News

Alpine Club partners with the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust to Provide Mountain Safety Instruction to Young People

Alpine Club partners with the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust to Provide Mountain Safety Instruction to Young People

From 2024, the Alpine Club will support the work of the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust through an annual donation that will provide 10 places on the JCMT’s Summer Alpine Course.

The Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust, founded following the death of mountaineer Jonathan Conville in 1979 has, over the past 44 years, provided more than 5,000 subsidised places on introductory training courses in North Wales, the Alps, and Scotland. Their work has equipped generations of young climbers with the skills they need to enjoy the mountains safely.

As the largest organisation representing alpine climbers in the UK, the Alpine Club, which was founded in 1857, has many members who took their first steps into the mountains under the supervision of the JCMT. To recognise that long-standing relationship and to ensure that future generations of enthusiastic young alpinists can start their alpine careers on the best possible footing, the AC has committed to provide financial support for the Trust’s ongoing work.

Alpine Club President Simon Richardson said:

“Together, the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust and the Alpine Club have both made huge contributions to British alpinism. This is a natural partnership that not only allows young climbers to get the early support they need, but hopefully also demonstrates a path to future progression and many years of successful climbing through the Alpine Club”.

Neil McAdie, Chair of Trustees for the JCMT said:

“We’re extremely grateful to the Alpine Club for their generous commitment to fund an annual ten places on our Summer Alpine Course. These courses are life-changing experiences for many of our attendees and donations like this allow us to continue offering that experience into the future.”

 

You can learn more about the Alpine Club at www.alpineclub.org and you can donate to the ongoing work of the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust at www.jcmt.org.uk.   

 

 

 

Ramsden and Miller Make the First Ascent of Surma-Sarovar (6605m)

Ramsden and Miller Make the First Ascent of Surma-Sarovar (6605m)

Less than a month after being announced as the recipients of a Piolet d'Or for their 2022 ascent of 'The Phantom Line' on Jugal Spire (6563m), Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller have returned from Nepal with another stunning first ascent on an unclimbed peak.

Miller and Ramsden on the Summit - Photo: Paul Ramsden

The pair, along with Hamish Frost and Matt Glenn, travelled to the Salimor Khola in the far west corner of Nepal. The area had seen very few previous visits and the team had limited information and no photos of the valley to help with their planning. Howerver, what they saw on Google Earth looked promising and ultimately, the huge effort required to reach the valley proved worthwhile.

Over fours days, Ramsden and Miller established a route to the summit of the previously unclimbed Surma-Sarovar (6605m). Their route climbed the mountain's colossal north face which stretches for 2km above the valley floor. Miller noted that the route's major difficulties involved crossing a rock band between 6000 and 6250m. After this, the weather turned and the pair summitted in poor conditions before starting a complex descent, made more hazardous by the fresh snow. The whole descent, which involved downclimbing a long ridge, took two days.

The line of ascent (right) and descent (left) Note: The image does not show the entirety of the north face - Photo: Hamish Frost

Commenting on the expedition experience overall, Miller said: "The social aspect of being a team of four was definitely the highlight for me and we all agreed that it was the wildest trip we had ever been on."

Glenn and Frost made attempts on two adjacent peaks, but on both occasions were forced to retreat in the face of poor conditions.

The expedition was supported by both the Montane Alpine Club Climbing Fund and a grant from the Mount Everest Foundation.

 

 

 

Report: 10 November 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 10 November 2023

Winter’s hanging around before a forecast milder spell from tomorrow....

The storms have been (and will be) coming one after the other, and it has snowed regularly down to 1000m, even though the snow has not lasted at this altitude. There is a bit of snow from around 1100m. Above 1500m, there are significant amounts (20-25cm at 1500m, 70-80cm at 1800m). Snow cover and the risk of avalanches should therefore be taken into account when choosing your outings, whatever the activity (hiking, skiing, etc.)

These are winter conditions, which means that hiking opportunities are very limited and mainly restricted to below 1500m. We would remind you that virtually all classic summer hikes are not possible in these conditions, even with snowshoes (steep terrain, avalanche risk, etc.)

Thanks to very good snow cover for the season, ski touring is possible above Flégère (gondola open but ski area closed) or at Le Tour (skis on from the car park).

 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Arctic-Alpine Plants: Engineers and Warning Bells

In the UK, arctic-alpine plants are a key component of upland habitats, laying the groundwork for insects, other plants and larger predators to survive in mountain environments. But new research suggests that these species are under threat; withdrawing uphill and perhaps on the verge of vanishing from our slopes entirely. Sarah Watts, a PhD researcher in plant ecology and conservation at the University of Stirling, explains why these plants are so important and why they’re currently in retreat.

From Left to Right: Purple saxifrage, snow pearlwort and drooping saxifrage - Sarah Watts

When most people consider the arctic, or high-altitude mountain landscapes, they think of endless snow, ice and bare rock. But pastel-coloured flowers, sometimes just a few millimetres wide, bloom in these dramatic places too. These miniature flowers not only weather some of the toughest habitats on Earth, but can also help to engineer the landscape for other species.

Don’t be fooled by their delicate petals. Some species of rock jasmine and sandwort grow at well over 6,000 metres on Mount Everest, while purple saxifrage flourishes on the northernmost point of land in the world – Kaffeklubben Island, north of Greenland.

Plants in freezing cold environments are typically small and often form as ground-hugging rosettes, or dense tufts with short stems, known as “cushions”. Antarctic pearlwort sits no more than 5cm high and displays a tight bunch of minute yellow blooms. The summits of the Scottish Highlands, where temperatures can drop to -27℃ in winter, are home to tiny flowers also found in the Arctic, such as moss campion, dwarf willow, trailing azalea and starry saxifrage.


Trailing azalea close up - Sarah Watts

Moss campion, a mountain wildflower - Sarah Watts

Although plants such as these may appear fragile, their minute size helps them cope with freezing weather and fierce winds. Low stature and tightly packed leaves act as an aerodynamic trap and storage system for water and solar radiation. Microspaces within the dense, dome-like foliage are efficient structures for retaining moisture and heat. An arctic-alpine cushion’s internal temperature can be 15°C warmer than its surroundings.

Cushion plants and mosses can be integral to their local environment. They are known as “keystone species” and “ecosystem engineers” because they stabilise their harsh microclimate, and are often the first to colonise bare ground. As the cushions grow, they improve the moisture and nutrient content of thin soils by accumulating organic material both directly within the plant itself, and through their root systems. By buffering temperature extremes, cushions reduce the frost risk in their immediate surroundings. These processes create a habitat more suitable for less stress-tolerant plant species including arctic-alpines in the daisy and pea families.

Cushion formers are therefore vital “nurse” plants in mountain and polar regions. They also shelter small arthropods including beetles and tiny wingless insects called springtails. These animals may in turn pollinate the plants they take refuge in, and provide food for others higher up the food chain.

A rove beetle on snow pearlwort - Sarah Watts

However, these tiny arctic-alpine plants are now sounding a warning bell for the loss of biodiversity due to climate change. The plants have an important relationship with snow, which offers them protection from disturbance and erosion. But rising temperatures are causing earlier snow melt, allowing the spread of other species previously restricted to lower altitudes and latitudes. Consequently, taller generalist plants, such as common grasses and sedges are crowding out the smaller arctic-alpines.

High mountain areas are warming at twice the global average and are geographically isolated from other places with similar climates, leaving the specialist flowers nowhere to relocate to.

Arctic-alpine plant numbers are plummeting in Britain and climate change is impacting numbers across the world, threatening the future of species that depend on them. Snow pearlwort, a cushion plant usually no bigger than a penny, is the first flowering plant in Britain to have its International Union for the Conservation of Nature status moved from vulnerable to endangered due to climate change. Our research analysing long-term monitoring data from the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve in the Scottish Highlands has revealed that the British population of snow pearlwort declined by 66% between 1996 and 2019. These data, collected for over 40 years by National Trust for Scotland staff and volunteers, also show that two other arctic-alpine plants have lost over half of their population since the 1990s. As temperatures have risen, snow pearlwort, mountain sandwort and drooping saxifrage have all withdrawn uphill. What’s more, these species face mountaintop extinction here in the UK because there is no higher ground left for them to retreat to.

Snow pearlwort growing on Scottish munro Ben Lawers - Sarah Watts

If we lose these plants from their British mountaintop outposts – at the edge of where they occur globally – this will signal that their strongholds in the Arctic and the Alps are also in danger.

Polar and mountain regions are havens for biodiversity, nurturing species found nowhere else in the world. We risk losing the cultural and inspirational value that rare species give us, with implications for the preservation of our natural heritage.

Plants are the building blocks of habitats and food webs on which other lifeforms across the planet depend, but they are frequently overlooked in conservation news stories. There’s a name for this phenomenon – “plant blindness”. Scientists, nature writers and the media usually turn to trees or species with large colourful flowers to open people’s eyes to the importance of plant life. But we must celebrate and protect our tiniest of plants too. If we don’t, the spectrum of diversity across the Earth’s extremes will be lost for generations to come.


-  Sarah Watts (PhD researcher at the University of Stirling)

A version of this article originally appeared on The Conversation. Changes have been made with the permission of the author.

You can read Sarah’s research via Science Direct and follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

The Conversation

Report: 2 November 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 2 November 2023

Winter has come for the Toussaint (All Saints) holidays.
 
It snowed down as far as the valley floor last night. It’s white down to 1000m. This morning there was between 40 and 50 cm of snow at 1900m! And it's going to snow again!
 
 
The weather remains very bad for mountain activities.
 
There has been no activity in the high mountains. We'll have to wait and see when (if) the good weather returns. For the moment, it's snowing hard!


There arent many opportunities for walking between the snow showers.

The mountains are now well covered in snow above 1500m. Take a look at the webcams (if you can see anything) to get an idea.

At present, most of the classic hikes (lakes, balcons) above 1800m are out of the question, even for seasoned hikers.

As you can see, depending on the weather and snow cover, you'll have to make do with short walks below 1700m (some ideas here) to get some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful contrasts with the snow and autumn colours.
 
Snowshoes might come in handy if you want to go as far as Loriaz (but I'm not sure if the weather will play ball over the next few days).
 
For ski touring enthusiasts, we'll let you take a look and then tell us how it goes, but don't forget the rock skis!

For those lucky enough to be climbing in the sun in other parts of the world, enjoy it for us too!

As a reminder, the Aiguille du Midi, the Montenvers train and the Planpraz lifts shut this Sunday (5 November). Flégère is running from Monday until 26 November.
 
 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Report: 27 October 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 27 October 2023
 
 
The off-season is well and truly here! The Indian summer seems to be behind us and winter is just around the corner!
 
The weather over the last 10 days has not been very favourable for mountain activities, but the glaciers (at least at altitude) and the water tables are recovering!
 
One storm after another. Last night, it snowed down to 1,800m in the Aiguille Rouges and a little higher (1,900- 2,000m) on the other side of the valley. Guess what, the higher you go, the more snow there seems to be!

In the high mountains, there must be quite a lot of fresh snow, with a lot of snow transported by the inevitable wind. Even if there isn't really a window of opportunity in sight (a bit of sunshine this weekend, but it's forecast to be windy), beware of the risk of avalanches up there, even on the classic 'short' routes from the Aiguille du Midi, for example. You'll also need to watch out for fragile snow bridges on the glaciers.

With favourable weather, it is still possible to hike in the valley. You will need to adapt to the snow conditions and stay below around 2,300m. The paths are quickly greasy and slippery at this time of year, so bring poles and good boots, as well as warm clothing. This is no longer trekking season, so it's best to opt for day hikes.
 
For your information, several trails are currently closed (particularly in the Argentière-Lognan and Chamonix-Plan de l'Aiguille sectors). For more information, click here.

As a reminder, the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the Montenvers train and the Planpraz cable car are open until 5 November (end of school holidays). After that, the Flégère cable car will be open from 6 to 26 November.
 
 
 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

The Phantom Line | Alpine Journal Extract

The Phantom Line | Alpine Journal Extract

In April 2022, Alpine Club members Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller made the first ascent of Jugal Spire, a 6,563m peak in the Jugal Himal. The route of their ascent, an improbable "Phantom Line", was a thin, intermittent route of snow and ice which cut like a scar across the mountain's north face. Their ascent has since been recognised by the jury of the Piolets d'Or which gives out awards annually for new routes accomplished in the best possible style. To coincide with this award, we are publishing Tim's account of the ascent from the 2022 Alpine Journal.

The route’s second ‘White Spider’ where Ramsden and Miller spent their third night on the wall.

The steep headwall pitches loom above. (Tim Miller) 

One thing we knew for certain on our trip to Nepal was that at some point each afternoon there would be snow, usually hail and often thunder and lightning. Every day for a month without fail we encountered an afternoon storm. Frequently it would cloud over from 9am onwards, affording us only a couple hours of sun in the morning. So as we sat in our little tent in base camp after completing our climb as the heavens opened and thunder raged, we couldn’t believe we had managed to snatch such a brilliant route from such improbable conditions.

The adventure began two years earlier when Paul Ramsden invited Richard Kendrick and me to a Gritstone Club hut nestled under a cliff in the Lake District. Inside, Paul swore us to secrecy before showing us a few of his highly confidential new route ideas on his laptop. We discussed them, then picked one and started to make plans for a trip. Not long after, Covid-19 hit and scuppered plans for that autumn – and the following autumn as well. The route we had planned was climbed in the meantime and Richard then had to drop out due to other commitments. By this point Paul and I were frustrated at having our plans fall through so often despite all our efforts at rearranging. We decided on a new objective and planned to go in spring; we didn’t want to wait another year.

Below the wall of chimneys, the key to the face (Tim Miller)

I first met Paul one winter’s day about eight years ago while climbing on Ben Nevis by myself. I was at the CIC hut getting ready to head down at the end of the day. Two other climbers were also packing bags so I asked them if they would be driving past Glasgow and could I get a lift. They were heading all the way to middle England and so they sped me back to Glasgow in double quick time. Paul was one of them and he told me how he had once witnessed a murder while hitchhiking to the Alps when he was younger. One of the lovely things about the world of climbing is how it is so small but welcoming. There are few sports where you can read about your heroes in books, the next day bump into them and a few years later be on a trip together.

We arrived at Kathmandu airport and after the slight panic of not finding our bags (another team had removed them from the conveyor belt) were met by our tour agent with a garland of flowers and driven to our hotel. Paul showed me around the sights of the city while we picked up our permit, gas canisters and other last-minute supplies. We were introduced to our team of porters and then we all jumped on a bus and were off out of the city. The roads got smaller, steeper, became single track and then turned to lumpy dirt tracks.

Paul Ramsden squirming (Tim Miller)

Before long, the bus was bumping and swinging round hairpin bends while clinging miraculously to the edge of steep mountainsides. At the end of the road we arrived in the small mountain village of Bhotang, surrounded by rice terraces and humid jungle.

What’s interesting about our objective is that it hadn’t seen a previous attempt or any interest at all despite being only a six-hour drive and four-day walk. It’s one of the closer 6,000m peaks to Kathmandu. Its obscurity may lie in the fact that its face is hidden and the peak sits in front of the bigger and more famous Dorje Lakhpa so it doesn’t stand out on the skyline.

It was obvious on the first day of the approach that there was quite a divide in experience among the porters. Chatting to them in broken English, we discovered a few had never portered before but had previously worked as hotel clerks in Dubai, before Covid-19 had brought an end to the tourism industry there and they had lost their jobs. Now forced to take whatever work they could get, it must have been quite a contrast to their previous lives. They started to lag far behind the fitter porters up front, who hadn’t understood where we wanted to stop for the night and carried on to the next stop, forcing us all to continue.

It was now that we were introduced to the regular weather pattern with an afternoon thunderstorm. Tired and bedraggled, the last porters arrived in camp 12 hours after setting off on what should have been a two-day journey. We had gained 2,000m of ascent and were concerned the porters, who were from Kathmandu and not acclimatised, might suffer from the altitude. Luckily for us, next morning everyone woke up well and was able to continue. A much shorter day took us to the famous Panch Pokhari religious shrine, a pretty collection of five mountain lakes at 4,100m a popular pilgrimage site.

Nut hunting on The Phantom Line. (Paul Ramsden)
Ramsden’s patented homemade snow-hammock
allowing the team to pitch a tent on a steep slope. (Tim Miller)

Up to this point we had been walking on well-constructed paths that allowed pilgrims and tourists to visit the lakes. These now stopped and we were on to rough tracks over passes and round mountainsides. A few of the porters decided at this point to switch from flip-flops to trainers. White rugged peaks pierced the crisp blue skies, rocky ridges led steeply down to misty green valleys below. And from the top of one pass we got our first view of the mountain we hoped to climb.

We trekked for two more days, sometimes in the fog and occasionally getting a brief glimpse of our peak. Just before arriving at base camp, and not having seen another soul in days, we noticed a solitary figure a few hundred metres behind the group. He must have been following us in the shadows. Despite the snowy passes we had crossed, he arrived with only the clothes on his back, flip-flops on his feet and no bag. Our sirdar spoke to him and declared him ‘a mad man’ who was on some sort of religious journey. He hadn’t eaten for days, so that night we fed him and he was walked back down with the porters the following day.

Base camp was situated in a valley of lateral moraine that was quite muddy from the frequent rain and not a place we felt inspired to hang around for too long. So we set off straightaway, with light bags, on a reconnaissance mission. Our aims were to find a practical route through the maze of the glacier leading to our peak and try to get a view of the face if we were lucky enough for it not to cloud over before we arrived.

Travelling across highly crevassed and moraine-covered glaciers is always an extremely slow and awkward task. Paul pointed out that it was often at these points that injuries happen and the most important thing for us to do now was stay fit and healthy. As soon as he said this, I slipped on a wobbly boulder, fell backwards and put my hand out to catch myself. In doing so I bent my fingers into an unnatural position and tweaked some of the ligaments in one of the fingers. I didn’t want it to affect the expedition but for days after I struggled to hold a knife and fork and tie laces with that hand. I just hoped I would still be able to hang off an ice axe when the time came.

Tim Miller starting on the crux section of steep chimneys on Jugal Spire’s The Phantom Line.

Sacks were hauled as the climbing required getting inside the chimney and squirming. (Paul Ramsden)

The rest of that day we continued up the glacier, eventually climbing an embankment of moraine that brought us to a little alpine lake surrounded by grass and large boulders with views of the peak. It was an idyllic spot. But our first view of the face blew us away. Looking at it in profile we realised it was much steeper than we had thought. The one photo we had seen of the face was from a Spanish team that showed it straight on. We also realised our photo had been taken after a storm, making it look very white and leading us to believe there were lots of lower-angled ice fields on the face. Now we realised it was made up primarily of vertical granite with the exception of one long scar of ice across it. We couldn’t see yet if this ice linked up all the way but walking back down the glacier we knew we had discovered an incredible face. Yet there were several big question marks as to whether it was climbable. On the plus side we discovered a brilliant path that took us down a grassy moraine valley straight back to base camp. Both tasks for the day were complete.

With fresh motivation, the following day we launched straight into the acclimatisation phase. With huge bags packed with food for seven days and all the kit we would want for the climb later, we set off up the moraine valley. Plodding slowly under the weight of the bags and our unacclimatised lungs, we arrived eventually at the ‘hanging garden’ of the little alpine lake. We had hoped to lounge around here stretching and relaxing in sunshine on the grass but the weather had different plans and we found ourselves reading in the tent all afternoon while it snowed around us.

Paul on the breakfast pitch, day four (Tim Miller)

Next day, we stashed under a boulder all the kit that we knew we would need for the climb but wouldn’t want for the acclimatisation. Then we continued up a large flat glacier. Our acclimatisation generally involved slogging for a few hours each morning to gain an extra 400m of elevation and then putting up the tent up and lying there for the next 18 hours mostly reading and sleeping and occasionally eating and getting up to pee. We continued thus to 5,700m and with splitting headaches decided to stop and stay an extra night before descending. What took five days to get up took us a morning to get down.

Back at base camp it was sinking in that months of planning and weeks of in-country preparation was now coming to a climax. We meticulously went through gear, cutting out anything that would add extra grams to our bags and triple-counting our rations. Then it snowed for two days and we were forced to rest in the tent reading books while the thought of the mountain hung over us. With apprehension building it was a funny thing to be tent-bound while so mentally ready to go. Then a nice morning came along and off we went.

Our first stop was at the stash we had left under the boulder. We repacked and with bags now overflowing continued gingerly up the glacier, each of us struggling over boulders while wondering how on earth we were going to climb a face that is 1.5km high. That evening we set up camp not far from our planned descent route, leaving two meals and a handful of bars stashed under a rock for the likely scenario that we would be starving hungry and needing a break when we got to this point after the route.

Steep climbing on day four. (Paul Ramsden)

The following day we continued up the glacier right beneath the face. It towered over us looking monstrously steep and imposing. We dumped our bags and walked up to the bergschrund. All we could see above was a sea of granite, our line of ice totally obscured from below. Paul seemed slightly subdued at this point and I can understand why. At the time I didn’t know what to make of such an impressive wall other than that I was in awe of it. I went to sleep looking forward to giving it a go but I sensed Paul had doubts over it being possible, having seen the wall up close. Had all our weeks and months of preparation been for nothing? Had we bitten off more than we could chew?

At 3am next morning our alarms beeped and we were tugged from our dreams to the monumental task at hand. Without a word we packed our bags in the cold morning air and retraced our steps from the previous afternoon across the glacier just as the sun started to light the tops of faraway peaks. Not yet in a rhythm, I struggled under the weight of my pack while I fought my way up steep snow over the bergschrund. I would stop every so often to pant furiously and warm my numb fingers. As soon as I could, I stopped to make a belay to give myself a rest and pass the work over to Paul.

The route started to steepen, the snow turned to ice and we now fell into a rhythm that worked. Climbing in lots of quick 40m pitches allowed each of us a frequent rest and prevented the belayer getting too cold. After 13 pitches of this we had climbed a huge third of the face, admittedly the easiest portion. On one of the last pitches of the day I arrived at a belay ledge and kicked the ice with the side of my crampon to make a small stance. As I did so the metal loop connecting the ankle strap to the crampon base popped off. The crampon was no longer attached to my foot and skidded down the ice a few meters, then stopped precariously in a patch of snow. As Paul climbed up towards me, he was able to simply pluck it out the snow and hand it back to me without any further drama. We marvelled at the ease with which the situation was solved and grimaced at the thought of the complex retreat that might have followed had it disappeared for good, spelling the end of the trip and months of planning.

Loose mixed climbing at 6,200m. The snow mushroom in front of
Miller fell off a few seconds after this picture was taken. (Paul Ramsden)

Having arrived at a potential bivy site we had spotted earlier through binoculars, to our surprise we discovered an overhanging rock cave with snow beneath that we were able to flatten off and pitch a tent on, albeit with the edges hanging in space. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay on such a steep face. Still clipped in and with harness on, the rest of the evening passed quickly with snow melting for tea, juice, dinner and finally tea again, all with the familiar routine to prevent spills, promote efficiency and avoid too much steam condensing on the walls of the tent.

The main task for the following day was to tackle the so-called ‘crux chimneys’. These were a gap in the line of ice and formed one of the bigger question marks that separated us from success. After packing up camp we rounded the corner and our eyes met a 100m steep wall of rock split by an ugly curving chimney. This was the wall’s only line of weakness and we had to get up it. Leaving my rucksack at the belay allowed me to get inside the chimney at points and squirm my way up, feet peddling on small edges and my chest grating against its walls causing several ragged tears to open in my jacket. Loose rocks clattered down as I struggled to hook anything with my axes. I was grateful for my Scottish winter apprenticeship; it had prepared me well for this type of climbing.

Paul seconding with plenty of exposure. (Tim Miller)

After three pitches of this, along with the exhausting job of hauling rucksacks, we re-joined the ice ramp. Hauling was a much harder job for Paul, who not only had to climb the pitch but also simultaneously dislodge the rucksacks with one hand, as they seemed to jam every few metres. Had the face been unlocked? Could we celebrate? Not yet. We knew there were further challenges up ahead but solving the problem of the chimneys was a big step forward.

We completed another few pitches that brought us to a feature we dubbed the ‘first white spider’, one of two circular snowfields reminiscent of their namesake on the Eiger. The hard labour never stopped and after a quick brew we set to work preparing our accommodation for the night. This involved Paul’s very own homemade snow hammock, an invention that when fastened to an anchor at either end can be filled with snow while a ledge is also cut to form a platform big enough to pitch a tent on. That’s quite an unexpected luxury on a 60° ice slope. But as we lay in the tent after dinner, content at having finished a day of good progress, Paul, who had his back to the slope, found himself forcefully pushed forward. A large amount of snow had fallen down the gap between the tent and the face. This was not good news.

I jumped from my sleeping bag, threw on my down jacket, boots, gloves and head torch and stepped outside. Unbeknownst to us, it had been snow- ing while we were in the tent. The face was too steep to be of any avalanche danger but streams of spindrift were cascading down and accumulating behind the tent, threatening to push it off its perch. We had to work constantly, one at either side, to dig out the snow before the next assault came. Wind-whipped snow, reflecting the beam of our torches inches from our faces, and the outline of the other were all we could make out for several hours. After struggling for a while, we realised this wasn’t sustainable. So we pulled the tent in towards the slope and the spindrift fell on its side, flattening it into the platform. Before long it was buried under a meter of snow but at least this way we wouldn’t lose it off the cliff. All we could do now was stand with our backs to the slope while intermittent torrents of snow poured down on us deep into the night. We turned our torches off, slipped into a trance state and embraced the grim position we found ourselves in: standing in a snow storm, strapped to the side of a mountain at 6,000m in the middle of the night.

Tim Miller and Paul Ramsden celebrate on the summit

After an immeasurable amount of time the volume of spindrift partially subsided and we became too cold. So we uncovered the tent, removed the poles and sat inside it like a double bivy bag. Whenever a shower of spindrift fell on us, we pressed our backs against the slope to stop it accumulating behind us and using our arms raised the tent fabric in front of us to help the snow slide off the tent. This prevented us being buried but also kept us busy all night.

Eventually, to our huge relief, the sky started to lighten and brought a bit of warmth with it. We packed up our kit and set off climbing for the day. Having had virtually no sleep our progress was noticeably slower. A couple of pitches got us across the white spider and then the ground started to drop away wildly to our left. Below us lay a huge 700m sweep of granite while our ramp continued across the top of it in a brilliantly exposed position. Then the good ice disappeared to be replaced with large amounts of unconsolidated snow on top of rock slabs. Once again I left my bag at the belay and led a pitch of Scottish-style tenuous mixed climbing up a groove that led to just below the second ‘white spider’. More hauling faff followed, made worse by our exhausted state. We had only climbed 150m higher but were in dire need of a rest. Who knew where the next possible bivy spot lay? Once again, the snow hammock saved the day and allowed us to pitch the tent. At one point we were given a scare when a flurry of spindrift came down; we thought we were about to have a repeat of the previous night but thankfully it was a one-off. That evening we were even treated to a glorious sunset but were so knackered we hardly appreciated it. We were asleep instantly despite our cold and cramped sleeping quarters.

Three very steep and looming pitches on the headwall lay between the final snow slopes and us. Paul started on these next morning; the ice was good and squeaky and the first two pitches proved to be very enjoyable. On the third, the ice thinned out, then disappeared as the groove system moved left around a protruding bulge of rock. Once again, this required bag-free climbing and all my Scottish winter experience of choss before I finally collapsed onto the bottom of the summit ice slopes. It was only 11am so we decided to press on and aim for a shoulder we had spotted just below the summit where we would be able to pitch the tent easily.

By now the altitude had truly caught up with us. Our pace reduced to a few steps before we were forced to stop for air. The ice required a frustrating amount of force before it took pick placements, sapping further our limited remaining energy. Then the sun burst from behind a cloud and, reflecting off the snow, started to boil us in all our layers. Each pitch was taking longer and longer. Even talking became a big effort so conversation was reduced to short, measured bursts squeezed between bouts heavy breathing. Then the sun set and our saturated gloves froze immediately around our hands as the temperature plummeted. We went from being cooked alive to being forced to warm our hands and swing our feet every few paces to keep them from frostbite.

The top of the slope was getting close and I led a pitch to the bottom of a small rock band. As I approached this, I realised it was an overhang with a perfect cave formed beneath with a lip of ice protecting it. I rolled into the cave and lay there panting for several minutes, utterly exhausted and extremely relieved we had found a suitable spot for the night. The cave was only a few feet high, and all our bulky jackets made it tricky to move around, but we managed to create a flat sleeping platform. Just as we were having dinner and laying our sleeping bags out, snow began to blow into the cave and circulate around, settling on our kit. This required an urgent reset to keep things as dry as possible. All this had to be done in bitter cold and simple jobs like opening packets and eating required gloves on. During the previous few days Paul had been developing an altitude cough and exacerbated by the extreme cold and elevation it now became alarmingly constant and rasping. He didn’t tell me till later, but at the time he was concerned it might develop into HAPE and we would have to go down immediately, missing the summit.

We then endured an extremely cold night trying to keep our numb digits from freezing. Waking in the morning, we wrapped ourselves in all the layers we had and stumbled out of the cave. Two pitches of easy snow brought us onto the shoulder and then up to the summit. Dazed by the morning sun and the desperate cold, we fumbled to take a few photos and absorb the view. Any emotions were largely suppressed by a stifling sense of exhaustion. We had summited an unclimbed and unnamed peak via an exceptional route over five days and 37 pitches.

The Phantom Line on Jugal Spire.

Retreating back to the shoulder, we put together a plan of descent. We had spotted an obvious couloir on the opposite side of the mountain that ran from a col 500m below the summit straight back to the glacier. All we had to do was abseil on V-threads down the ice slope and into the couloir yet even this was knackering for our tired bodies in the morning sun. We developed a routine making sure no mistakes were made at this late stage in the game. Once we were halfway down the couloir the angle eased enough to allow us to down-climb the rest of the way with a final abseil over the bergschrund and onto the glacier. What had taken five days to climb had taken five hours to descend.

By now the cloud had rolled in for the day and snow was starting to fall. Feeling utterly drained we stumbled across the glacier in the fog. The crampons I was wearing had steel front points and aluminium bases to save weight. On the climb they had been great, but now after days of being worn down I was forced to front-point backwards down any slightly steep decline. Despite this we made it back to our much-appreciated food stash where we decided to stop for the day since we needed the rest and crossing the moraine-covered glacier with an extra layer of snow on the boulders was too much to handle at that point. Finally able to relax, we felt the relief of being down safe and the satisfaction of our achievement began to wash over us. I wasn’t able to get to sleep for a while despite being warm and having a flat bed for the first time in several nights.

We woke to grey skies and with snow still covering the moraine the going was slow and our steps clumsy with fatigue. With a bit of guesswork we crossed the glacier in thick fog to the grassy moraine valley on the side of the glacier. Every so often, while we walked, we would whistle into the mist to tell base camp we were on the way, being a day late by this point. A few hundred metres from base camp our cook crew came out to greet us with an extremely welcome flask of hot juice, a KitKat and some cheese that provided the essential energy to stumble the rest of the way to camp. We threw our bags down and collapsed into our tent feeling weak but happy.

The next few days passed in a blur of eating the many brilliant meals provided by our cook and sleeping. Our thoughts drifted back to the climb and we simmered in satisfaction. The porters arrived a day later and we started the slow march home. On the first day of the walkout a hailstorm blew in that then turned to snow making the going hard work. Since descending the peak, Paul’s cough had continued and now with this added fatigue he suddenly collapsed. He picked himself back up and was able to walk to our camp for that night where he took antibiotics for a chest infection and over the following days his condition dramatically improved.

We spoke to several locals to ask if they had a name for the mountain that we had climbed, but none did, only referring to the whole group as Jugal Himal. So we settled on Jugal Spire. We then named the route The Phantom Line as we were never sure whether the line would have ice all the way and several big question marks lingered right up to the end. Was it there was it not? Did it exist as a climbable entity?

There were two essential ingredients that allowed this trip to be a success: the first, discovering such an amazing and improbable route on an immaculate, unclimbed face that leads to an unclimbed summit is extremely rare and very special. Finding these gems takes a lot of cunning and knowhow. The second ingredient was the tactical understanding that allows such big routes to be climbed safely and successfully: where to stop, how to bivy, how much food and kit to bring, when to pitch and so forth. Both these ingredients are Paul’s specialty and it is thanks to his experience in these areas that we were able to succeed. I can’t thank him enough for inviting me along on another of his brilliant adventures.

- Tim Miller

 

If you enjoyed reading this account and would like to access more high-quality mountain writing, you can purchase a copy of the 2022 Alpine Journal via our shop.

 

 

 

Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller's 'Phantom Line' Receives Piolet d'Or

Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller's 'Phantom Line' Receives Piolet d'Or

The committee of the Piolets d'Or have announced their selection of awarded ascents for the 2022 calendar year. Amongst the three lines to receive a Piolet d'Or is 'The Phantom Line' (ED) on Jugal Spire (6563m), which was climbed in April 2022 by Alpine Club members Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller.

A press release from the Piolets d'Or commended the style of ascent, saying: "Members of the jury felt this was a perfect example of ambitious exploratory mountaineering, carried out in simple but effective alpine-style: two sacs, two ropes, one tent, and no ascenders, bolts or weather forecasts."

 

The other routes to be awarded a Piolet d'Or this year are Christophe Ogier, Victor Saucède, and Jérôme Sullivan's first ascent of Pumari Chhish East (6850m) via 'The Crystal Ship' (1,600m, 6b, A2, M7) and the first ascent of the south-southeast spur of Jirishanca (6094m) via Reino Hongo (1,000m, M7, AI5+, 90°) by Alik Berg and Quentin Roberts. You can watch an excellent short film of the awarded ascent of Pumari Chhish East below.

                   

The women’s sailing and climbing team who made the first ascent of 'Via Sedna' (7b+, A1) on Northern Sun Spire in Renland, Greenland also received a special mention from the jury. Caro North, Nadia Royo and Capucine Cotteaux were commended both for their style of ascent and the low impact nature of this all-female expedition.

You can read more about all of these routes on the Piolets d'Or website.

The award ceremony itself is due to take place on 15 November in Briançon, France.

 

 

 

Audrey Salkeld

The club has received the sad news that Audrey Salkeld died on 11 October.  Audrey had been a member since 1978 and was made an Honorary Member in 2022 in recognition of her enormous contribution to mountaineering journalism, literature and film.

Alpine Club to Co-Host Autumn Expedition Symposium

Alpine Club to Co-Host Autumn Expedition Symposium

After the success of this January’s Expedition Essential for Women Explorers event, the Club is once again partnering with the Mount Everest Foundation, as well as Plas y Brenin and The Arctic Club, to host an expedition symposium.

Mick Fowler - Prow of Shiva

The event, which takes place from 10 – 12 November this year, will be hosted at Plas y Brenin and features workshops on a variety of essential topics including expedition kit and wilderness first aid. A number of AC members will be in attendance, with Guy Buckingham delivering a workshop on Himalayan logistics and Mick Fowler giving one of the evening talks.

Aimed squarely at those planning their first large-scale expedition, the symposium has been heavily subsidised, with non-residential places available for as little as £60 for the full weekend. Further details and booking via the PyB website

 

 

 

Report: 11 October 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 11 October 2023

We don't have much to update you on compared to last week, except to tell you to make the most of the fine weather and splendid colours before this coming weekend.
 

Fans of summer granite will still be delighted by the S faces of the Aiguille du Midi, the Tacul satellites, the Chamonix Aiguilles and, for the strong (ski lifts closed), the Envers des Aiguilles, around the Charpoua, the Moine (except the E face) and the Pierre à Joseph, as well as the Aiguilles Rouges (note that several climbing routes are closed on the Brévent by decree).

Snow and mixed: there are still targets around the Le Tour glacier (technical rimaye on the normal route on the Aiguille du Tour), around the Aiguille du Midi (beware of the very technical 3 Monts) and Helbronner. A team climbed Rêve Éphémère on the Grandes Jorasses, with good conditions up to pitch 5, then it got terribly dry. The normal route on Mont Blanc is busy, as are the winter rooms.

Lower down, it's still great for hiking, sport climbing, cycling or any other activity that takes your fancy.

At this time of year, a lot of work is being carried out on the paths and lifts. We would like to remind you that the paths in the Grand Bois and Pré du Rocher sectors are closed. Don't forget to check the regulations page.

For the Toussaint holidays, the following lifts will be open: Aiguille du Midi, Planpraz and the Montenvers train.

The few huts which are still open close on the following dates: Plan de l'Aiguille - 01/11, Les Prés - 28/10, Loriaz - 15/10 and Tré la Tête - 15/10 (extended opening because of the good weather). The footbridge on the Conscrits path is in winter mode.

In the Aosta valley, the Torino hut is open until 31/10 and the Skyway until 5/11 but remember that the Mont Blanc tunnel shuts on 16/10 at 08:00.
 
 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Honorary AC Member George Lowe Receives Piolets d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award

Honorary AC Member George Lowe Receives Piolets d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award

American alpinist and honorary Alpine Club member George Lowe has been announced as the recipient of the 2023 Piolets d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award.

George Lowe photographed in Tanzania in 2015 by Wikipedia user Mellowish126 and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Among Lowe's many notable accomplishments are the first winter ascents of several peaks in the Grand Teton National Park, the first ascent of the north face of North Twin Peak in the Canadian Rockies, the first ascent of the Infinite Spur on Mount Foraker and the first ascent of Everest's Kangshung Face. However, perhaps his most famous climb is one he did not complete. In 1978, alongside Michael Kennedy, Jim Donini and Jeff Lowe, he made an attempt on the north ridge of Latok I, turning back just shy of the summit. It was an incredible effort, handily demonstarted by the fact that the line remains unclimbed to this day.

The 2023 Piolets d'Or ceremony is due to take place on 15 November in Briançon, France. Further details are available via the Piolets d'Or website.

 

 

 

David Baldock

We are sad to announce the death on 30 September of David Baldock, a member for almost 50 years who contributed a great deal to the club.

AC South West Events for 2023/24

AC South West Events for 2023/24

This autumn and winter, Alpine Club members in the south-west will be running a programme of six lectures/events. Two lectures and a mountain poetry evening are confirmed for 2023 with three more events planned for 2024.

The lectures will take place once a month from October to March, starting at 7:30pm, normally in the upstairs room at the Nova Scotia pub in Bristol. The planned dates and speakers are below:

11 Oct : Dave Wynne-Jones – ‘An Approach to Expeditions’
10 Nov: Bristol Climbing & Mountain Poetry Evening (Venue: John Sebastian Lightship, Bathurst Parade, Bristol, BS1 6UB)
13 Dec: Simon Richardson - Looking Around New Corners in the Alps and Canada
10 Jan: TBC
14 Feb: TBC
13 Mar: TBC

We hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Report: 27 September 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 27 September 2023

We are having a beautiful Indian summer. Winter came back for a bit (details in last week's bulletin) but now the sun and mild temperatures are back at all altitudes. 

Most high mountain huts are now without guardians, including the Cosmiques, those on the normal route on Mont Blanc and the Conscrits, which are all in winter mode. Only the Couvercle (until the end of this week), and the Torino are going onto the bitter end. 

This fine spell will please granite climbers who still haven’t had quite enough. South facing rock exposed to the sun has dried pretty well and there are lots of places like this at altitude including: the Charpoua basin, Aiguille du Moine (with the exception of the East face where the rimaye is very tricky), Aiguille de Pierre-Joseph, Envers des Aiguilles, Aiguille du Peigne, S face of the Aiguille du Midi, Tacul satellites etc. 

For those with an appetite for snow or mixed routes there are still a few to be done including: the classics of the Le Tour basin (Aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche), around the Aiguille du Midi (Cosmiques Arête, Pointe Lachenal traverse), around the Helbronner (Entrèves, Marbrées, Dent du Géant).

In spite of the fact that the huts on the normal route on Mont Blanc are closed, conditions have significantly improved thanks to last week's snow fall. Watch out for overcrowded winter rooms. Snow stability also needs to be a serious consideration. There was a partial burial under the shoulder of Mont Blanc du Tacul on Sunday and some glacier snow bridges are fragile. The Tacul has not been re-tracked, nor has the Trois Monts route. 

Lower down the off-season is great for walking sport climbing, cycling etc. 

 

 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

Report: 22 Septmeber 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 22 September 2023
 
Autumn is coming! It’s snowing high up, variable amounts but lots of wind: watch out for avalanches and sluffs. Be careful on glaciers with tricky crevasses and potentially fragile snow bridges.

Here are the few snow reports we were able to gather today (it was white down to 2400m yesterday morning):

- At the Goûter, there was a lot of SW wind and we recorded 10/15cm with large areas of accumulation. It's all plastered down to the Nid d'Aigle.

- Torino: 20/30 cm fell. The Dent du Géant, Entrèves and the Marbrées are plastered.

- At the Couvercle it’s all white, but the Moine is still doable.

- Cosmiques: 20cm of wind blown snow fell (foehn gusts, but no thunderstorms). The Tacul is loaded! Everything is covered and the old tracks are no longer visible.

- At the Conscrits, not much has fallen; it rained last night and this morning there was 5cm of snow on the terrace.
 
- The Bérangère is plastered but the rocks are poking out. Mont Tondu has been done, good underfoot on grey ice. The Miages traverse has been done out and back from the Bérangère (too many crevasses on the glacier). The ice at the Col de la Bérangère is all covered up. The hut switches to winter mode on Monday: there's gas, washing-up facilities and a chemical toilet, but no water (stream 50m away). Access will be complicated after the mid-October footpath work as the footbridge will be removed. The mauvais pas will not be crossable.
 
The Cosmiques and Conscrits huts will be closing this weekend.

In the high mountains, only the refuges on the Mont Blanc normal route, the Couvercle and the Torino remain open.

There are no worries about hiking in the “moyenne montagne". It is now important to be equipped with good shoes and poles: even if the snow has not yet affected these altitudes, some paths can be greasy and wet.

The refuges at Plan de l'Aiguille, Lac Blanc, Loriaz, Des Prés and Moede-Anterne are still open.

As far as lifts are concerned, the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the Montenvers train (as well as the glacier lift for mountaineers) and the Tramway du Mont-Blanc are still operating.
 
 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.

 

 

 

2023 Piolets d'Or 'Significant Ascents' List Includes Routes by AC Members

2023 Piolets d'Or 'Significant Ascents' List Includes Routes by AC Members

Paul Ramsden acclimatising in the Jugal Himal. The line of his new route 'The Phantom Line' (1300m ED) is visible in the background
Photo: Tim Miller

The Piolets d'Or have released a list of what they consider to be "significant ascents" from 2022. Among the noted routes are several by Alpine Club members:

  • The first ascent of Gulmit Tower (5810m) by AC member Will Sim and Fabian Buhl.

  • The first ascent of the east summit of Barnaj II (6303m) by Tom Seccombe and AC members Callum Johnson and Matt Glenn.

  • The first ascent of Jugal Spire (6563m) by AC members Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller.

  • The first ascent of 'The Pace of Comfort' (950m, 5.10 A3+ M6 70°) on the north-west face of Kichatna Spire (2739m) by David Allfrey, Whit Magro and AC member Graham Zimmerman.

The complete list of ascents is available to view on the Piolets d'Or website.

This list, as the website makes clear, does not represent the nominees for this year's Piolets d'Or Awards, but rather it is a record of significant or innovative ascents climbed in alpine or capsule style during 2022.

The 2023 Piolets d'Or awardees will be announced in due course and will receive their awards at a special ceremony on 15 November in Briançon, France.

 

 

 

AC Peak Lectures Return for 2023/24

AC Peak Lectures Return for 2023/24

Having taken a pause at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our popular Peak District lectures have taken longer to return than we would have hoped. However, thanks to the hard work of AC vice-president Adéle Long, they are now back with a full schedule for the autumn and winter of 2023/24.

The lectures will take place once a month from October to March, either at The Sir William Hotel in Grindleford or Outside Café in Hathersage. The planned dates and speakers are below:

5 Oct : Charlene Gibson - Climbing Cho Oyu
9 Nov: Catherine Moorehead - In conversation with Jeremy Windsor about her biography of Doug Scott.
7 Dec: Simon Richardson - Looking Around New Corners in the Alps and Canada
11 Jan: Mick Fowler - Chombu: 'The one that got away'
8 Feb: Kasia Piatek - An Expedition to Sikkim
14 March: Ronnie Legg - Ama Dablam by an Average Josephine

Some of the venues are yet to be confirmed, but will be added to the listings in due course. The first two lectures will take place at The Sir William in Grindleford.

We hope to see you there!

 

 

 

2023 AGM & Annual Dinner

Date: Saturday 25 November 2023

By popular request of members, we are returning to The Castle Green Hotel, Kendal, LA9 6RG. The hotel is 2.75 miles from Oxenholme station.

The order of events is:

15:00  AGM in the Kendal Suite.

16:30 - 17:30  Presentations on the 2023 Photograph competition and on the Development of the Aspirants’ Meet 2015 – 2023.

18:30  Cash bar open in the Function Suite (where the dinner is taking place. Cumbria's finest real ales will be available.

19:30  Dinner.

 

Our principal guest at the dinner is Fay Manners who is one of Britain's finest young alpinists. In 2022 she made the first female ascent of the Phantom Direct route on the south face of the Grandes Jorasses. Fay has climbed the North Face of the Eiger, American Direct of the Dru and the Walker Spur, and this year climbed difficult new routes in Norway, the Karakorum and Greenland.

 

Fay climbing in Pakistan's Trango Group - Photo: Hermanos Pou

 

Tickets for the three course dinner are £40.00 per person, reduced to £25.00 for those under the age of 40 on the date of the dinner.

I have been able to negotiate favourable B&B room rates as follows: £145 for a double/twin room for one night, and £245 for two nights. £115 for a single room for one night, £210 for two nights.  These discounted rates will be held until the end of October, so you are encouraged to book soon. Call 01539 734000 and quote Alpine Club.

Members can now buy dinner tickets for themselves and their guests, and book bunkhouse accommodation, paying in either of the following ways:

  • By cheque, made payable to Alpine Club, and sent in the post to the Honorary Secretary at 55 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3QF

  • Or online by logging into the AC website, navigating to the 'Events' tab and selecting 'AGM & Dinner Booking' from the drop-down menu.

When applying for tickets, please specify any dietary requirements.

Tickets will be posted to members in the two weeks before the event. 

Further details of the event will be circulated in due course on the website, in our next Newsletter and by Alpinet.

 

- William Newsom, Dinner Organiser

 

 

 

Report: 14 September 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 14 September 2023
 
Although the temperatures have dropped a notch, the snowfall forecast for this week was actually quite light and didn't really change the conditions in the high mountains. Two to three centimetres of wet snow fell at the Cosmiques, and around ten centimetres above 4000m.

A few more details to add to last week's update

Le Tour: All the “tat” that has built up over the years on the descent from the summit of the Aiguille du Chardonnet has been removed and replaced with bolt/chain belays. The right-hand line (on the descent) allows you to avoid the rimaye of the col Adams Reilly if this is impassable. Not surpisingly there's no information on the state of the ascent routes! The Albert I refuge closes on September 18. 
 


Mer de Glace / Leschaux: The lower route across the Charpoua glacier is still passable (see photo below), although the glacier is particularly jumbled and regularly hit by rockfalls. Lots of people on the Drus traverse and on the Contamine-Bastien route, which was climbed in good conditions (see the cahier de course).

The rimaye on the Moine normal route is open across the entire width of the face and is starting to be tricky to climb, but it can be done! The same goes for access to the routes on the E face.
 
Weather permitting, we'll be here until 30 September at the Couvercle refuge! At the Leschaux, on the other hand, it's the last weekend to take advantage of the guarded refuge. 

On the left bank, the end-of-season clean-up has already begun and the Envers des Aiguilles hut will close on 15 September! The Requin hut has been in winter mode since the beginning of the month.
 


Aiguille du Midi / Glacier du Géant / Helbronner: As we said at the start of this update, there hasn't been that much snow at altitude. So not much has changed in this sector. The Plan de l'Aiguille, Cosmiques and Torino huts remain open! The Grandes Jorasses traverse has been well-travelled, with decent but often “mixed" conditions. The Tronchey arête was also climbed in good conditions. On the other hand, every one is agreed: the descent via the normal route is no longer the stuff of dreams, with almost constant rock falls during the day both in the Whymper couloir and the Planpincieux glacier, which is wide open. 


Mont Blanc via the Goûter: After a short break, the guides from the Chamonix and St Gervais - Les Contamines companies are back on the Mont Blanc normal route. As always, be careful about the timing of the traverse of the Goûter couloir. 
 

Bassin de Tré-la-Tête: The Conscrits hut is still open but has telephone problems: contact them for the moment by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
Aiguilles Rouges: This is the last weekend to take advantage of the ski lifts at Planpraz/Brévent and La Flégère!
 
 

Translated with kind permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

Readers are reminded that conditions in mountain environments are prone to (sometimes rapid) change and that they should use their own best judgement when visiting them.