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Report 23 January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report 18 January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

The dedicated snow shoeing tracks are proving popular.

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

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

Report 13 January 2017

At last some snow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report 4 January 2017

2017 has started as 2016 finished, still no precipitation!

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


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

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

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

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


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

 
The ice climbing conditions are slowly improving.

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


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

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

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

Report 24 December 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report 17th December 2016

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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