of the Messner route.

In the course of a month Tamara and I weren’t able to get beyond 6,000m and spent just two nights at 5,800m. That was too little gain in altitude for any valuable acclimatisation and any realistic hope of success in winter on that route. Constant serac collapses and a dangerous maze to work through the initial part of the route made us realise we had to change. Tomek added weight to our decision; his last desperate attempt ended at 7,400m. He and Elisabeth decided to return home.

At camp 2 the four climbers discovered that two of their sleeping mats had blown away. They were forced to share for the next five nights.

It was a similar story with the Poles Adam Bielicki and Jacek Czech, who returned home, the first after a fall and the other for health problems. Time was moving on; the large Polish expedition attempting the Rupal Face stopped hoping and fighting and went home, as well as the Brazilian-born American Cleo Weidlich and her team of Sherpas. Of the original expeditions, there remained just me and Tamara and the team of Alex Txicon from Spain, who had invited us to join him and his group on the Kinshofer at the start of the expedition.

After we gave up on the Messner, we accepted his offer and were both happy and excited; I was always convinced that this was the year. I kept repeating to Tamara and later also to Alex and his climbing partner, the Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara: this year we would go to the top. However, Alex’s invitation caused a strange reaction from his expedition partner Daniele Nardi. For complex reasons and personal relationships, we split them apart, and Daniele took the decision to abandon base camp.

So it was a case of those who were left, those who were stranded on Nanga Parbat to carry on to the summit in the teeth of the winter cold. Despite this, we were for sure the most resilient and optimistic team I’d ever experienced, able to move every day over the course of two months, even in cold weather, keeping fit and active. True, we were also the least acclimatised we had ever been; although Tamara and I were very fast, we hadn’t once slept high in almost three months of the climb. Finally, having switched to the Kinshofer, we had an opportunity to spend a night at camp two. With Alex and Ali, we tested our engines, going in less than 10 hours from base camp, around 4,300m on Nanga Parbat, to camp two at 6,100m; we passed a good night and worked beautifully with our two new fellow adventurers.

We had made the most of a single sunny day to make that flying visit to altitude and now prepared to wait for the right window, a period of good weather sufficiently long and stable to allow us a try. There was a little less than a month to go before the end of winter but I kept repeating like a mantra that this was the year I would get to the top, we will go to the top, the top… It was not an obsession, but a clear conviction. I felt it. I knew it.

The four climbers back at base camp: left to right Alex Txicon, Tamara Lunger, Simone Moro and Muhammad Ali Sadpara.

It was a cold and frosty morning when Tamara, Alex, Ali and I set off on 22 February 2016 on snowshoes to the base of the Kinshofer route. The window of good weather had arrived, and with it the clear intention of attempting the summit even though I knew that on paper both Tamara and I had insufficient acclimatisation for a big jump of more than 4,000m in altitude.

We reached camp two in about nine hours, fast, smiling, happy, despite the bitter cold and the shady steep gully we climbed. But when we arrived we had a nasty surprise that would cost us for the next five nights. Two sleeping mats had been blown away by the wind in the preceding few days; the four of us would have to share the remaining mats in the incredible cold of winter nights high on Nanga Parbat. We spent two nights in the tent at camp two because of strong winds that arrived next day. Four sleeping on two mattresses wasn’t very comfortable, but at least we found a solution to this setback that would see us through the attempt.

The weather remained stable, albeit with wind and cold, and we climbed first to camp three at 6,750m and then camp four at 7,150m, striking and packing the tent each morning with all the other gear. The last camp we deliberately located lower than usual, 1,000m below the summit. We could feel our obvious failure to acclimatise and so had to come up with a new strategy as well as being determined. Tamara and I were already 1,000m higher than the maximum altitude we had reached in the previous three months, and now we had to climb another 1,000m.

We had divided the work with Alex and Ali, but now we needed to decide how best to deal with the summit day. We left the tent at different times, to allow everyone to get ready comfortably and not all four of us at the same time. I wasn’t using battery-heated insoles like the others, so I left the tent last. First were Ali and Alex, at 6am on 26 February; half an hour later it was Tamara’s turn to leave the haven of the tent. I got myself ready, warming my feet over the stove and then left at 7.45am. I kept up a strong and steady pace, with regular breaks, and reached first Tamara and then my companions. It was cold, very cold, minus 34°C with a strong wind of 45km/h, so it felt more like minus 58°C.

It was only at around 10.30am that we saw the first rays of the sun transform the mountain’s harsh appearance and lift our mood, even though the unceasing wind seemed now to spread everywhere as we gained altitude and became more exposed to its exhausting effects. Our hypoxia was becoming more pronounced; I could manage only around five steps, sometimes ten. It was past 2pm when we passed the 8,000m mark, spread out but in visual contact. Ali, in that last stretch, climbed a little to the right of the usual line of ascent, while Alex, Tamara and I stuck to the regular route, becoming increasingly fatigued as we strove towards a summit that seemed never to arrive.

In the morning, just after she left the tent, Tamara had been sick, vomiting the little breakfast she had managed to eat. She continued to vomit every time I offered her liquid or food. It was also the start of her menstrual cycle, adding to her fatigue. Clear-headed and rational, she took the decision to abandon the summit at around 8,040m, only 80m or so in altitude from the top. The decision probably saved her life. The three of us, a little ahead, took the last few steps to the summit at 8,126m. It had taken 27 years since the first attempt in winter, generations of alpinists passing on the baton to keep alive a project that seemed almost impossible.

Moro had to persuade his two fellow summit climbers Alex Txicon and Muhammad Ali Sadpara to pose for a photograph in the face of intense cold.

We hugged on top, exhausted, incredulous but sharing an ecstatic joy. It was already 3.30pm. Now in the last hours of daylight and coping with the obvious exhaustion, we hurried to start our descent. Not seeing Tamara, we realised that something had happened and she was already on her way down. Ali had seen her from the summit and waved a few minutes before. I insisted that we stop to take a photograph on the top; Ali and Alex weren’t fussed because of the cold, but I managed to capture this historic moment not only for us.

I wanted to look once again to the Rupal side. I imagined it was almost 50 years ago, and those two lads from the South Tyrol, Reinhold and Günther Messner, were climbing up towards me. As a child they had made me dream. Reading about them, realising that their strength was in the co-operation and understanding they shared, I developed the ambition to one day become a man capable of climbing mountains, to try to do it my way, finding my own path with a close companion as they did. With Tamara I found that connection again, and with Ali and Alex we established a unique and almost unrepeatable bond. If the dedication of my fourth first winter ascent was to Günther Messner, I must also acknowledge the team with whom I lived for five nights and six days on Nanga Parbat, as well as all those who for 30 years kept the flame of this dream alight.

 

 

 

Livingstone and Dumarest Make the First Ascent of 'Changing Corners' (M7) on Pointe Adolphe Rey

Livingstone and Dumarest Make the First Ascent of 'Changing Corners' (M7) on Pointe Adolphe Rey

French mountain guide Christophe Dumarest and AC member Tom Livingstone have made the first ascent of a new line on Pointe Adolphe Rey. The pair put up 'Changing Corners' (M7, 250m) in a single day from Chamonix, both climbing the route free.

In a post on his Facebook Page (below), Tom had this to say about the climbing: "The granite is mostly good, footholds very small, and ice non-existant, which makes for a nice challenge".

More details are available at Planet Mountain.

                           

 

Report: 03 February 2022

Some information just after the passage of the disturbance. We will know more tomorrow at the end of the day!
 
Unfortunately, we had more wind than snow. It's difficult to estimate the quantities as it was so windy (10cm at the bottom of the valley, 15 at 2,000m, 25 at 3,500).
 
We are told that the conditions in the Aiguilles Rouges are quite variable. The quality of the snow is very changeable depending on the slopes and the exposure. You can find everything: a load-bearing crust with a little powder on it, a thin crust of ice that breaks, but also accumulations (some more dangerous, some less. Some good to ski, some less) and icy slopes. The wind and the layers of fog are probably responsible for this.
 
A team turned back on the slope (traverse) just before the brèche de Bérard (big accumulations + whumpfs). The col de Beugeant/Encrenaz on the Buet side is said to be totally ice/glazed snow.
 
Col de Salenton (quite good ski to the refuge) and col de Bérard tracked. Visually the southern slopes of the Buet are smooth. The little bit of snow "softened" the return to Le Buet. We hope for better conditions elsewhere (Contamines or Bel Oiseau sector)!
 
Caution, sharp edges, ski crampons, a good level of skiing technique and good experience are therefore required!
 
"Glacier des Rognons not great, Col d'Argentière good but it was hot".
 
In the Vallée Blanche, the skiing was pleasant up to the Requin (Petit Envers, Moyen Envers, slopes of the Rognon). A big hole was reported right under the Petit Rognon. The Vallée Classique seems to have taken a bit more wind.
On the other side (Vierge, Vallée Noire, climbs up to the Périades) it's visually quite damaged by the wind.
The Salle à Manger is OK even if it's not very snowy for the time of year.
The same goes for the Mer de Glace, but you can ski to the grotto.
 
No change for the descent via the Mottets buvette: for good skiers, you will scratch your skis a bit on the glacier and then a few stones are found in the bends just before the Planards farm.
 
Report translated from La Chamoniarde.
 
 
 

GMHM Team Follow up the Eiger with 'Directe de L'amitié' on the Grandes Jorasses

GMHM Team Follow up the Eiger with 'Directe de L'amitié' on the Grandes Jorasses

Desnivel report that the team of Léo Billon, Sébastien Ratel and Benjamin Védrines from the French High Mountain Military Group (GMHM) have made a successful ascent of 'Directe de L'amitié' on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. This ascent, completed over three days, comes just a short while after the trio made the first winter ascent of the 'Harlin Route' on the north face of the Eiger.

In a post on his professional Facebook account, (below), Védrines indicates that the team climbed the route free and that they will now have to think of a suitable follow-up, with many observers assuming that this will involve the Matterhorn as a way of completing the so-called 'Winter Alpine Super Trilogy'.

                      

 

 

 

Corrado Pesce Rescue Called Off

Corrado Pesce Rescue Called Off

Argentina's El Chalten Alpine Rescue Centre have confirmed that they are calling off the rescue operation for Corrado 'Korra' Pesce after drone photography captured images of Pesce's body 50m below his last known bivi spot.

Pesce, who had been descending the mountain following the successful ascent of a new route with his partner Tomás Aguiló, was hit by rock and ice fall during a short rest and was too badly injured to continue the descent. Aguiló, who was also injured, successfully called for a rescue and descended the mountain where he met a rescue party who were able to transfer him to a helicopter.

Alpine Magazine have published a tribute to Pesce, a widely respected Chamonix-based climber and mountain guide, that can be read here.  

 

 

 

Harlin Route Receives First Winter Ascent

Harlin Route Receives First Winter Ascent

Between January 12 and January 16 2022, Léo Billon, Sébastien Ratel and Benjamin Védrines made the first winter ascent of the Harlin Route on the north face of the Eiger. All three are members of the Chamonix GMHM and the military organisation confirmed the ascent via a post on its Facebook and Instagram pages in which it was indicated that the team had climbed in alpine style, with four bivouacs indicated on the route.

Further details are available at Climber.co.uk.

                                                               

 

 

 

Report: 21 January 2022

Some summary information during this (long) high pressure system!

The good weather means that all winter mountain activitiesare feasible.  All the ski touring routes are being done. You will find all sorts of snow. The classic routes on glaciers are also beginning to be done, with decent conditions (the glaciers are on the whole relatively well filled in).

There is also some activity in the gullies (it's generally quite dry) and on icefalls.

Ski touring

Sector Contamines/ Notre Dame de la Gorge : always a lot of people in this sector. The bottom of the Roman road is deteriorating (stones/ice) but nothing dramatic.

Some portage to the chalets of Chailloux, as well as on the Bel Oiseau side.

All the itineraries of the Aiguilles Rouges are tracked, the snow quality is changing!

Access to the Loriaz refuge by ski touring is via the forest road (no portage at the moment).

Less snow in the Trient sector than in the Chamonix valley.

Glacier Skiing

The Aiguille du Midi arete is equipped (on the crest of the arete, Z to come). This should not make you forget that the Vallée Blanche is a high mountain itinerary which requires the appropriate knowledge and skills (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Qkpf_TRj1es&feature=emb_title). Do not hesitate to call on a professional!

The exit couloir of the Grand Envers is ice, so avoid it.

The Vallée Noire has deteriorated, only for good skiers. The classic valley or the slopes of the Rognon seem to be the most suitable variants at the moment.

The Requin refuge will reopen tomorrow, Friday 22nd January. The Mer de Glace is still not very snowy but you can slide reasonably to Montenvers. It is possible to go down to Chamonix via the Mottets buvette for good skiers (some stones on the James Bond track and in the turns before the Planards farm).

Brèche Puiseux : good route up, good boot track in the couloir, a few dry meters (rock) to reach the col. 2 abseils of 30 m to get onto  the glacier of Mont Mallet which is relatively well filled in.

One team on the Pointe Isabelle side. 

Bassin d'Argentière/ Glacier du Tour: Col du Passon tracked, descent towards Le Tour still not exceptional but good snow conditions. Col du Chardonnet (30m abseiling towards Saleinaz, at the moment!) and Trois Cols frequented, good general conditions. You can ski on the Améthystes glacier, the Tour Noir and the Rouges du Dolent.

Y couloir skied about ten days ago without more information (it must have changed since).

On the N side, it's dry. Some skiers on the Col des Cristaux(hard snow but grippy), dry at the top. One team has baled at the rimaye on the NE face of Les Courtes.

Some activity on the Trient side (glacier des Grands, couloir du Pissoir; in spite of a thin snow cover on the lower part you can descend the cross-country ski trails) or on the Italian side (col d'Entrèves, glacier de Toula, Marbrées without more information; glacier de la Brenva on the other hand not in conditions).

Goulottes

It's quite dry in the high mountains. Activity mainly in the Vallée Blanche sector.

No news from the N face of the Aiguille du Midi. GoulotteChéré ok, some people daily in the Gabarrou-Albinoni (beware of rock falls when it's hot) or in the Modica-Noury. Quite dry conditions in the Pellissier gully. Some ropes on the Super Couloir without more information, as well as on the Valéria and the Lafaille. A bit of activity on the Combe Maudite (Filo D'Arianna...), it goes but it's not very busy. Good conditions on the N face of the Tour Ronde, the Rebuffat goulotte is dry.

Experienced climbers took advantage of the anticyclone to do an expedition on the N face of the Jorasses (No Siesta, Gousseau-Desmaison, Rolling Stones).

In the Argentière basin (there is still wood in the refuge), it's dry. One team in the Lagarde couloir (the mixed section at the top is even drier!). Petit Viking: the lower slope is completely dry. By eye, the Charlet-Couturier (Dolent) is "thin but doable".

It's also dry on the Chardonnet side.

Ice falls

There is a little bit of ice in the valley (be careful with the overcrowding).  You can climb on the Bérard (please respect the instructions at the bottom), climbing is starting at the Crémerie but it's not very thick or wide.

The waterfalls on the left bank of the Argentière glacier are rather thin and not very attractive (Mur des Dents de la Mer sector). It's better on the right bank.

You can climb around the Armancette, Le Reposoir or Cogne.

Snowshoeing

The routes are now well marked and groomed. Good shoes, poles and small crampons are generally enough to complete the marked routes. Snowshoes are not necessary to go up to Loriaz, it is better to use small crampons.

 

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Report: 13 January 2022

Some news in this anticyclonic period!

The lifts are open. The snow cover is overall OK. The cold has returned. There is some fog in the plains. An almost "normal" situation for a month of January!

The main activity remains ski touring. Even if the snow cover is good, you have to be careful below 1,600m as here you can easily touch the ground or frozen avalanche debris. Since the last snowfall last weekend, there has been quite a lot of NE wind but in a very localised way. Some areas are trashed while others have remained protected. This is where you have to be good at choosing your route!

As a consequence, you have to be wary of the presence of wind slab here and there. Similarly, the quality of the snow varies greatly from one sector to another (from powder to sastruggi and everything in between)! The southern slopes are starting to warm up. Watch out for the isotherm rising from tomorrow!

All the classic sectors are frequented but we are struggling to get precise feedback, especially on the lower parts of routes (whether you need to carry skis...).

Very good conditions are reported around Les Contamines (around Lac Jovets and Cols Fenêtre, Cicle and Chasseurs). The Roman road is ok and you can ski to the car park. The new refuge des Près is open.

 

Pointe Noire de Pormenaz from Plaine Joux: The Chorde couloir is ok, wind affected snow above the lac de Pormenaz.

 

Aiguilles Rouges: The classics are getting tracked.

The traverse between the Col des Crochues and the Col de Bérard is again reserved for good skiers (alternating frozen snow and wind affected snow).

 

Generally speaking, the Bérard valley remains fairly protected from the wind except at the top: the further down you go, the better it is. On the steep slopes, we were told that there was a lot of ice, which was not recommended according to the feedback we got. The bottom of the valley is relatively easy even if the snow cover is quite poor.

Crampons are useful to access the Pointe Alphonse Favre. The top of the glacier du Mort has very hard snow, 50m side slip necessary; packed powder below.

Quite a lot of tracks at the col and at the brèche de Bérard (very good snow).

Le Buet is tracked without more information.

The col de Beugeant was tracked today. Tracks also on the N side of the Belvedere pass.

The Lac Blanc sector (Col des Dards, Col du Belvédère) and the Col de l'Encrenaz were very affected by the wind.

 

Loriaz: You can ski from Le Couteray, either by the 4x4 road or the summer path. Pointe des Charmoz and Col de la Terrasse are tracked, good ski conditions.

 

Bel Oiseau sector: some portage in the forest, good conditions above in the sector. Carraye, croix de Prelaye, pointe Ronde: OK

 

Bassin d'Argentière sector: Col du Passon tracked, better skiability by going back the same way (lots of wind damage on the Le Tour side even if the snow cover is good).

Col du Tour Noir and Argentière have been tracked.

No activity yet to our knowledge on the Col du Chardonnet/Trois cols.

No one back on the N faces either (Col des Cristaux etc...).

 

Vallée Blanche: Arête still not equipped (expected early February, to be confirmed) but in fairly good condition (no ice; however, reserved for ski mountaineers). All routes except the "vraie vallée" have been tracked. The snow quality was good at the beginning of the week, the upper part was a bit windy between yesterday and today but it was still quite good. The salle à manger is ok.

 

One team has been to the Brèche du Tacul with a descent on the Mont Mallet glacier which went quite well on 12/01. Brèche Puiseux tracked today without more information.

The mer de glace is quite dry, you have to be careful not to scratch your skis too much. You can stop at the grotto or continue to Les Mottets (there too there is still a lack of snow). The refreshment bar is open! The descent to Chamonix is OK except for the few turns before the farm where you have to go slowly due to a lack of snow.

 

A bit of activity on the glacier Rond and the couloir des Cosmiques but only for the elite.

 

You will scrape your skis on the lower part of the Pré du Rocher.

 

Concerning the gullies: Regular activity on the side of the Aiguille du Midi (Jottnar; Vent du Dragon), the Triangle du Tacul (Chéré), the E face of the Tacul (Gabarrou-Albinoni/Modica- Noury: be careful with the rimaye which collapsed in part ten days ago), Pointes Lachenal (Pellissier), the Petit Capucin (Valeria gully). Probably some lines formed in the Combe Maudite (Filo D'Arianna...).

Nothing heard from the Argentière basin but there will be soon because of the good weather that is coming!

The return of cold weather has meant that ice falls have reformed! No detailed information but there must be scope on both the rive gauche and the rive droite of the Argentière glacier.

 

Snow shoeing routes are accessible. The more experienced can go up to the chalets de Chailloux and to the Loriaz refuge (unmarked routes).

 

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.