MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 21/03/2019
The weather has improved this week allowing for an increase in activity in the mountains, especially ski touring. In general, the snow cover is good up to 3500m, (with powder on the north facing slopes,). Above this, conditions remain dry for both the mixed climbs and the high mountain routes e.g. Mont Blanc.
All the classic ski routes are tracked and in good condition.
The climb up to the Col des Autannes and the descent to Trient is OK.
Col du Passon is tracked, with good conditions for the descent to Le Tour. The Albert 1er hut opens this weekend.
The N faces remain very dry. Due to the progressive melting of the Verte summit ice cap, the Couturier couloir is now threatened by a serac. Also, there is a crevasse that is very difficult to cross. It has not been tracked and is not really to be recommended. If attempted, then the “classic” exit straight up would appear to be the best option.
There has been no activity on the Droites or both the N face and NE of the Courtes. For the latter, the latest information is that the bergschrund is awkward but does go on the left, and the snow is rock hard on the upper part.
The Col des Cristaux was skied in good snow, (the top 60m being dry, need to abseil or down climb.)
A track on the SW couloir of the Amône, no further information.
The Cols d'Argentière and Tour Noir are in good condition. Take ski crampons as the snow is icy in some sections.
Aiguille d'Argentière: The “Y” couloir is in good condition, (bergschrund OK, lower band icy, snow all the way up the rest of the gully.) Good conditions also for the normal route by the Glacier du Milieu, (good skiers are setting off from the summit.)
The Col du Chardonnet is tracked on the true right bank. There are 80m of abseils on the Saleina side, (a 50m rope suffices.)
Mer de Glace / Aiguille du Midi Sector
It is no longer feasible to exit in safety onto the Mer de Glace from the Pas de Chèvre.
There has been no more information about the Whymper couloir since the good weather period last February but it looks to be feasible. The S facing classics in this area also look feasible.
Brèche Puiseux (50 m abseil), Couloir du Capucin (60 m abseil), Tacul Shoulder (30 m abseil) and Col du Tacul (there and back), are all been done regularly and are in very good condition.
Valley Blanche is generally in good condition. There is a short passage of ice to reach the start of the climb back up to the Mottets which needs care and a good skiing ability. It is still possible to ski down to Chamonix with two short walking sections and then a final 15min walk. Care is needed to control one’s speed.
The Glacier Rond (2x 15m abseils from the summit), Couloir des Cosmiques (60 m abseil then icy snow for 200m) are being done. It is possible to ski to the tunnel, either by the Para slope or the Combe des Glaciers.
The Laurence and Cosmiques ridges are tracked. The traverse of the Pointes Lachenal not recommended; bare ice.
Some ropes have been on the Vent du Dragon and the Chéré Gully. Some of the other gullies appear to be feasible but are still very dry (e.g. Modica-Noury, Gabarrou-Albinoni.) This makes these routes harder than their given grades; take short screws and rock protection.
The Mallory on the N face of the Midi has been re-tracked, (still bare ice at the top)
The N ridge of the Dôme du Goûter is not in condition and is not thought to have been done this year. There is a lot of ice and has a problematical bergschrund. The descent by the Plateaux appears to be in good condition, (done in February.)
The Trappier couloir is being skied regularly.
The main ski descents on the Italian side are in good condition, (Marbrées, Toule Glacier, Col d'Entrêves, Brenva). There is some walking in order to reach the base of the valley.
The Tre la Tete hotel and the Conscits hut both opened on Wednesday. The skis can be used after the Rocher des Plans, (30 to 45mins of walking first.) The Mauvais Pas has a section of icy snow and there is also a risk of falling ice blocks. It is recommended to pass it between 10am and noon. The glacier has a good track. Some parties left today, (Thurdsay) for Mont Tondu and the Dômes de Miage, (hoping to descend the Armancette glacier).
The gorge leading to the to the Combe Blanche looks to be OK in descent.
All the Aiguilles Rouges classics are in condition. There is some walking above La Flatière for the Aiguillette des Houches. The Bérard valley is in good condition, (icy snow lower down on the path by the true right bank of the river). It is possible to reach the Loriaz chalets from Couteray, either by ski or snow shoe. The Col de la Terrasse is tracked. The exit from the Très les Eaux valley is complicated, as a build up of snow prevents bypassing the stream bed at one point, meaning wet feet, (abseil). Not much snow near Granges and what there is risks being heavy.
Snow Shoeing and walking paths
The valley paths are possible with good footwear and hiking poles. Snow shoes are only useful once one has gained some height. Examples are: using the Prarion lift for the loop there and the Vallorcine lift for the Aiguillette des Posettes.
It is still just possible to find some climbing on the true left bank of the Argentiere glacier or the Patri sector at Cogne.
No information for the beginner ice climbing areas.