News

Mike Mortimer

The club has received news that Mike Mortimer has died following an accident at Murla.

More details will follow.

Report: 27 January 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 27 January 2024.

Here's some news as we approach a period of high pressure!
 
Skiing
 
The snow cover is exceptional above 1800m, but below that it's terrible. There was a bit of snow in places last night at high altitude (Argentière glacier, Vallée Blanche).
 
The classic ski touring routes are popular. Don't forget your couteaux/harscheisen, as the snow is often hard on all aspects (you need to be a good skier). Also beware of the risk of falls/slides both off and on piste. You will be walking/ carrying skis until you leave the woods if you don't start from a ski lift (Roman road in les Contamines, Plaine Joux, la Flatière, le Buet/Couteray, Finhaut).
 
The Bérard valley has thin snow cover and has also been devastated by avalanches, so it's not very pleasant! The same goes for the Passon descent towards Le Tour. A large avalanche has gone down the Pétoudes gully (Trient), which should be avoided for the time being!
 
Bullet hard sections on the descent of the Brévent/Cornu towards the Pont d'Arlevé.
 
The three Cols is in good condition (apart from the bottom of the Passon, see above). The descent couloir on the N side of the Col du Chardonnet is well filled in.
 
The Vallée Blanche is being done every day. The Aiguille du Midi arête is equipped (Z not in place). Glaciers generally well filled. The bottom of the Vallée Noire is very icy. The Requin refuge opened its doors on Saturday 27 January. 
 
You can ski as far as the old staircase. The cable car is due to open soon, so keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, head back up to Montenvers via the old stairs and the path. The descent to Chamonix is out of the question (the bottom of the glacier is chaotic). No news of the Brèche Puiseux but it should go: expect 2 abseils of 30m + exit to the right under the Grandes Jorasses at the bottom of the Mont Mallet glacier and not via the couloir).
 
 
Climbing
 
Gully climbing is back on the agenda. No news from the Argentière basin. The Couturier looks very icy.
 
Some teams on Mini-Blast (good conditions) and Rebuffat-Terray: fairly dry conditions + beware there's a big cornice at the brèche overlooking the whole route... Some teams also on Beyond Good and Evil but it's very dry.
 
A few climbers on the Chéré but it’s pretty dry, especially the first slope below the start. You can climb the Modica-Noury and the Gabarrou-Albinoni but beware of (over)crowding. It might be worth looking a little further afield, even if it's generally dry and we have no information (Supercouloir, Lafaille, Valeria, Ice is Nice; Pellissier: dry).
 
It won't be a winter to remember for ice climbing. The hot weather finished off the few routes that existed, particularly around Cogne. A few ice climbs are still possible on the rive gauche of the Argentière glacier.
 
 

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.

 

 

 

2024 AC London Dinner

2024 AC London Dinner

The Club will be hosting a London dinner and lecture event for members on 16 February 2024 at The Army and Navy Club, London ("The Rag").

Alongside a three-course meal, the event will feature a talk by Honorary AC member George Lowe titled 'Reflections on a Life in the Mountains'.

George was the reipient of the 2023 Piolets d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his incredibly long and successful climbing career. As well as monumental contributions to North American climbing, George is perhaps best-known for his 1978 attempt on the north ridge of Latok I with Jim Donini, Michael Kennedy and Jeff Lowe.

For a further taste of George's life and climbing career, you can watch his American Alpine Club Legacy Series interview below.

The event will start at 18:30 with George's talk, followed by drinks (cash bar) and dinner.

 

Ticket sales are now closed.

 

 

 

Report: 13 January 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 13 January 2024.

Get ready to ski! Here's a brief report on the conditions.
 
If you want to get away from the grey plains, conditions here are great with cold temperatures, anticyclonic conditions and fresh snow above 1800m.
 
On the whole, the snow is still soft and pleasant to ski in (apart from the areas affected by the wind), but it is starting to get a little wetter on the southern slopes.


Ski Touring
 
All the Aiguilles Rouges classics have been tracked (Crochues-Bérard, Pointe Alphonse Favre, Buet, Col des Dards, Col du Belvédère, Col de Beugeant). The Berard valley exit is much improved (skis off once or twice).
 
Lots of activity around Bel Oiseau - Fenestral (short ski carry at the start).
 
In the Argentière basin, lots of activity on the Col du Passon (you can ski down to Le Tour) despite a few potholes. Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière also possible. All the Grands Montets lifts are shut today (Saturday 13th) because of a technical problem.
 
 
Valley Ice Climbing
 
In the Chamonix valley, you can climb on the rive gauche of the Argentière glacier in the "Dents de la Mer" sector (Déferlante, Minicouloir, Home wet Home). On the rive droite, the Mur des Jumelles looks doable (not yet checked).
 
The Bérard icefall is not yet accessible.
 
Outside the Chamonix valley, the ice at Le Reposoir, Samoens/Giffre has not yet formed. Cogne is the spot of the moment with an interesting choice of lines.
 
 
Ice and Mixed
 
Teams on Mini Blast, Rebuffat Terray, Tout Schuss. No recent news from the East face of the Tacul. The Cosmiques arête has been tracked in winter conditions. The lines behind the Requin look like they are building up. We look forward to feedback if you go up there.
 
Gourmet Randonneurs: The Chalet du Chapeau is open every day except on category 3 and above days (check the avalanche forecast). Snowshoes are not necessary, but a pair of crampons will make progress more comfortable, especially on the descent.
 
Remember that the Loriaz refuge is also open (booking required).
 
 

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 Launches Continuing Mountaineering Development Sessions

AC Launches Continuing Mountaineering Development Sessions

The Club recognises the need for members to stay up to date with changing mountaineering techniques and updates to best practice. To make this information more accessible to our members, we are introducing Continuing Mountaineering Development workshops which will run on the first full day of the Summer Alpine Meet. For the 2024 meet, this will be 16 June.

These two-hour sessions, which will be delivered by guides, are free to attend and are open to both members and experienced guests who are joining for the meet.

Taking place at the campsite, the sessions, which will run from 10AM-12PM and 1PM-3PM, will cover specific information pertinent to the local area, a refresher on glacier travel/crevasse rescue, kit maintenance/replacement and will provide the opportunity for members to ask questions on topics of concern.

Registration will be sought in advance with the sign-up form to the Summer Alpine Meet in order to gauge interest and numbers.

 

 

 

Report: 5 January 2024

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 5 January 2024.

Happy New Year everyone!

We've had a bit of everything over the Christmas holidays: snow, rain, wind, sun, foehn… There was even more on the menu than at Grandma's at Christmas!
 
 
Snow cover remains fairly thin below 1800m, but substantial at higher altitudes. Watch out for the snow conditions, especially with the wind blowing in just about every direction. In 2024, more than ever, the BERA (avalanche forecast) is your friend!
 
Most of the classic ski touring areas are being visited. It's sketchy at the bottom of the Vallon de Bérard and the Col du Passon on the le Tour side (poor snow cover, likely to improve with the snow fall forecast for this weekend) and you need to be a good skier.
 
The “climbers" version of the Vallée Blanche is also in decent condition: the Aiguille du Midi arête is not yet equipped (therefore crampon skills are essential) and you have to make your own way back up to Montenvers until the new cable car is open.
 
The Brèche Puiseux was climbed last week: lots of snow, plan 2x30m for abseiling, head well to the right to exit the Mont Mallet glacier (the couloirs on the left are not in good condition!)
 
In the Argentière basin, there are lots of people on the cols (Passon, Chardonnet, Tour Noir), often there and back. The Aiguille d'Argentière was skied via the Glacier du Milieu (fairly well filled in glacier, a mixed pitch to get up the narrows and 15m of abseiling on the descent) and via the Y couloir (10m step to cross the rimaye, 40m abseil on descent, spring conditions in the couloir).
 
Conditions for these high-altitude routes are likely to change as temperatures drop and snow and wind arrive!  
 
For fans of snow, ice and mixed terrain, it looks like the season is about to get under way with the cold snap expected later this week. For the moment, only the Déferlante sector on the left bank of Argentière is offering decent conditions (watch out for overcrowding!)
 
Gullies: Chéré couloir on the Tacul was climbed in very dry conditions. Several teams on Petit Viking (complicated rimaye with 40m of M5 on the right, then OK conditions) and Charlet-Ghilini. Mini Blast, Rébuffat-Terray and M6 Solar were also climbed without further information.
 
For our friends the snowshoers and other winter walkers, the valley's signposted routes are all open! More information on the dedicated page on La Chamoniarde.
 
 
 

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.

 
 
 

Report: 22 December 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 22 December 2023
 
A few bits and pieces of information before the holidays start!

Lifts opening up tomorrow:
  • The Aiguille du Midi
  • The Le Tour ski area (road reopened)
  • Les Houches ski area

The snow cover is good above 1800 m but quite poor below that. It snowed at altitude (above 1700m) last night (around 20cm at 1800 m, more above). The wind has been working hard (moving snow around), so beware of the risk of avalanches (remember the avalanche report is there to be read!).
 
The Aiguille du Midi arête is not equipped.
 
The Montenvers/Mer de glace access regulations were amended today. Access via the lower station of the old gondola (path + stairs) is once again possible until the opening of the new gondola, but is no longer maintained and requires the use of mountaineering equipment. You can also go up by the new “ferrata" route. Otherwise, you'll have to call Father Christmas and his sledge :)
 
There's not much snow in the Bérard valley, so you'll need to be a good skier (see the report in our cahier de course on the website).
 
The cascade season is starting tentatively either on the rive gauche (Déferlante) or at Cogne (not well formed).
 
Good weather is forecast for the start of the holidays, so we look forward to hearing from you!
 
 
 

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.

 

 

 

Report: 15 December 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 15 December 2023
 
Here's some news before what promises to be a sunny weekend!
 
After the partial opening of Argentière-Lognan and La Flégère, it's the turn of the Domaine du Brévent to open tomorrow, Saturday 16 December. On the other hand, you'll have to wait and see further up the valley (the road to Le Tour village is closed). There is poor snow cover on the Vallorcine pistes and at Les Houches. The Aiguille du Midi (looking very snowy) will open on Saturday 23 December.
 
The Mont Blanc tunnel is open again from this evening! Here's to pizza and hiking in the Aosta Valley! The Monte Bianco Skyway is open, as is the Courmayeur ski area.
 
The Montenvers train is running. 
IMPORTANT INFO: the new gondola lift is not yet open (due to open in January), which means :
- No access to/from the glacier for non-alpinists.
- The old gondola lift, staircases and ladders have been dismantled/closed/prohibited by municipal by-law.
- The only access between the Mer de Glace and Montenvers is the new route (in yellow on the map below). A sort of via ferrata, it requires mountaineering equipment and techniques.
 
 
The marked up hill ski touring tracks are closed for the time being due to lack of snow. La Trapette at Argentière is just about passable (watch out for the Pierre à Ric home run, which is closed for the time being).
 
The best solution is therefore to take the lifts up to find better snow conditions. If you start in the valley (Le Buet, etc.), you will probably be carrying your skis, particularly on the descent. In the Argentière basin, the classics were tracked today in good conditions: Col  du Passon, Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentière. On the way back, it's best to take the right bank or the centre of the Argentière glacier, as the left bank is "acrobatique".
 
There's also been some activity in the Aiguilles Rouges, but we don't have any more information (Index/Lac Blanc sector). We await your feedback!
 
Beware, there has been a lot of snow in the high mountains (above 2200m) and the north wind picked up today (moving snow around).
 
As you can imagine, there's been no activity in the high mountains recently!
 
As far as snowshoeing is concerned, there isn't enough snow at the bottom of the valley, so the signposted snow shoeing routes can be done with good shoes and poles. As for the high-altitude itineraries, they are being prepared and you can check their opening times in the bulletin.
 
 

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.

 

 

 

Thalay Sagar Expedition Film

Thalay Sagar Expedition Film

In May 2023, Keith Ball, Mike Pescod and AC member Guy Buckingham travelled to the Garhwal Himalaya for an attempt on the unclimbed south-east ridge of Thalay Sagar (6805m). The expedition was supported by both the Alpine Club Climbing Fund and the Mount Everest Foundation.

Mountain Equipment have now released a short film of their expedition which you can watch below.

 

 

 

Kapadia Interviews Go Online

Kapadia Interviews Go Online

Alpine Club member and Editor of the Himalayan Journal Harish Kapadia has, over a period of nearly two decades, conducted interviews with many notable figures from the world of mountaineering. In 2023, Kapadia formally made a gift of these recordings to the Alpine Club Library.

From December 2023 onwards, we will be releasing these interviews once a week via our YouTube channel so that they can be enjoyed by mountain-enthusiasts throughout the world. Episodes will release on Thursday mornings UK time. If you subscribe to the channel, you will receive a notification when new episodes go live.

The first episode, an interview with Sir Chris Bonington conducted in March 2008, is now online and can be watched below. In the recording, Sir Chris discusses his personal journey into climbing, his 1970 expedition to the south face of Annapurna, the evolution in Himalayan style from siege to alpine and his experience of managing mountaineering teams in a leadership role.

 

 

 The Alpine Club Library holds a wealth of mountaineering material to which we are very pleased to add these recordings.

 

 

 

Report: 1 December 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 1 December 2023

The weather’s still unsettled. The rain/snow limit has been going up and down like a yoyo!
 
There are large quantities of snow in the high mountains, so the glaciers must be very pleased! Reasonable snow cover in the “moyenne montagne". With the rain (and now the snow), there is around twenty centimetres at the bottom of the valley!
 
Lots of avalanches yesterday, because of the rain, and the avalanche risk will remain high for the next few days. So be careful. We're all eager to the start of the season, but you have to tread carefully!
 
 
Skiing
 
The good news is that the Argentière-Lognan ski area will open partially but continuously from Saturday 2 December! Beware of the risk of avalanches and rocks, it's only the start of the season!
 
Remember that the other ski areas are still closed and being prepared, which means that they are not safe and that piste bashers are in action (beware of cables and please respect the work of groomers and pisteurs!). This is particularly true of the Nants piste (Brévent area), where a mechanical digger has gone up to 1500m to carry out repair work following the recent torrential floods (work completed).
 
 
The Montenvers train has also reopened. Please note that the old Mer de Glace gondola lift is closed permanently. Work to finish the new lift is continuing, but it is not yet ready for use. This means that there is no access to the grotto or the glacier for non-climbers. The old stairway (currently being dismantled) and the ladders are closed by decree. Access to the glacier is therefore only possible via the new access. See the map above which shows the "via ferrata" in green. This route requires mountaineering equipment and techniques (anchors in place). We haven't yet had any information on whether it can be used in winter.
 
 
Snowshoeing
 
With the arrival of the snow, snowshoeing is beginning to be possible on the signposted routes at the bottom of the valley:  
(https://www.chamonix.com/activites/randonnees/itineraires-de-randonnees-en-raquettes; sometimes possible without snowshoes with good shoes and poles).
 
In fine weather, the more experienced might consider climbing to the Chalets de Chailloux or Loriaz (itineraries that are neither signposted nor safe).
 
 
Climbing
 
In the high mountains, a few teams have climbed the Rebuffat-Terray goulotte in good conditions during the one window of good weather.
 
 

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 AC Aspirant Hannah Mitchell

Hannah Mitchell is an Aspirant AC Member, an outdoor journalist and the driving force behind ‘Tidy Climbers’, a new initiative aimed at cleaning up our crags. We sat down with Hannah to learn a little more about her, her work and her penchant for litter picking.

Hannah climbing at Castle Rock of Triermain - Andy Milton

 

Hi Hannah. Could you kick off by telling us a little about what you do for work?

I’m primarily an outdoor and adventure journalist. My work is for adventure magazines and websites and I also do copywriting for outdoor brands.

 

And how long have you been doing that for?

I’ve enjoyed writing most of my adult life in one way or another. I was working in a Youth Hostel in the Lake District and during the COVID lockdowns I wrote an article for the BMC magazine and realised that this was the sort of thing I liked doing most. And I feel like if you can do what you like for a living, then brilliant!

I decided to take the leap and I did a Master’s degree in Journalism which I just finished at the end of last year and I’ve been writing for a living for a couple of years now.

 

Obviously you’re focused on the outdoors, but are there any topics within that field that you’re particularly interested in writing about?

That first article I wrote for the BMC was about disparities in financial support for outdoor workers and guides during COVID. The outdoors is the underpinning theme in just about everything I do, but I like to hone in on social and environmental issues. I’m also really interested in championing women in outdoor and mountaineering spaces and amplifying the voices of people you don’t typically see in those areas.

Speaking of environmental issues, that leads us quite nicely to Tidy Climbers. Could you explain what it is?

So I think with issues like litter at crags, it’s very easy to get bogged down and feel helpless, or frustrated, or angry, or even sad. And whilst I think it's really important to acknowledge those feelings, I think sometimes a far more positive way of tackling issues like this is to amplify the good stuff that's going on.

I was aware that a lot of climbers like myself were habitually picking up rubbish when they went climbing. Having a little clean up, either of the parking area or the crag. It’s something that quite a lot of people do already. One element of Tidy Climbers is to celebrate the good work that people are doing. Whilst they're probably not doing it for recognition or anything like that, I think it's really important to thank people and celebrate the positives.

The second, and probably the most important element, is to inspire behavioural change in people who perhaps don't already do that. It’s hard to force yourself to pick up someone else's mess, but hopefully by seeing other people doing it, more of us will just habitually take two minutes out of our climbing day to have a little root around the bushes or the car park and pick up any crisp packets or finger tape, or whatever we happen to find there.

Access to a lot of crags is a privilege for climbers and if areas are being trashed, it jeopardises that access, even if the rubbish isn't being left by climbers. So it benefits the entire climbing community if we all just do that little bit. And finally, it’s important to remember that these places aren’t just there to serve us as a recreational space – they’re habitats and ecosystems that we have a duty to take care of if we want to share them.

 

Was there a particular inciting incident that inspired you to start Tidy Climbers?

Oh, there have been plenty! I live in the Lake district, and it tends to be that I find less rubbish at crags, particularly high mountain crags, just because they're less visited areas. It's usually on the walks in and out that you come across all sorts of awful stuff like abandoned camp sites . A friend and I walked off Needle Ridge in The Napes and we found a completely abandoned campsite by the tarn and we basically just bagged and gathered everything up that we possibly could and then enlisted the help of some walkers to carry it all down. I guess that was the final straw!

Climbing on Dow Crag - Garry Smith

How would you most like other people to get involved with Tidy Climbers?

What's really putting a smile on my face at the moment is the fact that I'm getting contributions from people from all over the UK. I've had people send pictures from north Wales, from the Peak District and from Scotland. So it's really nice that it's kind of uniting people up and down the UK. I think just having people get involved and experience that feeling of community is one of the most important parts of it.

I'm constantly on Instagram trying to get people to send pictures of what they've picked up over the weekend, even if it's just like a handful of sweet wrappers. I just want people to get involved and engage with it.

 

How did you discover climbing?

I've always been outdoorsy, but I came to climbing relatively late in a bit of a baptism of fire. I’d maybe been indoor climbing a handful of times and then ended up going on a sport climbing trip to Spain and was just sort of thrown in at the deep end. But luckily I was surrounded by lots of people who were far more experienced than me and really willing to stand by me and hold my dead rope!

On the summit of the Dent du Géant following a successful Aspirants' Meet

I believe you’re heading to the Aspirants’ Meet this year. Is that part of why you joined the Alpine Club?

Since joining, I've spoken to a lot of people, particularly women, who've said “Oh, no, I couldn't join. They wouldn't let me in. I've not done X or Y.” And it's kind of like that thing where you apply for a job and they say “Well, you haven't got any experience…” and you reply “Well, where do I get the experience if I don't get the job?” So I think it [the Aspirants’ Meet] is great, because, for me, I've done a lot of mountain trad climbing and I've done odd bits of alpine style climbing, but nothing like what I'm about to go and do next week. So it's amazing to have that opportunity and to be able to get a real grasp on the very important skills that you need to be a safe and reliable partner.

 

 

You can follow Tidy Climbers on Instagram and Facebook.

This interview originally appeared in the Autumn 2023 issue of the Alpine Club Newsletter. Previous issues of the newsletter are available to read here.

 

 

 

Denise Evans

Members will be saddened to learn that Denise Evans died on 25 November, peacefully with her family.  Denise was President of the Alpine Club in 1986, the only female President in the Club’s history.

Report: 23 November 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 23 November 2023

Now the sun has come out it’s time for an update. 

The weather has calmed down a bit in the valley! The snow has melted down to around 1700m. It rained quite heavily last weekend.

For walkers venturing into Chamonix, we'd like to remind you that we're between seasons: too much snow at altitude for classic hikes and not enough for snowshoeing. The trails are heavily snow-covered from 1700m (and therefore impassable) and some have been damaged by the heavy rain of the past week. For instance access to the Chapeau buvette. (See photo below).

However, it's still possible to enjoy the sunshine (when it's there) and the beautiful colours on the paths near the valley floor. However, the footpaths are slippery and you need to be properly equipped.

The petit balcon sud between Chamonix and Argentière is still not recommended, nor is the petit balcon nord between Le Tour and Argentière (parts of the trail are eroded). Due to a major landslide, the paths in the tête de la Jorette area (Montagne des Posettes) are prohibited by decree. We'd like to take this opportunity to remind you how much we value your feedback from outings so that we can spread the word!

For those looking to climb a little higher, the Chailloux chalets or Loriaz are still a good options (with snow on the upper slopes).

The return of the sun means that ski tourers can get out their skins at La Flégère. With the rain-snow limit above the Index last Sunday, the surface of the snow cover is often hard and frozen. The road to the village of Le Tour is still closed, and there's no snow down there anyway! The ski areas are still closed (the Grands Montets is due to open on 2 December, snow permitting).

In the high mountains, there's been little or no activity, but there's plenty of snow and the wind has (as usual) been blowing hard (watch out for accumulations). Some of you will no doubt have taken advantage of this weather window to check out the mixed conditions.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Cold Comfort on Chomolungma

In a piece originally published in the 2023 Alpine Journal, Annie Dare, Head of Communications at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), explains why her organisation is moving from a solely knowledge-sharing role to become an active advocate on the issue of climate change and its impact on the Hindu Kush Himalaya. She also explains how alpinists can add their voices to ICIMOD's call for world leaders to take all necessary steps to protect this spectacular mountain region and the people who live there.


Going, going, gone? Seventy years on from the first ascent of Everest, the Khumbu glacier is disappearing at an accelerating rate. (Alex Treadway)

This spring, Catalan athlete Kilian Jornet was training around Everest, in Nepal. This was his 10th visit to the Khumbu region, but it was the first time he and his partner Swedish athlete Emilie Forsberg were accompanied by their two youngest children. Jornet, the son of a mountain guide who reached the summit of his first 3,000m peak at the tender age of three, was hoping to plant the seed for his daughters to develop a love for the people and nature of the Himalaya to equal his own. He delighted in seeing the girls playing with people and in places he felt so connected to.

Yet the trip was bittersweet. A climate advocate who consciously limits how often he flies in order to try to drive down his personal carbon footprint, it had been 10 years since Jornet had first seen Everest, or Chomolungma, ‘goddess mother of the world’ in one translation of the Tibetan. ‘The changes that have taken place in the snow and glaciers here, just in the space of that decade, are so immediately obvious, and so dramatic,’ Kilian told me. ‘It’s happening so, so fast.’

The family’s visit came just before dignitaries from the climbing world gathered at the base of the mountain, in Namche Bazaar, to mark the 70th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent. The glaciologists and researchers I work with at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which for 40 years has monitored the cryosphere across the entire 3,500km long expanse of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), used the moment to zero in on the specific impacts of climate change on Everest. Their data provides incontrovertible scientific evidence to corroborate climbers’ increasingly alarming eyewitness accounts, such as Jornet’s, or that of Lukas Furtenbach, who saw puddles on the South Col in 2022, or another climber who, when climbing Gasherbrum IV in 2021, was shocked to find water cascading down a rock at 7,000m. Worryingly, ICIMOD scientists found that the 79 glaciers around Everest had thinned by over 100m in just six decades and that the rate of thinning had almost doubled since 2009. The iconic Khumbu glacier itself is disappearing up the mountain. And the further east you go, the worse this thinning becomes.

Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa, an early-career glaciologist at ICIMOD, travelled to Namche to join his grandfather, the last survivor of the first ascent, Kanchha Sherpa, and Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Hillary and Norgay’s descendants for the anniversary events. Together, this group launched a campaign asking climbers to raise their voices to press for faster action to avert catastrophic, irreversible changes to Everest and other mountains under the banner of #SaveOurSnow. The campaign asks members of the public, but particularly climbers, scientists and mountain communities, to share stories of the climate impacts they’re seeing on social media and to add their name to a declaration that asks for governments to honour their commitments to limit warming as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.


All change in the Icefall. Always danger- ous, climate change is impacting on this key section on the ascent of Everest

Kanchha Sherpa, last surviving member of the 1953 expedition that put Hillary and Tenzing on the summit. (Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa)
 
 

‘The sporting community needs to step up,’ Jornet, one of the signatories of the declaration, says. ‘Alongside scientists studying these mountains, and the communities that live here, it is those of us who return year after year to these mountains, to work and to train, who can see with our own eyes the extraordinary pace of changes to mountain glaciers, snow and permafrost. These changes are not only aesthetic, of course. They also pose new dangers to climbers in terms of unstable terrain. But the much more profound impacts are the dangers these changes pose to the people and nature that rely on these mountains, for water, for livelihoods, for habitat.’

Climate impacts across the world’s cryosphere are fast outpacing scientists’ previous projections, with the fight to save summer ice in the Arctic declared essentially lost earlier this year, and revised forecasts suggesting Antarctica is vulnerable to devastating and permanent impacts at just 1.5°C of temperature rise. At 2°C of warming, glaciers in the Alps, the Andes, Patagonia, Iceland, Scandinavia, the North American Rockies and New Zealand are all set to disappear completely, while according to ICIMOD’s latest report Water, Ice Society, and Ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya around half of glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya would be gone. That even just half might remain is unlikely: our current emissions trajectory sets us on course to smash through the ‘safe’ 1.5°C ceiling. At the currently plausible 4°C of warming, 80% of glaciers in the HKH will vanish by the end of the century. While glacier loss worldwide will devastate local communities and result in sea-level rise, the consensus is that the consequences of glacier loss, more erratic snowfall and permafrost thawing for people and nature in the hugely populated and bio-diverse HKH region, where 12 of the world’s major rivers originate, will be nothing short of catastrophic.

‘Nowhere is safe from climate impacts,’ says ICIMOD’s deputy director general Izabella Koziell. ‘But the Hindu Kush Himalaya holds the third largest frozen body of water on the planet, which provides freshwater services to a quarter of humanity. A staggering half of that population already suffer malnutrition. In the past two years alone we’ve already seen devastating climate-driven humanitarian disasters unfold in this region – in Afghanistan’s droughts, and Pakistan’s floods: a chilling illustration of what our scientists say will be one of the key climate impacts in our region – the issue of ‘too much water, too little water.’ The magnitude of the humanitarian catastrophe that will unfold should the reliable water supply that flows from these mountains be lost – undermining the food and water security of two billion people in Asia – is almost beyond imagining. Yet this is what the science tells us will happen unless world leaders act decisively now.’ 

The case for action is compelling. With very low emissions, most glaciers and snowpack can be preserved for water resources, with scientists saying losses would begin to slow slightly around 2040, with glaciers stabilising sometime in the next century. And the support alpinists have given the campaign has been unequivocal with over 2,000 signatories in the first 48 hours, including Kenton Cool, Rebecca Stephens, Peter Hillary, Wolfgang Nairz, Reinhold Messner, the glaciologist and alpinist Patrick Wagnon, Jamling Tenzing, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa, documentary-filmmaker Craig Leeson, and Pemba Sherpa. Other backers include the Nepal Mountaineering Association, the Mountain Research Initiative, the UN Mountain Partnership, and the UIAA.

‘It’s amazing to have had this strong early support from the climbing community,’ says Izabella Koziell. ‘But it feels like we’re barely scratching the surface with what might be possible, in terms of the leadership role alpinists might be able to play at this crucial moment,’ says Koziell. ‘Not just because of their tenacity and influence, but most of all because of their unrivalled intimacy with mountains and mountain people. Many climbers’ lives have often been if not profoundly transformed then at least hugely enriched by encounters with the landscapes and cultures of the Hindu Kush Himalaya. These experiences give them an intrinsic awareness of how much we stand to lose unless we check emissions that are threatening lives, livelihoods and cultures.


Visible changes seen in the terminus of glacier AX010 from 1978 to 2008. Situated in the Shorong Himal, this glacier has lost almost half its surface area in just the last three decades. (Alton Byers)

The terminus of the Rikha Samba glacier between 1974 and 2010. The rate of loss has only accelerated since then. (Alton Byers)

‘It’s hard to have spent any time among such communities too and not be struck by the sheer injustice of what we’re seeing unfold across this region: of the lives of peoples who have trodden so lightly on the Earth for generations being destroyed as a consequence of political and business choices being taken millions of miles away.'

ICIMOD, for its part, is reinventing itself to rise to the challenge of supporting communities and governments in the region that will confront the impacts of the changing climate. The organisation has completely reconfigured its portfolio in order to reduce the region’s vulnerability to disaster risks: biodiversity loss; and water, energy and food insecurity. This work runs from installing early-warning systems to forewarn communities of floods and encouraging governments to share data across national boundaries, to advancing the rights and recognition of nomadic communities and the role of rangelands, to identifying incentives for communities to protect biodiversity and forests.

Critically, the organisation is setting out to build an advocacy voice that is commensurate with the region’s importance and peril. Because, despite how much hangs in the balance in terms of human population alone, knowledge of the consequences of continued climate inaction on the Hindu Kush Himalaya globally remains low. There was no mention of mountain impacts at all within the draft text of this year’s critical Global Stocktake process, an integral of the Paris Agreement under the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In collaboration with and on behalf of its eight regional member countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan – the organisation is setting out to change that lobbying at global fora: for faster action on mitigation globally; for the urgent scaling up of adaptation and ecosystem restoration funds; and programmes and for the mobilisation of loss and damage finance.


ICIMOD glaciologist Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa in the lap of Ed Hillary in 1992.

And with his grandfather Kanchha Sherpa. (Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa)

In seeking to strengthen its impact, ICIMOD is also looking outwards, exploring the creation of a new regional political mechanism, akin to the models used by the Alpine or Carpathian Convention, with the aim of accelerating political change through closer collaboration among countries to build greater resilience to these issues, many of which are trans-boundary, such as floods, and in securing greater prominence and negotiating power for the region.

‘For 40 years, ICIMOD has acted as a knowledge centre for the region, generating and sharing evidence to our member countries to support their policy processes, and this remains our primary work,’ says Koziell. ‘However, with humanity standing at such a crossroads, and our cryosphere being so central to that, our board, donors, regional member countries and stakeholders were all unanimous that ICIMOD should start to take a much more assertive role.

‘I believe that at this moment all of us are being called to go beyond ‘business-as-usual’ – and that it’s for all of use whatever platform we have to urge governments and businesses to transform how we power our lives, feed ourselves, move around so that Earth can sustain life. The science is clear – there really is no time left. Perhaps this transformation will be humanity’s greatest summit yet.’

 

  • To sign the declaration go to icimod.org/SaveOurSnow and share your story of impacts using the hashtag #SaveOurSnow.

 

 

 

Report: 17 November 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 November 2023
 
 
After the snow and the flooding, it’s certainly been a strange month!

The heavy rain (rain-snow limit above 3,000m) and the associated melting of the snowpack have had a major impact on the footpaths in the valley, which have been badly damaged. Surveys are underway and we don't have much information yet, so please let us know what you see! Some sections of path have been completely washed away, while others may still be unstable (unstable boulders etc.) This is particularly true of the Petit Balcon Nord (Le Tour-Planet sector) and Sud (Nants-Floria-Caisets sector) and the access to the Chapeau Buvette, which should be avoided.
 
 
At altitude, there is still a lot of snow above 1,600-1,700m.
 
So hiking is complicated at the moment (but come on: it's not really the season any more either)! We know that the Bérard cascade, Loriaz, the Blaitière alpage, the Cerro and the Chailloux alpage don't pose any problems (there are certainly others!).
 
As far as snowshoeing is concerned, it's still a bit early with not enough snow on the possible itineraries.
 
The Flégère gondola has reopened after the bad weather. The snow pack has been soaked up to high altitude. It is still waterlogged and not completely consolidated, but it is gradually drying out. In the "moyenne montagne", it snowed a little last night (between 8 and 15cm depending on the area and altitude). This prevented refreezing at depth but generally improved things. The latest news is that you can skin from around 1,700m.  
 
 

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.

 

 

 

Mont Blanc: The Summit Paintings - Grand Opening

Mont Blanc: The Summit Paintings - Grand Opening

In the summer of 2022, artist and AC member James Hart Dyke retraced the footsteps of famed mountain artist Gabriel Loppé. His aim? To paint as Loppé had, capturing the sunset view from the summit of Mont Blanc. In the process, James produced a series of paintings which captured his journey, including two works carried out from the summit itself. 

James at work on Mont Blanc

On 5 December 2023, James's latest exhibition 'Mont Blanc: The Summit Paintings' will open at the Alpine Club's Charlotte Road premises, where his pictures from the climb will hang alongside one of Loppé's original summit paintings from 150 years ago. There will be the opportunity to meet James and to hear him discuss the experience of painting at altitude in a Q&A with the Club's Honorary Keeper of Pictures, William Mitchell.

The event is free to attend and open to all, but we do ask that you register your intention to attend using the form below.

Doors will open at 7PM for a 7:30PM start.

The exhibition will run from 28 November 2023 to 31 January 2024. Details on how to visit are available here.

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Lee

We have recently learned of the death on 8 September of Jonathan Lee.  He had been a member of the club since 1988