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Report 3rd February 2017

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Report 31 January 2017

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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.