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Report: 30th March 2021

Some news from the mountains after a few days of good weather.

It is no surprise that ski touring is still the main activity and most of the routes have been re-tracked since the (small) snowfall at the end of last week. As a reminder, one should  take both ski and normal crampons and respect the time of day.

As for alpinism, the gullies remain dry and it is rare to find good conditions.


It is very important to make a reservation before staying at a hut , guarded or not.

 

The  Bérard valley towards the Mont Buet is popular, as is the Col de l'Encrenaz from the Col des Montets. It is necessary to carry the skis for a bit when going to Loriaz and the Col de la Terrasse from Granges.

The Argentière sector is also popular.  Ski crampons are quasi essential when going up the Pierre à Ric early in the morning.  All the classic cols have been tracked and are generally in good condition. The Col du Passon (care with the timing, especially on the ascent,) the Trois Cols and the Tour Noir are OK. There is no fixed rope in place on the Col du Chardonnet.

Ice has been reported on the Glacier du Milieu and the start of the Y couloir, (mixed).

The Barbey Couloir has been skied but the first 50m were hard snow/ice. The Col des Cristaux and the NE des Courtes face have been tracked.

The N faces are generally dry. No information for the Couturier, the upper part and the dome look to be wind affected. Some parties have been on the Lagarde couloir (Droites) and the Petit Viking (Pré de Bar).

The Whymper couloir on the Verte was tracked on 29/03 in mainly good conditions, but this could change rapidly.

 

Mer de Glace sector : The Requin  hut  is open. The Brèche Puiseux is being done frequently. There is a 50m abseil on the Leschaux side then powder snow down to about 2,800m. As usual, the Mallet glacier is complicated and with few tracks; take care. Some parties have gone up towards the Col de Midi, (descent via the Cosmiques couloir or the Valley Blanche) and the Col d'Entrèves, (descent by the Combe de la Vierge.)

The Sorenson-Eastman above the Requin was very “technical” but the party got up it, (other gullies not in condition). The Valéria on the Petit Capucin is in OK condition. There is no information for the Tacul east face or the Triangle. The Mallory-Porter on the Aiguille du Midi has been tracked in ascent, no further information.

The return by the Mer de Glace to Chamonix is starting to deteriorate and is likely to get worse with the hot weather over the next days .

 

Mont Blanc  is being  climbed, (the Grands Mulets is open); ascend via the Para (some ski carrying), traverse the Jonction and then go up via the Plateaux,  (the N ridge of the Dôme is very icy.)  Most parties leave their skis at the Vallot, (some ice below the observatory). The N face has been skied but it is not really in condition.  The descent by the true left side of the Bossons glacier has been well frequented but a serac collapse has damaged the traverse to the Pyramides plateau.

 

Val Montjoie sector: There is still a lot of activity in the Armancette  basin, (Charborgne, Bérangère) with, for the moment , not too much ski carrying. For the Plan Glacier/Durier starting from Gruvaz,  it is possible to put on skis from about 1500m. The last 200m of the Mettrier and the N face direct of the Dômes de Miage look to be icy.


The Conscrits area is popular (hut open; reservation by email as the phone is not working).  Ski crampons are especially useful on some sections of the ascent; the Mauvais Pas is OK. The traverse of the Dômes de Miage and descent by the Armancette is in OK condition, (no ice). Mont Tondu is tracked.

 

Further afield, the normal route on the Dolent is tracked from La Fouly, (more info in the OHM route book). The Marécottes/Dents du Midi sector is popular!

 

Hikers are reminded  again that  that it is not yet the season for the high paths, such as the Chéserys/Lac Blanc, the Grands Balcons Nord and Sud, Brévent, Bel Lachat , etc. It is necessary to be content with certain routes at the base of the valley.  It is a good idea to contact Chamoniarde for guidance on the best options, which depend on the latest conditions, your experience and your equipment.

Report: 22nd March 2021

 

Though it is officially spring, winter is still with us due to the heavy snowfall, down to the valley floor, at the start of last week, and the recent low temperatures.
 

Ski touring, therefore, remains the main activity. It is possible to put on skis at 1000/1200 m, depending upon the orientation. Practically all the classic  tours, (and less classic,) at mid altitude were done this last weekend. Snow conditions were variable. The NE wind has affected the snow cover in some areas. On slopes facing the sun, the snow is crusty and is being transformed. On shaded slopes, the conditions are either very good or very bad; i.e. either powder or slabby/crusty, (danger of wind slab and risk of knee damage.)  

There has been a lot of activity in areas that are normally quiet/untouched.

Less information is available for the high mountain and the glaciers, where it is assumed the wind effect will have been more important. There has been some ski touring at the Grands/Trient glacier, Tour glacier (Passon, Trois cols), Argentière sector (col du Tour Noir etc.), Dôme de Miage sector (Dôme traverse, descent by the Armancette). 

Due to the  large amounts of fresh snow and the wind, the gullies and alpine routes are not in condition for the moment.

As a reminder, the Conscrits hut opens this Monday.  The Argentière and Trient huts are already open.
 

A proof that winter is still with us, ice climbing is still possible on the true left bank of the Argentière glacier (Déferlante sector).

Snowshoeing remains possible, (the marked trails of Granges to Vallorcine and Barmus to Plaine Joux, as well as up to the Loriaz hut and the Chailloux chalets.)  Snowshoes are becoming less necessary as the snow on the path gets more compacted with use. 

Report: 13th March 2021

A quick update of the conditions in mid-March.

The persistent good weather in February greatly encouraged mountain activities despite the closure of the ski lifts.

Apart from the gullies which remain rather "dry", the activity mainly focuses on ski touring and climbing some couloirs.

It is still possible to start skiing from the Bérard valley, Le Tour / Col de Balme, Lognan and Prarion routes, (preferable to start from Maisonneuve).

Loriaz, the Aiguillette des Houches, or the Flégère / Aiguilles Rouges sector require some ski carrying, making these sectors less and less interesting.  Either way, harscheisen, (ski crampons) and crampons should be taken.

Winter is due to return this week with a forecast for heavy snowfalls and strong winds, giving an increase in the avalanche risk. Take care and consult BERA as well as the weather reports.

This weather disturbance will change the conditions of the high-altitude routes.

Some high mountain huts are preparing to open and more than ever a reservation is obligatory as well as the respect of the health rules and protocols put in place by the hut wardens!

None of the mid-altitude huts are due to open soon, as the hiking season is not due to start for several weeks :

- Albert 1er: April 4

- Argentière: March 13

- The Requin: March 19

- Les Grands Mulets: March 27

- The Conscrits: March 20

The Italian huts were due to open, (Torino, Gran Paradiso sector, etc.)  but this has been delayed due to a toughening of health regulations in Italy.

In Switzerland, some huts are already open as on the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route but be sure to find out about the rules in force in each hut, as well as for the border crossing on the way there and on the way back.

To conclude, it should be stressed that hiking is only possible for the moment at low or mid altitude. Also, one needs to be well-equipped.

Only a few routes like Loriaz, la Flégère (from the golf course), the Prarion, the Chalets de Chailloux or the Lac Vert / Les Ayères  allow one to gain some altitude.

Other routes such as Lac Blanc, Signal Forbes, Albert 1er, Plan de l'Aiguille, Grand Balconies North and South, Brévent, Bel Lachat etc. are completely out of condition

For snowshoeing, in the absence of a significant snowfall, the marked routes are now best done on foot with possibly a pair of walking crampons in addition to good footwear and poles.

In case of doubts about your technical capacities and the feasibility of the planned path, consult a mountain professional.

 

Report: 3rd March 2021

This update is specifically for hikers and snowshoers.

The recent warm, Spring weather has given a false impression of the state of the footpaths.

Do not be fooled.  As consequence of the warm days and frequent use,  the paths can be very icy, especially the signposted snowshoeing trails. Good, mountain boots, walking poles and crampons are essential, as the possibilities for snowshoeing diminish.

It is also necessary to repeat  that the vast majority of the paths at altitude : Lacs Blanc/Chéserys/Cornu, Bel Lachat/Le Brévent, l’Aiguillette des Houches, Buet, Grands Balcons North and South, Tête des Prapators, the Jonction, the Pyramides, Nid d’Aigle etc are to be avoided in winter, as they are too risky and with areas of steepness where a slip would be very serious.

Here is a selection of outings which are possible for the moment, not necessarily with snowshoes, but with good footwear, poles and crampons:

-   Lac Vert/Les Ayères/Barmus starting from Servoz or Plaine Joux.

-   Chalets de Chailloux , there and back, from Plan de la Cry.

-   Chalet du Cerro or Chalet du Glacier des Bossons (but not continuing above).

-   Floria, there and back and the Petit Balcon Sud between Chamonix and Argentière.

-   Montroc to Vallorcine via Trélechamps and the Col des Montets.

-   Flégère, there and back, (but not continuing above), starting from the Golf club at Les Praz,.

-   The footpaths next to the ski de fond, (langlauf) tracks from Chamonix  to Les Bois, with a possibility to continue to Les Tines and return by the Paradis des Praz, and along the river Arve back to Chamonix.

-  Cols Posettes and Balme from Le Tour, (be aware of the ski tourers).

-  Chalets de Loriaz , there and back, along the forest road but not the summer path which branches off to the right shortly above Les Granges.

 

As a reminder, the path to the Chapeau snack bar is closed by council order due to a landslip at the start of the season, which has not yet been repaired.

The conditions are constantly changing, but the above information is likely to remain valid for several weeks.

If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to contact a mountain professional, who will help you discover the best areas in the current conditions.

  

Report 26th February 2021

Some information for the weekend!

The good weather this last week or so has encouraged activity both in the high and mid mountain.


Ski Touring :

This has proved popular with most of the routes being done.  The snow quality varies a lot from one sector to another. Depending on  the time of day and the aspect, some slopes have spring snow while on others the snow is very hard.  It is increasingly important to respect the timing, especially for slopes with early exposure to the sun.

There are no problems for the signposted “upski” routes at Prarion, Le Tour and Lognan, other than the crowds.  

Loriaz, Col de la Terrasse, Bosse des Charmoz, Col de Bérard, Salenton and Mont Buet are well frequented. Do not forget ski crampons (harscheisen) and take care, especially in the Berard valley where there is a lot of verglas and also numerous snowshoers.  The Col de l’Encrenaz from Col des Montets and the Crochues-Bérard from the Chamonix golf club are being done, but allow plenty of  time,

In the high mountain, the routes in the Argentière sector are also being done but some sections high up can be awkward due to either lack of or inconsistent snow. This is true for the Glacier du Milieu, where there is a lack of snow in the  narrows making it more like an ice gully.  On NNE of the Courtes and the Col de Cristaux the snow is unstable above 3400m. 

There is little information concerning the Mer de Glace sector . The Col du Tacul was done a few days ago, with a 60m abseil was needed to get into the couloir. No tracks were visible on Brèche Puiseux on 25/02.  The Mallet glacier appears to be very chaotic, (as seen from a helicopter).  Some bold, (and very fit!) people have gone up the Valley Blanche from Chamonix. 

There is no information for the Mont Blanc by the Grands Mulets, other than the traverse of the Jonction is OK,  (reconnaissance made by the warden up to the hut).

A lot of people are starting to ask about the Mettrier ridge and the N face of the Dômes de Miage, but nobody has reported back on these. The entrance to the Plan Glacier hut appears to have been cleared several days ago.  

There has been regular activity in the Contamines-Montjoie sector, which has mixed snow quality.  Several parties have been up to the Conscrits hut and on the Dômes de Miage traverse.  It is necessary to carry the skis part way to the Tré la Tête hut and, apparently, the descent by the Armancette is not too bad.  

Crampons are recommended for the roman road, (icy.) 

Be aware some of the winter rooms in the CAF huts are overcrowded


Alpinism/Ice Routes :

Due to the lifts being closed, there has not been as much activity reported as usual.  Several parties have been on the E face of the Tacul. e.g., Gabarrou-Albinoni, Super Couloir, Lafaille and Jager.

In the Argentière sector, parties have climbed the Lagarde direct (the bergschrund is awkward, then good conditions until the exit on inconsistent snow,) Petit Viking (the gully section OK but difficult to place ice screws and the upper section too dry,)  Y Couloir and the Couturier (climbed on 25/02 in good conditions, easy to protect ice , exit direct and descend by abseiling down the Whymper.

In the Plan de l’Aiguille sector, there has been  no information back for the Fil à Plomb or the Mallory-Porter. Parties have turned around on the  Rébuffat-Terray (first 5 pitches OK but then too dry) and Beyond Good & Evil (not good, too dry.)


Snowshoeing/ Hiking :

The snow is slowly going from the valley floor and most of the routes described in the « Raquette à neige au Pays du Mont-Blanc » brochure, (free from tourist offices etc,) can be done without snowshoes, if you have good footwear and poles. Some sections are very icy, crampons could prove useful if not wearing snowshoes.

The only mountain lake accessible to hikers or snowshoers is the Lake Vert above Servoz, (giving the possibility to continue towards the Mollays and Barmus chalets.)  

The summer paths to the other lakes at altitude are not suitable for winter hiking.

The Loriaz hut, ( open for takeaways during the holiday period, ) is a good option for those seeking a bit of altitude and excellent views.   Keep to the forest track, there and back, as the summer path that branches of right just above the Granges is not to be recommended.

Flégère, there and back, from the Chamonix golf club is also feasible, but it is not recommended to go further, as the terrain is not very suitable for snowshoeing. 

The Chailloux chalets are also accessible, starting from Bettey and the Plan de la Cry.

Snowshoers can go up the pistes at Le Tour and Prarion but be aware that there will be a lot of ski tourers about.

If you have doubts about a route, do not hesitate to contact Chamoniarde for advice.  Many of the well-known summer paths are not practical in winter.

 

With this atypical winter, it has been difficult to collect information on conditions The Office de Haute Montagne/Chamoniarde is counting on you to report your experiences, either directly or through the online route book.  (notre cahier de course en ligne.) 

Report 8th February 2021

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 08/02/2021

Some brief info at the start of the week.

For the last few weeks, the weather has been very unstable with some warm periods and rain up to and above 2000m.  There was even sand on Saturday!

Conditions for ski touring have rapidly deteriorated, giving variable conditions.  The snow below 2200m is very humid, (for the moment.)  There have been numerous sluffs and avalanches in the couloirs and small valleys, leaving hard snow in some place and snow rubble in others.  Hopefully, the snow predicted for this week will improve the situation.

It is still possible to put the skis on at the valley floor, from 800/1000 m.  However, it will take a bit of skill and imagination to find a great outing.

The same is true for ice climbing.  Once again, the period when conditions were OK was very short. Climbing is possible on the Argentière glacier, (Mur des Dents de la Mer sector).

No news from the high mountains (gullies etc).

The snow makes it possible to snowshoe on the marked routes. Depending on the avalanche risk at the time, the more experienced can go to the Chailloux chalets, the Col de Balme or the Loriaz chalets.