Report: 29 September 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 29 September 2022


If you were beginning to wonder: Yes, it’s certainly autumn!

The mountains are starting to change, let's give them some time!

It snowed a decent amount above 2,200m, especially in the centre of the massif. The ground is white from this altitude. Above this altitude, there was 50cm at the Couvercle hut, 60cm at the Torino hut and about 1m at the Aiguille du Midi, but as usual, it was windy.

As a consequence, it has put a stop to rock climbing, except on low-level crags (vive le sud :) ).

Although we have had snow it's a bit early to think about mixed routes. Once the snow has settled, the shorter routes near the Aiguille du Midi or the Punta Helbronner (Cosmiques arête, Lachenal, traverse of the Marbrées or the Aiguilles d'Entrêves ???) will be worth considering. Be careful on glaciers as snow bridges will be weak.

Classic routes (Mont Blanc by the normal route, Tête Blanche/Petite Fourche...) could become possible again with a long period of good weather.



Things are also getting more complicated for hiking at altitude (above 2,200m) with some routes not really practicable in these conditions (Buet, Albert 1er, Jonction etc).

The same goes for multi-day treks with snowy cols (not to mention that huts are closed) on the Mont Blanc tour (col du Bonhomme, col de la Seigne, Grand Col Ferret) or the Tour des Aiguilles Rouges.

If we get the good weather expected at the beginning of next week this may change!


Huts and Lifts

As far as practicalities go, all the high mountain huts are closed except the Torino hut (open until 01 November). A lot of lower level huts are also closed, but the Plan de l’aiguille, Lac Blanc and Loriaz are still open at the moment.

As for the ski lifts, the Montenvers, the Aiguille du Midi and the Skyway are open!


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.




'Years of Desperation & Charm' - Alex MacIntyre Obituary (1983)

'Years of Desperation & Charm' - Alex MacIntyre Obituary (1983)

Forty years ago, in October 1982, Alex MacIntyre died while attempting a new route on Annapurna. MacIntyre was one of the foremost alpinists of his era and a devout proponent of the 'Fast and Light' ethos. In the following year's Alpine Journal John Porter, who had been on the expedition when Alex was killed, paid tribute to his friend. With unflinching honesty, he recounts their shared journey; from young climbers blaring music across British crags, to the Alps, their diverging life paths and, eventually, to Alex's tragic demise in the Himalaya.

'The fact that many a man who goes his own way ends in ruin means nothing. The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realisation -  absolute and unconditional -  of its own particular law.' Carl Jung

In the first years that I knew Alex, there were always battered Ford Escort vans parked out in front of the hovels we inhabited in Leeds 6, or parked as near as possible to the bottom of the crag so we could hear the music, turned to maximum volume, always loud music wherever we went, and we spent a lot of time in those vans, adding new dents as the weekends went by. Hair was long in those days and our selection of clothes minimal, but Alex's was always the longest and his clothes the dirtiest. I was doing post grad while he was struggling to start, first Economics and, after a year off, Law. It was during the year off that Alex discovered what he wanted to do. He wanted to go climbing.

We were incredibly incompetent at everything we did, bankrupting the climbing club, getting ourselves and the few women who hung around with the Leeds scene into outrageous and hilarious situations, but always getting out of real trouble and managing somehow to make it seem we'd done well in the end, producing The Journal with Bernard, flogging vans in France to get back to university after a season in the Alps, scraping through to get good degrees. On our first Alpine route together, Alex climbed in boots of two different sizes. We created our own epic, complete with horrendous storm, Alex dropping all his gear like a moulting shaggy dog, our worst bivi ever, and endless descent in a white-out, but managing to get back to the Nash to the realisation that we'd learned something. They were years of desperation and charm.

In 1977, Alex had just completed his exams and had a summer in the Alps ahead of him when I phoned to ask him to go to Afghanistan with the Poles. It had been a couple of years since we'd climbed together seriously. He'd done some major Alpine routes by then; the Bonatti Zapelli, the Droites, the Jorasses, and had definitely made his mark in Scotland. In two weeks, he found the money and then we were off by train across the Soviet Union into a series of adventures culminating in 6 major new routes and 7 peaks of more than 6,000m climbed between the eleven of us. When Voytek asked in broken English in the train, 'Would you like Bandaka?', Alex answered, 'Sure, do we eat it hot or cold.' But instead, we discovered a 2,400m, NE face, a real monstrosity up crumbling walls and steep ice to a summit as peaceful as the Ben on a good day. Despite the dangers of the face, everything fell into place, the vibes were good, and as a team, we were in love with each other's company. I remember Alex on the final pitch, tunnelling through the massive cornice, whispering down to us, "I think it's talking to me."

The next year was Changabang, again with Voytek and joined by Krystof Zurek. We spent 8 wonderful days on a superbly steep wall, following the only possible route up the centre of the face, like solving a logics problem - the way had been created just for us. We were more adept than in our early years, and Alex's inventiveness was beginning to show in the nature of the gear; his hammock design, lightweight sleeping bags, modified ruck-sacks, and a just adequate amount of food. But we were also learning the anomaly of the lightweight concept, hauling huge sacks of gear, having to abandon spare ropes and pegs on the summit, knowing the formula could be improved. And once, Alex fell a long way, abseiling on the wrong end of the rope in a blizzard and falling the full distance until the rope came onto the peg. I thought for a while we'd lost him, but when I abseiled down, he was waiting, shrouded in snow, a bit shaken, and he smiled, "I don't want to play this game just to have a rucksack named after me."

1979 in South America, Alex and I got in wrong in more ways than one. Some spark had gone from our banter. We made some big mistakes, underestimating the seriousness of routes, going ultra light without sleeping bags or stoves, suffering, muddling through somehow, but feeling the dangers of the sport too close. We argued about stupid things, politics, the ways of the world, the things we would never be able to change. We even got our nights in the bars out of sync so that one or the other of us would be suffering when we set out on the next climb. Looking back, our first unhappy trip together I put down to me getting older and following a more conventional path while Alex by this time was totally committed to the world he could make for himself climbing. While I became more conservative, he was becoming ever more deeply involved in his radical approach to climbing and life.

Apart from the occasional weekend climbing or boozing, I saw little of Alex for the next 3 years. He invited me on both the Makalu and Dhaulagiri trips, but they did not fit in with my plans or my job. He tried to talk me out of the winter Everest trip, and nearly succeeded, but I went, while he went off to experiment with new ideas on bigger faces. I began to admire him not only for his big climbs but also for his lucid life style. Unconventional and trimmed of pretence, he lived as he felt was best for him, and knew that in the end, that was also best for everyone else, being himself. It was take him or leave him, but he did not necessarily judge people on their reaction to him. Most took to him, accepting his honesty of character. Diplomacy was no replacement for the truth in Alex's eyes. For this reason he made an effective National Officer during his years with the BMC. Yet he admired people who stuck to their own arguments, as long as their thinking was clear and their case recognizable as an alternative. On the other hand, he hated banding together or acceptance of ideas without mental conviction.

We had talked about Annapurna for some time. For Alex, it was another date in his calendar of big climbs, a filler-in between Xixabangma pre-monsoon '82 and his plans for four 8000'ers in 1983. Neither of us were able to spend much time organising the trip. He was writing his book while I was scrambling at work to get everything in some sort of order before I left. We had an inevitable last minute rush to sort out details, wondering if René would ever contact us from France with news of the equipment he was slated to provide. We booked a flight only 3 days before departure. We were in our element, confusion followed by laughter, knowing it didn't matter how you got there as long as you did. We had a theory that plans are made only to be unmade. That way, we always felt immune to Murphy's law, fate was not for us. As we settled back with a drink somewhere over Turkey, Alex brought out his folder on Annapurna and we studied the innocuous looking ramp that cut through the vertical lower half of the face and left us focused at half height beneath a tiny dollop of rock, the only major problem before the massive ice slopes beneath the East Peak.

"We should be able to climb the route in 3 or 4 days, and we'll leave Base Camp not later than the 13th of October, after we acclimatize." Alex knew the face as if he had climbed all over it in his dreams. He knew the weather, the walk in, what to expect at Base Camp, and the peaks we would climb to acclimatize. He explained it carefully and in detail. As I looked and listened, I knew that I was merely an apprentice of the kid I had once looked after like a younger brother. I made a note in my diary, and felt sad for reasons I could not explain.

Alex died on 17 October. I was not with him. I watched through binoculars from Base Camp as two tiny dots appeared at the bottom of that innocuous ramp that in September had been like Niagara Falls with boulders tumbling down instead of barrels. We'd prepared well for the face, 14 days of climbing in the first 18 in Base Camp. Alex consoled me in my exhaustion and sickness with the words: "Well, it was a heavy­ duty acclimatization programme". I was more than sick when they set off for the face on the 13th. I watched them reach that insignificant dollop of rock and fail to get through, the way to the summit only a few feet above them. I followed their thoughts through my binoculars as they descended that night to a bivouac at the top of the ramp. In a break in the clouds, the lens suddenly seemed to fill with blood. I looked closer in disbelief and realised I had only witnessed the bright red bivi sack being pulled from the sack, shaken out and hung up.

On that morning of the 17th, I lowered the binoculars to clean them and when I looked back, there was only one climber. I instinctively knew it was René. Alex had fallen. I searched for another 10 minutes, then hastily filled two rucksacks with medical and emergency equipment and set off for the face with our sirdar. We met René coming down alone at about 5000m. He stopped 30m above us and waved his iceaxe above his head, then stumbled down to where we stood frozen to our souls. Alex had been killed by a single stone falling from unknown heights. His time had come and had rushed him upward to meet his fate. Little was said as we returned to Base. René had lost his closest climbing partner. I had lost a friend who was also my link to the freedom of years gone by. "We must not think about it but we must not forget" said René, "If we do either, we may not climb again".




Report: 16 September 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 16 September 2022

Autumn is here!

The weather is getting colder, and there is snow on the highest summits. A lot of wind but only about ten centimetres of snow at the Cosmiques hut. The risk of avalanche will have to be considered.  

The Albert 1er hut will close this Sunday. No other changes in this area.


The Couvercle hut is hanging on until the end as the last hut open in the Mer de Glace basin (the Envers closed on 15/09). No other changes in the area. A rockfall has damaged the aids on the path which crosses the river below the Moine. This bit is not easy and requires care (not recommended for hikers).


The Torino and Cosmiques huts also remain open as do the lifts. No major changes in this area either. The rock and the cracks can be plastered with snow or icy. The Tacul can be considered once the snowpack has stabilised. Concerning the Trois Monts, we are repeating this well phrased message from the Cosmiques hut (no apologies for repeating it):

"Tuesday September 13th, at 12pm...We have had two rescues on the Trois Monts traverse since this morning. It's windy at altitude, and the clouds are at the top of Mt Blanc. In the evening at the refuge, we keep repeating the same thing lately:

  • No, the Trois Monts are not in good condition!
  • Yes it's more technical than usual on the you have two ice axes? A sufficient length of rope?
  • Turn back before the Maudit rimaye, if you don't have sufficient expertise, because then the retreat will be another matter...

Repeat, repeat...and yet!

The mountain rescue teams are picking up the pieces today in poor conditions.

So YES to “liberté en montagne"! But let's stop this irresponsible stubbornness for the glory of a summit, which puts the lives of the rescuers in danger. Better conditions will eventually return, patience. Thank you!"


Over on the Aiguille du Goûter, the huts are still open.

The conditions are becoming rather good again on the route.
Good news, the Tramway du Mont Blanc will remain open one more week until September 25th inclusive with two departures from Le Fayet at 7:00 am and 3:25 pm and two returns from Le Nid d'Aigle at 8:15 am and 4:40 pm. Access for mountaineers (with a reservation in a refuge) and hikers. Service offered free of charge depending on the number of places available. Reservations for the ascent on the website. Reservations for the descent at the Fayet ticket office.

The Conscrits refuge will remain open until 24 September, Monzino will close on Sunday 18 September.


Last days of opening for the lifts (TC de Planpraz and de la Flégère) which will close this Sunday (18). The refuges are also gradually closing (info here). Some hikes are therefore less accessible and less frequented.

We are no longer in summer, it is very cool in the morning and it can also be cold during the day depending on the weather (wind etc). The paths can be slippery. Remember to be properly equipped.


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.




Pritchard and Porter Nominated in Banff Mountain Book Competition

Pritchard and Porter Nominated in Banff Mountain Book Competition

Alpine Club members John Porter and Paul Pritchard are among the nominees in this year's Banff Mountain Book Competition.

John is nominated in the Mountain Fiction and Poetry category for his new book 'A Path of Shadows' which brings together poems and essays from over 50 years of writing. Meanwhile, Paul's new autobiographical work 'The Mountain Path' is nominated in the Mountain Literature category. Paul's book has also been shortlisted for this year's Boardman Tasker Award.

A full list of the category nominees and details of the competition can be found here.




The Death of HM Queen Elizabeth II

The Death of HM Queen Elizabeth II

The Alpine Club Committee was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. For seventy years she had been a rare constant in the life of our nation, serving as a source of comfort and pride to many. With the news of Hillary’s and Tenzing’s ascent of Everest reaching the streets of London on the morning of her coronation, 2nd June 1953, she had a special place in the hearts of mountaineers. 

With her husband HRH The Prince Philip, who was an honorary member of the Club, she attended a number of Alpine Club events, including our 1957 centenary celebrations (pictured). She was also a regular attendee at anniversary celebrations for the first ascent of Mount Everest adding, in the words of former AC President Stephen Venables, "lustre" to those occasions. 

Her steady, engaged presence in so many aspects of British public life, even one as esoteric as ours, is a testament to the work ethic, sense of duty and abiding curiosity for her people that defined her reign.
Her absence will be keenly felt, not least by her family, to whom we wish to convey our deepest condolences.

AC Members Make 2022 Boardman Tasker Shortlist

AC Members Make 2022 Boardman Tasker Shortlist

The 2022 shortlist for the Boardman Tasker Mountain Literature Award has been announced. Among the six shortlisted authors are two Alpine Club members; Paul Pritchard and Brian Hall. 

A graphic displaying the six shortlisted titles accompanied by the Boardman Tasker and Mountain Equipment logos.

Paul has been nominated for his book 'The Mountain Path', published by Vertebrate, which explores his continuing adventure journey following his life-altering accident on Tasmania's Totem Pole. Paul is due to embark on a speaking tour of the UK this November and December in support of the book.

Brian received his nomination for 'High Risk' his book exploring the cutting-edge of high altitude climbing in the 1970s and '80s. The book focuses on Brian's close friends from this time, including those who lost their lives on the small, lightweight and technically difficult expeditions that defined the era. 'High Risk' is published by Sandstone Press.

Paul and Brian are nominated alongside Kieran Cunningham, Anna Fleming, Robert Charles Lee and Helen Mort. The winner will be announced on the 18 November during a special event at Kendal Mountain Festival.




Report: 07 September 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 07 September 2022

The summer season is gradually coming to an end. Huts are beginning to close. Most of the lifts are still open.

The nights are now longer and cooler and the refreeze is good. Recent storms have deposited some snow at altitude without significantly improving overall conditions.

Rock climbing remains a safe bet.


Le Tour

The hut is open until September 18th. The Vallorcine cable car will close on the 11th.

From the hut, you now need to go down to the glacier and then climb back up (on ice) because the route by the Signal Reilly is unstable and even dangerous (slope with blocks on the ice).

Still a lot of people on the Tête Blanche and Petite Fourche.

Little or no activity on the Aiguille du Tour, the rimaye is still very delicate. You need to cross via the Col du Tour. One team has climbed the arête de la Table intégrale. On the descent, a 40m abseil is necessary to pass the rimaye safely.

The Chardonnet is still not an option.



The Plan Joran gondola and the refuge have been closed since 4 September. The winter room of the refuge remains accessible.

Climbers and crystal hunters can now share things!



The Montenvers train is open until 2 October.

The Charpoua refuge has been closed since 25 August. Building work has started and there will be no refuge or winter accommodation until next summer.

The Couvercle refuge is open until the end of the month if all goes well (water, weather).

No big changes in the sector.

All good on the Moine (Normal Route, S Ridge, Contamine, Miss Tique).

It's a bit less good on the Nonne-Evêque traverse (complicated rimaye, very dry descent couloir).

The Moine Arête on the Verte ridge is still not recommended: Not very inviting.

The Leschaux refuge closed on 5 September.


Envers des Aiguilles/Requin

The Envers hut is normally open until 15 September. The rimaye for the République is no longer crossable and you will have to use the fixed ropes installed last year (technical and physical, bring a jumar).

The Requin refuge closed 26 August.



The hut is normally open until 1 November.

There is still some activity on the Marbrées and the Aiguilles d'Entrêves. A few teams on the Dent du Géant. The access to the Salle à Manger is still very dry. The Courmayeur guide company will soon re-evaluate the conditions to see if they are acceptable to bring clients there.

The starts of the routes on the Clocher du Tacul have been cleaned and belays added following the drop in height of the glacier. The rimaye of the Grand Capucin is still in use, as is the rimaye of the Gervasutti route on the Pointe Salluard.


Aiguille du Midi

The hut is open until 25 September if the weather permits.

Small snowfalls have covered the ice on the Pointes Lachenal. The latter is once again being done especially the first summit. Rockfalls have affected the chimney on the 3rd summit (blocks at the foot) but not recently.

The arête Laurence (“Lolo”) is still being climbed. For the Cosmiques arete, you have probably seen the pictures of the rockfall. The main collapse (500m3) took place below the traverse under the Digital Crack gendarme. It's still very dry and not very inviting. (See photo below).

A diagram laying out where the fall on the Cosmiques took place, showing the space left by the rockfall near to 'Digital Crack'

Mont Blanc du Tacul remains in fairly good condition. The slope before the rimaye is becoming steeper. The rimaye is crossed by a turn to the left. Of course, you need to be comfortable with cramponing to be able to do this route. Beware of the risk of avalanche after snowfall.

There has been no activity on the Trois Monts for a long time. A team made an attempt last weekend but stopped at the rimaye of the col du Mont Maudit after a lot of trail breaking (40cm of new snow). Concerning this rimaye, it is possible to cross it but a steep wall of snow/ice (80°) is waiting for you on the other side: you need two technical ice axes per person, you can use ice screws but the quality of the ice is not good.

There is still climbing on the S side of the Aiguille du Midi. Not much activity on the S side of the Lachenal because you have to abseil.


Plan de l'aiguille

No changes, the refuge is open until 31 October.


Mont Blanc by the Aiguille du Goûter

The Bellevue cable car and the Mont Blanc Tramway are open until 18 September.

The refuges remain open until the beginning of October.

The couloir remains dry but the cool nights guarantee a good refreeze. Crossing the couloir at the right time will reduce rockfall risk.

The glacial parts are in reasonable condition (beware of snow bridges). 


Dômes de Miage/Bionnassay

The Durier refuge closed on 31 August. The Aiguille de Bionnassay and back is not too bad. The E ridge is very narrow, sometimes “a cheval".

The Plan Glacier hut closes on Saturday 10 September.

The Conscrits hut is open until 24 September.

No one on the Dômes de Miage but still some activity on the Aiguille de la Bérangère and back.


Italian side of Mont Blanc

The Monzino refuge closes on 18 September. From Monday 12, access may be disrupted due to work on the Freney bridge and it may be necessary to leave from the Peuterey campsite.

A major landslide/ice fall makes access to the Boccalate hut complicated. (See photo below).

A photo-diagram showing the ice fall and how it has made access to the Boccalate hut more difficult.


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 Albert Mountain Award Winners Announced

2022 Albert Mountain Award Winners Announced

The King Albert I Memorial Foundation have announced that the recipients of the Albert Mountain Award for 2022 are German climber Bernd Arnold, Belgian alpinist Sophie Lenaerts, long-distance hiker Nam Nan-hee from South Korea and The Society for Ecological Research in Munich.

The foundation, registered in Zurich, honours people or institutions that have achieved outstanding and lasting merit through their achievements in an area related to the mountains. The Albert Mountain Award is presented every two years.

The ceremony for the 2022 awards will take place on 23 September in the Swiss Alpine Museum in Bern where there will also be the opportunity for attendees to view the current Korean exhibit: 'Let's Talk About Mountains'.


Nam Nan-hee

Bernd Arnold

Sophie Lenaerts




Lizbet Fairley

We are saddened to report the death on 22 August of Lizbet Fairley. A member since 1975, Lizbet was one of the first women to join the AC by direct application, rather than via membership of the Ladies’ Alpine Club.

Wrights Retreat from K7 Central

Wrights Retreat from K7 Central

Americans Jeff and Priti Wright report that they were forced to turn back 100m shy of the summit of K7 Central (6,858m) after encountering difficult climbing that resulted in a number of lead falls and ate into their weather window. The pair told ExplorersWeb that the climbing above 6,500m weighed in at M5 and 5.11 with little solid protection.

Having decided to abandon their attempt, they retreated down the hazardous Central Couloir of the West Face, completing a 13.5Km round trip from their basecamp at 4,350m.

This was the first time that a team had attempted this unclimbed Pakistani peak.


An Instagram post showing the rock spire of K7 central in Pakistan




Report: 24 August 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 24 August 2022


After the little bit of snow last weekend which was a sight for sore eyes, the good weather has returned to our mountains.

Conditions in the high mountains have not improved and remain the same. The recent snow is hanging on at high altitude on northern aspects (above 3,800 m). Even if the isotherm remains quite high, the nights are long and cool with a good refreeze.

Activity up there remains very limited, with a fairly low number of people in the upper massif.

Snow and mixed routes (with a few exceptions: Tête Blanche/Petite Fourche, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Col des Dômes there and back, Mont Blanc by the Trois Monts for very experienced climbers) are not on the agenda, nor are the “grandes voies”. 

The only thing left is rock climbing, avoiding complex glacier approaches (Orny/Dorées, Argentière, Couvercle, Leschaux, Envers des Aiguilles/Requin, Aiguille du Midi, Plan de l'Aiguille, Aigilles Rouges, Monzino, Dalmazzi sectors).


Given the conditions, it’s best to contact La Chamoniarde directly to discuss the feasibility of your projects rather than writing a detailed newsletter.

Do not hesitate to send them your feedback!


Some brief news:

  • Planpraz and Flégère lifts have been extended until 18 September inclusive.
  • The Charpoua refuge is closing tomorrow, Thursday 25 August. Work will be undertaken and there will be no refuge or winter room until next summer.
  • The path up to Charamillon from Le Tour is completely closed, you have to go via the Col des Posettes
  • Many people go wrong in the ascent to the Albert 1er hut by the moraine route by climbing too high in the couloir. As a reminder, this route is neither marked nor maintained and is reserved for very experienced mountaineers or hikers.

  • Rimaye de la République is very tricky: big blocks of snow/ice on the slabs.

  • Big rimaye at the foot of the Punta Helbronner stairway. It can be avoided by walking along the rocky ridge (see photo below).


A photo showing the Punta Helbronner with the new descent marked by a green line.

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.




Reporting on the 2022 K2 Summer Season

Reporting on the 2022 K2 Summer Season

A photograph of K2, the dark summit pyramid rising above a layer of cloud

Mountaineering journalist Angela Benavides has reported on the recent guiding season on K2. This summer saw one of the busiest seasons ever on the world's second highest mountain, with photos of 'Everest-style' queues below the bottleneck making headlines around the globe.

In her article, available on ExplorersWeb, Angela examines the climbing tactics employed by the larger, guided expeditions and the impact that increased numbers have had on the mountain environment and inter-team relations.




Livingstone & Cesen Abandon Gasherbrum III Route at 7,800m

Livingstone & Cesen Abandon Gasherbrum III Route at 7,800m

AC member Tom Livingstone and Slovenian climber Ales Cesen have turned round roughly 150m shy of the summit while attempting to pioneer a new route on Gasherbrum III (7,952m).

Writing on his Instagram account, Tom explained that the pair had been forced to abandon their attempt due to a combination of "cold, weather, fatigue and lack of reasonable options." The pair's chosen line tackled the mountain via its North face/ridge, an approach selected out of necessity due to strong winds.

Tom has written frequently, including in an essay for Alpinist, about his desire to see alpine climbing progress to a position where hard, technical climbing can be done at altitude. While he and Cesen were ultimately unsuccessful on Gasherbrum III, aspects of the experience appear to bode well for this approach. Tom writes: "We didn’t feel too terrible at (just below) 8000 metres, which is encouraging…"





Fred Smith

We have been informed that Fred Smith, a member since 1976, died on 14 August.

Details of his funeral to follow.

Report: 08 August 2022

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 08 August 2022


The dry spell continues in the mountains. 

Glacier and snow conditions continue to deteriorate. 

Plan B is more than ever rock climbing (without complex glacier approaches). There are no longer any snow routes in good condition, although some are still possible (although technically more difficult). 

There are regular rock falls and landslides in some places in the high mountains. Don't hesitate to share your observations. The drought is such that it can also lead to rock falls in the “moyenne montagne” (lower hills) especially after storms. Beware also of overcrowding on some routes. 


Tour / Trient / Orny 

The Trient hut closed for the 2022 summer season on 1 August 2022. It will reopen for the ski touring season in mid-March 2023. During the construction period, the hut is closed to the public. There are no winter or emergency rooms. The Orny hut will remain open. 

Crossing the Dorées ridge via the Col des Plines is still possible. The rock is very good both on the Orny side and on the other side (Envers des Dorées). 

The Tour glacier is increasingly chaotic (ice, fragile snow bridges, crevasses). The rimaye of the aiguille du Tour is wide open (3m). You can still get across on large jammed blocks but it feels like the end (see photos below, thanks to the Orny hut guardian). The col du Tour is passable but there is a lot of ice. 

Tête Blanche and Petite Fourche are still possible but the final part is icy (not very steep). 


Argentière Glacier 

Plenty of climbing here. Access to the hut is clear, but you have to look above you at the ladders (we are in the mountains!)

Large rock fall on 03/08 under the Pointe Farrar (Grands Montets ridge). 


Charpoua / Couvercle / Leschaux 

The Charpoua hut will close on 25/08. Renovation work will then begin. From this date until May 2023, the hut will be closed and there will be no winter accommodation. In the meantime, the gardienne has "closed" the Drus. 

A fixed rope is in place to access the Contamine on the Evêque. 

There are few changes in the Talèfre basin. The rimayes are opening but no particular worries for the Moine and the Nonne-Eveque. More activity on the Moine ridge on the Verte (the summit ridge is quite unstable). 

As a reminder, the Mer de Glace balcony path is an alpine hike with parts on glaciers and ladders: you need to have a good mountaineering spirit and not underestimate it. 

The routes above the Leschaux hut are perfect. The glacier access to the Aiguille de Leschaux seems problematic. As a reminder, access to the Petites Jorasses is no longer possible. 

Following the storms, there is rockfall and debris on the N face of the Grand Jorasses, all the parties who left for the Walker in the last week have turned back. 


Sector Envers des Aiguilles / Requin 

The rimaye of the VN de la République is still passable thanks to blocks of snow stuck in the rimaye (it's a bit of a “building site" after all). For how long (once they melt, it won't be possible to go through anymore)? 

Pedro Polar's rimaye doesn't go anymore: start on the first pitches of the "soleil a rdv avec la lune" (also a tricky rimaye here). Elsewhere, all is well. 

Access to the Requin is still OK on the left bank. Access and rock routes all good (Dent Requin, Pierre Alain). Climbing up the Vallée Blanche is a thing of the past (waterfalls, chaotic glacier). 


Helbronner Sector 

Less activity here. The glacier approaches are complex. Still a few parties on the Marbrées, Aiguilles d'Entrêves, Grand Capucin. 


Aiguille du Midi 

Here too the engine is idling. 

The Aiguille du Midi Arête is very technical (ice, steep), you need to be comfortable with cramponing. 

The normal route on Mont Blanc du Tacul is still possible from the hut (be careful with the rimayes + keep to a good timetable). 

It feels like the end for the Trois Monts which is more and more technical (Maudit middle rimaye very difficult, 2 ice axes + good technique needed). It is not at all an alternative to the normal route. 

You can still climb on the S face of the Aiguille du Midi. 


Plan de L'Aiguille 

Frendo and Mallory : All good (we're kidding but amazingly some people have tried!!!). 

You can climb on the Peigne, the red pillar of the Blaitière and the Aiguille de l'M. 

Access to and Cordier Pillar itself is very exposed (rock falls). 


Mont Blanc by the Goûter 

We aren't telling you anything new, the route is in bad condition and the Tête Rousse and Goûter huts are closed (including the winter rooms). Walkers can go up to the Rognes or the Tête Rousse (the glacier is icy and you will need crampons). 


Dômes de Miage / Bionnassay 

The ascent to the Durier hut from Plan Glacier can be considered very early in the morning after cool nights without storms. Access from the Conscrits is possible via the Col des Dômes. Aiguille de Bionnassay there and back is still not too bad. 

Avoid the Dômes de Miage traverse (ice, rock falls, crevasses above the col de la Bérangère). 

The Dômes can be considered as a return trip for experienced rope parties (good reading of the glacial terrain necessary, ice etc). 

The Aiguille de la Bérangère can be done as an out-and-back from the Conscrits hut. 



One of the sectors where it's good to live at the moment to do rock climbing (Aiguille Croux, Punta Innominata...). 


Aiguilles Rouges 

The best idea of Summer 2022. You can climb everywhere. Beware of overcrowding, for example on the Brévent (rock falls). 

No more (running) water at the Bellachat refuge, which remains open. 

Also beware of overcrowding in the bivouac spots and especially around the lakes. Please respect the rules of bivouac (from sunset to sunrise, take down your tent in the morning, one night in each place) or risk seeing this tolerance disappear. Similarly, you should avoid swimming in the lakes. 



Following a landslide on 06/08, the following long routes in Barberine should be avoided until further notice: Sylvie, Barbourine, Mirrors, Vipère and Méduse (see photos below). 



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.




The First British Ascent of the Eiger North Face | Alpine Journal Extract

The First British Ascent of the Eiger North Face | Alpine Journal Extract

60 years ago this year, Ian Clough and Sir Chris Bonington made the first British ascent of the north face of the Eiger. In the Alpine Journal of the following year, Clough recounted their ascent in gripping, evocative prose and reflected on how the route had become a flame, fanned by the press, whose light drew in a generation of climbers, some woefully under-prepared for such a challenge.

We arrived, panting and sweating, at a low, shallow cave with a sandy floor. It would be dark in an hour and we could both lie here comfortably so we settled ourselves in to bivouack below the Difficult Crack. The sudden decision, the rushing round trying to borrow money for the fare, the early morning train drawing out of Chamonix Station, all seemed a long way away now. The wall had looked black and dry as the train had rounded the last bend to Grindelwald and we had known that the journey had been worthwhile; conditions were very favourable. I remember the girl in the bookshop, where we had copied the description from the back of Heinrich Harrer's book, trying to dissuade us with stories of the most recent fatalities, the look in the blacksmith's eyes as he had sharpened our claws, the bloodstains on the lower rocks where the fall of a solitary Austrian climber had been halted, the moments of doubt and indecision. But we were here now, on the Eiger's North Wall happy and confident, with four days of fine weather ahead if the Zurich forecasters were correct.

Bonington on the Hinterstoisser Traverse, by Ian Clough

Two small figures had been scurrying up the wall behind us. Like ourselves they wore crash helmets and carried bulging rucksacks on their backs. Now the first climbed the old fixed rope to the ledge near us. He introduced himself as an Austrian - Moderegger. Then his companion arrived: "Hello" - we were surprised to hear English - "I'm Tom Carruthers". We talked for a while. Tom's Scottish friends hadn't wanted to come on the wall and he'd met the Austrian at Alpiglen, the little mountain hotel at the foot of the wall. "What has he done?" we asked cautiously. "He's been in the Caucasus" Tom replied. I pictured Moderegger on a Caucasian coach tour. We didn't like it: a chance companion, experience doubtful, barely able to make themselves understood! It seemed foolhardy in the extreme. Still, they weren't our responsibility. We agreed that, should we all move at the same speed, it would be pleasant to have company, it would be a mutual morale booster against the frightening, cruel vastness of this notorious wall. The other pair went to bivouack round the corner. We cooked and ate a huge meal. Our sacks were too heavy, they must have weighed forty pounds, but felt like eighty as we had staggered up the thousand feet of scree and broken walls that evening, but now they were much lighter. We dressed in our down clothing and were soon asleep on our little sandy ledge, reassured that we were well nailed on. It was already a long way down.

Chris was shaking me. He was impatient to get away for it was late - 5AM! A hasty breakfast, then away. Carruthers and the Austrian were just behind us as we scurried up the Difficult Crack but they didn't keep up with us. We moved quickly together, along a fault of ledges and easy pitches below a great yellow overhanging wall, to the Hinterstoisser. There were several ropes across this rubicon of the old days and we were soon over the traverse, past the overhang of the Swallow's Nest bivouac, and climbing up what should have been the First Icefield. But the ice had receded and we were able to climb the rock beside it. We reached a steep step, the Ice Hose. Now we really began to appreciate just how good conditions were, for the Hose was a straightforward rock climb. Above us, bands of rock were showing bare beneath the Second Ice-field. Using these, connecting them by little verglassed ribs sticking up out of the ice, we trended leftwards until we were under the great, glassy, smooth sweep of the main part of the Second Ice-field. "Whatever happens here, don't look up", Chris called, drawing on the experience of his previous attempts on the wall with Don Whillans. Over a thousand feet above us, above a great vertical wall, was the mouth of the White Spider which usually belches forth debris from the upper part of the face. We were now entering the most dangerous area on the face; the zone of heaviest bombardment. I tried to make myself as small a target as possible, receding into my crash helmet as a frightened tortoise does into his shell. But the Ogre was frozen into stillness this morning. Not a stone fell.

There was no snow overlying the ice and crampons tended to scart off the tough surface. We decided to go directly up the ice-field to its upper lip. If we went diagonally across, as one normally docs, we would have to cut countless steps in the hard blue ice. It would take hours and the mountain's artillery might have opened up before we were clear. By going straight up we could use our crampons to better advantage. We moved off; crampons crashing, pick and dagger thrashing, only a quarter of an inch into the ice; teetering in precarious balance until a great bucket was beaten out and a security spike hammered in. We kept pitches short because our straining calves tired quickly and also because it was safer. One couldn't hope to hold a long fall. Using ice-pegs and screws for belays, cutting small nicks to rest on between quick staccato crampon moves, leading alternately, we proceeded rapidly and in comparative safety. But security on ice is only make-believe, and nerves as well as muscles were taut as we stabbed our way upwards. The angle wasn't that steep, about the same as a house roof, but the way the smooth giant of the slope plunged away beneath us to the meadows was awe-inspiring. It was a relief to be nearing the upper rim.

The Second Ice-Field by Ian Clough

As I stood in the bucket step, protecting Chris's advance, I was able to look around me for the first time that day. From the foot of the wall a great dark pyramid, the shadow of the Eiger, reached out across the meadows to the tourist hotel of Kleine Scheidegg. The rubbernecks and pressmen would be enjoying their breakfasts. Later they would come to peer through the telescopes, to enjoy the free entertainment. Were we actors in some drama, gladiators in the arena ? A long, low, plaintive note rang clear over the meadows and echoed across the wall. An alpenhorn. The old man whose daily task it was to play it for the benefit of the tourists was in position on his hillock. At first the sound was comforting, but as the day wore on its repetitiveness became wearisome and irritating.

The upper rim went easily, sometimes providing a gangway to walk along, at other times giving a sharp edge for the hands. We tried to leave the ice-field too early but, quickly realising our error, abseiled back and continued the long traverse. A steep little rock buttress took us up onto the flank of the Flatiron, the ridge which separates the Second and Third Ice-fields. We were high on the face now, going well. It wouldn't be long before we were clear of stonefall danger, before we reached the safety of the Ramp.

Down below us was a ledge cut from the ice, scattered with equipment. It was a grim reminder that the Eiger was not always in such a benevolent mood as it was this morning. For Chris particularly, it conjured up bitter memories ... memories of the tragedy of the previous month when the Ogre had claimed his first British victim: the sickening sight of a body falling; the hours of cutting across an ice-field which, with a hail of stones falling, seemed more like a battleground; the weary, semi-delirious fellow countryman they had nursed back down the wall as the stones fell and the storm broke. It was an experience that he and Don Whillans would never forget.

Morbid thoughts were quickly dismissed; one's whole being had to be concentrated on the present. We reached the crest of the Flatiron and scrambled up to the overhang of the Death Bivouac. Glancing back over the Second Ice-field we saw two black dots, Tom Carruthers and Moderegger, hardly moving, at the foot of the ice-field and inching their way diagonally across it. We were worried by their mistake but they were too far away for us to shout advice and we had yet to get ourselves out of the danger zone.

The Third Ice-field is the steepest and has to be crossed more or less horizontally to the start of the Ramp, a steep gangway which provides the only break in a 500-ft. leaning yellow wall. We slashed big steps and at one point saved time by making a long tension traverse from an ice-peg. The Ramp itself gave steep climbing reminiscent of the Dolomites. The rock was comparatively sound. We were glad, for this was technically the most difficult part of the climb. We enjoyed being on rock again. This didn't seem at all like the ferocious Eigerwand we had read about, it was just another great climb. But, on some of the stances were tattered remnants of polythene, occasionally a rusty can; some of our predecessors had had a hard time.

The Upper Edge of the Second Ice-Field, by Ian Clough

Wispy clouds which had slowly been forming down at the base of the wall, drifted up over the face like a shroud, hiding us from the prying telescopes and baffling the sound of the alpenhorn.

We arrived at the Waterfall Pitch where the Ramp steepens to a shallow corner chimney. This is often, as its name implies, the most unpleasant pitch on the climb icy water gushing down one's neck and sleeves makes a poor prelude to a bivouac. Today there was no water pouring down the corner, but a thin veneer of verglas covered all the holds. It gave one of the hardest pitches on the climb; inch upwards, scratch the ice from the next tiny hold; inch, balance, scratch, reach carefully and clip into a rusty old peg. Once or twice a foot would skid off its slippery wrinkle giving a tense moment for the second man but the leader was too absorbed in the next move to worry. After another section of clean, dry rock " we came to the Ice Bulge. It was a short chimney with verglas on one wall and thick, bulging, blue ice on the other. We climbed it back-and-foot. Now we were in a funnel of ice which led up to an amphitheatre of steep buttresses which lost themselves in the mist. It was cold. Another rope move from an ice-peg saved time and laborious step-cutting and landed us on a gentle rock rib beside the ice-funnel. We climbed upwards, wondering where the start of the Traverse of the Gods was. We must be near it now. Then we heard muffled voices. The mists thinned for an instant and we saw on the precipitous skyline on our right, a horizontal step. On it we could distinguish two small figures. We cut steps across the upper edge of the amphitheatre, traversed a crumbling ledge and by a steep crack gained the ledge on the arête.

Sitting there were two grinning Swiss. They introduced themselves as Jenny and Hauser. Although it was now only five o'clock they were going to bivouack as one of them had been hit by a stone, but they didn't need any assistance. They were going slowly; they had spent the previous night, their second bivouac, in the Ramp. We decided to press on since we still felt quite fresh and there were a few hours of daylight remaining. With luck we might even make the summit that night.

The traverse of the Gods, a series of broad but outward sloping scree-covered ledges, was almost clear of snow and we followed it easily towards the centre of the face, towards the White Spider. As we moved along, the veil of mists fell away from the face and the huge walls rearing up around us, plunging away below, glowed pink in the late afternoon sun. We looked out over the billowing clouds which still filled the valleys. We felt elated standing on that splendid belvedere, isolated from the world; it was truly a situation worthy of the Gods.

Moving on to the Spider, by Ian Clough

At the end of the ledge system we were confronted with a broad ice gully leading up into another huge overhung rock amphitheatre. Chris had begun to cut the first steps towards the little ice-rib in the middle of the Spider when, suddenly, there was a tremendous crashing and roaring and an avalanche of rocks came thundering down the gully and screamed out into the void below. The sunshine which we were enjoying was loosening rocks from their icy clasps. Chris came back quickly and we looked at each other, shaken: "It'll probably freeze tonight. Let's bivvy here".

We sat on our ledge and watched the sun slowly sink below the cloud horizon. It was a cold night. We slept for a few hours, then sat talking and brewing hot beverages until it became light. Stiff and clumsy at first, but soon warming up with the strenuous work of cutting steps, we climbed the Spider. Jenny and Hauser, following up our steps, were just behind us as we reached the top of the ice-basin. The entrance to the Exit Cracks was a narrow gully of frozen rubble. The gully continued upwards until it became lost in a forest of overhangs. We consulted our description and decided that we had to climb a steep ice-filled chimney on the left. Chris climbed it slowly. It was vertical and fearfully loose, only the ice keeping the holds in place. It was by far the hardest pitch we had encountered. I followed with a struggle and we pulled the leading Swiss up to the stance to join us. I had run out half the rope again before I realised that we were directly above the Spider. Surely we should be going over to the left? There now seemed to be a way round the overhangs at the top of the gully line. We were annoyed at losing so much time as we abseiled back into the gully. It didn't help much when we had to teach one of the Swiss how to abseil and we weren't particularly sympathetic when he excused himself by saying he had only been climbing a year! But later, at Kleine Scheidegg, we were amused when we were told of the sensation we had created at the telescopes. Apparently there was tremendous excitement when it was announced, by an 'authority' on the climb, that the British party were attempting a new Direct Finish!

The gully line, the Exit Cracks, became easier and easier as we climbed upwards. Soon there was no snow or ice. We marvelled that these were the same Cracks that had presented such great difficulties to men like Hermann Buhl. But, on the Eiger, conditions can mean everything. We were lucky to have it so easy. We took off the ropes and soloed up to the final ice-field. Hard ice again; on with the ropes. We were on the summit in the early afternoon and our happiness was so complete that we ran most of the way down the easy West flank. In less than two hours we were at Kleine Scheidegg. Jenny
and Hauser reached the summit at about the sarne time as we entered the hotel.

In the hotel the joy of our success was taken from us. We were told that two bodies had been sighted near the foot of the wall that morning. Did we know who they were? It came like a vicious blow. We felt shattered, sick with pity. Tom Carruthers and his Austrian partner were dead.

*   *   *   *   *

As we had hoped, Chris Bonington and I had had a smooth, uneventful climb in perfect weather and conditions. For a few days the cruel Ogre had been in a benevolent mood...yet, even so, two people, one a Briton, had fallen to their deaths. Only a month earlier another Briton had been killed and his companion was fortunate to be rescued.

From the facts we picked up later, it seems reasonable to assume that either Carruthers or the Austrian was hit by a stone. Observers at Kleine Scheidegg informed us that we had taken two hours to cross the Second Ice-field. Mists had hidden the second pair before they were half-way across but, on average, it was estimated that they would have taken eight hours! This would probably have put them on the Flatiron, the most dangerous position on the face (since it is directly under the Spider), at the worst time of the day. Tom Carruthers' watch had stopped at 5:15 about the same time that we encountered the stones coming down the Spider.

The previous British accident happened in virtually the same place and the events leading up to it followed a very similar pattern. Brian Nally and Barry Brewster took most of the day to get from their bivouac (the Swallow's Nest) to the end of the Second Ice-field where the accident occurred. Brewster was hit by a falling stone.

The cause of both accidents was the same. It wasn't just bad luck. Both parties were slow, mainly on account of errors in route-finding and judgement. Neither of these parties had sufficient all-round experience of big mountains to justify an attempt on the Eiger. They were victims of the atmosphere of hysteria which has grown up round the wall.

The Eiger is a great climb. Vast and complex, probably a more rigorous test of judgement and skill than any other European climb, it is, for the alpinist, a logical progression - almost a sort of finishing school. But, situated as it is, overlooking the tourist hotel of Kleine Scheidegg where pressmen can sit in comfort watching progress - it is also an arena, a circus. By publicity, it has been blown up out of all proportion; for some people it has become the only climb in the Alps, a place to make a name for oneself. Each year more and more young men of every nationality, blinded by publicity, make their premature attempts on the wall. Some get up, but the roll of honour is long.




Berg and Roberts Establish New Route on Jirishanca

Berg and Roberts Establish New Route on Jirishanca

Mountaineers Alik Berg and Quentin Roberts have climbed a new route on the east side of Nevado Jirishanca, often referred to as "the Matterhorn of the Andes", in Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash.

The pair have named the line 'Reino Hongo' and offered a grade of 5.8/90°/M7.

Writing on his Instagram page, Roberts described the route as "A line full of question marks. Steep complex snow, tricky mixed terrain, massive cornices, wild ice mushrooms, and a steep headwall at 6000m."


The mountain of Jirishanca with the line of Reino Hongo marked on it.