News

Report: 24 May 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 24 May 2024.

We are looking forward to some sun this weekend after a week of unstable weather. A succession of small disturbances have followed each other with showers in the valley and snow in the high mountains. It’s difficult to estimate how much has fallen. There’s been around 5 to 10cm each day at the Cosmiques hut which has packed down quickly. Probably around 15cm at the Grands Mulets hut. Tracks are still visible up around 3500m.
 
Although we are at the end of May the avalanche risk isn’t negligible and needs to be taken into account when you’re going into the high mountains. Skis or snow shoes are still necessary for getting around in the high mountains, except very close to the lifts (Midi/Helbronner).
 
The good weather slot this weekend will allow outings in the high mountains principally around the Aiguille du Midi and on Mont Blanc but also around the Conscrits hut and the Albert Prem.
 
Skiing remains the main activity.
 
In the “lower” mountains the snow cover is  receding slowly as always. There is continuous snow cover above around 2000 to 2200m depending on aspect and area. This will limit walking in the popular areas like altitude lakes the grand balcon paths and access to huts.
 
Despite this there is a lovely contrast between the green in the valleys and everything white above. There is a list of potential walks here. It’s still too early for multi-day walks like the TMB and the Tour des Aiguilles Rouges etc. All the cols are completely snowed up, footpaths and signs aren’t visible, there is a risk of falls when crossing steep snow and rivers, and huts are closed. Things may improve by the beginning of June for experienced teams with the right equipment for managing the snowy conditions.
 
As expected there are excellent conditions for skiing from the Robert Blanc hut this weekend (Dome des Glaciers).
 
The Conscrits hut is guardianed this weekend. Access to the hut is via the right bank of the glacier, from the Mauvais Pas. Not much change up here and overall conditions are good. For the ski descent via the Armancette glacier, skis off at around 2000m (300m above the lake).
 
The Plan Glacier hut has been cleared of snow and will open on 30 May.
 
The refuges on the Mont Blanc normal route (Tête Rousse and Goûter) open today (except for the Nid d'Aigle, which will opens on 30/05). 
The Bellevue cable car and the Mont Blanc tramway are closed. You will therefore have to set off on foot from Les Houches or the hamlet of Bionnassay.
Snow clearance on the railway line will start on Monday 27 May. In addition, slides have damaged the track below the tunnel before the Nid d’Aigle, and repair work will start on 3 June. Access via the railway will therefore not be possible at the start of the season (or afterwards during the Nid d'Aigle operations/terminal works period).
The Tête Rousse refuge can therefore be reached (by mountaineers only) either via the Chalets de l'Are and then the Nid d'Aigle ladders or via the Rognes (both of which are currently covered in heavy snow from the Col du Mont Lachat/ladders under the Nid d'Aigle; beware of sliding/falling, particularly on the descent as you get tired).
There are no tracks at the moment, so you'll have to make your own: snowshoes or snowplates can be useful tools! Dont be late (risk of avalanches on steep sections such as the Aiguille du Goûter).
We don't have any more recent information about the Bosses ridge than we did in our 17 May update.
A lot of people are expected up there this weekend, so the track should be made and we'll have more information about the Bosses ridge afterwards.
 
The Mont Blanc ski season is in full swing! No significant changes around the Grands Mulets, apart from the N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter, which is gradually gaining snow (expect 15-20 m of ice, so bring good crampons and 2 ice axes, the route is being tracked this morning, but no further information is available). The Corridors, the Mur de la Côte and the N face are in good nick, as is the Jonction (here it may change more quickly).
 
Very good conditions on the Trois Monts too (last activity last Sunday, no ice, the crossing of the crevasse on Maudit will have been made much easier with the new snow). An attempt to track the Tacul this morning but no further information (the clearing in the clouds was short!). Beware of the avalanche risk.
The Lachenal traverse and the Cosmiques Arête have been retracked. Some activity in the Triangle gullies (Chéré, Contamine-Mazaud, Contamine-Grisolle, Contamine-Negri) but no news from those further East (they look filled but it's getting hot and fast).
 
The Skyway, Panoramic and Torino hut reopen today. This will allow a resumption of alpine activity around the Pointe Helbronner (the Marbrées traverse in particular). It's too early for the Rochefort ridges (and Midi-Plan for that matter). For the Küffner, we'll have to wait for a period of high pressure and the settling/stabilisation of all this snow!
 
The Montenvers train and cable car are still closed. Work is continuing and access is complicated. Keen climbers can reach the Mer de Glace basin by taking the via corda alpina to Les Mottets, then the moraine path and finally the new access (via ferrata) under the gondola. Information and map on the La Chamoniarde dedicated news page. The refuges in the area are all unguarded.
 
Some activity on the classics in the Tour basin (Aiguille du Tour normal route and couloir de la Table, Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche). The Albert 1er refuge is also opening this weekend! There's a risk that the Migot will be a little too busy and it's too early for the Forbes ridge. Access to the hut is by the moraine path (dry up to 2400m). Skis or snowshoes are still more than useful for travelling up top.
 
The road to the Emosson dam is still closed (landslides in autumn). It is hoped that it will open by the end of the month, but nothing is certain.

 

 

Translated with kind 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.

 

 

 

John Wilkinson

We are saddened to announce the death on 14 May of John Wilkinson.  John lived in Todmorden and had been a member for over 50 years.

Report: 17 May 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 May 2024.


Here's some news on the eve of the weekend, with the return of the sun this morning!

The mountains are all beautiful and white!

A good 50cm of snow has fallen recently at the Cosmiques hut. There was 4 cm at the Grands Mulets refuge (which fell without wind).

Watch out for the risk of avalanches in the coming days!

 

A brief overview of conditions in the mountains:

Most lifts are closed. The Aiguille du Midi and the Flégère gondola remain open.

Most of the refuges have switched back to unguarded mode. The Conscrits, Grands Mulets and Cosmiques huts are open! The Robert Blanc refuge opened today!

Above 2000m, it's winter! Skis (or even snowshoes for short approaches) are still the essential means of getting around. Skiing is still the main activity. There's a bit of mountaineering activity around the Aiguille du Midi and in the gullies (Triangle du Tacul), but things warm up quickly and fiercely at this time of year in other sectors (the E face of the Tacul, for example).

Hikers should always stay below 2000m. You can find a list of possible hikes here. While the Flégère gondola is open, the hikes are not practicable (Grand Balcon, Sud, Lac Blanc etc).

Unless something changes, the Bellachat refuge will be closed this summer.

Valley crags are climbable but higher up (Aiguilles Rouges, Mont Blanc massif: Envers, S face of Aiguille du Midi etc), there's still too much snow.

Fine weather last weekend (Ascension) meant that there was plenty of activity in the mountains! It has since snowed again, but that has only improved conditions!

 

Robert Blanc Refuge (open since this morning): it’s a 5-minute walk from the Chalets des Lanchettes car park before you put your skis on! A good opportunity to visit this wild sector!

 

Dômes de Miage: The refuge is open this weekend (one of the guardians went up today!) The latest news is that it's skis on after the Mauvais Pas once you are on the glacier. How long the snow bridges will last that cross the torrent at the bottom of the glacier is anyone’s guess: watch this space!

The traverse of the Dômes was in good condition, as were all the routes in the area (Tondu, North faces).

The Mettrier arete was tracked in good conditions last weekend. The traverse of the Aiguille de Bionnassay is possible if the weather is good and the snow has settled and stabilised.

 

Mont Blanc via the Grands Mulets: From the tunnel, skis on around 1900m. From the Plan de l'Aiguille, it's all fine (follow the summer path that skirts the moraines of the Pélerins glacier from below). The Jonction can be reached from the bottom as well as the top. Last weekend, there were still several sections of ice on the N ridge of the Dôme: ice screws, good crampons and 2 ice axes on the menu!

The conditions on the Bosses arete have improved: 1st bosse: on the crest then left across the ridge, beware there is a small crevasse to cross.

2nd bosse: on the crest

"False" arete: go around a crevasse on the right then a small steep wall of snow/ice to reach the ridge. The ridge is fine and good.

Rocher Tournette: ok! A bit of ice but not too bad, it's flat. Then the steep part, there's a bit of ice but patches of snow allow you to pass.

Final ridge: all snow.

The Corridors are still very easy, as is the N face of Mont Blanc.

 

Aiguille du Midi: The ridge has been de-equipped. The Tacul was retracked this morning. The Trois Monts were climbed last weekend in good conditions. There was a slightly overhanging step to cross a rimaye halfway up Mont Maudit (may have changed with the new snow). The rimaye on the Col du Mont Maudit is completely filled in and the slope above is all snow! The traverse to the Col de la Brenva is in top form, as is the Mur de la Côte, which is covered in snow. (That's rare!)

The gullies on the east face of the Tacul were well exposed to the sun last week: rock falls, "It's not too bad" said the hut guardian. The Lafaille goulotte was in good condition with a very early start ("Rimaye goes all the way to the left. Belay is buried on the approach slope under metres of snow. For the descent, aim for another belay with a bolt on the left bank of the rocky spur below"). The Triangle was climbed on Ascension Day (last weekend): Chéré - Mazeaud - Grisolle: conditions OK. La Negri should also be possible. For the time being, the approaches are more comfortable on skis and/or snowshoes, but the conditions can quickly settle down.

Crossing the Pointes Lachenal and the Cosmiques ridge OK!

 

Helbronner: the Skyway and the Torino hut (winter room only) are closed until 24 May. Activity on the Tour Ronde: normal route, Gervasutti couloir, N face. It looks like an attempt on the Kuffner ridge was made but they turned back (too much snow).

 

Mer de Glace Basin: The Montenvers train and gondola are closed. Work is in progress (dismantling of the temporary lift, the old telecabine and the old stairs). The site is closed (under the hotel: terraces and viewpoint inaccessible) as is access to the Mer de Glace until the 21st. The paths leading up to Montenvers (except the one between Les Planards and the Caillet buvette) will be closed from 20 to 31 May. Access will be possible for climbers via the via Corda. You can follow the closures on La Chamoniarde.

The refuges are all in winter mode. Its an hour's walk to get to the bottom of the new cable car. Access to the Couvercle hut is still via the central couloir (too much snow on the ladder access) but it's dry in the middle (scree). The Whymper couloir on the Aiguille Verte has been climbed in good conditions, as has the Pointe Isabelle. Here too, skis or snowshoes are essential.

 

Argentière Glacier: Here too, access is difficult as the Pierre a ric (home piste) is closed. Otherwise, it's all white!

 

Le Tour: Access to the Albert 1er hut (winter mode) is via the moraine path. There is snow at the water intake at around 2000m. The classics are popular with skiers (Aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche). The Migot spur at Le Chardonnet may be an option once it has stabilised.

 

Some activity on Mont Dolent: Normal route and Gallet ridge.

 

 

Translated with kind 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.

 

 

 

 

Steve Swenson Receives AAC President's Award

Steve Swenson Receives AAC President's Award

Alpine Club member Steve Swenson has been announced as the recipient of the 2024 American Alpine Club President's Medal in recognition of 'extraordinary accomplishments in the climbing world'.

Swenson with his teammates on the successful 2019 expedition to Link Sar

Swenson is quoted by Gripped Magazine as finding the award "very humbling", taking the opportunity to thank friends and family for their many years of support.

Originally from Seattle, Swenson has been climbing for more than fifty years and has climbed routes that have twice been recognised by the committee of the Piolets d'Or, as well as making ascents of Everest and K2 without supplementary oxygen.

 

 

 

Report: 3 May 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 3 May 2024.

"La chance sourit aux audacieux."

Well we have had two storms and an unexpected bit of sunshine inbetween this morning: It rained/snowed most of the day yesterday at altitude: let's hope that it will have finally stuck on some of the faces. This morning there was 20cm at the Conscrits hut, 45-50cm at the Grands Mulets, 20cm at the Argentière hut (accumulations of 1.5m in places, numerous sluffs on N and E aspects). So watch out for the risk of avalanches this weekend!

The Grands Montets ski area closes this Sunday evening, May 5 (large area closed from Monday May 6: Pierre à Ric, glacier de la Pendant, glacier de Lognan and des Rognons, col des Rachasses and Grands Montets). The Aiguille du Midi and Montenvers will remain open (the train will close on the evening of 12 May, with the Flégère gondola opening on Monday 13 May). The Skyway is closed until 24 May!

The Albert 1er and Requin refuges (the latter is manned from 8 to 12 May) have switched to winter mode. The same will apply to the Argentière hut from Sunday.

The Conscrits hut (open throughout May and continuously until September), the Cosmiques hut and the Couvercle hut (the warden sometimes comes down during periods of bad weather) remain open. The Plan Glacier refuge is due to open on 30 May.

Find out more if you're going on the Chamonix-Zermatt haute-route, as some of the huts have also closed.

 

We don't really have any information to give you about the high mountains, as the weather windows have been few and far between: "Fortune favours the bold". It's a real headache for skiers and especially for hut guardians, who have to juggle with cancellations. Skis (or snowshoes perhaps) are essential for getting around in the high mountains. Plan to walk a little to reach the cable car at the bottom of the Vallée Blanche.

 

The walks currently available are listed in this document. We would remind you that most of the classic hikes (as well as multi-day treks) are still not practicable (and that this will be the case for the whole of May). There is still a lot of snow at high altitude, so there is a high risk of slips and falls, as well as the risk of getting lost (invisible paths and markings). Successive storms have caused many trees to fall, and there will be a succession of trail closures to carry out repairs.

 

 

Translated with kind 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.

 

 

 

Join Us for the Unveiling of the Newly Restored Mathews Monument

Join Us for the Unveiling of the Newly Restored Mathews Monument

Following a three year project to relocate, restore and rededicate the Mathews Monument in Chamonix it has finally landed in its new permanent home at the entrance to the Couttet Park. Originally, it was dedicated to the memory of CE Mathews (founding member and former president of the Club) but has now been rededicated to also represent the shared history and comradeship between Chamonix and the Alpine Club.

A ceremony will take place at 5pm on 6 July 2024 at the site of the monument in Chamonix and the monument in its restored state will be unveiled by the Mayor.
 
Chamonix is keen to assemble as many members of the AC and the British community in Chamonix as possible for the ceremony. Please join us there to celebrate the close association between he Club and the massif and help us recognise the enormous effort that Chamonix has invested in this symbol of our shared history.

 

 

 

Report: 26 April 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 26 April 2024.

The mountains look so beautiful!
 
Not much to report compared to our last update...this may change very quickly with the arrival of the föhn!
 
Lifts still open are: Grands Montets, Aiguille du Midi, Montenvers and the Skyway.
 
From Sunday evening, the Albert 1er refuge will be closed, and the Requin refuge will be manned by reservation only. The winter rooms will be accessible .
 
For hiking, there are no changes from our last update.

 
Albert 1er
 
Lots going on here. The Aiguille du Tour, Petite Fourche and Tête Blanche are still being done. The Chardonnet remains very dry, and there is rock at the exit of the Migot spur (not climbed).
 
The Col Supérieur du Tour remains the best option if you are crossing the ridge.
 
To return to Le Tour, descend the moraine towards the "cabane électrique" (electric hut).

 
Argentière
 
Ski touring is still flavour of the month! All the cols are being done. The Aiguille d'Argentière and the Aiguille du Chardonnet are loaded.
 
It felt pretty hot yesterday afternoon when the sun came out.
 
A few purges were observed on the NE face of the Courtes. The Col des Cristaux rimaye looks complicated to cross.
 
 
Couvercle
 
It's best to use the central couloir to reach the refuge.
 
There is little activity in the sector due to bad weather. The couloirs and the rimayes are well filled. Be careful to adapt your route according to your skills.
 
Pointe Isabelle looks magnificent and well-filled. You'll have to trail break.
 
 
 
 
Cosmiques
 
The equipment on the arête will be dismantled over the next few days and the Z will be maintained until May 12.
 
The whole sector is in good condition (as long as the wind doesn't blow!)
 
The Contamines-Grisolle, Chéré, Gabarrou-Albinoni and Lafaille gullies are being done regularly, as well as the Cosmiques Arête and the Pointes Lachenal. Approaches can be made on skis or snowshoes.
 
Note to skiers: some steep slopes are hard, so think about using crampons, ropes etc
 
The Tacul was attempted yesterday, but they turned back at the last rimaye, which is difficult to cross  (see photo above).
 
 
Requin
 
Even if the wind has worked the snow, conditions in the Vallée Blanche are still very good, even from the Col d'Entrèves. The Salle à Manger is still going strong and the Combe du Requin is filled in. You can ski all the way to the gondola.
 
The Brèche Puiseux is still being skied and is in good condition.
 
 
Grands Mulets
 
The ascent of Mont Blanc is still in condition. The route remains the same: Jonction (higher path), Plateaux then Corridor.
 
The N ridge of the Dôme du Gouter and the 2nd "bosse" are still icy. The mur de la cote is also hard, so crampons are needed. The N face has been skied, and conditions are starting to look good in the middle of the slope.
 
 
Conscrits
 
Activity all over the place: on Mont Tondu, Col des Lanchettes and Armancette.
 
The biggest difficulty is the Mauvais Pas, because of ice above it; this should improve with the arrival of the foehn, already present today.
 
 

Translated with kind 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.

 

 

 

Ian Clarke

The Club has recently been informed of the death of Ian Clarke, who passed away on 24 March 2024. Ian was a long-standing member of the Alpine Club, having joined in 1975 as an Aspirant Member and graduated to Full membership in 1982. 

Our thoughts are with Ian's friends and family at this time.

 

 

 

Report: 19 April 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 19 April 2024.

Here's a little snowy update following the return of winter as well as an overview of the routes we've reported on before, when the weather was milder. It's going to snow again tonight, and the wind has been working hard since yesterday: beware of the avalanche risk.

Glacier conditions are generally good to very good.

Lifts open: Grands Montets, Brévent (partially open, closed this Sunday), Aiguille di Midi, Montenvers and Skyway.

 

Albert 1er

20cm of snow fell without wind. The last few days have been busy, particularly on the Chamonix-Zermatt haute route. The Col des Écandies works well to get down to Champex. It's a 20-minute walk to Trient from Arpette. The Col Supérieur du Tour was retracked yesterday.

The Col du Passon is still being done. There is no snow on the normal descent to Le Tour, so you either have to cross over to the Péclerey side or take the moraine path on the right bank (500m descent on foot).

With the exception of the Aiguille du Tour, there were no summits done this week. Before this wintery interlude, Tête Blanche and Petite Fourche were climbed. The more technical routes such as Aiguille du Chardonnet and Grande Fourche have not yet been climbed.

 

Argentière

The Grands Montets lifts are open until 5 May.

The refuge telephone numbers are working.

Few changes in the sector. Ski touring activity on the main cols (Chardonnet, Tour Noir, Argentière) and on the Aiguille d'Argentière (Glacier du Milieu) with no particular problems.

Some skiers on the N-face ski slopes (Col des Cristaux, NE des Courtes), but watch out for avalanche risk over the next few days.

 

Couvercle

Access to the refuge is still via the central couloir.

The Whymper couloir was done last weekend. For those wishing to ski it, as with any steep slope, especially those that take the sun, be sure to gauge the conditions/your abilities.

 

Cosmiques

Since Wednesday, around 40/50 cm of snow has fallen with no wind, but no snow today, and the wind has picked up. It's pretty deep even with skis on!

Lots of fresh snow (accumulations up to 1m) in the Vallée Blanche, which is still going strong: the Salle à Manger is easy to cross, but there's a walk lower down (5 to 15 minutes). Watch out for the opening of two crevasses at the bottom of the Vallée Noire (and for conditions that can rapidly evolve towards hard/frozen snow + slopes swept by avalanche tracks/debris at this time of year).

The Brèche Puiseux is still being done.

The Tacul and the Trois Monts were done last weekend (quite a few sections on foot, but watch out for avalanche risk soon). On Maudit, the route is more complicated than usual (see photo above), a crevasse blocking the route halfway up requires you to climb steeply to the right). There were a few rockfalls below the Col du Maudit following last Sunday's heatwave, so some people turned back.

Thursday's snow filled the gullies up (no activity since), so we'll have to keep an eye on how the wind develops over the next few days. There has been some activity on the Contmaine-Grisolle, the Gabarrou-Albinoni, the first pitch of the Supercouloir is dry, but the rest remains good (you have to start by the Gervasutti pillar) and the Lafaille goulotte (good overall conditions). Good overall conditions on the Tour Ronde (Gervasutti couloir, "normal route", N face a little dry but by eye looks OK).

 

Grands Mulets

A total of 60 cm has fallen this week with little wind, so a new track will have to be put in. For the moment, the snow is of good quality, it's cold but today the breeze is getting stronger. Yesterday, a team attempted the N ridge of the Dôme du Gouter, but it's still very icy, so they turned back (a team did it last weekend, so bring good crampons and ice screws). Some are going to try the summit again tomorrow, via the Corridor route (which went well last weekend, but the Mur de la Côte is tricky to descend). The N face had been skied. Bosses ridge still technical (ice below and above Vallot).

 

Conscrits

No one has been here since Sunday! About 15cm has fallen daily, and yesterday, Thursday, 60cm with a bit of a N wind. The few sunny spells today mean that we're back in winter. You need to carry skis up to the glacier after the Mauvais Pas; watch out for snow on the slabs and ice above for those who will be attempting to cross the Mauvais Pas over the next few days!

The Miage traverse with descent on the Armancette (beware of the avalanche risk over the next few days, so opt for an out-and-back via the Trè-la-Tête glacier), the Tondu and the Col des Glaciers (watch out for the exit at the top, which is getting steeper) have all been completed. A team was seen finishing the Mettrier arête.  The NW face of the Tête Carrée was skied, as was the N face of the Trè-la-Tête (conditions were quite good, snow worked by the wind but no bad ice). For the Lée Blanche, it's better to bypass the ice on the left and join the ridge coming from Tré la Tête, rather than the NW ridge as shown in the topos.

The Royal traverse was done last weekend (they put crampons on a lot). The snow was pretty hard, with bits of ice, and dry overall. No worries about finding the Dômes abseil to reach the Durier refuge, and the Bionnassay ridge was in good condition, with hard snow on the ascent to the Piton des Italiens.

 

For hiking, the document published in the last update is still valid. Don't forget that at the start of the season, the trails are neither marked nor cleaned. Many trees are in the way following storms and torrential floods. It's sometimes difficult to get through, even more so with a mountain bike.

 

 

Translated with kind 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.

 

 

 

AC Photographer Featured in John Muir Trust Exhibition

AC Photographer Featured in John Muir Trust Exhibition

Associate AC member Fi Bunn has had her work, 'The Matterhorn Fire', commended as a finalist in the John Muir Trust's Creative Freedom Exhibition. The exhibition, which runs from 18 March - 25 May 2024 at the Trust's Pitlochry Wild Space Visitor Centre, features works in a range of media, including paintings, comic books, photography, movement art, and VR. The included works were selected from over 600 entrants related to the Trust’s belief that society thrives when wild places are given the freedom to repair themselves.


'The Matterhorn Fire' by Fi Bunn

Writing on her website, Fi commented: "In the winter, the Matterhorn presents the well known image of snow and ice on a stunning, iconic peak popular with skiers. In summer, the mountains are now scored with grey as the ice retreats. The glacial tracks are disappearing at 25 metres per year. This is almost unnoticed in a single year, but over the past 2 years Swiss glaciers have reduced by 10%."

For those who can't make the exhibition in person, The Trust have provided a digital gallery of the selected works.

 

 

 

'The Everest Obsession' - New Radio Series Examines How the World's Highest Mountain is Managed

'The Everest Obsession' - New Radio Series Examines How the World's Highest Mountain is Managed

AC member and Mount Everest Foundation Chair Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to summit Mount Everest, presents a new five-part series for BBC Radio 4 which examines how the mountain is managed a decade on from the 2014 earthquake disaster which claimed the lives of sixteen Sherpa workers.

Speaking with commercial operators, mountaineers, including Sir Chris Bonington, and a number of Nepalis who work on or study the mountain, Rebecca deftly investigates what has and hasn't changed since that tragic day in 2014 and looks forward to how the continuing demand for guided summits looks set to shape the future of Everest and of Nepal.

'The Everest Obsession' premiered on BBC Radio 4 in April 2024 and is available to listen to on-demand via the BBC Sounds App.

 

 

 

Report: 12 April 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 12 April 2024.

At last some decent weather, lets get out there!

The mercury has been rising for the last 3 days and activity has been picking up. Early starts and early finishes may be needed! And don't forget your sunscreen! Here's an overview of the conditions.

 

Conscrits

Skis on after the mauvais pas. The Dômes traverse is tracked. The glacier is well filled in. The summit of the Dômes is bullet hard. The Armancette descent is hard snow at the top, but then the skiing is quite good. Skis off at the lake at 1700m.

The first team of the season left this morning for the Durier.

The Tré la Tête was done yesterday (no further info).

Mont Tondu: several slides in the area due to the sand layer. A team on the Pain de Sucre earlier this week. The summit of Mont Tondu looks heavily corniced.

 

Grands Mulets

Regular activity on the Mont Blanc route. Access to the refuge via the Jonction (upper path). For those brave enough to set off on foot from the tunnel, access conditions are here. The north ridge of the Dôme is ice. Parties are therefore taking the Plateaux route. The Bosses ridge has some bits of blue ice (good crampons and good crampon technique needed). The north face has not been skied (hard snow).

 

Cosmiques

3 skiers set off this morning on the normal route of the Tacul and turned back below the serac in the middle of the face.

Teams on the Chéré (grey ice), on the Supercouloir. The Lafaille goulotte was climbed today in good conditions. The Modica Noury and the Gabarrou Albinoni (3rd belay damaged) were still going well 3 days ago. Conditions could change rapidly on the east face with the heat forecast.

By eye: small slide to the left of the Lachenal ridge. The traverse has been done on foot. The Cosmiques Arête is being done a lot (access on foot also possible).

Apart from these two routes, all other approaches need to be on ski.

 

Aiguille du Midi North Face

The gullies are dry. On Thursday, a team were seen finishing the Mallory, and this morning another team tried and turned back: hard work to reach the foot of the couloir despite a night in the Plan de l'Aiguille winter room.

 

Vallée Blanche

Lots of people with this beautiful weather window. The snow is changeable all along the route and quickly becomes heavy as the hours go by. Its a 10 minute walk to reach the Mer de Glace gondola (last ascent at 4PM). Last train back: 5PM.

 

Torino

The Aiguilles Marbrées and Aiguilles d'Entrèves traverses have been tracked. Approaching on foot is feasible, but snowshoes are still not a bad idea.

Tour Ronde: the Gervasutti couloir is in good condition, but the rimaye is a little tricky. The same applies to the normal route. The north face is very dry.

The Dent du Géant looks very dry.

Brèche Puiseux: very busy. The conditions of April 6 are still valid.

 

Couvercle

Access to the refuge is via the central couloir.

Activity on the Whymper couloir and Pointe Isabelle. The Aiguille Croulante couloir was skied a week ago.

Lots of people at the refuge this evening making the most of the W/E: so we should get some more info!

 

Argentière sector

No alpine activity in the sector. The faces are loaded. The gullies are dry. A team was seen in the Z on the Aiguille Verte (the Couturier is not in condition). A team has started today on the Lagarde couloir but is making very slow progress, no further info.

All the classic ski touring routes are tracked: Passon (ski de combat to get back to Le Tour) - Chardonnet - 3 cols - Tour Noir - d'Argentière.

The Aiguille d'Argentière was tracked by the Glacier du Milieu (see cahier de course) and the couloir en Y: rimaye OK, a pitch of mixed afterwards on the left bank.

The Barbey couloir was skied yesterday 11/04: good conditions overall, slightly wind-affected/crust at the start. Then powder on a hard base and finally heavy powder/spring snow on the left bank.

The Col des Cristaux (ice at the top) and the NE face of Les Courtes were also skied.

The Chevalier couloir on the Petite Verte is in poor condition.

Beware of the moraines: with the expected heat, beware of possible rock falls.

 

Lift closure: Sunday evening (14/04) for the Planpraz/Brévent - Flégère/Index - Vallorcine / le Tour - Col de Balme lifts. As a reminder, the lifts at Les Houches (Bellevue and Prarion) are already closed. So only the Grands Montets lifts will remain open.

 

Hiking: conditions are changing very slowly. The snow limit is around 1800m on the south-facing slopes and 1600/1700 m on the north-facing slopes. Above these altitudes, snow cover is deep and extensive. Remember it's not the time of year for the grands balcons nord and sud, and mountain lakes (whatever their colour!!). Be patient!

In the meantime, here are a few hiking ideas.

 

Via Ferrata: The Curalla and Bérard via ferrata are open.

 

 

Translated with kind 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 Long Legacy of ‘53

Incoming Chair of the Mount Everest Foundation’s Committee of Trustees, Rebecca Stephens, reflects on the history of the MEF and considers how its past helps point the way to an active future for this vital grant-giving body.

Rebecca Stephens welcomes the opening of MEF grants to Nepali applicants at the Embassy of Nepal, London

Several remarkable charitable bodies sprung from the 1953 Everest expedition, not least the Mount Everest Foundation (MEF). Founded on the generosity of the expedition members who donated proceeds from lectures, a film, and in Col. John Hunt’s case, his best-selling book, The Ascent of Everest, (a must-have for every stocking that Christmas), to collectively raise an astounding £100,000, equivalent to almost £3.5m in today’s money. All this went into a pot to encourage the ‘exploration of the mountain ranges of the Earth’, an objective that is still honoured seven decades on.

Another charity that sprang from that extraordinary expedition of 1953, was the Himalayan Trust, founded by Ed Hillary to give back to the Sherpas who had played such an instrumental role in making the expedition a success. The two charities, though with different objectives, share values – a love of the mountains, the mountain people and cultures, a sense of gratitude and a desire to give back. So it comes as no surprise that they’ve joined forces to celebrate decennial anniversaries of Everest’s first ascent.

As a trustee of the Himalayan Trust UK, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many MEF trustees over the years. Thanks to Duncan Sperry I now step into his shoes as Chair, a decision not difficult to make – anything to counter our risk-averse, screen-obsessed culture where a neighbour anxiously informs me that my daughter is up an apple tree.

A Piolet d'Or-winning line. Paul Ramden on the MEF-backed first ascent of Jugal Spire - Tim Miller

I wonder if the founders would recognise much of the world we live in today, particularly if they cared to venture to Everest.  But I think they’d be pleased that the Mount Everest Foundation upholds its initial ethos: to encourage and celebrate the spirit of the pioneer, to take initiative and forge something new. To lead, not just to follow. In climbing, that’s evolved into purer alpine tactics, and, as the impact of tourism increasingly puts pressure on local communities, so it calls for increased sensitivity to the mountain environment and the people who inhabit it, always remembering that we’re visitors in someone else’s land. As such it seems entirely fitting that as well as donating money to young climbers keen to develop skills and awareness in extreme environments, the MEF also makes periodic donations to charities that support local people and the environments in which they’re likely to climb.

Hillary and Norgay climbing on Everest - The Royal Geographical Society

I’m quite sure, too, that the founders would endorse the MEF’s latest initiative, passed under Duncan’s leadership, to extend the eligibility of MEF grants to Nepalis as well as Brits and New Zealanders. After all, it was the citizens of three nations, not two, that put Hillary and Tenzing on the summit, and as the ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya pointed out at a celebratory gathering at the Embassy of Nepal, “better late than never.” I’m happy to report that, following this announcement, we have already received our first application from Nepal.

MEF-backed scientists at work on the Dona glacial lake in the Nepalese Himalaya

Another timely shift is a renewed emphasis on science; currently, around one third of the MEF’s grants are allocated to scientific research in mountain regions. There was a time when the environmental impact of climbing and trekking was measured for the most part as local: rubbish, pollution of rivers, and the felling of trees for firewood with resultant erosion of thin mountain soils. Today, what happens in the mountains is of global interest. The high mountains of the world are humanity’s water towers. With temperatures at altitude rising faster than at sea level, glaciers are retreating, the bedrock left bare, which in turn amplifies the warming rate and has consequences far beyond the immediate vicinity of the mountains.

The MEF now finds itself at the epicentre of the biggest existential threat to humankind. We are in a position to play a part in supporting scientific research. We support the pioneers – those pushing the limits in mountaineering, and intrepid young scientists in remote and lofty mountain regions who are the spokesmen and women of the effect of climate change. Never has the Mount Everest Foundation found itself in such an important position. As incoming Chair, I hope to see that it continues to rise to that challenge.

- Rebecca Stephens

 

 

 

AC Member Recognised in 2024 Derwent Art Prize

AC Member Recognised in 2024 Derwent Art Prize

AC member Polly Townsend has been awarded second prize in The 2024 Derwent Art Prize for her work 'Ice, Antarctica'. Her work, composed in charcoal, ink and watercolour, was among five awarded pieces selected from over 6,000 entries.

Townsend's Prize-Winning Work - 'Ice, Antarctica'

The work was inspired by Polly's residency in Antarctica in January 2023 and was commended by the selectors both for its "technical perfection and mastery" and "its silent yet commanding presence [which] prompts reflection on the fragile beauty of the Antarctic landscape juxtaposed against the stark reality of its melting ice cap."

The Derwent Art Prize, established in 2012 by art materials manufacturer Derwent, offers prize money and exposure to "the very best artworks made in pencil". In 2024, the five awardees received a total of £13,000 in prize money and art supplies.

An exhibition showcasing the 68 shortlisted works, including Polly's, is free to visit at gallery@oxo from 11AM-6PM from 4-13 April and from 11AM-2PM on the closing day, Sunday 14 April 2024.

 

 

 

John Colton

We have received the sad news that John Colton died on 27 March. An accomplished artist and mountaineer, John had been a member since 2013 and last year mounted an exhibition at Charlotte Road, playfully titled ‘Over the Hill’, of scenes sketched during his most active years in the Alps and recreated in watercolour during 2022. 

During the UK COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, John was one of the speakers at our ClubCast on Artists of the Alpine Club. You can watch a recording of the event below.

John’s funeral will be on Friday 19 April at 09:45 at Park Wood Crematorium (Elland) and a celebration of his life at Old Rishworthiens RUFC (Copley).

Join Us for the Launch of Dorothy Pilley's 'Climbing Days'

Join Us for the Launch of Dorothy Pilley's 'Climbing Days'

Dorothy Pilley was one of the most significant figures of early 20th Century mountaineering. A member of numerous mountaineering clubs and a founder of the all-women Pinnacle Club, she climbed extensively in the Alps and North America, alongside her husband Ivor Richards. In 1928, together with Ivor and the guides Joseph and Antoine Georges, Dorothy made the first ascent of the north-north-west ridge of the Dent Blanche.

This, and many of her other pivotal climbing experiences, were immortalised in Dorothy's autobiography 'Climbing Days'. Despite Dorothy's significance and the book's warm reception, the title has sadly been out of print for several decades. However, thanks to the work of Dorothy's Great-Grand Nephew Dan Richards and publisher Canongate Books, a new edition of the book is set to be published in 2024.

This new title, the first since 1965 to feature all of the original photographs, will become part of the Canongate 'Canons' collection and will receive its official launch on 2 July at the Alpine Club's premises at Charlotte Road London.

To help celebrate the book's re-release and Dorothy's remarkable life, the evening will include a discussion by Dan Richards (who has written a new foreword for this edition), writer and academic Dr Sarah Lonsdale and UKClimbing Editor in Chief Natalie Berry

The book launch is free to attend and there will be the opportunity to buy copies of the book on the night as well as to view a small display of some of Dorothy's posessions from the Club's collection. The event will start from 7PM and you can sign up to attend via the Google form below.

 

 

 

 

AC Members Feature in UIAA Podcast Discussion of Everest

AC Members Feature in UIAA Podcast Discussion of Everest

The UIAA (The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) has launched a new podcast for 2024. 'Mountain Voices', produced and presented by AC member Tarquin Cooper, provides a platform for experts from the UIAA and renowned figures from the world of mountaineering to discuss important contemporary topics. 

In the third episode of the current series, Tarquin is joined by Korean climber and anthropologist Young Hoon Oh and AC members Ed Douglas and Victor Saunders to discuss the development of Everest over the past 100 years and the current challenges facing the management of the mountain. 

You can listen to the episode here or by subscribing to Mountain Voices via your podcast app of choice.

 

 

 

2024 GRIT&ROCK Expedition Award Recipients Announced

2024 GRIT&ROCK Expedition Award Recipients Announced

Since 2017, the UK-based charity GRIT&ROCK has sought to encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents by provided funding to female-led expeditions. In its eight years of operation, it has provided $70,000 in grants to 30 female-led expeditions.

Nadine Lehrner, Isidora Llarena, and Rebeca Caceres who received a GRIT&ROCK grant for their 2023 expedition in Patagonia

The recipients of the 2024 grants are as follows:

Performance Category

Chantel Astorga and Fanny Schmutz received $2,000 towards their planned expedition to open a new route on east face of Shivling (6543m)

AC member Fay Manners and Michelle Dvorak were awarded £1,500 towards an exploratory expedition to Sikkim.

An all-female team of Lise Billon, Raphaela Haug and Babsi Vigl received $1,500 of funding towards an attempt at a full traverse of the Moose’s Tooth in Alaska's Ruth Gorge.


Exploration Category

Olga Lukashenko, Anastasia Kozlova and Daria Seryupova were awarded $1,500 for an exploratory expedition to Ashat Wall in Kyrgyzstan to attempt the first ascent of Argo and Sabakh peaks.

An all-female team of Canadian climbers, Flavie Cardinal and Jasper Pankratz, received $1,000 for an exploratory big wall climbing expedition to the Turbio valley in Argentina.


Apprenticeship Category

A team of six UK-based climbers: AC member Elizabeth Porter, Martha Gutteridge, Charlotte Krishik, AC member Isabel Jones, AC member Caitlin McHale and Jinjie Cheng were provided with $1,500 in funding for an exploratory expedition to the Rushan range of Tajikistan.

The jury also elected to continue their funding for the French National Female Alpine Team (ENAF) and the female members of the Alpine Club's Young Alpinist Group with grants of $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.


The Award is open to individuals and climbing teams of any nationality with a majority of female participants.

 

 

 

Report: 29 March 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 29 March 2024.
 
The weeks are rolling by and we get endless storms and and fohn. Mountain activity is virtually at a standstill...
 
This weekend looks set to be a stormy one again, with a powerful fohn system. The wind is likely to be strong in the valleys and mountains, even gale force. Once again, you'll have to adapt your activities and outings!
 
Activities in the high mountains are likely to be compromised, so stay tuned...
 
The opening of pistes and lifts may be disrupted. You can consult the forecasts and openings here.
 
Conditions for hiking remain the same, i.e. you should stay roughly below 1700m.
 
You will find a suggestion of hikes for this weekend here.
WARNING: strong winds forecast for the valley this weekend: risk of falling trees on forest routes. 
 
Some general information:

  • Mer de Glace access: The path between Montenvers and the bottom of the old cable car is closed by decree. If the new cable car is closed, access is via the new mountain route, which will require mountaineering equipment.
  • The opening of the Grands Mulets refuge has been postponed until 4 April, depending on the weather.


Have a good weekend!

 

 

Translated with kind 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.

 

 

 

Up Close with Klaus Thymann

Up Close with Klaus Thymann

Danish explorer and AC member Klaus Thymann is a walking multi-hyphenate. We caught up with him in December 2023 to discuss his work as a climate activist, his interest in equatorial glaciers and his thoughts on the failures and future of science communication.

To kick off, could you tell us a little about what you do professionally?

That is going to be a very long answer. I do a lot of things professionally. I have more hats than I have hair. So I used to work as a photographer, I've been a filmmaker my entire life and I’m an explorer. But my main focus is mapping. Without maps, we can't navigate. And without navigation, we can't actually solve some of the pressing issues. So for me, that's a logical first step.

I grew up as a teenager taking pictures and I became a professional photographer when I was 15. Then I became a filmmaker and the great thing about photography and filmmaking is that you can do whatever you’re interested in. If you like food, you photograph food. If you like adventure, you photograph adventure. And I've moved through a lot of different genres and themes in photography, but around 2008, I set up a charity called Project Pressure with a focus on triangulating climate change action, art and science. And, later, in 2010, I started a science degree. So I have a degree in Environmental Science and nowadays I would say that what I do professionally is focus on activism that is grounded in science and communication. I think, when we look at climate change specifically, science has failed on communication.

 

A lot of your climate change communication work has focussed on glaciers. Is there a reason for that choice?

When I founded Project Pressure, we wanted to create communication around climate change. At that time, climate change deniers were called “sceptics” and the media gave equal billing to deniers as to scientists even though 99% of scientists said that climate change was happening. That created a public perception that climate change was up for debate and we're still seeing the results of this now.

So when we started Project Pressure, we wanted to communicate in a way that was undeniable, scientific and bulletproof. Glaciers react to long-term warming trends. Glacier mass balances and mass balance losses are not part of the weather cycle, so showing their retreat illustrates climate change. And from an artistic perspective, it's one of the classic forms and so it made sense to create work around them.


The past and the present - recreating historic glacier photos in Uganda

2023 Meltdown Exhibition at  Kühlhaus, Berlin

You talked earlier about the failure of science to communicate, particularly in the early stages of climate change awareness. Do you think scientists failed because of false balance in the media, or was it a wider failing?

It's not a binary, it's not one or the other. The media played a big role in the problem and that’s also because most journalists are not trained scientists and most scientists are not trained in media. So you have two groups that are trying to do things that they're not trained to do.

The precautionary principle in science is part of it too. When you write scientific reports, it's a guiding principle. You cannot prove something, you can only disprove a lot of other things. So you cannot go out and say categorically what is. You can say something would have a certain likelihood.

When it comes to the environment, I think you have to look at the precautionary principle in a different context. Not from a scientific context, but from an environmental context. In an environmental context, that precautionary principle says that you don't destroy something without absolute certainty that you will not damage the systems. So one should take a precautionary approach to how we treat the environment. If there is a risk, the approach has to be changed.

 

I noticed that, perhaps in contrast to a lot of Alpine Club members, you’ve undertaken a lot of expeditions in equatorial regions. What is their appeal to you?

Mapping has always been a driving force for me. So going to the white spots on the map where it’s less documented was a big interest for me. I also have to say that when it comes to ice and mountaineering, there’s such a huge focus on the poles and Everest that it's not interesting. There's been so many other people there. I'm not going to be able to contribute anything.

By contrast, some of the equatorial glaciers are not named, they're not documented and they can be difficult to get to for a number reasons; conflict, logistics and so on. It’s an event just to get there and you come back with something new.

It also offers a different perspective. Those equatorial glaciers only have height. Once the temperature increases and the freezing point goes higher, they melt. It shows the effects of climate change on a global scale in a way that's maybe a little bit surprising to people.


View from inside a cave towards the dive entrance.
Tannic acid in the water creates the remarkable colours seen here

Thymann carrying a dive tank in Mexico

You’ve also done a lot of diving as part of your work. Do you think that there are similarities between mountaineering and diving?

So the diving I do is technical diving and a lot of it is cave diving. I would say the expedition mentality and the expedition planning is something that is similar. But ultimately it's very different. There are people in mountaineering who are risk averse and there are people that are absolutely not risk averse. In cave diving you die very quickly if you take risks, and in cave diving, we say “two is one, one is none”. Preferably there's a backup and then maybe there's a backup of the backup. If you're several kilometres into a cave, there’s no other option than getting back out the same way. And, if you know what you're doing, the limits are very well known. And I think, when you look at the way people treat mountaineering, people are forgetting the risks in a way that you can’t in cave diving.

 

To come back to photography and filmmaking - film and video are so ubiquitous now, how do you, as someone who uses it professionally, find what Werner Hertzog refers to as “the new image”? Something that's not been shown to people before.

Photography doesn't really interest me so much anymore. I think it's a medium that has done a lot, but as a standalone unit, it isn't a great vehicle for storytelling. Comparative image photography still does create a narrative. But if we accept that most people will consume their media on a digital device, it's the whole device that's much more interesting. You know, different mapping platforms different 3D environment and so on.

Project Pressure's 'Voices for The Future' Installation at the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit

 

Lastly, is there anything you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to highlight?

For a long time, I've been working on a story about the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Congo (DRC). And we’re currently seeking archival images of these mountains. So if anyone has something lying around in their drawers, please get in touch. We're trying to build a database of what the glaciers have done in this region and we have some of the historic photographs that were published by the first expeditions in 1906. But there are huge gaps in the ’50s and ‘60s and there’s very little from the ‘60s up until 2012.

 

You can learn more about Klaus’s work and get in touch with him via his website: https://www.klausthymann.com/

This interview originally appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of the Alpine Club Newsletter. Previous issues of the newsletter are available to read here.