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Report 24 December 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report 17th December 2016

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 December 2016

The period of high pressure continues, giving no new snow and very dry conditions.  
The dryness combined with the higher than usual temperatures means the icefalls have not formed yet, both at Cogne and the Chamonix valley.  Best to leave your axes and crampons in the cupboard for a bit longer!
N.B. The area around the “Fallo di Plutone” icefall is out of bounds for the season because of bird nesting.  (Bearded vulture).

There has not been much information concerning the mountain routes.  Most areas remain very dry and so the gullies are not in condition.

  

The Aiguille du Midi remains closed until the 17th.  The Skyway and the Torino hut has been open since last week.
It has been reported that the Aiguilles Marbrées and the Aiguilles d’Entrêves have been traversed in wintery conditions, (hence more technical.) The N face of the Tour Ronde has been climbed in OK conditions, the bergshrund not presenting a problem, especially on the left. The gully section contains “aerated” ice, but is still protectable. The final 30 to 40m are on very hard snow.  The descent was by the “true” normal route, with one short abseil.  This route is also being done in ascent.  The Gervasutti Couloir does not look inviting and the Rebuffat Gully looks very dry.

The Valéria gully was done on 4/12 in difficult conditions.  The Maudit sector is dry, the crux on the Baxter gully, (Mt Maudit) is bare, Laratoune, (behind the Grand Cap) dry and the SuperCouloir is as dry as it was in August.

 
As for the Albert 1er sector, one can start skiing at around 2000m, but conditions are reported to be poor. A party did the Grand Fourche on 4/12, mainly on crusty snow, though conditions were a bit better on the exposed slopes.   

A party was seen leaving for the Chardonnet, but no further information.

Concerning the Argentière sector, the Grands Montets top station is open.
The gullies in this area look dry and there is no information about recent ascents.  

The Col d’Argentière appears to be the best choice for ski tourers.  The Col du Tour has also been done, though the snow cover is poor at the level of the moraine.  The return down the glacier to Lognan is awkward and requires taking off the skis in places.
The Dolent was done 8/12 from La Fouly/La Léchère.  There is about 30min walking before one can put on the skis. Conditions were generally good.  The traverse between the Col du Petit Ferret the Bivouac Fiorio was in good condition.  The rest of the route was also OK, with hard snow in the upper part and the final slope to the summit being done on foot.  The ski back down in the afternoon was reasonable.  
The Y gully on the Aiguille Verte was climbed on 6/12. The bergschrund went on the right, and there was no snow at the foot of the gully (smooth slab of 1.5m). This was followed by a series of ice steps for 100m then a steep snow gully on the left for 20m before exiting on the left on mixed ground.  The descent was by the Whymper, without major problems.  The bergschrund was crossed on the true right.  Lower down on the glacier there is a huge crevasse which was by-passed by going up towards the start of Moine Ridge.  Return by the Egralets.

For the moment. snow shoes are unnecessary at the mid altitudes. However, good hiking boots and sticks are needed and crampons could prove useful, or even essential, in places.  Below 2000m on southern slopes and 1700m on the northern ones, there should be no problems.  The areas around the Lac Vert/ Ayères, the Prarion, the Chailloux chalets and Loriaz huts are all feasible for hikers.  There is potentially some danger higher up, for example: Lac Blanc and the Chéserys, and these areas are not recommended during this period of seasonal change.
Walks in the valley floor such as the Petit Balcon Sud, the Floria, Charousse as well as Mottets or Chapeau, are perfectly OK for the moment.
The same is true for climbing at Barberine and at the Gaillands.

Fresh snow is not expected in the immediate future, so it may be necessary to adapt your plans accordingly.

As always, the OHM looks forward to receiving your route reports so that they can be included in the next update.

Report 3rd Oct 2016

There is an autumnal feeling to this first week of October.  This morning, (Monday), it was distinctly cool and the Chamonix Aiguilles had a dusting of snow.  The snow descended yesterday down to 2300m. At the higher altitudes there were strong winds as the snow fell, with a dozen cms of fresh snow near the Cosmiques Hut and 40 cms near the Torino hut. The wind makes it feel very cold at altitude.  During this change in the weather the conditions are slowly evolving but the gullies and ice runnels are not in condition yet.  However, those rock routes exposed to the sun remain very pleasant.
At lower altitudes conditions are ideal for hiking.  Attention:  some work is being done in certain sectors. Consult the Chamoniarde website for more details:  http://www.chamoniarde.com/?p=45
Currently we are between seasons. The huts that are still open with a warden are: the Cosmiques until 8th October, the Torino and the Plan d’Aiguille until 1st November and the Loriaz until 15th October. The Aig du Midi and the Skyway (Courmayeur) cable cars will remain open until the 1st November.  All the other lifts in the valley are shut. 

The ladders leading from the Mer de Glace to the Couvercle are in the process of being partially dismantled

Report 16 August 2016

Conditions are generally very good throughout the massive.


- Albert 1er : Most of the peaks in this area are being regularly climbed. This includes the Forbes ridge, despite some ice on the “Bosse”.  2 x 50m ropes are necessary for the descent.  

- Argentière : The conditions remain good for the summer classics in this sector, especially the Aiguille d’Argentière.  The Petite Aiguille Verte is also in good condition.

- Charpoua : The old approach directly opposite Montenvers has been dismantled.  The approach is now by the new path, which starts after about an hour’s walk up the Mer de Glace.  However, the approach for the Flammes de Pierre is via some rock climbing just below the first ice pinnacles opposite Montenvers, (you can see the topos on the Chamoniarde.com website.)  For the Normal route and the traverse of the Drus you need to go very high up the Charpoua glacier and cross it before descending to the start of the routes. The rock climbing near the hut is in condition, e.g. Sale Athée. 


- Couvercle : There has been nobody for several days on the snow routes on the Droites and the Courtes.  The Jardin Ridge to the Aiguille Verte is in good condition, descent by abseilling down the Whymper if it is well frozen.  Some parties have done the Grands Montets ridge, likewise for the rock climbs near the hut.  The bergschrund below the Armand Charlet S gully is no longer passable.

- Leschaux : A party did Manitua in 3 days, another party went for the Shroud, (no further information.)  The W Face of the Petites Jorasses is dry. The rock climbing near the hut is also good, notably on the Aiguille Pierre Joseph.

- Requin : the descent from the Midi-Plan to the Requin is still OK; likewise for the ascent or descent of the Vallée Blanche. The Renaudie and the Pierre-Alain are being climbed.

- Envers des Aiguilles : Parties continue to go for the E Face of the Grépon, the Aig de la République and the routes near the hut.  However, the bergschrund for Subtilité Dulférienne, and Amazonia are very difficult to cross.  No news concerning the Ryan, though it appears to be OK.

- Torino : Generally very good conditions for this sector, with lots of parties going for the Rochefort Arete and the traverse of the Jorasses.  The Kuffner Ridge, (2 axes recommended for the direct gully at the start,) and the traverse of the Aiguilles du Diable are also popular. The N face of the Tour Ronde and the satellites of the Tacul have been done recently.

- Monzino : a lot of activity on the Peuterey integral, the Pilier Rouge, the Pointe Baretti and the Brouillard.  2 parties on the Central Pillar of Freney, 14/08.

- Cosmiques : the Contamine on the Triangle du Tacul and the 3 Monts traverse are being done regularly. Some parties have also done the full traverse from Durier hut.
The rock climbs on the S face of the Aiguille du Midi and the Pointes Lachenal are also popular.

- Plan de l’Aiguille : The Frendo Spur and the rock routes in this sector are popular.  Crampons recommended for the approach to Nabot Léon and neighbouring routes.

- Grands Mulets : conditions remain good and the hut is guarded, (do not forget to reserve.)

 
- Durier : the traverse of the Bionnassay is still in condition.


- Les Conscrits : the traverses of the Dômes de Miage and the  Aiguilles de Tré la Tête to the Lex Blanche are both in condition. The descent by the Col des Glaciers is still OK.  

For the hikers there are not really any problems, except for a patch of steep snow at the Col de la Glière, as well as patches of snow near the Col de Salenton on the Bérard side and beneath the summit of the Buet.

Report 5 August 2016

There have been no big changes since the last update. Conditions generally remain very good.

The recent bad weather has put down a dozen or so centimetres of fresh snow at the Cosmiques and Gouter huts.  This was combined with strong winds which are likely to continue through the weekend.  Be warned, this could result in windslab and wet snow avalanches at altitude.
It will be necessary to wait several days for certain routes to come back into condition.

 

Albert 1er :  Table Ridge, the normal route on the Aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche, Petite and Grande Fourche are being done regularly. For the Chardonnet, the Forbes ridge remains feasible but the approach to the Migot Spur has become seriously complicated.

 

Argentière : Climbing is still popular behind the hut.  The Jardin ridge, Flèche Rousse, Glacier du Milieu and the traverse of the Tour Noir are also popular.

Mer de Glace Basin: Rock climbing is popular in this area, as well as near the Talèfre and the Leschaux.  The Whymper is no longer recommended and the Moine ridge still has a lot of snow.  The Moine is OK.


Torino : the conditions are generally good with numerous parties on the Grand Capucin, the various satellites, the Diable Ridge and the Gervasutti Pillar.
Good conditions also for the Italian side of the Mont Blanc starting from the Monzino, Gonella, Dalmazzi and Boccalatte huts. The Quintino Sella bivouac, (for the Tournette Spur,) is closed for repair work.

Cosmiques : The rock routes are feasible but the 3 Monts will certainly be out of condition for the next few days due to risk of windslab avalanche. The Frendo remains very popular, however there is still a passage of ice to exit the route.
Conditions were recently excellent for the Grands Mulets route via the N ridge of the Dôme. Contact the hut warden for more information regarding the best route across the Jonction.

Conscrits : generally good conditions. The traverse of the Aiguilles de Tré la Tête, the traverse of the Dômes de Miage and the traverse to the Bionnassay have all been done recently.

For hikers ; the situation has much improved, though there are still some snow patches which might cause problems, for example at the Cols de la Glière and Salenton, (heading for  Mont Buet.)

The snow/rain level will have dropped today, (5th August).  This means, as mentioned above, it will be several days before normal conditions return.

 

Please do not hesitate to inform the Office de Haute Montagne of the details of your outings