News

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.

 

 

 

Piero Nava

We have recently received from his son the sad news of the death last September of Piero Nava.  He joined in 1973 and became an ACG member in 1986.

Members can log in to submit their tributes or send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that they can be posted on the website. 

 

 

Report: 31 December 2021

A brief overview of conditions: the last one of the year!

As expected, the heavy rain (it rained up to at least 2,700m, on top of wet snow) and the wind did some damage.

The quality of the snow for off-piste and ski touring is generally irregular and not very good, sometimes dangerous (breakable crust: for the knees, hard: watch out for injuries). There have been many avalanches which have ravaged cwms (“combes”) and couloirs. The snow cover is still good for the season, you can still skin from the valley floor.

On the northern slopes, the snow is crusty (will it break, won't it?), which hardens as you go up in altitude. Above 2,000m, there is icy snow in places, be careful when it's steep or exposed. It is better above 2,700 m (wind blown, compacted snow, sometimes powdery), with for example some good turns at the top of the Vallée Blanche. The latter is more than ever suitable only for very good skiers in these conditions (sometimes very hard snow) and with mountaineering skills (Midi arete still not equipped, early season glacial conditions).

On sunny slopes, you can find a little spring snow that softens in the sun but you have to aim right (the right time, the right altitude). Otherwise it's “croute” (crust) but without the “fromage” :) which is tough on body and soul. The refreeze is limited to the surface of the snowpack and you must not be too late (wet snow slides).

In short, ski touring and off-piste skiing at the moment are for good skiers and those who know how to find the best conditions. And don't forget your “couteaux” (ski crampons)!

For the rest, you can always go up by the marked routes and go down by the pistes!

Everyone will find a way to enjoy the good weather and the mountains!

Reagarding the goulottes, we don't have any feedback yet, you will have to take advantage of the good weather forecast and the lack of wind to go and see this weekend. It is possible that you will find even on steep ground crust, fresh snow etc.

The icefalls have been very affected by the rain and the thaw. The managers of the artificial site of Bérard has asked that nobody climbs there until further notice (for safety reasons and to preserve the remaining ice). At the Crémerie, there was already no ice before! Bad conditions also reported on the left bank (Mini Couloir: all dry; Déferlante: a big shower, 1 dry passage...); to be continued!

The marked routes for snowshoeing at the bottom of the valley remain practicable, those at altitude (access via the lifts) will be more pleasant (less icy snow, more open landscapes).

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Report: 23 December 2021

Some feedback after this period of good weather.

The main activity has been ski touring. The last snowfall was a while ago. The sun and the wind have had a big effect on the quality of the snow, you will have to be crafty to have a good descent! All the classic itineraries are being done, from les Contamines to the Pointe Ronde. Reasonable snow cover but not always optimal skiability! The only important information is that the crossing between the Crochue and Bérard cols is bullet hard and very exposed. It is therefore reserved for excellent skiers with sharp edges.

As far as the glaciers go, the Aiguille du Midi opened last weekend. The Midi arete is beautiful but very thin, steep and icy, you will need the feet of a mountaineer! Good conditions (here too, variable snow quality, still quite good at the last news on the slopes of Rognon and Petit Envers) on the whole on the Vallée Blanche even if it is reserved for experienced skiers on the glacier (knowledge of the terrain). At the Salle à Manger level, take the lower track which is safer. The descent to Chamonix via the Mottets (refreshment bar open!) is fine. Some skiers have been towards the Brèche Puiseux but bad snow conditions are reported. A bit of activity also on the Argentière side: Col du Passon (bad snow quality on the descent towards the Tour : sastrugi, breakable crust!!!); col du Tour Noir, col d'Argentière.

Some resumption of activity in the gullies. Teams in the Chéré couloir and on the S face of the Pointes Lachenal (no more information), in the Modica-Noury and the Gabarrou- Albinoni (good general conditions but sometimes thin ice, take short ice screws) or on Valéria (last two pitches quite dry). No news from the N face of the Aiguille du Midi (Fil à Plomb, Vent du Dragon...) or the N faces of the Argentière basin. Don't hesitate to give us your feedback!

Ice climbing: You can climb on the left bank (rive gauche) of the Argentière glacier (Mur des Dents de la Mer/Déferlante sector). Crémerie (no ice), EMHM and Ressac in bad conditions. Teams seen on the right bank (rive droite) but no more information (except Mer de Rêve is said to be in good nick). By eye, the cascade des Pétoudes (Trient) could go (not the case for the Loriaz cascades (no refreeze at the hut for a week!).

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Polish Team Climb Hard New Route on Uli Biaho Gallery

Polish mountaineers Marcin Tomaszewski and Damian Bielecki have climbed a new route, 'Frozen Fight Club' (A3, M7, 780m), on Uli Baho Gallery in the Pakistan Karakoram, enduring temperatures as low as -32°C over the 11 days of ascent.

Planet Mountain have the full report.

 

 

 

 

Christmas at Camp II - Holiday Tales from the Mountains

Christmas at Camp II - Holiday Tales from the Mountains

Christmas is a time of year traditionally associated with family and with the process of returning home to warmth and comfort. It is a festival that alleviates the loneliness and the darkness of the cold winter months. What then should we make of those who choose to spend their Christmases away from home in the world’s wild places, where the days may be even shorter and colder than they were at home?

To get an idea of the motivations for heading to the mountains in the holiday season and to discover how mountaineers have marked the festival when far from home, we dug into the Alpine Journal Archive to bring you a series of extracts from Christmas expeditions past. We eat Christmas cake from a helmet, share marzipan on summits and deal with a common Christmas problem; unwanted gifts.


Deciding to Go

Finding partners to join you over Christmas can be challenging. Particularly when you decide to go last minute. This was certainly the case for Michael Binnie when, at the end of December 1990, he made the sudden decision to climb Chimborazo:

“None of my old climbing friends could make it ('if only you'd thought of it earlier'), but nothing was going to stop me - dammit, I would solo Chimborazo if need be - and then I thought of Will Gault. He is 20 years my junior, a City man and, crucially, a bachelor. I rang him at work.
'Doing anything at Christmas?'
'Not really. Anything on?'
'Want to climb a mountain in Ecuador?'
And, after a very short pause, 'Yes, OK.'

Michael was not only successful in securing a partner, but he and Will also made a successful ascent of Chimborazo via the Whymper route. You can read a full account of that trip, including their search for fuel so as to avoid a cold Christmas dinner, here.

And speaking of Christmas dinner…

 

Vittles

The weight of equipment and supplies on expeditions is often a matter of great concern. In a 1991 piece, Stephen Venables recalls how an expedition to the island of South Georgia was hampered by its lack of robust equipment:

“Our strategy was to establish a secure base at the Ross pass and from there eventually attempt some climbing. If we had had sufficient sea or air back-up, we would have done better to use heavy pyramid tents and sledges, enabling us to move as a self-contained unit over the glaciers. However, because of limited funds and uncertain transport arrangements, we had opted for a compromise, carrying only lightweight tents and no sledges.”

But this poverty of supplies apparently did not extend to Christmas dinner, for which they appear to have been better supplied than some restaurants:

“We now had to build a new cave, higher up the wall of the wind-scoop. First, down at Royal Bay, we had a late Christmas dinner on 28 December. Marks and Spencer provisions, supplemented by some supplies from Fortnum and Mason, ensured a decent meal of stuffed eggs with caviar, Parma ham and champagne; game soup; goose quenelles with a passable Cabernet Sauvignon; Christmas pudding and whisky butter; port, brandy and Dutch cigars.”

Well-fueled by this, Stephen and team went on to make an ascent of Mount Carse where, appropriately for the Christmas season, they shared a block of marzipan on the summit. You can read the full account of their time on the ‘Islands at the edge of the World’ here.

 

But a full Christmas dinner is not always so easy to come by, particularly when you are on the mountain, as Paul Fatti and Richard Smithers discovered during their ascent of the East Face of the Central Tower of Paine:

“Bumping across the corner in their cocoons, Paul and Richard were cold, disconsolate and too tired and cramped to cook. It was Christmas Eve and Paul munched Christmas dinner - cold mouthfuls of a squashed pudding. He then plopped it into his crash helmet which he lowered on a piece of string to Richard, hanging below him. The radio call that night from base to the 2 climbers got an understandably poor-humoured response to all the cheery, bleary and well-fed good wishes!”

Happily, Paul and Richard’s suffering was not in vain, and their team were successful in making the first ascent of the face.

 

 

Gifts

Those who travel over the holidays don’t necessarily plan for gift giving, and Dennis Gray had most certainly not planned for the gift he received from two Berber men he met in Morocco who were determined to see him celebrate Christmas "properly":

“When I came out they were still waiting and insisted I went with them to their father's hotel, which was the barest and cheapest I have yet seen in North Africa. After many glasses of mint tea I was allowed to depart, but only after promising that I would return later that night for a special dinner that they would prepare for me, for they knew the importance to us Christians, us Nazarenes, of Christmas Eve.

Surprisingly, despite the Spartan nature of the hotel, the meal was delicious. Conspiratorially, my young Berber acquaintances insisted at its end that I accompany them upstairs. There, waiting for us in the corridor, was the most evil-looking fellow I have yet set eyes on, one-eyed, unshaven and wearing a turban and djbella. It transpired that he was a Kif dealer from the north of the country. My young Berbers wanted to give me a Christmas present, and from the man they obtained a carrier-bag full of the stuff and handed it over. I had not understood their whispers in French, Arabic and Berber, but now I felt in great danger. I had been told how the Kif dealers set tourists up: they unload a pile of the stuff on to you, then go off and warn the police who jump you. If you are caught in possession, you might be fined a large sum, the drug dealers get a reward and it is rumoured that they get the Kif back to start all over again. 'Je ne fume pas', I stammered as I returned the gift. The two young Berbers looked amazed, then a hurt expression came into their faces and they tried to make me take it, but I refused again. They then became agitated and annoyed and ran off down the stairs, leaving me blocked in the corridor with old one-eye. In a few minutes they were back, this time clutching a much smaller bag; evidently they thought I had refused the Kif because there was too much for me to smoke all on my own! Travelling alone can be quite a trial, and I now realized that they were genuine and that I was not being set up. I accepted their gift with trepidation, thanking them from the bottom of my sinking heart, praying they would not insist that we all start smoking the stuff there and then in the corridor, but even they obviously felt that this was too dangerous for me and let me go back to my hotel where, I assured them, I would get liberally 'stoned' behind locked doors."

Dennis’s travels in Morocco make for wonderful reading and you can find out how, after a few close calls, he eventually managed to disposed of the gift in the full article.

 

 

Celebrations

Over-indulgence (of legal substances) is a time-honoured Christmas tradition, even for those spending their Christmas in the mountains. Peter Crew was unlucky to miss out on this aspect of the festivities during his expedition to Cerro Torre:

“Christmas was only a few days away, so Fonrouge decided to use the Shell lorry to spend the holiday in Rio Gallegos in a civilised manner, with one of his numerous girl friends. I walked down to the valley with him, to try and buy a sheep for a change of diet. After spending most of Christmas Eve getting hold of the sheep, I eventually arrived back at Base late at night in the pouring rain, to find that the lads had assumed that I had foregone the expedition for the delights of civilisation with Fonrouge - they had eaten our stock of Christmas goodies and drunk all the remaining spirits. At least I had the satisfaction of enjoying a fresh leg of mutton while they were all feeling ill.”

Nick Kekus fared somewhat better during his winter attempt on Nanga Parbat with an Anglo-Polish team, though the limited supply of alcohol on this expedition was more of an issue for some expedition members than others:

“With Camp 2 finally established just before Christmas, some of us thought we would be justified in taking a break from the mountain to celebrate the festive season; others felt we should stay on the mountain, Christmas or not. In the end the weather decided for us. On 24 December, having improved the tent accommodation and fixed a short section of rope above the camp, we retreated back to Base Camp, with the weather deteriorating as rapidly as we were descending. Christmas was a cheerful and high-spirited occasion, though the small quantities of alcohol available were sadly short of the Poles' capacity. However, a visit from our friend Mohammed Ali Chengasi on Christmas Day renewed our interest in the festivities, as the two aid workers he had in tow produced some more booze and Mohammed himself contributed a wonderful array of fruit, sweetmeats and other delicacies.”

 

A Final Thought

At first glance, the traditions of Christmas and mountaineering may seem antithetical to one another, isolation and privation contrasting with community and comfort. But this is not so. There is a communal heart to both traditions; the act of sharing time, space and experiences with loved ones. This is not just a Christmas experience, but a mountaineering one; as Andrzej Zawada noted when discussing the first winter ascent of Cho Oyu:

“If someone were to ask me which were the most enjoyable moments to remember in the whole expedition, I would answer without hesitation: the wonderful comradeship at Base Camp and on the wall, and on Christmas Eve round our table.”

 

 

 

Kev Reynolds

We are saddened to learn of the death on 10 December of Kev Reynolds, renowned author of Cicerone guidebooks, and a member since 1979.

Members can log in to submit their tributes or send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that they can be posted on the website. 

 

 

Report: 17 December 2021

A few bits of information before the weekend and the holidays.

A high pressure system has replaced the unsettled weather of the first half of December and seems to be set to stay for a while. The weather in the mountains is pleasant, with mild temperatures, especially on the sunny slopes.

The snow cover is very good for the season, at least below 3000m and at the bottom of the valley. Above 3000m, it is generally quite dry.

Most of the slopes and lifts will open tomorrow (18/12). You can find the schedule and information here. As we are at the beginning of the season, please beware of rocks off-piste!

The Loriaz, Lognan and Les Prés (les Contamines) huts also open tomorrow.

Generally conditions are good for ski touring even if the snow quality can be variable due to the effects of wind and sun.
Skinning is possible from car parks thanks to good snow cover at the bottom of the valleys.
There is some activity around les Contamines (lacs Jovets, Chasseurs, Cicle etc), on the Aiguillette des Houches, on the Argentière glacier (col des Rachasses, col du Tour Noir: the descent on the left bank of the Argentière glacier is said to be technical with some bits on ice and slabs), around le Tour (Aiguillette des Posettes), on the col des Montets (col de l'Encrenaz). No news from the Vallon de Bérard or the Bel Oiseau sector but there has probably been some activity. The opening of the Aiguilles Rouges lifts will get the ball rolling in this area.

The opening of the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the mild temperatures should also allow a resumption of activity in the high mountains. The arete is said to be “narrow, steep, smooth and icy" and there is no handrail in place.
The north face of the aiguille du Midi, looks relatively dry (Mallory-Porter, Fil à Plomb: they should go but only just, see photo). There might be a bit more on the East side of the Tacul or on the North side of the Argentière basin: you'll have to go and see and let us know!
The glaciers are relatively well filled in but we remind you that we are at the start of the season and crevasse bridges are fragile. The Vallée Blanche, like the other glacier routes, is very technical at this time of year. Good experience in reading the terrain is essential.

As far as ice climbing goes, it's possible to climb on the left bank of the Argentière (as a reminder, access is only possible on skis as pedestrians are not allowed on the Plan Joran cable car).

The snowshoe and walking routes are all practicable and marked (info here). For the more independent amongst you, you can go for a walk near the chalets de Chailloux or Loriaz by the forest track (unmarked and unsecured off-piste itineraries) as long as the avalanche risk does not increase.
All the pistes of the three Nordic areas (Chamonix, Argentière, Servoz) are open. Note that in Les Houches and Servoz, the multi-activity areas (cross-country skiing/hiking/snowshoeing) are also groomed and (soon) marked out, and access to these is free!

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.