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Report 12th February 2020

A complicated winter!

A quick overlook of the recent weather:

  • A series of weather fronts and storms at altitude
  • Very strong winds
  • Rain on Monday for several hours, up to 2300m
  • Little or no fresh snow below 2500m, (no info for above.)

Therefore, activities in the high mountain are not obvious during this holiday period.

The information the OHM has received indicates that the ski conditions remain “special”.

Concerning the pisted ski areas, the snow cover is still satisfactory and most of the pistes are open, weather permitting.  Only certain areas at low altitude are suffering from insufficient snow.

In general, ski conditions are OK.  Certain pistes, (particularly the steeper ones,) have hard snow with ice plates starting to show through during the day.  Choose pistes in accordance with your ability and control your speed!

Conditions off piste are “variable,” drifted snow alternating with plates of hard, icy snow, (risk of breaking away in places.)

The langlauf tracks are suffering from a lack of snow and coldness in the valley floor.  The best choice is at Argentière, though there are some pistes open at Chamonix and Vallorcine. More info on what is open at:  https://www.chamonix.com/ouverture-des-pistes,129,fr.html

The avalanche transceiver practice area, (DVA park) at Savoy is closed since today, due to lack of snow.

The snow shoe tracks and the winter walking trails in the valley floor, ( Lac Vert loop, Bossons glacier, Cerro chalet, Cerfs loop, Tines loop) are all possible without snow shoes, Hiking is also possible, (with proper footwear, hiking poles and walking crampons,) near the Ayeres chalets, the Charousse alp and the Chapeau buvette.

Snow shoers need to go to Vallorcine (Granges loop) or at altitude using the lift system, (Prarion, Montenvers, Flégère/Index, Col de Balme and Aiguillette des Posettes from the top of the Vallorcine bubble lift.)  With the recent weather, the snow is hard rather than powdery.  

Concerning ski touring, the OHM has not received any info yet following the good weather this Wednesday.  Last weekend all the classics in the Aiguilles Rouges (Pointe de Pormenaz, Crochue-Bérard, Pointe Alphonse Favre, Col des Dards, Col du Bélvèdère, Beugeant, Buet), in the Argentiere sector, (Col du Passon, Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière) and in the other sectors nearby (Bel Oiseau, Val Montjoie) were done. Generally good conditions, (20-30cms of fresh snow on a hard base), though ski crampons and sharp edges are needed because of plates of hard, icy snow in places .

Hopefully, the conditions have not deteriorated too much since.

The Valley Blanche is being done.  Good conditions high up, but “complicated” lower down due to the lack of snow.

Concerning the alpine ice gullies, there have been ascents on the Pointe Lachenal (Pellissier in good conditions), Cecchinel-Jager and Scotch on the Rock (no further info,) E face of the Tacul (Modica-Noury, Gabarrou-Albinoni), the Combe Maudite (Grassi-Comino), the Col des Grands Montets (Pépite) and the Col des Pélerins (Beyond Good Evil)...

Concerning the icefalls, it is still possible to climb on the true left bank of the Argentière glacier, (Deferlante sector, EMHM) and at Cogne (Lillaz, Patri, Acheronte, some more info here: https://www.iceclimbingcogne.com/ice-conditions/). It is finished for the Crèmerie, (unless there is another cold spell.)

 

Report 31 January 2020

A quick update between two periods of unsettled weather.

Following the large dump of wind affected snow at the beginning of the week, (between 40 and 80 cm depending on altitude, plus drifting), on Thursday night it rained night up to 2300m, with some snow falling above this.  

 

From Thursday morning onwards, some off piste skiing was possible near to the lifts.  By Friday, probably some ski tours being done.  (There was a track towards the Col du Passon, no further information.)

The Valley Blanche was also done.   The return route to Chamonix has much improved, (snow quality variable, some rocks between the ice cave and the exit from the glacier, and on the bends down from the Mottets buvette, one section of walking.)

 

The large drifts and the presence of weak layers on certain slopes means great care is needed in the choice of route.  The forecast is for heavy rain above 2000m, starting on Saturday.  This will moisten the snow cover.

 

There is very little recent information concerning the icefalls.  Conditions have not changed much since the last update, (still climbing on the true left bank of the Argentière glacier, the Crèmerie, etc.).

 

Due to the fresh snow and the very short weather windows, there has been no activity in the high mountain.  

 

Finally, the marked snowshoe trails are feasible, including those in the base of the valley.

Report 21 January 2020

 

There are few changes since the last update despite the fresh snow on Friday the 17th Jan.: 20/30cm at 2000m on a hard base – about 50 cm at 3500m

This snowfall however has been transformed, (scoured, some might say!) by a strong north/ north-easterly wind that has been blowing since Sunday, giving the high mountain a particularly cold feel. The slopes affected by this wind have become very demanding to ski (snowbanks, icy layers, hard coxcomb formations and sheets of wind-polished snow to contend with.)

Ski Touring has been taken up in earnest since Saturday with activity reported in all the classic sectors of the Mont Blanc range: Aiguilles Rouges (Belvédère - Dards - Beugeant - Encrenaz - Crochues-Bérard - Salenton - Buet)  - Val Montjoie (Cicle - Chasseurs) – Loriaz. It is possible to set off ‘skis afoot’ from the Buet, from Couteray, from Plaine Joux, from Contamines, (the roman road is already icy in places,) from Trient.  Ice axes and crampons are often proving to be useful.

 There has also been plenty of activity above the Argentière Glacier, (glacier des Rognons - col du Passon - col du Tour Noir) and the Vallée Blanche (glacier du Mallet - col du Tacul – towards the Brêche Puiseux).

Vallée Blanche : The ridge and the ‘Z’ are now well equipped (roped). However, take care as the recent windy conditions have led to the formation of numerous weak snow-bridges, (there has been much falling in to crevasses recently!)  Conditions are very variable between the start and end of the descent. It is possible to ski down to Chamonix, though there is a lot of exposed rock at the end of the glacier section.

On the ice-climbing side of things, conditions are little changed since the last update with plenty of parties enjoying routes on the true left bank of the Argentière Glacier (Ressac - Déferlante - mini Couloir - Home Wet Home - EMHM), and also some parties on the right bank (Grand Bleu - 8 Mont-Blanc).

High Mountain: our info is now dated to before the last snowfall. Lagarde Direct (14th Jan) bergschrund  tricky- conditions are good on the whole – exit is mixed but ok. The way down by the Talèfre face will be loaded now (high avalanches risk). The Couloir Couturier: the bergschrund has collapsed, a tortuous way through the pile of lorry-sized blocks (10m) is possible to the right of the highest point (fragile). In the couloir one needs to meander across bands of ice.  The Whymper Couloir is fairly dry, (two pitches on rock but keep in mind this info dates to before the recent snowfall)

The Cosmiques Ridge has been tracked, (approach possible on foot without rackets)

The North Face and the Couloir Gevasutti on the Tour Ronde have been done regularly.

People have turned back from the Ravanel/Frendo because of too much snow.

With the drop in the wind, the Aiguille des Pélerins - the Pointe Lachenal (Pellissier - MC Solar) – the E face of the Tacul (Modica Noury - Gabarrou Albinoni - Goulotte Lafaille) - Petit Capucin (Valéria) are being climbed. It is likely that the Combe Maudite and Requin sector are also in condition.

 

For the hikers: snowshoes are not needed until about 1500m.  Below this altitude and on the paths in the valley floor, the snow is very hard, (good shoes, hiking poles and walking crampons recommended.) 

 

Report 7th January 2020

Firstly, Happy New Year from the team at Chamoniarde; wishing you many great outings in 2020.

The anticyclonic conditions have allowed for increased activity in the mountains after an Autumn and December of unstable weather.  

For ski tourers: all the classic outings, (Val Monjoie, Pormenaz, Aiguilles Rouges, Loriaz/Bel Oiseau sectors/Col de la Forclaz,) are popular.  The snow cover is good above 1500-1800m but can be sparse below this.  The snow quality is very variable, often wind or sun affected but still mainly giving pleasurably skiing.  It is possible to start skinning directly from Plaine Joux, Buet, Couteray and Trient.  As a reminder, the Loriaz and Lognan huts are open for the season.

Ski touring is also possible on the glaciers: Glacier des Grands, Col du Passon (awkward to ski avalanche debris in the lower part), Col du Chardonnet, Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière, Tour des Périades, Glacier del Toula etc.  The Valley Blanche has black ice on the ridge, which is not yet equipped other than some belay stakes.  The snow quality is variable, with a weak cover below the Salle à Manger and there are quite a lot of stones between the ice cave and the way up to Mottets. The descent to Chamonix "acceptable"

You are reminded that it is still early season and many crevasses are still open.  Good skills at reading the terrain are essential.

The anticyclone which has brought agreeable temperatures to the high mountain has also helped with the formation of ice and led to a return of activity.  In general, the conditions remain thin, so it is difficult to talk of “good conditions”.  However, certain routes are being done frequently.  Some examples: Couloir Lagarde direct, Couloir Couturier, Beyond Good Evil, Fil à Plomb, Mallory-Porter, Eugster Diagonal, Modica-Noury, Pellissier Gully, M6 Solar, Lafaille Gully and Valeria Gully.  The routes behind the Requin and in the Combe Maudite look to be feasible. There is no information for the Chardonnet or the Pointe du Domino.

It is difficult for someone to be totally objective when reporting on conditions, especially as their technical abilities have such an effect. In addition, with social networking, it is not unusual to find conditions not as good as expected but with still a crowd at the start of the route! 

Concerning ice climbing, the routes are coming into condition on the upper true right bank of the Argentiere, (Mur des Jumelles, Résurgence) and the left bank, (Déferlante...). Conditions are also improving at Cogne.  Please note, as last year, climbing in a sector in Valnontey is forbidden due to bird nesting.  The icefalls concerned are: Gusto di Scozia, Flash Estivo, Flash Estivo colonnata centrale, Fiumana di Money, Fallo di Plutone, Coupè di Money, Mistiria, Coupè Money variante, Cascata della pazienza, Cascata della rassegnazione, Meeting 2000, Sweet Valentina, Voglia di tenerezza....More information here: : https://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/alpinism/valnontey-cogne-ice-climbing-ban-to-protect-bearded-vulture.html ).

 

Snow shoes are not necessary for the marked trails below 1800 m (well tracked by many people), but good footwear and poles are.

Report 27 December 2019

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 27/12/2019

The last update for 2019, for a weekend that promises to be sunny.

The storm last weekend brought with it a lot of snow at altitude, but also strong winds and with a warm period at the end.  This resulted in wet snow below 2000m, (risk of snow slabs detaching from ground level.) The off piste ski conditions often unpleasant, (a crust above a deep layer of soft snow and inconsistent hard snow at altitude).

The spell of bad weather on Friday, (27th,) put down 30cms of snow at 2000m and around 10cms of damp snow at 1000m. Above 2000m the snow cover has been affected by the wind.  Already on Friday there have been quite a few avalanches. (A thinnish layer of fresh snow sliding on an old, hard layer.)

Take care this weekend with the return of the sun and a rise in temperatures, (0ºC isotherm around 3000m on Saturday and Sunday.) There will be a lot of people about.  USE ALL YOUR SENSES NOT JUST THOSE OF YOUR TRANSCEIVER!

The snow cover is very good for the time of year above 1500m but remains poor below 1400m.

Most of the ski area is now open. You can see exactly what lifts and pistes are open in real time at: http://www.skiplan.com/bulletin/bulletin.php?station=chamonix&region=alpes&pays=france&lang=en

For ski tourers not wishing to use the lifts, one can start skinning e.g.  at Bettey, Le Tour parking, Vallorcine, Bel Oiseau and Col de la Forclaz.  To repeat, be careful with your route choice, given the potentially hazardous conditions due to the mixture of fresh snow, wind and rising temperatures.

There have been a lot of people asking about the Valley Blanche. It is still a bit too early and for the moment it is only suitable for very experienced ski mountaineers.  

There is no information about the gullies and mixed climbs.  It has been very windy.  The OHM is looking forward to receiving your reports!

Concerning the valley ice climbs, there is not much about, which is to be expected given the temperatures. There is some ice at Cogne, otherwise patience is needed, (to avoid everybody on the same icefall!)  Hopefully, conditions will improve in January.

The snow shoe tracks are open, (best above 1500m) : (https://www.ccpmb.fr/uploads/2019/12/TopoRaquettes_2019-20_light.pdf). The Company du Mont Blanc maintains some tracks at altitude, accessible by lift: (http://www.skiplan.com/bulletin/bulletin.php?station=chamonix&region=alpes&pays=france&lang=en). These would give access to the superb views from the Prarion or Flegere this weekend.

Take care and a Happy New Year to everyone

 

Report 20th December 2019

Following a period of winter there was an Indian summer!  The start of this year’s ski season has been very strange with big snowfalls interspersed with warm, foehn storms. 

Last week was dominated by windy, foehn weather with temperatures well above the norm, (up to 15ºC in the valley and with the isotherm above 2000m, even at night.)  For example, it was 6C° at Lognan at 8h00 this Friday morning.

 

Given this, you will understand that the snow cover has suffered.  There is no snow left in the valley floor or up to 1400/1600m depending on the orientation. The ski conditions both on and off the piste are not the best.  Hopefully, the forecast for precipitation this weekend will improve this situation in time for the Christmas holidays.

 

As far as ice climbing is concerned, patience is still needed!

 

Concerning the lifts, the Aiguille du Midi is now open since Thursday, (weather permitting). The Vallorcine and the Mer de Glace lifts open this weekend.  However, the Brevent cablecar will remain closed until January.  The "Col Cornu" piste is currently closed due to the threat of unstable snow.