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Report 10 March 2017

With the improving weather, people are slowly going back into the mountains.

The storms last week increased the snow cover.  However, there were accompanying strong winds followed by a rise in temperatures.

It has rained up to 2000m making the snow heavy.

There have been numerous snow slides and there is a marked avalanche risk, especially in the heat of the day.


There has been no information received for the “mixed” routes, the wind appears to have stripped the faces and the gullies remain bare.
This morning, (10th March,) there were still no tracks on the Cosmiques Ridge.

 

The Valley Blanche has been skied but conditions are difficult and there is an avalanche risk on the steeper sections. An expert ski ability is required. No information yet about the return to Chamonix but it will certainly involve some walking.  Care needed when crossing the couloirs between Mottets and Chamonix!

  

The Pas de Chèvre is not in condition and moraine exit is impassable.  

 

Ski tourers need to be very careful and away from the suspect zones before the day warms up.
The significant rise in temperature means the snow is very wet up to about 2500m. Above this, conditions are very variable due to the wind.

The cols above the Argentière glacier are tracked again, (no other information.)

The Argentière and Albert 1er huts are now open.
A large slide, (avalanche), came down from near the Col du Tacul, crossed the Périades glacier reaching the Salle à Manger.  Therefore, the climb up towards the Brèche Puiseux is not advisable.
In the Aiguilles Rouges, the way to the Lac Blanc was tracked yesterday, as was the Bosse des Charmoz above Loriaz.
Bad conditions reported for the Pointe Ronde.

For snow shoers the following areas remain practicable:  Granges Loop, Loriaz, Samoteux (Coupeau), Prarion Plateau(Les Houches), Lac Vert/ Barmus/ Ayères, (Plaine Joux).

Report 22 February 2017

The warm weather continues to degrade the snow conditions in most areas. There has been virtually no new snow since 6th February.

When ski touring one often has to walk for a bit in the lower sections, for example, the Berard valley or the return from Loriaz.  Crampons can prove useful.
The main areas for touring remain the same as last week.

Some extra information:
- Brèche Puiseux is tracked, it can be very warm in the couloir so one needs to be up it early. There are two 30m abseils on the Mallet side. The lower part of the des Périades glacier does not have much snow, so roping up is recommended.
- The Cols du Passon, Tour Noir and Argentière remain popular. The Col du Chardonnet is also being done (2 abseils of 30m minimum, depending on your ski ability). Glacier du Milieu is tracked, conditions OK, though treacherous on the lower part.  No information on the upper part, (it looks to have enough snow.)  The Y Couloir on the Aiguille d’Argentière is OK except for upper part of the right branch, which is ice.

- Col des Cristaux and the Courtes NE are tracked, the upper parts lacking snow.

 - Ski touring remains popular in the Aiguilles Rouges an on Mont Buet.
- Col des Autannes in good condition, as is the Pointe de Bron from Trient.
- Conditions are good above Contamines (e.g.Tête N des Fours). The Roman road has bare ice in places.
- Dômes de Miage was tracked on 16/02, starting from Cugnon. No specific problems. Descent by the Armancette, not much snow but still feasible.  Lots of wet snow slides, avoid coming down late!

 
The dry conditions are not favourable for gully climbing but, nevertheless, some lines have been attempted:
- A party did 3 pitches of the Claire Chazal on 15/02; A track was seen towards the Ravanel-Frendo, no further information.  
- A lot of ice on the Couturier, sometimes with a thin covering of snow; exit completely on ice for 150m. Whymper in good condition except for bare ice in the top part

- Goulotte du Col des Petites Jorasses: the bergschrund goes well, first 2 pitches on ice, the 2nd finishing on snow plastered rock.  The remaining pitches in better condition.  Abseil descent.
- Couloir de l’Eboulement tracked, conditions OK, some stones at the start of the route.

- Cristalliers Direct on the Aiguilles Marbrées in good condition but take care if it gets any warmer, serious stone fall risk.

The Valley Blanche is still popular, the upper part has the better ski conditions.  The snow cover is getting thin near the Requin and towards Montenvers. Prudence and a good ski ability needed.
The Valley Noire (Italian side) goes OK on the true right bank.

No important changes for snow shoers or hikers since the last bulletin.


We take this opportunity to remind you that, even though the snow conditions have made it awkward to do some activities, it is forbidden to go upwards on the ski pistes, whether on foot, ski or with snow shoes.

Some routes have been set up to avoid these forbidden areas.  See:
http://www.chamoniarde.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Espace-ski-de-rando2visu.pdf
http://www.chamoniarde.com/?page_id=730

Report 15 February 2017

The snow conditions are changing fast due to the recent Spring like weather.  

At the higher altitudes the snow cover has been greatly affected by the wind so its suitability for skiing depends very much on the sector and aspect.  The avalanche risk remains high, at 3 out of 5 above 2200m.

The south facing slopes are already in Spring conditions, with crusty snow and numerous sloughs, to be avoided later in the day.
On the shaded slopes sheltered from the wind, it is still possible to find powder.

In the Aiguilles Rouges the classic ski tours are been done regularly, though in very warm conditions.  It is important to start early and to be off the slopes before they become dangerous.

In the main Mont Blanc massive the routes in the Argentière basin are tracked, despite very variable and not always good snow conditions.  The return down the glacier to Lognan is OK for the moment.

The col du Chardonnet and the Fenêtre de Saleina were tracked on 11/02, with the descent by the Col du Pissoir.  An abseil of at least 30m is needed from the Col du Chardonnet, (no fixed rope in place).
The Col du Passon is popular at the moment.

Some parties on the Courtes NE, (no further information.)
A party turned back at the bergschrund of the Couturier couloir on 13/02.

The Valley Blanche is being regularly skied, but in conditions that require a very good level of skiing.  The Rognon slopes are mostly in good condition. The gullies behind the Requin hut are too dry. The moraine to get from the Grand Envers to the hut also lacks snow and so requires excellent ski ability.  The Salle à Manger traverse is OK but requires care.

The Valley Noire, (Italian side) is tracked, as is the climb up to the foot of the Brèche Puiseux. No information concerning the rest of the route other than ski tracks returning to the Valley Blanche from the foot of the gully.
For the return to Chamonix, it is still possible to ski down via the Mottets snack bar, but this is unlikely to be the case for long.

On the Swiss side, the route up the Pointe Ronde was in good condition on 13/02 with powder down to the tree level then “skied out” snow, not always pleasant.
On the Italian side, the conditions at Courmayeur are reported to be generally good.

 

The recent hot weather has not favoured ice climbing, though conditions are better in Cogne.


 Not much activity reported for the gullies, though a few lines have been climbed recently:
- “Pas d’Agonie III” on the Gros Rognon in generally good conditions, albeit with thin ice.

- “Le Temps est assassin”, (Trident du Tacul), with some good ice in places and dry in others, (the party descended by the Allemands Couloir, which was iced up.
- « Goulotte Pellissier » on the Pointes Lachenal.
There are no tracks leading to the Gabarrou-Albinoni or the Modica-Noury.
Super Couloir is dry.

For snow shoers, the conditions remain the same as in the last update, (10/02).

With this warm period the paths below 1500m often have sections of bare ice, a pair of walking crampons could prove useful.

Report 10 February 2017

Some information for the weekend:

The recent snowfalls have significantly improved ski conditions above 2000m.
In the 3 days leading up to 7th February, a metre of fresh snow fell at the Loriaz hut. The warm weather since means this snow has already partially settled and become heavier. The BERA (Avalanche reports from Meteo France) gives a 3/5 risk above 2500m for the weekend, so be warned.

The OHM has been informed that the following ski tours are tracked: Crochues/Bérard, Brèche de Bérard, Glacier du Mort, Col du Belvédère, Col des Dards and Col du Tour Noir.
The Bosse des Charmoz is tracked above Loriaz, as well as up to the Col de la Terrasse, (but not the summit, due to a cornice.)

The signposted ski touring routes at Le Tour, the Trapette, (Argentiere) and  Prarion are accessible, (ski crampons recommended.)

The Valley Blanche has been done with the descent right down to Chamonix, by the Mottets, feasible for very good skiers, (not advisable for snowboarders.); care needed from the Requin onwards.
It would appear that there is only one fixed rope on the descent ridge from the Aig du Midi for the moment.

No information concerning the icefalls, other than some activity at the Bérard icefall and the Crémerie on the true left bank of Argentière. Conditions are better at Cogne.


Conditions are much improved for snow shoeing, though it is still best to gain some altitude, e.g.  Prarion, Chailloux chalets, Loriaz and Vallon de Bérard.

Have a good weekend, and do not forget to pass on your experiences to the OHM.

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.