Why Do Mountain Rescues Occur?

A recent Swiss study looked at the reasons behind the many rescues that take place every year in the Alps. Jeremy Windsor lays out the key findings and what they tell us about safety in the mountains.


A man in red uniform stands on a snowy summit, waving in a recue helicopter.Photo: Kevin Schmid

In the 12 years between 2009 and 2020, the Swiss Alpine Club Registry documented a total of 4,687 high altitude emergencies that required a rescue. Given that the vast majority took place in the months of July and August, that averaged out at no fewer than 7 emergencies per day.

What do you think was the commonest reason for a rescue? Injury? Illness? It was neither. The most common cause of a high altitude emergency was being stranded - 42% of those who contacted the Swiss mountain rescue services between 2009 and 2020 were unable to reach a place of safety and, as a result, requested help.

Were they injured or ill? No, the vast majority were unharmed. The most common reason for getting stranded was exhaustion (60%). In a small number of cases, the weather made a contribution, with fresh snow, thunderstorms and fog all being mentioned in reports.

More than half (55%) of those stranded were located on mountains over 4,000m. The two most common peaks were the Matterhorn (21%) and Piz Bernina (13%).

The second most common reason for contacting the Swiss mountain rescue services was following a fall (29%). However it's not clear from the study what injuries were sustained. High altitude emergencies were also triggered by rockslide (6%), crevasse (4%) and avalanche (1%). Unfortunately, the exact pattern of injury was not available for these groups either.

Illness accounted for 8% of high altitude emergencies. Whilst details of the exact nature of these illnesses were sparse, earlier research suggests that a number of different conditions would have likely been responsible. These would include - high altitude illness, acute infection and exacerbations of chronic disease. 

Photo: Marco Meyer

What should we make of these results? The author of the study, Benedikt Gasser, argues that they need to be seen in a wider context. In the years before the Covid pandemic, the number of people visiting the Swiss Alps had been increasing. However, high altitude emergencies increased at a slower rate than the increase in visitors. During the same time, the number of deaths had fallen. Seen together, the author strikes a note of optimism, suggesting that the proportion of mountaineers who get stranded or die in the Swiss Alps is actually falling. This may be true, but from the results it’s also clear that there are a significant number of mountaineers out there who are choosing routes that are not appropriate for their levels of fitness, skill or experience. As a result, they're becoming stranded at high altitude and placing themselves and members of the rescue services at considerable risk. It’s also important to note that while the proportion of climbers requiring a rescue may be falling, in absolute numbers callouts are increasing, meaning more risk for rescuers.

Here’s John Ellerton, AC member and President of the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) with the final word:

At a forensic level, the Swiss Alpine Club Registry has some limitations - colleagues that work in the system acknowledge that this is not a full picture of mountaineering accidents in the Alps. However, this does not detract from the large numbers of ’stranded’, ‘crag fast’, ‘lost’ or ‘exhausted’ clients that impact upon organised mountain rescue teams in many parts of the world. Ask Keswick and Wasdale MRT’s about Scafell Pike and the ‘3 Peaks Challenge’! It would be interesting if evidence from 'honey pots' could show that 'stranded' is a new or increasing problem fuelled by a reduction in the experience, skills or resilience of clientele rather than an increase in the absolute number of participants. 

In the UK, regional reports show that the categories  ‘lost/disorientated, missing or reports of shouts’ account for 22% of incidents with a further 8% being triggered by those who are ‘benighted or crag fast’. Certainly, an increase in rescue requests in some areas is something that organisations are trying to address. For example, Adventure Smart in the UK gives out simple messages with the aim of reducing the number of avoidable callouts.  In addition, modern technology is increasingly used to guide the ‘stranded’ down without deploying a rescue team to the hill."



Jeremy Windsor is a healthcare professional, AC member and part of the team behind the Mountain Medeicine Blog.




Report: 25 November 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 25 November 2022

There hasn’t been much activity in the past week, so our conditions report is going to be short! 



The only two uplifts that are in operation in this shoulder season are the Montenvers train and the Skyway.


Since our last report, there have been two snowy spells, and there is now a base of around 50/60 cm of snow at 2,000m and 80cm to 1m at 2,500 m. Below 2,000m the snow cover is thin and has crusted over after the rain snow limit went up on Wednesday night into Thursday. In the last two days, there has been a thaw and the possibility of skiing from the valley floor is rapidly disappearing. 

Amongst the places you can dust off the skis are: around the col de Balme, Mont Joly, Flaine, Grandes Platières ....



As far as walking goes, we are certainly between seasons. You’ll need good boots and poles to use the footpaths up to 1,600/1,800 m: the petits balcons paths and the buvettes  (Floria, Chapeau, Cerro, Dard, Chalets de Chailloux). Above that it’s still a bit early to get out on snowshoes. 


We don’t have any more information on trips into the high mountains than in our previous report


Translated with permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

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




2022 Piolet d'Or Award Videos

2022 Piolet d'Or Award Videos

As has become customary, a number of videos detailing the routes and individuals to have received the Piolet d'Or have been released for the 2022 recipients. The videos are available on the YouTube channel of Bertrand Delapierre and are also included below.


2022 Winner: Moonwalk Traverse - Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll


2022 Winner: The North-West Face of Saraghrar Northwest (7,300m) - Archil Badriashvili, Baqar Gelashvili and Giorgi Tepnadze


Special Jury Award: South-East ridge of Annapurna III (7,555m) - Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin and Viacheslav Polezhaiko


Lifetime Achievement Award: Silvo Karo




'A Line Above the Sky' | Review

'A Line Above the Sky' | Review

Joint winner of the 2022 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature and Grand Prize winner in the 2023 Banff Mountain Book Competition, 'A Line Above the Sky' by Helen Mort is an exploration of mountains and motherhood, entwining Mort's own experiences with the tragic story of British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves. It is also, as Terry Gifford discovers in this review from the 2022 Alpine Journal (on sale now via Cordee), an unsparing work that is unafraid to take risks with its subject matter.

A Line Above the Sky

Helen Mort

Ebury Press, 2022, 268pp, £17


Remember Messner’s definition of mountaineering? ‘If no risk has been taken, no climbing has taken place.’ Remember Robert Burton on danger and what he calls ‘a bitter jest’ in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621)? ‘A bitter jest, a slander, a calumny, pierceth deeper than any loss, danger, bodily pain or injury whatsoever’. Helen Mort is the victim of at least two ‘bitter jests’, but she is also a risk taker. Halfway through this reflective memoir she catches herself ‘taking liberties with a story that isn’t mine to tell [...] I have no right to narrate this, embellish it, just as I have no right to delve into Alison Hargreaves’s innermost life.’ In this book Mort is intimate and unsparing in examining her experience of pregnancy, giving birth and the first years of motherhood as a climber and fell runner fascinated by the experience of Alison Hargreaves who sits on her shoulder throughout as her ‘ghost companion’. It is a risky writing project. We know that Alison’s story, and that of her son Tom, did not end well. But Mort is up for the challenge: ‘If there is no risk in my writing, no fear, there is no pleasure. I have to make myself feel uncomfortable, take chances in the way a mountaineer does, calculating and recalculating, pitching their frail body against the wind. In risk, we feel most alive.’

There have been other books by women on climbing, the outdoors and motherhood, perhaps most notably Lilace Mellin Guignard’s When Everything Beyond the Walls is Wild (2019), but none so frank, so visceral and so layered in meanings. Teased at school as a 10 year old for being fat – the first bitter jest – Mort turned herself into an athlete. ‘All my life I’d wanted to be a line,’ she writes, giving the book’s title one of its meanings. The others are in a life as a writer of lines, a climber, a runner and ‘underlining the desires of others’. ‘Then there is the line of the pregnancy test’ and the renunciation of lines, together with individuality. With her pink-cropped hair, Mort is uneasy at first in joining NCT classes with the other expectant mums: ‘I did not feel like a mother. I barely felt like a woman.’ But after their babies were born they ‘began to know each other as women as well as mothers.’ She writes: ‘Together, we formed a shield.’ The result of this new-found female kinship is a desire, when Alfie is a year old, to climb with a woman, something Mort had barely done before. The return to leading on Stanage with Anna Fleming as the only women climbing together that day is a reminder of how pioneering this can still feel at a personal level, for all our assumptions about progress.

Of course, the Alison Hargreaves narrative inevitably leads towards the death of her son, Tom and here the parallel ‘ghosting’ story might get uncomfortable. Mort recounts watching reports of Tom’s disappearance and search efforts hourly through the night whilst breastfeeding three-month-old Alfie. Her emotional investment is clear. Later, while Alfie is safe at pre-school, there is a knock at the door. ‘I could not shake the instinct that something must have happened to him.’ In fact, it is an acquaintance calling to warn her that her face has been superimposed on a body on a porn site – the second bitter jest and the ultimate crossing of the line of her own body. In writing about this Mort ‘takes back control.’ Women, she says, have always been judged by the world by more than their subjective selves, as in the duality of mother-climber in Alison Hargreaves’ case. Mort’s conclusion to this book is to reflect upon the multiple roles of the women who came before her, her present friends and, as poet and novelist, her fictional characters: ‘If women are always to be doubled, surveyor and surveyed, then let us be multiple. Let us stand so close that we seem to merge together, the dead and the living, the real and the fictional.’

In the final lines of the book Mort sees, with her eyes closed, a mother and son climbing on Stanage in the winter sun. A male reviewer might be forgiven for seeing, with his eyes closed, other lines above the sky, yet to be written. But that would not diminish his appreciation of this extraordinary revelation of what is also ordinary. The book belies its teasing assertion that to find meaning in climbing is to find meaning in life. Clearly it is not true for Mort to say that, ‘You love it precisely because it means nothing.’ Any reader will come away from this book profoundly enriched by the knowledge of why the opposite is the case.




Brian Hall and Helen Mort Win 2022 Boardman Tasker Prize

Brian Hall and Helen Mort Win 2022 Boardman Tasker Prize

On the evening of Friday 18 November, the jury of the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature announced Alpine Club member Brian Hall and poet Helen Mort as joint winners of the 2022 competition. Brian was awarded for his autobiographical work 'High Risk' and Helen for her exploration of motherhood and the mountains 'A Line Above the Sky'. 

A graphicshowing the Boardman Tasker logo and the covers of the two winning books.

Also among the shortlisted nominees were Keiran Cunningham for 'Climbing the Walls', Anna Fleming for 'Time on Rock', Robert Charles Lee for 'Through Dangerous Doors' and AC member Paul Pritchard for 'The Mountain Path'.

'A Line Above the Sky' was reviewed by Terry Gifford in the 2022 Alpine Journal and is available to read here.




Report: 18 November 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 18 November 2022


Hi everyone, we’re back again!

Not that we were away on holiday (well, a little bit) or that we had a thousand and one other things to do (yes, a little bit too) but between the lack of activity, the lack of information available (think about giving us some!), the parade of disruptions...etc In short, we didn't have the time!



It looks like winter is on the way, let's just hope it's not just a false alarm. November was quite unsettled and it snowed well in the high mountains! Lower down, the water tables and rivers have been restored to health!

Last night saw 25-30cm deposited at 1,900m and more than 40cm above 2,200m. To get off to a good start, there was a fair amount of wind with snow drifts of 80 cm at 2,100m. The ground is white up to 1,400m.

As a result, we will have to get back to good habits: consider the risk of avalanche in the preparation of outings and take rescue equipment (and consider training!)

Webcams are a good idea to give you an overview of the conditions:

In the Valley

It's the off season in the valley until the start of the winter season.

The Flégère gondola is open until the evening of Sunday 20 November. The Montenvers train will then take over.

In Italy, the Skyway is open for the season.

All the refuges are currently closed.


Higher Up

Regarding conditions in the high mountains, we have very little information because potential windows have been infrequent and brief and activity has been sparse. 

We've probably never finished telling you this, but you'll have to be wary of crevasses even more than usual at the beginning of the season. As you all know, the glaciers were very open this summer. The snow bridges will/are gradually forming again (snowfall, wind) but there is work to do, especially to make them strong enough. Some bad glaciers should be avoided until conditions improve. Elsewhere, it is recommended to be wary and systematically rope up on the way up. Some of the rimayes are likely to be nasty! 

Skis or snowshoes are now necessary if you are up high. 

A few gullies were climbed before the Aiguille du Midi closed (Chéré, Gabarrou-Albinoni). It remains to be seen how things have evolved since then and until the reopening. As a reminder, the North side of the Aiguille du Midi (Mallory/Frendo) is closed by municipal decree until Sunday 20 November.

Around the Punta Helbronner, a bit of activity on the Marbrées or Tour Ronde traverse (report on our “cahier de course” by the way, many thanks for the feedback!). No information about the mixed routes of the Grand Flambeau or the gullies of the Combe Maudite.

Some exploration on the Chardonnet but the approach by the glacier is very complex.


Skiing, Hiking & Snowshoeing

Lower down, we cant get skis on yet. If you are chomping at the bit, you can get a few turns below the Index by hiking up from Flégère but you'll need to be gentle as there is no base. 

It's not possible to hike at altitude (lakes etc). You can nevertheless go for a few steps in the snow to enjoy the scenery at an altitude of no more than 1,600-1,800m: chalets at Chailloux, the petits balcons paths, the Floria/Cerro/Chapeau buvettes. Remember to be properly equipped: good shoes, poles, warm clothes.

And it's still a bit early for snowshoes!


Translated with permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

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





Mountain Stability in the Mont Blanc Massif - Summer 2022

Mountain Stability in the Mont Blanc Massif -  Summer 2022

What follows is a summary of a discussion/Q&A that was organised by IFMGA guide Martin Elias on behalf of Chamonix Experience in early August 2022.

It was presented by Ludovic Ravanel, geomorphologist, IFMGA guide and instructor at the Ecole Nationale de Ski et Alpinisme, the French national centre for mountaineering in Chamonix.

The interpretation of his words and their translation from French are by British Mountain Guide Andy Perkins. He accepts no responsibility for injury or death that may occur when following this advice. You are reminded that mountain conditions are, by their nature, changeable and that climbing is an activity with inherent risks to the participant.


A climber stands on a slab of granite, gesturing towards a face. In the background, tracks in the snow of a glacier are clear.


The Situation

The mountains around Mont Blanc changed very little in the previous six to seven thousand years but are now changing very rapidly. The alpine areas are warming two or three times faster than the rest of the world on average.

Inspection of images of the Mont Blanc Massif show very little change to snow cover from the end of the last mini ice age (c.1850) until around 1980. In the last 20 – 30 years, the rate of change has been significant. The effect of climate change on the mountains was noted in 2003, when the Goûter hut was closed due to rockfall in the Grand Couloir. In 2005, a large part of the Bonatti Pillar on the Drus collapsed.

It was around this time that investigation into the link between permafrost and rock collapses was started. A relationship was suspected in research from the ‘70s through to the ‘90s, but now there is a firm statistical link between the two.

Specifically, we are concerned by areas above 2,300-2,500m on north aspects, and above 3,300- 3,500m on south aspects. This is where we know there is permafrost thanks to an increasing number of temperature gauges (now over 100 in the Mont Blanc Massif). With this “heat map”, it is possible to correlate permafrost and increased rockfall activity.

You might think that rockfall/collapse would only increase once the temperature of the rock goes above 0°C, but in fact it becomes a concern from about -3°C.

Alongside melting of permafrost, the loss of thickness of glacial ice is an important contributor to geological instability. The rock underneath the ice expands due to there being less weight of ice on it (known as post glacial decompression). This is what is happening at the base of the south face of the Midi, for example.

In 2015, the Goûter was also closed for the same reason as in 2003, and since then there have been heatwaves in four of the six summers that followed (as well as the ongoing one).

The big difference in 2022 is that:

  1. It was a low snow winter.
  2. May was very warm.
  3. The first heatwave was in June. As a consequence, the warming of the rock started earlier and penetrated deeper into the rock. By mid-July, the internal temperatures of the rock on north aspects were the same as they would normally be at the end of August, so we are 4 – 6 weeks in advance of what happened previously.

On a slightly less grim note, temperatures on south faces are slightly lower than in previous years.


A black and white image of a mountain.


There have been 4 major rock collapse events so far in 2022:

  • The Tour Ronde
  • West face of the Dru
  • Aiguille du Tacul
  • Another incident in Italy

[Editor’s Note: Subsequent to this talk, there was a further significant rockfall, this time on the Cosmiques Arête].

In addition, there is very little snow on the glaciers. This means more ice is melting. There has been a 7m loss of thickness on the Mer de Glace and snow bridges are weaker than in the past.



Avoid North Faces Above 2,300m

For example, the north ends of the Marbrées and the Entrèves are suspect, so better to do these out and back from the south ends rather than as complete traverses.

The heat will keep going into these faces even if/when it starts to cool down, and there could be some big rockfalls this autumn.


Avoid Ridges

This is because the rock is being heated from both sides.


Avoid Couloirs

This is often where there are faults and more instability as a result, plus the debris gets channeled.


South Faces Up To 3,300m Generally OK, But Keep An Eye On Stuff Above

Glacial approaches to these faces may well be problematic.


Be Alert For Microsigns Of Impending Collapse

These include:

  • Grating noises.
  • Water running down cracks.
  • Cracks getting wider than you remember (e.g. taking a larger size of cam).
  • Gravel in cracks.
  • Fresh rock on ledges.
  • Rumbling noises like an empty stomach.
  • Increased rockfall in general – for example there is rockfall below the Triangle du Tacul for the first time ever, meaning that there is no ice left in certain areas there.


Even in the lower areas, there can be a problem with the terrain drying out (aka desiccation), and then a bit of rainfall lubricates it. Hence the recent rockfall on Barberine.

After rockfall has occurred , the hang fire can stick around for a minimum of 10 years. In other words, don’t go to a place where there’s been a recent event in the assumption that it’s now more stable.

There is going to be a big event some time on the Red Pillar of the Blaitière. It might be tomorrow, it might be in 10 years, but there will be one.


A bridge on the Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix
The Mer de Glace Glacier, Chamonix


The Good News

The Aravis is post-glacial, so less issue there (except for desiccation).

Aiguilles Rouges are generally good, though there is overcrowding on the Brevent. Even a short walk of an hour will get you away from many of the crowds.

The Valais is better too, as the strata are generally horizontal so less prone to slippage. One notable exception is the Matterhorn. Purging the Hörnli by removing rock will most likely accelerate penetration of heat into the mountain.

In July 2022, there were lots of “little” rockfalls. In August there are/will be less frequent falls but they will be bigger.

The permafrost will continue to be degraded by:

a) Conduction of heat.
b) Convection by either air in the cracks or (way worse) water. One of the lucky aspects of this summer is that it’s been dry.
    It will be important to keep an eye on the snow-rain limit when the next precipitation cycles come through.
    If it rains above 2,300m, the situation will get quite active.

It’s unlikely that the situation will get any better until there have been a few cold cycles. A heavy snowfall at the start of autumn would be bad, as it would insulate the ground below. The best scenario would be a long, cold, dry period, and then snow after that.

The best period for stability is the end of Spring when the rock is coolest.

The periods when routes come into condition will get shorter. One of the problems with social media is that everyone now knows when things are in, and so there are crowds/queues which lead to their own particular problems.

Alpinists need to be more reactive, and come to the mountains for an experience rather than a specific summit.

Ludovic referred to a need to “deseasonalise” the activity.


Structures in the Mountains

  • The suspended pylon between Grands and Petits Flambeaux is becoming an issue.
  • The foundations of the Grands Mulets too. (Access to the toilets is increasingly problematic).
  • The Midi isn’t a problem just yet, but may well be in the future.
  • It’s unlikely the Goûter hut will reopen this summer [Editor’s Note: The Goûter did subsequently re-open].


We are indebted to Andy Perkins and the organisers of this talk for allowing us to reproduce these notes. While the exact details may change in future seasons, there are many good principles here that alpinists should take note of as we approach climbing in an era of global warming.




Applications for Young Alpinist Group Open

Applications for Young Alpinist Group Open

The 2023-2025 Programme of the Young Alpinist Group opened to applications on 01 November 2022 and will close on 30 November.

The 2020-2022 YAG Participants

The group, set up by AC member Tom Livingstone, has a mission "“to improve the safety and knowledge of young alpine climbers, giving them the skills to climb - in alpine-style - in the Greater Ranges" and aims "to advance the next generation of world-leading young UK alpinists via a three-year, elite-level programme featuring courses, trips, expeditions and mentorship.”

Applications are open to all climbers, regardless of background, who meet the below criteria:

  • Between 19 and 30 years old
  • UK based or UK/Irish nationality
  • Plenty of UK trad and winter experience
  • Alpine experience in both summer and winter, in a variety of countries/areas/ranges, climbing technical routes
  • Able to travel through the mountains on skis, or at least able to ski by the time of any winter YAG meets (such as potentially March 2023).

10 places are available.

It is important for applicants to note that The YAG is not an instructional or guided programme, and is specifically targeted at those who already have alpine experience.

Further details and a link to the application form can be found via the YAG Website.




Up Close with Nick Colton

Nick Colton is an accomplished alpinist with numerous expeditions to some of the world’s most famous peaks under his belt. He’s also Lead Safeguarding Officer of The British Mountaineering Council and has been a key cog in the BMC machine for many decades. We caught up with him to discuss his famous first ascents, changes at the BMC and his future plans.

Nick Colton climbing on the SE ridge of Annapurna III in 1981, a rocky face falling away beneath him to the glacier belowNick on the SE Pillar of Annapurna III in 1981 by Tim Leach

How did you start climbing?

I started climbing with my dad in the mid-1960s. I was quite a lively child, forever climbing trees and smaller features on buildings. Our local park even had, still has, a mounted medium-sized erratic that I bouldered on from a very young age. I think he thought it would channel my energies positively.


When and why did you join the Alpine Club?

I first joined the Alpine Club in 1976 at an ACG event at a pub in Buxton. Alex MacIntyre was also there and I think he joined the ACG at that time. Tut Braithwaite said that a new route on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses merited joining the ACG. Sometime later I received a letter requesting payment of subs. Being out of work at the time I had no money. I wrote back to say that, and don’t recall whether I got a response back or not. However, I eventually did join the AC in the mid-2000s.

A black and white photo of Nick and the late Alex MacIntyreNick and the late Alex MacIntyre by Bernard Newman

You mentioned your route on the Grandes Jorasses. You've given your name to two very famous alpine routes. How does it feel to have a route you climbed so early in your climbing career become a lodestar for climbers today, something that appears on ticklists and news reports? Do you still feel you have a relationship with a route like the Colton-MacIntyre or is it now just something you once did?

It’s pretty flattering, especially as the routes have become popular. In a way they were things I did a long time ago when I was young and clearly I’ve moved on. Although people do still ask me about the routes, as you have, and I get invited to give slide shows on the strength of the ascents. So, although it was a long time ago, it’s not quite as simple as saying it’s just something I once did. Because, in a variety of ways, people still associate me with the climbs and some people do see that as part of who I am. Which I’m comfortable with.


Could you tell us a little about your work for the BMC and any projects that you're currently excited to be working on there?

I was the Deputy CEO at [the] BMC for 16 or so years. I’ve done a number of things in that time. Most visibly, I suppose, I’ve been the BMC’s Lead Safeguarding Officer for much of that time and also secretary of the BMC’s International Committee for a number of years. I also helped set up GB Climbing and was their Lead Officer for the first year of operations. As retirement comes into view, I’m now downsizing my time commitments and currently work 3 days a week.

Some things that excite me are: the possibility of working with the AC and MEF on proposed expedition planning symposia – one specifically for women; and the coming appointment of a full-time Safeguarding Manager at the BMC funded by Sport England.  I’m also excited by the work the BMC does on environmental and climate issues. For the most part unsung, but no less important for all that.

Nick Colton in Alaska in 1981 wearing a large blue crash helmet and staring into the camnera as he deals with the ropes.
Climbing in Alaska in 1981 by Tim Leach
The Team of 3 from the Annapurna III expedition stand in red jumpers with the mountain in the background
The Annapurna III Team by Tim Leach

We're just entering another Olympic cycle. As someone who saw the process closer at hand than many of us, what did you take away from climbing's first Olympics last year in Tokyo?

I think the Olympics was an amazing spectacle that has done a number of things. Firstly, it was very exciting to watch. I mention this because some people I know in the climbing world have long said that competition climbing would never catch on because it’s so boring to watch. They said it was like watching paint dry. The Olympics proved that wrong.  For me it comes down to the belief that different people get different things from different facets of climbing. 

Secondly, the Olympics have inspired more people to accept climbing as something reasonable to do. It’s shown that climbing is amazing but it’s also shown that climbers are not all odd-balls doing some crazy, outlandish activity. Which, in turn has inspired more people, from all ages, backgrounds, etc to try it and have a go. Which will bring a fresh crop of people into these activities with all their enthusiasm and passion. In turn will eventually help with succession and refreshment in all parts of climbing and mountaineering and keep our passion healthy and vibrant for the future.

Thirdly, the Olympics really have cranked up standards, particularly in bouldering and rock climbing, both indoors and outdoors. It’s amazing to see what some of the kids and even some of the newer older starters can do within a relatively short space of time since starting these days.


What was the last big trip or expedition you went on? 

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever been on a big trip. However, if one could be described as “big” in some sense I guess that might be an attempt on the SE pillar of Annapurna III that I went on in 1981. A route which has only recently had its first ascent, by a Ukrainian team, alpine style and over 18 days!

Having said that I do still go to West Nepal exploring remote valleys where there’s no record of mountaineers having been and trying to climb unclimbed peaks. In fact, I’m going in September with Julian Freeman-Attwood, Ed Douglas and Jim Fotheringham for more of the same. However, I wouldn’t describe such trips as big. They’re purposely small and uncommercial with a leave no trace ethic and consideration for local people. 




Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers - Additional Resources

Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers - Additional Resources

Many thanks for attending Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers. We hope that the event was useful to you. For this inaugural event we had 45 delegates in attendance along with a further 20 staff, speakers and sponsors. It was a wonderful demonstration of the passion that so many women have for exploratory climbing, skiing and endurance sports. 

Photo: Helen Farley

We very much hope that the weekend was the beginning rather than the end of a process that will see more women taking part in and organising their own expeditions. The post-event WhatsApp group is already extremely active and many of you, we're sure, have made connections that will lead to some fantastic adventures in the future. In the spirit of EE4WE being the start rather than the end, below are a selection of resources to assist you with the planning and running of expeditions.


Speaker Slides

Firstly, here are the presentations from our EE4WE speakers in case you need to look up some of the points from the weekend:

EE4WE Speaker Biographies
Introduction to Expeditions | Susan Jensen & Iona Pawson
The Female Aspect of Expeditions | Susan Jensen & Iona Pawson
Resources for Staying Safe on Expeditions | Sarah Wysling & Isla Wormald
Psychology for Expedition Success | Dr Rebecca Williams
Nutrition Essentials for Women Explorers | Rebecca Dent
Fundraising | Paul Ramsden
Planning an Expedition on Skis | Iona Pawson
MEF Funding | Duncan Sperry
Tips for Expeditions Workshop | Paul Ramsden
Planning Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Expeditions | Marta Mills


Expedition Reports

Reports from past expeditions are a fantastic source of information. They can help you generate ideas for objectives, offer advice on access to specific areas or even give you a detailed breakdown of a route you'd like to repeat. The best places to find english-language expedition reports are:

The Mount Everest Foundation Expedition Reports Archive
Alpine Club Expedition Reports Archive
The Alpine Journal
The American Alpine Journal
Alpine Club Library Catalogue
BMC Expedition Reports


Photo: Helen Farley


Expedition Advice

There are lots of individuals who will be able to offer you specific advice on expeditions, but it's also useful to read pieces that cover all aspects of expeditions so you know everything you need to consider. Some of the best examples are listed below:

RGS-IBG Expedition Handbook
The Alpine Club Expedition Information Centre
UIAA - Women at Altitude (2018)
UIAA - Medical Advice for Women at Altitude (2023)
Expedition and Alpine Climbing - Information and Beta | Tom Livingstone


Mountain Databases

Finding a mountaineering objective can be one of the most challenging parts of expedition planning. That is, if you don't know where to start. Mountain databases list peaks along with associated information like if they've been climbed, by who and by what route. They're a great way to find unclimbed peaks/routes and they may also direct you to past expeditions where you can find more information. The main databases for the Himalaya are:

The Himalayan Index
The Himalayan Database
Nepal Himal Peak Profile



The grants you can apply for will depend on the type of expedition you plan to undertake. While most grants place limitations on the composition or purpose of expeditions, there are so many grant-giving bodies out there that you'll almost certainly be able to find some funding. The most important UK grants are listed below along with a link to a further list of grants which may be less relevant to UK mountaineers, but which are worth checking out in case you happen to qualify for them:

The Mount Everest Foundation (Including the Alison Chadwick Memorial Grant)
Grit & Rock (A video with tips on G&R applications is included below).
The Montane Alpine Club Climbing Fund
BMC Grants (Including the Julie Tullis Memorial Grant)
List of Other Grants





AC Members Climb New Route on Barnaj II East (6303m)

AC Members Climb New Route on Barnaj II East (6303m)

Callum Johnson and Matt Glenn (both AC members) alongside Tom Seccombe have successfully climbed a new line on Barnaj II East (6303m) in the Indian Himalaya. The team's original objective for the expedition was Barnaj II North, a summit that still remains unclimbed.

Further details are unavailable at present, but Matt has indicated in a post on Instagram that he will have more to say once he has completed the expedition report.

The expedition was supported by The BMC, The Mount Everest Foundation and the Alpine Club.




Leo Houlding to Receive Mountaineering Ireland's Lynam Award

Leo Houlding to Receive Mountaineering Ireland's Lynam Award

AC member Leo Houlding has been announced as the 2022 recipient of the Lynam Award. The award is presented annually by Mountaineering Ireland in memory of renowned Irish mountaineer Joss Lynam. Recipients are those who are considered to have a record of outstanding achievement and contributions to mountaineering.

Leo will officially receive the award and present the annual Lynam Lecture in a special event at the Chartered Accountants Ireland Lecture Hall, Dublin on 08 December. Further details on the event are available here

Leo's first book 'Closer to the Edge', an autobiography of his life as a climber, mountaineer and explorer, has recently been released and is already enjoying its second print run.




JD Hooker Illustration Greeting Cards

JD Hooker Illustration Greeting Cards

The Alpine Club are pleased to present a pair of greeting cards featuring illustrations by 19th century British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker. The illustartions in question feature the Blue Himalayan Poppy and a Magnolia, and are taken from Hooker's 1855 book 'Illustrations of Himalayan Plants'.

The inside of the cards is left blank for your message, making them appropriate for a wide variety of occasions.

They are available in packs of 10, with 5 cards of each design, at a price of £7 plus UK postage of £2 for 1-2 packs and £3 for 3 packs (or each multiple of 3). For international shipping, please contact the Alpine Club Office.

The cards can be purchased using the PayPal checkout below or by cheque made payable to 'Alpine Club' and sent for the attention of The Alpine Club Office Manager, 55 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3QF.  




Alpine Club Tech Talks 2022

Alpine Club Tech Talks 2022

In November 2022, the Alpine Club will present a series of workshops via Zoom focused on contemporary topics in mountain safety. The sessions will run over Zoom and will be open to members of the Alpine Club, Scottish Mountaineering Club and the Eagle Ski Club.


A climber looks into the camera while holding a navigation device and speaking into an earpiece.


The schedule for the Tech Talks is as follows:

03 November 2022 - What Happens When You Call for Rescue? - With Gendarme Francois Gouy of the Chamonix PGHM, we look at what information rescue teams need to best assist us in the mountains and what you should expect from a rescue team.

10 November 2022 - Mountaineering In the Digital Age - Photographer and prolific mountaineer Ben Tibbetts joins us to discuss what climbers need from apps and what products are currently available to assist planning, navigation and rescue in the mountains.

17 November 2022 - The Case for Paper - Following on from our sessions looking at how technology can assist us in the mountains, we host a discussion with Lindsay Griffin and Alex Buisse to examine what benefits paper maps and guidebooks can provide in a tech-focused age.


All of the sessions will begin at 7:30PM and Club members will be sent the Zoom invitation via email ahead of time.

We will conclude each talk with a Q&A as well as a discussion among attendees.


As we head towards the winter, this is the perfect time to refresh our thinking on issues of mountain safety and we hope to provide a useful forum for the sharing of advice and best practice.




Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers 2023

Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers 2023

Have you done Scottish winter climbing or been to the Alps and are yearning for more adventure? Have you been on a commercial expedition and want to do something similar with friends? You might be planning an expedition right now! If any of these apply, or you just want to know more, Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers is for you!


What: An event focused on answering the questions of women climbers who want to take part in expeditions.

When & Where: 28 & 29 January 2023 at The National Outdoor Centre, Plas y Brenin, LL24 0ET.

Cost: £35 for Alpine Club and BMC members; £70 for non-members. (Price includes all lectures and workshops plus lunch and dinner on the Saturday).

Who: The event is sponsored by the Alpine Club, BMC, Mount Everest Foundation and Montane, with sessions delivered by experienced expedition climbers and experts in the field.

Tickets: Book your tickets via the BMC Website. (You will need to create an account to book, but this is straightforward and has no additional cost).

Contact: If you have any concerns or questions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


A photo showing a female climber stood on a rocky summit looking down at the title: 'Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers'Original Image by Jacob Cook


Tailored specifically for women, this is a fabulous opportunity to learn about the skills, knowledge, mental and physical preparation you need for a successful expedition and how to get that all important grant to help you on your way.

Speakers include experienced expedition skier Iona Pawson, expedition veteran Susan Jensen, four time Piolet d’Or winner Paul Ramsden and the climbing star Fay Manners. Fay, alongside Line van den Berg made the first female ascent of ‘Phantom Direct’ on the huge south face of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc massif. We are also pleased to confirm that the line up now also features Montane Ambassador Katy Parrott and Guinness book of records holder Masha Gordon.

Experts on nutrition, menstrual cycles on expeditions, expedition first aid, safety in the mountains and the psychological aspects of expeditioning will be sharing their knowledge in a series of participatory talks and interactive workshops throughout the day.

On Sunday there will be an opportunity for informal discussion over a coffee with many of the speakers. If you are planning an expedition, this is an ideal opportunity to ask searching questions on any aspect of your expedition.

You can view the full programme for the weekend here.

The Plas y Brenin climbing wall will be open for delegates to use free of charge on the Sunday. If you would like to use the wall, please email Helen or Emily at Plas y Brenin on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Three women stare up at the camera from a Patagonian summit.
Photo: Freja Shannon
A woman stares off into the distance across a mountain range with a lake in the background.
Photo: Freja Shanon




Report: 19 October 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 19 October 2022

This Indian summer is pretty good, it is even very hot in the afternoons, but beware of the weather forecast for this weekend.

It's freezing at night at the moment but the glaciers are still very open, and the snow bridges are fragile - be careful!

However, some routes are being done:

On the Aiguille du Midi, the arete is fine. The Cosmiques and Laurence arêtes are still possible. The traverse of the Pointes Lachenal is also possible: it is better to access the 1st point on the left because there is ice straight under the rocks, as well as on the traverse (protection possible on rock), the chimney is in good nick.

There is some activity on the Tacul, but the rimaye on Mont Maudit is not crossable.

Gully activity is starting up: Contamine Mazeaud, the Chéré, the Allemands, and Vent du Dragon, but it’s still thin and not always easy to protect.

From the Helbronner, the Aiguilles Marbrées and the Aiguilles d'Entrèves are being done, despite very crevassed access for the latter. It’s looking white below the Dent du Géant.

The normal route on Mont Blanc, the arête de la Table on the aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche and Petite Fourche are being done.

For rock climbing, it is quite cold at altitude. “Toussaint (late October holiday) is coming up – get ready for cold hands.


The Planpraz and Flégère cable cars open this weekend for the All Saints' (Toussaint) holiday. The Aiguille du Midi cable car and the Skyway are still open until November 6 inclusive.

There has been a rockfall at Barberine. No information yet on the fixed gear (bolts etc).

The Conscrits footbridge is no longer in place since yesterday!

For hiking, everything is still possible, there is snow from around 2,400m on northerly aspects and from around 2,900m on southerly aspects, but it is not a problem. Tours are still possible for the most motivated (some refuges are still open, and some are equipped with a winter room).

The refuges of Loriaz (from Thursday to Sunday), Lac Blanc, Plan de l'Aiguille, les Prés and Torino still welcome you.

We remind you that the Mont-Blanc tunnel is closed until Monday 7 November.

Have fun! 


Translated with permission from an original report by La Chamoniarde.

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




Silvo Karo to Receive Piolet d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award

Silvo Karo to Receive Piolet d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award

The Piolets d'Or committee have announced that Slovenian alpinist and honorary Alpine Club member Silvo Karo will receive the 14th Walter Bonatti - Piolets d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the 2022 ceremony.

Karo is one of a generation of Slovenian alpinists who, in the 1980s, set a new standard in the greater ranges by pioneering technically difficult new routes on iconic peaks. He is perhaps best known for his 1988 first ascent of the south face of Cerro Torre, but his resumé extends far beyond this singular achievement with many notable ascents in the Himalaya and Karakoram.

Silco Karo, Photo by Lika Krajunk licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

This year's Piolets d'Or ceremony will take place from 18-20 November in Briançon. Further details are available via the Piolet d'Or website.




Loppé Exhibition Opens on Monte Bianco Skyway

Loppé Exhibition Opens on Monte Bianco Skyway

Over 20 scale reproductions of the works of famed mountain artist Gabriel Loppé have gone on display in the Pavillion Station of the Monte Bianco Skyway. The exhibition, 'Gabriel Loppé: A Life on Mont Blanc' is a collaboration between the Skyway, The Association Amis de Gabriel Loppé and AC member William Mitchell.

Loppé was the earliest pioneer of high altitude painting and the first non-Britain to be made a member of the Alpine Club.

His most enduring working relationship was with Mont Blanc, which he was estimated to have climbed some 40 times, painting numerous scenes from its summit. Given his history with the mountain, there is perhaps no better place for an exhibition of Loppé's work than in the panoramic space of the Pavillion Station at 2,200m.

The exhibition will run until the Summer of 2023 and is open to visitors whenever the cable car is operating. Tickets are available to book via the Skyway website.  

AC member William Mitchell, who has curated the exhibition, has produced an accompanying 60-page catalogue which is available in English, French and Italian. French speakers can also enjoy an interview in which William discusses the exhibition on TGR Rai.