News

Report 22 February 2017

The warm weather continues to degrade the snow conditions in most areas. There has been virtually no new snow since 6th February.

When ski touring one often has to walk for a bit in the lower sections, for example, the Berard valley or the return from Loriaz.  Crampons can prove useful.
The main areas for touring remain the same as last week.

Some extra information:
- Brèche Puiseux is tracked, it can be very warm in the couloir so one needs to be up it early. There are two 30m abseils on the Mallet side. The lower part of the des Périades glacier does not have much snow, so roping up is recommended.
- The Cols du Passon, Tour Noir and Argentière remain popular. The Col du Chardonnet is also being done (2 abseils of 30m minimum, depending on your ski ability). Glacier du Milieu is tracked, conditions OK, though treacherous on the lower part.  No information on the upper part, (it looks to have enough snow.)  The Y Couloir on the Aiguille d’Argentière is OK except for upper part of the right branch, which is ice.

- Col des Cristaux and the Courtes NE are tracked, the upper parts lacking snow.

 - Ski touring remains popular in the Aiguilles Rouges an on Mont Buet.
- Col des Autannes in good condition, as is the Pointe de Bron from Trient.
- Conditions are good above Contamines (e.g.Tête N des Fours). The Roman road has bare ice in places.
- Dômes de Miage was tracked on 16/02, starting from Cugnon. No specific problems. Descent by the Armancette, not much snow but still feasible.  Lots of wet snow slides, avoid coming down late!

 
The dry conditions are not favourable for gully climbing but, nevertheless, some lines have been attempted:
- A party did 3 pitches of the Claire Chazal on 15/02; A track was seen towards the Ravanel-Frendo, no further information.  
- A lot of ice on the Couturier, sometimes with a thin covering of snow; exit completely on ice for 150m. Whymper in good condition except for bare ice in the top part

- Goulotte du Col des Petites Jorasses: the bergschrund goes well, first 2 pitches on ice, the 2nd finishing on snow plastered rock.  The remaining pitches in better condition.  Abseil descent.
- Couloir de l’Eboulement tracked, conditions OK, some stones at the start of the route.

- Cristalliers Direct on the Aiguilles Marbrées in good condition but take care if it gets any warmer, serious stone fall risk.

The Valley Blanche is still popular, the upper part has the better ski conditions.  The snow cover is getting thin near the Requin and towards Montenvers. Prudence and a good ski ability needed.
The Valley Noire (Italian side) goes OK on the true right bank.

No important changes for snow shoers or hikers since the last bulletin.


We take this opportunity to remind you that, even though the snow conditions have made it awkward to do some activities, it is forbidden to go upwards on the ski pistes, whether on foot, ski or with snow shoes.

Some routes have been set up to avoid these forbidden areas.  See:
http://www.chamoniarde.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Espace-ski-de-rando2visu.pdf
http://www.chamoniarde.com/?page_id=730

UK Alpine Introductory Meet

2nd – 4th June 2017

George Starkey Hut, Patterdale, NE Lakes

Main Road (A592), Patterdale Village, Cumbria.  Nearest Postcode: CA11 0NN

Grid Ref – NY 396162 (OS Outdoor Leisure Map No 5)

Meet Details:

The AC are planning a training focused meet based in Patterdale (Lake District).  The focus will be on transferring skills to Aspirant Members and those who wish to improve their Alpine skills.

Informal training and guidance will be provided from more experienced members within the club (IFMGA guides and qualified instructors).

Topics will range from what to put into your rucksack to some basic Alpine mountaineering skills.

Report 15 February 2017

The snow conditions are changing fast due to the recent Spring like weather.  

At the higher altitudes the snow cover has been greatly affected by the wind so its suitability for skiing depends very much on the sector and aspect.  The avalanche risk remains high, at 3 out of 5 above 2200m.

The south facing slopes are already in Spring conditions, with crusty snow and numerous sloughs, to be avoided later in the day.
On the shaded slopes sheltered from the wind, it is still possible to find powder.

In the Aiguilles Rouges the classic ski tours are been done regularly, though in very warm conditions.  It is important to start early and to be off the slopes before they become dangerous.

In the main Mont Blanc massive the routes in the Argentière basin are tracked, despite very variable and not always good snow conditions.  The return down the glacier to Lognan is OK for the moment.

The col du Chardonnet and the Fenêtre de Saleina were tracked on 11/02, with the descent by the Col du Pissoir.  An abseil of at least 30m is needed from the Col du Chardonnet, (no fixed rope in place).
The Col du Passon is popular at the moment.

Some parties on the Courtes NE, (no further information.)
A party turned back at the bergschrund of the Couturier couloir on 13/02.

The Valley Blanche is being regularly skied, but in conditions that require a very good level of skiing.  The Rognon slopes are mostly in good condition. The gullies behind the Requin hut are too dry. The moraine to get from the Grand Envers to the hut also lacks snow and so requires excellent ski ability.  The Salle à Manger traverse is OK but requires care.

The Valley Noire, (Italian side) is tracked, as is the climb up to the foot of the Brèche Puiseux. No information concerning the rest of the route other than ski tracks returning to the Valley Blanche from the foot of the gully.
For the return to Chamonix, it is still possible to ski down via the Mottets snack bar, but this is unlikely to be the case for long.

On the Swiss side, the route up the Pointe Ronde was in good condition on 13/02 with powder down to the tree level then “skied out” snow, not always pleasant.
On the Italian side, the conditions at Courmayeur are reported to be generally good.

 

The recent hot weather has not favoured ice climbing, though conditions are better in Cogne.


 Not much activity reported for the gullies, though a few lines have been climbed recently:
- “Pas d’Agonie III” on the Gros Rognon in generally good conditions, albeit with thin ice.

- “Le Temps est assassin”, (Trident du Tacul), with some good ice in places and dry in others, (the party descended by the Allemands Couloir, which was iced up.
- « Goulotte Pellissier » on the Pointes Lachenal.
There are no tracks leading to the Gabarrou-Albinoni or the Modica-Noury.
Super Couloir is dry.

For snow shoers, the conditions remain the same as in the last update, (10/02).

With this warm period the paths below 1500m often have sections of bare ice, a pair of walking crampons could prove useful.

The Journeyman Alpine Club Meet 2017

Synopsis

The Alpine Club Journeyman Meet is aimed at Aspirant Members who have already climbed at least 7 to 10 PD routes in the Alps, and may have already participated in the Saas Fe Aspirant Meet in previous years.

The participants’ will be aiming to complete the 20 PD routes needed to become Full Members of the Alpine Club, and looking for sufficient climbing partners to make this happen

Location

The Journeyman will be held in Argentiere just outside of Chamonix with access to routes such as the Cosmiques Arete, Aiguille Rochefort and of course Mont Blanc. The meet will be held over two weeks in a self catering chalet with shared rooms in the village. A nearby campground offers an alternative to the chalet.

Programme

After a mandatory induction day with a local mountain guide covering safety and route finding, the participants will be encouraged to explore the mountains surrounding Chamonix with their climbing partners. During the first evening a member of the Chamonix Gendarmerie will also provide an overview of specific dangers of the region. The meet also aims to host a special guest to share in their experiences in expedition planning and route choice.

Dates

The meet will be held from 2nd September to 16th September after the main summer season to take advantage of quieter huts and mountains. It also gives members of the Saas Fe Aspirant Meet the opportunity to extend their stay in the Alps by one week.

Report 10 February 2017

Some information for the weekend:

The recent snowfalls have significantly improved ski conditions above 2000m.
In the 3 days leading up to 7th February, a metre of fresh snow fell at the Loriaz hut. The warm weather since means this snow has already partially settled and become heavier. The BERA (Avalanche reports from Meteo France) gives a 3/5 risk above 2500m for the weekend, so be warned.

The OHM has been informed that the following ski tours are tracked: Crochues/Bérard, Brèche de Bérard, Glacier du Mort, Col du Belvédère, Col des Dards and Col du Tour Noir.
The Bosse des Charmoz is tracked above Loriaz, as well as up to the Col de la Terrasse, (but not the summit, due to a cornice.)

The signposted ski touring routes at Le Tour, the Trapette, (Argentiere) and  Prarion are accessible, (ski crampons recommended.)

The Valley Blanche has been done with the descent right down to Chamonix, by the Mottets, feasible for very good skiers, (not advisable for snowboarders.); care needed from the Requin onwards.
It would appear that there is only one fixed rope on the descent ridge from the Aig du Midi for the moment.

No information concerning the icefalls, other than some activity at the Bérard icefall and the Crémerie on the true left bank of Argentière. Conditions are better at Cogne.


Conditions are much improved for snow shoeing, though it is still best to gain some altitude, e.g.  Prarion, Chailloux chalets, Loriaz and Vallon de Bérard.

Have a good weekend, and do not forget to pass on your experiences to the OHM.

Report 3rd February 2017

A quick update for the beginning of the half term holidays even though the situation is largely the same as in the last bulletin, (31 Jan.).

 

During the last few days, the conditions at lower altitudes have deteriorated due to the rise in temperatures. The snow cover is very patchy below 1200m or even 1500m.

Most of the footpaths along the valley floor are iced over and walkers need to take great care.

The marked snow shoe routes are practical for walkers but require good boots, hiking poles and crampons, (just in case.)

There are signposted trails from the lifts systems at Flégère, Lognan, Montenvers, Vallorcine, and Prarion. 

Away from the marked trails, snow shoeing is possible at Loriaz, Chailloux, Charousse, Carlaveyron, Ayères and Aiguillette des Posettes.  However, before setting out it is best to check the conditions.  
The recent snowfall at altitude (15cm at 2000m, 20/25cm at 2500m) has improved the conditions in the ski areas.

Ski tourers have been active in the Argentière and Aiguilles Rouges sectors, (though be aware that with the warmth, some exposed slopes are prone to purging.)   Even though the snow cover remains shallow for the beginning of February, the avalanche risk is still relatively high, (level 3,) above 2000m.

Concerning the Valley Blanche: the route is being done by some guides and experts in this area.  However, the conditions are far from normal and are potentially dangerous.  It is recommended to wait until the situation improves.
Concerning ice climbing: The icefalls have certainly suffered during this recent warm spell and it is difficult to make a judgement on the ice quality.

 

The overall conditions are likely to evolve rapidly during the next few days.

Report 31 January 2017

Following the last few days of warm weather the conditions have deteriorated in numerous sectors.

This morning (31st January) there was about 12 cms of windblown snow above 1900m

 

Last week there was a lot of ice climbing activity, (Eau Noire, right and left banks of the Argentière glacier, Loriaz icefall, Notre Dame de la Gorge, Bérard valley…)  However, with the recent warm weather the ice is now very soft and fragile. It is therefore recommended to wait until conditions improve again.


Concerning ski touring, one has to be fairly shrewd to find any powder, though the classic routes remain reasonably skiable.  However, it will only be when the good weather returns that the effect of the rain on the lower parts of the routes will be seen.
Whatever the route, ski and boot crampons are strongly recommended, (quasi essential)

No recent news for the high mountain routes but the classics like Cosmiques ridge, Aiguilles Marbrées, Tour Ronde or Aiguille du Tour should still be possible.

THE VALLEY BLANCHE: conditions have got a lot worse and it is best to wait until they improve.  The section from the Gros Rognon to the bifurcation with the Leschaux glacier is particularly awkward, with a real crevasse danger.  The lower part of the route, to reach Montenvers, has very little snow cover.

The areas for snow shoeing are basically the same as in the last report: Prarion, Chailloux, Loriaz, Ayères, or, using the lifts, the Aiguillette des Posettes and the Index.  For the moment, routes such as the traverse from the Plan de l’Aiguille to Montenvers are not practical.

  

The footpaths at the valley floor and the Petit Balcon Sud have ice patches. A good pair of boots and walking poles are essential and walking crampons could prove very useful.

  
The forecast for the next few days is for the weather to remain unstable. No significant snowfall is forecast before next weekend (to be confirmed).  Patience is needed.   

The Golden and Silver Ages of Mountaineering 1855-1900

The AC Library’s Exhibition: 'The Golden and Silver Ages of Mountaineering 1855-1900' has opened at the Frenchay Village Museum.

The exhibition includes: photographs, first edition books, archives and artefacts highlighting the climbing partnerships between AC members and AC members' expeditions from the 1870s as far afield as the Caucasus and the Karakoram Himalayas and viewing is highly recommended.

  

(l-r) Hywel Lloyd, Barbara Grigor-Taylor and Tony Westcott setting up the exhibition at the Frenchay Village Museum. 

At: Frenchay Village Museum, 1 Begbrook Park, Winterbourne, Bristol BS16 1SZ

From: 7 January to 29 March 2017

Opening hours:  Saturday & Sunday, 2pm-5pm, and Wednesday, 1pm-4pm. 

Lecture:  9th March - A lecture on the exhibition, by ACL Chairman, Hywel Lloyd, at a venue near the museum DETAILS HERE

 

Report 23 January 2017

Since the last update the snow conditions have changed as a result of the warm period linked to the foehn wind on Sunday.  The snow quality remains inconsistent.

Ski Touring:
In the Aiguilles Rouges, the Col des Dards and the Col du Belvédère are popular.  The return to Flégère is awkward due to lack of snow.
The Crochues-Bérard traverse is also being skied, with the descent of the Berard valley just about OK.
The Buet has been skied, (no further information.)
There has been activity at Loriaz where the Col de la Terrasse and the Bosse are tracked, (some rocks exposed at Les Charmoz.) The Veudale is also tracked but not the Tré les Eaux valley.  The snow is generally well packed and OK to ski.

Snow conditions are more variable in the Pormenaz area with a lack of snow by the Souay torrent.

In the Argentière sector the Col du Tour Noir and the Col d’Argentière continue to be skied, though the return to Lognan remains complicated.
The Col du Passon is tracked but the conditions are not very good.

Concerning the “high mountain” activity, the gullies remain very dry, especially at the head of the Argentière glacier.
The Claire Chazal has been climbed albeit in very thin conditions.
The Couturier has (foot) tracks on the true left side; technically harder than usual. A lot of snow on the descent by the Whymper.  
No information from the “heart” of the massive, except for the Cosmiques Ridge.
The Valley Blanche, though possible, remains complicated and only suitable for very good skiers/alpinists with glacier travel skills.

Many of the icefalls are in condition.
At Trient “Une colonne de glace peut en cacher une autre” and “Cascade difficile” have been reported to be in good condition. The approach is quicker on skis.
In the Argentière sector conditions were good on 19/01 at the true right bank, e.g. “Lolly Pop”, “Enzo”, “Les Jumeaux”, “Icelander” and “Grand Bleu”. Careful though as conditions can change rapidly, especially with the re-warming on Sunday.  The true left bank has less ice. However, many of the routes are OK, especially in the “beginners” areas.
Though the Bellevue icefall at Les Houches has been climbed recently, it is now no longer in condition.

At Cogne the long cold spell has created good conditions.  See the Hotel La Barme website: http://www.iceclimbingcogne.com/

Snow shoeing is possible at altitude: for example, the Prarion plateau, the Samoteux area, the Chalets de Chailloux at Les Houches, the climb up to Loriaz and Granges loop near the Buet village. The Aiguillette des Posettes is also possible, starting from the top of the Vallorcine lift.

The trails at the valley floor are lacking in snow but can be hiked with good boots and a pair of poles.

Report 18 January 2017

It is feeling very cold, (low temperatures and a continuous breeze,) so despite the anticyclonic weather, ski touring is only starting up again slowly. The snow quality is very variable: mediocre and crusty in those sectors affected by the wind, better in the sheltered areas.

Below 2000m, care is needed while descending as there is not a proper snow base yet.

In the Aiguilles Rouges, the Crochues/Bérard, Dards and Belvédère cols are tracked. In the Argentière sector, the Passon, Tour Noir and Argentière cols are being done.  The return by the lower flat section of the Argentière glacier towards Lognan still has little snow and is awkward. Snow depth remains poor below 2800m in numerous areas, (bare ice, protruding rocks, crevasses).

Recent parties down the Valley Blanche, (Petit Envers – Moyenne Envers,) found the routes to be awkward and crevassed.  (Note: the ridge is not equipped yet, though some stakes in place.)  Good technique is necessary, the snow being crusty and difficult to ski in areas affected by the wind.  Below 2800m there is a serious lack of snow, with bare ice and exposed rocks in the gullies in the Requin area. The return to Montenvers by the Mer de Glace remains awkward, (side slipping between stones.)  We do not have any information about the “classic” Valley Blanche and so do not know the conditions at the serac zone.

Concerning ice climbing; the Crèmerie is popular. We would remind you to walk in from the Grand Montets parking, (and not to park at the Crèmerie restaurant or the CMBH Drop Zone). We have no information yet concerning the other icefalls.  
We are also waiting for information on the state of the gullies at altitude.  The recent snow and the intense cold has not encouraged activity

The dedicated snow shoeing tracks are proving popular.

The ski pistes are now all open, as are the signposted  trails for ski tourers, see: http://www.chamoniarde.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Espace-ski-de-rando2visu.pdf

 In a word, winter has arrived, but some more snow would be most appreciated.

AC Expedition to the Bolivian Apolobamba 2017

Unfortunately as an insufficient number of people have applied for this expedition to make the trip viable we have reluctantly cancelled it.

3 June – 2 July

After a very successful expedition to Cordillera Real in 2015 the AC is planning to return to Bolivia in 2017, this time to the less well-known Apolobamba range. A four week expedition is proposed from Saturday 3 June to Sunday 2 July 2017 with a possible option for those short of time to return one week early. The plan is to split the expedition into two parts after a short period of acclimatisation near Lake Titicaca. The first and major part will be to visit the range north of Peluchuco, with options to climb a variety of peaks including Chaupi Orco (6,044m), the highest in the range. In the final week we shall travel south of Peluchuco, with Cololo (5,915m) as a primary objective. Because of the remoteness of this area we shall have limited support, although four porters will be available to help carry to the first base camp and a camp guard with knowledge of the area will remain at both base camps. There are no reliable maps or guides to the Apolobamba so what we actually do will be highly dependent on the prevailing conditions. The number of participants will be limited to 12, with the cost estimated to be ca £1,100 for all in-country expenses (accommodation, transport and assistance), plus flights to and from La Paz (ca £700). In addition, we will need to source all mountain food from the UK and pay for meals for the six nights while hostel/hotel based. If you are interested please contact Derek Buckle (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) as soon as possible.

Alan Lyall

We are saddened to learn of the death of Alan Lyall who died on Monday, 9th January,  He had been a member for 25 years, joining as a full member in 1991. Alan is known for his book The First Descent of the Matterhorn: A Bibliographical Guide to the 1865 Accident and its Aftermath.

 

Harry Sales

It is with sadness that we report of the death of Harry Sales

Harry’s funeral is on Wednesday 25th January 2017.  In the morning there will be a private cremation and after that, everyone is welcome to attend a Service in Celebration of Harry’s Life, at 2.30 in Paul Church, near Penzance. This will be  followed by Afternoon Tea in the Church Hall.   Afternoon tea with friends was one of Harry’s favourite things!

John Atherton has been asked to handle any enquiries from Club friends, his phone number is 01736 731537 and email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Photos by John Atherton

The one that shows Harry climbing was taken in April 2000, when I took Harry aged 82, on his last climb - Allison's Rib at Bosigran. 

Report 13 January 2017

At last some snow!

However, the snow is falling together with strong north westerly winds, causing major drifting and making the snow layer very unstable.

Because of the wind effect it is difficult to say how much snow has recently fallen.  Nonetheless, the Company du Mont Blanc has estimated 70cms at the Aig du Midi and between 15 to 40 cms at 2000/2500m, depending on the wind and sector.

It is clear that the conditions have changed significantly since the last reports.

Though there is plenty of ice for climbing on the true left bank of the Argentiere glacier and at the Cremerie, one needs to take into account  the recent rise in temperatures. Climbing on the true right bank is not practical, due to a high avalanche risk.

We would like to remind you that it is forbidden to ascend the ski pistes, (both open and in preparation,) whether on skis, snow shoes or on foot.  Signposted trails for this exist but currently lack snow, with the possible exceptions those starting from Charamillon (La Tour), and Maision Neuve, (Prarion).

The snow shoe trails at the lower altitudes are still without sufficient snow.  However, there are trails open at the Prarion plateau and the top of the Bellevue, (Les Houches).

For hikers with good boots and walking poles there remains plenty of trails near the valley floor.

The weather is going to remain unstable for several days, causing further changes to the conditions. After this we expect a lot more activity to report.

Alpine Aspirants Meet 26 Aug - 10 Sept 2017

Following the tried and tested formula designed by Barry Speed, this meet will be based in the Saas Valley with its access to over a dozen 4000m peaks and many routes in the lower grades.  It is run primarily for Aspirant and Associate members early in their alpine careers, or as a refresher for older members.

It starts with two days’ compulsory safety training and glacier instruction from professional guides.

Accommodation in Hotel Schönblick and the adjacent campsite (campers can also eat in the hotel), which offer free ski-lifts and buses throughout the valley.

Option of two weeks, or first week only.  Preference may be given to those wishing to come for the full two weeks as places are in demand.

All interested, please contact Nicholas Smith This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sir David Templeman-Adams

Congratulations to David Hempleman-Adams, a member since 1995, on his appointment to Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian order (KCVO) in the Queen’s New Year Honours in recognition of his services, as a Trustee for 10 years, to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

 

Report 4 January 2017

2017 has started as 2016 finished, still no precipitation!

The gullies remain very bare, and technically much more difficult than usual.


The Mallory-Porter on the N face of the Aiguille du Midi has been climbed, with passages of ice, notably on the exit.  There were no problems with the approach.
The Chéré Couloir has also been climbed, (no further information.)

The routes being done near the Torino hut are the same as reported in the last update.  

For the Argentiere sector, the Chevalier gully is being climbed, (bergschrund fairly wide, the gully itself OK, with mixed climbing to exit.)  The Pépite gully is “dry” and the Couturier has passages of ice which are getting ever longer.

Descending the Whymper is becoming more difficult as the number of bare ice sections increase.
Conditions for ski and ski touring in this sector have got worse.  A decision has been taken that only alpinists on foot can use the Grands Montets top cable car.


It is probably best to go to Italy or the Grand Bernard pass for ski touring. People have been out, however, to the Pointe de la Terrase area, starting from Finhaut/Emosson.
We remind you that the road up to Emosson is officially closed to vehicles.

 
The ice climbing conditions are slowly improving.

Climbing continues at the Crémerie, the Déferlante, Noix de Samba and Mini Couloir as well as the new sector, “Les Dents de la Mer”, (true left bank.)
Parties have been seen on the Grand Bleu et Mer de Rêve, (true right bank.)
There is also climbing next to the Cascade de Bérard.
For Cogne, see the www.hotellabarme.com website for more information.
The Fallo di Plutone icefall  is out of bounds due to bearded vulture nesting.


Conditions for walking remain difficult and potentially dangerous above 1800/2000m. Hikers starting from the lifts need to be experienced and have good boots, crampons, hiking poles and eventually an ice axe for some areas.
The snow has become very hard and even on the lower paths there maybe passages of ice.

There is still no forecast for a significant dump of snow.  

The temperature is expected to drop dramatically over the next few days, with a strong northerly wind at altitude.  

Report 24 December 2016

Though more snow is desperately needed, we continue to enjoy a period of good weather, with the minor exception of the passage of some clouds and wind at altitude.   
This stable weather means conditions have hardly changed and the routes being done at altitude are basically the same as those mentioned in the previous report, (17th Dec).

Some additional information:
Parties are rock climbing in the Aiguilles Rouges, e.g. on the Index and Aiguille de la Persévérance. Crampons and ice axes may be needed for the approaches.  The valley crags remain easily accessible, e.g. Barberine and the Gaillands.

Several ski tours have been reported despite the thin conditions:  the Brevent to the Aiguillette des Houches and back, Crochues/Bérard and the Buet (long portage and crampons essential.)

 
In the Argentière basin, the Col d’Argentière appears to be the best option, the appoaches to the other routes lacking snow.  The return to Lognan remains awkward. No news about the N faces or the gullies other than black ice being reported on the Petite Verte normal route.

Conditions for the icefalls are starting to improve and some of the lines on the Crémerie and the true left bank of the Argentière, (approach from above,) are being climbed.
Avoid top roping at the Crémerie, as there is a danger of falling ice from parties above.

No change for the Aiguille du Midi and the Torino hut sectors.  Conditions OK to good for the Tour Ronde N face and the traverse of the Marbrées.
The gullies remain very dry for the season.
Conditions for the Chéré are OK, except for the first pitch.  The gullies on the N side of the Cosmiques ridge are not in condition.   The Frendo and the Mallory/Porter have been climbed, (no further information.).
The Vallée Blanche is not practical.

Though the lack of snow means conditions are generally bad for winter sports, the snow/ice on the hiking trails above 1800/2000m can pose problems and the advice given in the previous report remains valid.
The signposted snow shoe trails in the valley floor lack snow, but can be walked, (care with the ice patches.)  Higher up, there are signposted trails for snow shoeing from the top of the Index and Prarion lifts.  For the more experienced, the Carlaveyron plateau, from the Brevent and back, has potential.

Some of the Balme/Vallorcine lifts are open giving access to hikes between the Aiguillette des Posettes and the Col de Balme.  The snow is very hard and may require crampons in addition to good boots and walking poles.

Report 17th December 2016

Here is the latest information, prior to the end of year holidays:
There have been no major changes to the conditions since the last update, they remain very dry for the time of year.

Albert 1er sector: Parties have gone for the Aiguille du Tour (no further information) and the Migot Spur on the Chardonnet, where conditions are not ideal especially at the bergschrund and on the descent.  Snowshoes used for the approach.

 

Argentière sector:  Ski tourers are doing the Cols du Tour Noir and Argentière.  There is not much snow in the lower parts and care is needed, (moraines, crevasses).
The return to the Lognan is awkward and not skiable all the way.

A party went for the NNE of the Courtes, (no further information).  Another party turned back at the Petit Viking bergschrund, judged to be too difficult to cross. The Pépite gully was climbed in dry conditions. The Chevallier gully has been climbed.  The Couturier Couloir, (direct finish) is OK, (changing snow quality throughout), keeping to the true left side, with 60m of ice near the top. Descent by the Whymper keeping to the left bank, the upper part being ice in the middle for about 150m. The secondary gully is fairly dry, 3 abseils of 30m, bergshrund passable on the true right.  

The Y Gully and the Glacier du Milieu have also been climbed, but not without problems as the lower sections are dry.  Cornices present on the summit ridge.

For those into ice climbing, the Crèmerie and Déferlante are slowly coming into condition.


Aiguille du Midi / Mer de Glace/ Torino sector:
The Midi cable car opened on the 17th, so we are expecting reports of conditions for the Tacul and Aig du Midi gullies soon.
Near the Torino, the N face of the Tour Ronde remains OK, as does the normal route. “Winter” climbing is also taking place on the Aiguilles Marbrées, the Entrêves and the Dent du Géant.
At least one party has been on the Pierre-Allain on the Dru, (no further information.)

The Grandes Jorasses are not in condition, (« font grise mine… »)

Parties have gone for Mont Blanc by the Goûter, the approach to the Gouter hut is mixed, as if it was the start of the summer.  No information about the rest of the route, (e.g. the crevasse between the Bosses and the summit.)
Dômes de Miage and the Aiguille de la Bérangère have been done recently on foot. Approach from Cugnon and then via the Mauvais Pas (lots of ice) and the Tré la Tête glacier, (fairly dry but without any notable problems.).

Concerning ski touring, the choice is limited with most of the activity taking place at higher altitudes in the Mont Blanc range.  

The Aig Rouges lifts are have just opened, but we do not have any further information yet. Likewise, there is no information for the Mt Buet, though certainly you will have to carry the skis for most of the Berard valley, (crampons essential.)
No information from the Emosson sector.  Despite the rumours, the road is officially closed after Finhaut and it is forbidden to drive up it even if it looks feasible.

The conditions appear to be better on the Italy, for example, the Grand Paradiso.

Lastly, for the hikers:
Conditions at altitude are difficult and potentially dangerous.  This includes the paths higher than 1800 to 2000m.  One is strongly advised against hiking the Grands Balcons  (north and south,) or up to the higher lakes.

The Loriaz hut is open and accessible by the forest track, needs good boots and walking poles. (Skis and snowshoes a waste of time.)

There is a lot of ice on the paths in the Berard valley; crampons necessary. The “Cascade de Bérard” buvette will be open all winter from 10h to17h and will open in the evening if reserved.
The Merlet Animal Park opens for the Christmas holidays: 19th to 23rd and 26th to 30th Dec. from 12h to 16h.
There are no problems with hiking in the valley floor.
During this difficult time, caution is required and you need to adapt your plans in line with the prevailing conditions.
Please do not forget to send in a report of your activities to the Office de Haute Montagne, to help with the next conditions update.