News

Report: 6 September 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 6 September 2023

The weather seems to be on a yo-yo as summer draws to a close! After last week's cold snap and snow fall the beginning of September has been marked by unusually hot weather for the time of year. The 0°C isotherm is once again soaring above 5000m and rock fall has resumed in the high mountains, particularly on the west face of the Drus, which had been relatively spared since 2011! Although the snow fall has very temporarily improved conditions for the few snow routes that were still being done, things are changing fast and not in a good way. 

Le Tour 
 
Conditions are fine on the normal route on the Aiguille du Tour. The Col Supérieur du Tour is starting to go black again. Beware of the instability reported and observed near the the Aiguille Purtscheller: it is recommended to go around it low down before heading to the Aiguille du Tour rimaye, which is crossable in the middle on a snow bridge. The Petite Fourche and the Tête Blanche are also doable. 
 

Argentière & Charpoua

The refuges have not been staffed since September 1 and August 25 respectively. Consequently, there is little information on these sectors.
 

Talèfre Basin
 
The normal route on the Aiguille du Moine is still in good condition! It's a bit more complicated for the east face routes, where the rimayes on the Contamine-Labrunie and Aureille-Feutren are opening up more and more. The Nonne-Evêque traverse was busy, as was the Moine ridge on the Verte for the first time in a while! On the latter, the rimaye is fine, but the ridge is quite dry with rock fall in places.
 

Leschaux 

It's all over for the rock on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. Despite the current heat, it's not dry enough at this time of year. But everything else is good! The west face of the Petites Jorasses and the Aiguille de Leschaux are dry and approaches are still possible for good climbers. All the routes around the refuge are dry too, and the non-glacial approaches are well-suited to this warm end of season weather! And now more than ever: call before going up to make sure the warden hasn't gone for a walk ;) 
 

Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

There’s plenty of climbing up here! The rimayes are crossable and on the whole everything's being done!


Helbronner

The Tacul satellites are all dry. The classics (Entrèves, Marbrées) are being climbed, with a nice rock fall reported this morning below the Aiguilles Marbrées (see photo below). On the Dent du Géant, we once again have to watch out for rock falls on the approach to the Salle à Manger - which is also very dry. Plenty of people on the normal route on the Dent du Géant, as well as on the traverse of the Rochefort arête, where the conditions were inevitably worthy of a September: fairly dry on the whole, but bullet hard snow/ice in the morning. No info on the Grandes Jorasses traverse, but we'd love to hear from you!
 


Aiguille du Midi
 
Even though the recent snow has been good for the arête, it's still quite technical with a good section of ice under the rocks and several crevasses to get round. And it's not going to get any easier. The same goes for the Cosmiques arête: it's dry again and there's a real risk of it collapsing. Although very crevassed at this time of year, the Vallée Blanche traverse is still possible in the early morning for good climbers. The Mont Blanc du Tacul normal route is being climbed in decent conditions, although a few serac falls have crossed the route in recent days. On the Trois Monts route, we're having trouble getting precise feedback on the Maudit. The ramp used to cross the large rimaye on the face collapsed a few weeks ago and a new route has been opened on the far right, under the rocks. However, the passage is very technical, steep and exposed to both seracs and falling rocks.
 
 
Plan de l'Aiguille

Another great place to climb in these hot weather conditions! 


Mont Blanc via the Goûter

Conditions had improved very temporarily with the snowfall, but it didn't last! The rock falls were back with a vengeance in the Goûter couloir. There is snow on 2/3 of the spur below the refuge. Above, the conditions are fine, although you still need to be careful when crossing crevasses and snow bridges, which are weakened by the positive temperatures all the way to the summit during the day! 


Bionnassay / Tré-la-Tête

The Durier refuge has been unguarded since yesterday. The approach to the hut has been made tricky by rock falls on the spur: plan to climb early! On the traverse of the Aiguille de Bionnassay, conditions are good with good steps and no ice. Around the Conscrits/Miage, the traverse of the Dômes is in good condition (no ice) with an out-and-back via the Bérangère. Mont Tondu also looks possible!
 
 

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.

 

 

 

2023 Boardman Tasker Award Shortlist Announced

2023 Boardman Tasker Award Shortlist Announced

The judges of the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature have announced the shortlist for this year's competition.

© Boardman Tasker Charitable Trust

The shortlisted titles are: Sherpa by Pradeep Bashyal and Ankit Babu Adhikari, Unraveled by Katie Brown, The Hidden Fires by Merryn Glover, British Mountaineers by Faye Latham and Closer to the Edge by Alpine Club member Leo Houlding.

The Boardman Tasker Award, now in its 40th year, was set up in memory of Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker who were tragically lost while climbing on the north east ridge of Mount Everest in 1982. It continues its efforts to pomote mountain literature through this annual award and associated monetary prize. 

The winner(s) will be announced on 17 November as part of an event with the shortlisted authors at Kendal Mountain Festival.

 

 

 

Silvan Schüpbach and Peter von Känel Open New Line on the Eiger Nordwand

Silvan Schüpbach and Peter von Känel Open New Line on the Eiger Nordwand

French publication Alpine Mag report that Swiss climbers Peter von Känel and Silvan Schüpbach have succeeded in opening a new route on the Eiger's north face, climbing from the Stollenloch to the west flank. 'Renaissance' climbs close to the Ghilini-Piola line and shares some pitches with this 1983 route.

                    

The pair established the line over five days from the 24 to the 29 August, climbing free on trad gear and encountering difficulties up to 7c.

 

 

 

Report: 28 August 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 28 August 2023


After the heatwave, the snow and the cold! It’s all very confusing.

A little "inter-season" update after the storm!
 


There is:
  • 80cm of fresh, windblown snow at the Aiguille du Midi / Refuge des Cosmiques. 
  • 40cm at Conscrits - 60 cm at the Bérangère 
  • Around 60cm at the Refuge du Goûter.
  • 30cm at the Couvercle hut.
  • Around 10cm at 2500m.

The snowfall was accompanied by strong winds favouring the formation of accumulation zones and wind slab in the high mountains. The risk of avalanches should therefore not be underestimated, particularly over the next 48 hours with the forecast return of clear skies.

The glaciers, which have suffered from the recent hot weather, are going to be treacherous. This layer of snow has potentially formed weak snow bridges hiding the crevasses.

Before this episode, the mountains were very dry and most of the snow/mixed routes were impassable or in poor condition. Whilst the snow will improve certain routes, it won't bring others routes back into condition.
 


Classic routes such as the Aiguille du Tour or Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter will soon be retracked.

The Charpoua and Requin refuges now operate in winter mode. The Argentière hut closes on 1 September and the Durier hut on 5 September. 

The snow line has temporarily dropped to around 2200m. The hiking trails are already drying out and can be done with good boots.
 
 

Translated with 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.

 

 

 

Alpine Club Statement on the Death of Mohammad Hassan

Alpine Club Statement on the Death of Mohammad Hassan

Recent events on K2 have prompted several members to contact the Club to express their concern at the fate of Mohammad Hassan, a Pakistani high-altitude porter who died high on the mountain in late July.

While the circumstances of Mohammad’s death are still not wholly clear, the Club wants to express its condolences to Mohammad’s family and its concern to the Pakistani authorities at how K2 is being managed. From what we do know, it seems clear that Mohammad was ill-equipped for such an environment and that no serious rescue attempt was made, with many climbers continuing to the summit while Mohammad remained in a perilous position.

It can never be right that a local porter should be abandoned in this way if something could be done and there are vital questions to be answered about how this situation could be allowed to occur.

We share the concerns of those in the guiding world who have expressed their alarm at what happened on K2 and await with interest the promised enquiry from the Pakistani authorities.

 

 

 

Report: 22 August 2023

22 August 2023: Urgent Update on Mountain Conditions in Chamonix

The following is a translation of the La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for the Chamonix area, originally published on 22 August 2023:

In case you hadn't noticed, it's hot!

Very hot, particularly at altitude, with the zero isotherm hovering around 5000m for several days now. No refreezing below 4000m.

This is having a major impact on snow conditions, which are deteriorating rapidly (Aiguille du Tour, normal route on Mont Blanc, etc.) and becoming increasingly technical or even impracticable. The glaciers are also suffering and the snow bridges are weakened: there have been several crevasse falls recently (Dôme du Goûter, Col du Géant, Mont Maudit...).

There has also been an upsurge in rock falls over the last few days in certain areas ("All aspects are affected, although the W, NW and N sides are predominant, and between 3300 and 3800m. Even ’solid' areas have been affected"): Grands Mulets, Cosmiques arête (on both sides), W face of Blaitière, Goûter couloir (a rescue this morning following a major rock fall at 5:30AM), Courtes, Droites, Nant Blanc & Pic Sans Nom NW sides, access to the Durier hut from the Domes de Miage, Rochefort, Dent du Géant area, Aig. du Tacul, W face of the Drus, N face of the Grandes Jorasses (Croz spur).

Make enquiries, adapt your choice of activities and outings and don't hesitate to postpone certain climbs.

 

 

Translated with 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: 17 August 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 August 2023


As in life, things can move very quickly in the mountains... We thought we'd got away with it, but the heatwave has caught up with us.

It's been very hot for a few days now, and conditions on snow routes and on glaciers are deteriorating! Watch out for the quality of the refreeze (fortunately the nights are longer than at the beginning of the summer) and for rock falls in exposed areas!

Here's some brief information sector by sector, bearing in mind that the situation can change very quickly and that a route may no longer be in good condition from one day to the next! We can only recommend that you focus your choice of outings on solid rock without too many complicated glacier approaches!


Le Tour

Little has changed so far, apart from the rimaye on the normal route on the Aiguille du Tour, which is starting to open up.


Charpoua

The Charpoua glacier is still okay low down. Drus traverse and Contamine on the Grand Dru okay. Descend by the right hand abseil line (looking at the mountain) which is shorter and takes you higher up the glacier (it seems obvious NOT to leave crampons and ice axe at the bottom when you go to Les Drus!). There have also been teams on the Evêque (Contamine SW ridge route).


Talèfre Basin

There are no aids (handrails etc) to cross the torrent (below the Aiguille du Moine) on the balcony path leading to the Couvercle hut, so good footwork is essential! 

The classics of the Aiguille du Moine are being done in good conditions (normal route, S ridge, etc.). The rimaye below the Contamine is becoming increasingly tricky to negotiate, you may have to go down inside it.

Nonne and Evêque have been climbed in decent conditions. Pointe Isabelle is still a possibility for very good climbers (crevassed glacier, poor refreezing, icy at the top...)


Leschaux

Few changes here.

The N face of the Jorasses (see photo above) is very dry. Some climbers are currently on the Cassin on the Walker spur: complicated rimaye depending on where you go (we'll see how it develops), dry rock but little snow to make water. The descent via the normal route was still in fairly good conditions on 16/08 (good route but crevasses starting to appear, just a tricky traverse across a slab to reach the Rochers Whymper): to be continued with the hot weather.

Petites Jorasses and Aiguille de Leschaux: Okay approaches and dry faces!


Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

At the Envers all the main rimayes are crossable.

Be careful, you'll need to abseil (on the way down) a minimum of 55m to pass the République Bananière rimaye, otherwise you'll be left hanging!

Most of the routes from the Requin are in good condition, with crowds on the Chapeau à Corne ridge, the Renaudie spur, the Dent du Requin, the Aiguille Pierre-Allain and more. One team failed on Eden de la Mer because of a difficult rimaye. The ascent of the VB is being done, the glacier is mostly dry and fairly easy to read. 


Helbronner

The ascent to the Salle à Manger is completely dry, so take care. A few teams on the Jorasses traverse. There's quite a lot of ice and some poor rock, and beware of the poor refreezing (soft snow) on the Rochefort arête. The rest after the Canzio is better (without crampons until Pointe Croz).

Things are changing a little (snow bridges) on the VB crossing (see the "Lotus Confort" report in the cahier de course on the website) where you should always favour the lower track.

No particular rimaye problems were reported on the Tacul satellites. The high point of a belay (spit) pulled out on the Lifting du Roi route (Roi de Siam) but it was changed today.


Aiguille du Midi Sector

The Aiguille du Midi arête continues to deteriorate. There's ice and a “bloc" to climb over (you can place an ice screw above): not suitable for beginners!

The snow bridge/ramp over Mont Maudit collapsed on 15/08. So it's no longer possible to cross it. You can force your way over, but all the other options are technically very difficult, so the Trois Monts route is no longer really relevant... Mont Blanc du Tacul is seeing daily ascents.


Plan de l'Aiguille

It's not too hot -)

You don't need crampons to climb the red pilllar on the Blaitière!

That's it for the Nantillons!


Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter

It's hot and dry below the Goûter refuge. For the moment, there have been no major rockfalls in the couloir, but we urge you to get through as soon as possible. Situation to be monitored, but it's not going to get better! 


Miage / Bionnassay

"A bit of ice on the Dômes Traverse, just before the ascent to the Bérangère. Either protect with ice screws or go around it on the rocks. (See photo below).

Otherwise, the rest of the route is still in good condition but the ice is not far away and it can change fast. Watch out for snow bridges on the Tré la Tête glacier if it doesn't refreeze.

Bérangère okay.

Mont Tondu: quite a bit of ice but it's okay for people who are good on their crampons".

A rock fall last night at the abseil on the Dômes de Miage side to access Durier: good bye belay!

Conditions are still fine on the Aiguille de Bionnassay traverse if it refreezes.


Monzino

Still crowded on the Ratti Vitale (the fashionable route for summer 2023!) and on the Croux or Punta Innominata.

No more information other than this report in our cahier de course from the Eccles bivy, a number of roped parties are climbing there today, so more to come!

 

 

Translated with 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.

 

 

 

2023 UIAA Mountain Protection Award Nominees Announced

2023 UIAA Mountain Protection Award Nominees Announced

The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) have released profiles of the twelve nominees for the 2023 Mountain Protection Award. The MPA, which has been awarded annually since 2013, provides funds to projects to allow them to "build key infrastructures, conduct vital research and fulfil pending project goals" relating to the protection of the mountain environment, wildlife and mountain culture.

Among this year's nominees are: a project from the American Alpine Club which analyses the impacts of warming winters on ice climbing activities and the professional lives of guides; a Brazillian initiative to recycle a higher proportion of disposable gas cannisters and Mountaineering Ireland's work to repair paths and restore habitat on the popular peak of Croagh Patrick. 

In-depth profiles of all twelve nominees are available to view on the UIAA website.

The winners of the 'Best New initiative' and runner-up prizes will be announced in early October, with the overall winner being confirmed on 21 October at the 2023 UIAA General Assembly in Trabzon, Turkey.

 

 

 

Report: 11 August 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 11 August 2023


Summer is back!

The wind was out in force again this week at altitude and it has dried out the mountains, especially the rock routes!


Le Tour

Not much change, still plenty of people on the classics (Aiguille du Tour, Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche).


Argentière Glacier

There is still no telephone signal at the refuge due to a lightning strike on a relay station at the top of the Grands Montets: book by sending a text message (or come straight up) and bring some cash to pay!

To get to the refuge, follow the red route (image below) at the foot of the ladders.

Climbing is back on the agenda! The Arête du Jardin is an option for good climbers, who can abseil down the "La part des anges" route. The col du Tour Noir still a possibility.


Charpoua / Talèfre / Leschaux

A number of climbers on the Drus traverse, even though there's still a bit of snow on the Grand Dru. The glacier is still going well.

All the rock routes are possible from the Couvercle hut, with quite a bit of activity on the Aiguille du Moine (S ridge, normal route: still a bit of snow at the top, Contamine and MissTique routes on the E face: the rimaye still needs a bit of gymastics to cross). No one on the Moine Arête on the Aiguille Verte. A few teams, however, on the Pointe Isabelle.

Leschaux: the hairdryer worked well: "Hello, following numerous requests and against all expectations the north face of the Jorasses dried very quickly and the Cassin on the Walker spur seems feasible! Otherwise around the Leschaux not only the Grandes Jorasses, Petites Jorasses, Aiguille de Leschaux super conditions glacier still very good! Excellent climbing routes from the Pierre à Joseph and the balcony path! See you soon". 


Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

The sector was well plastered with snow at the start of the week but has gradually dried out.

The République normal route is once again possible. A few teams climbed Grépon Mer de Glace and the Bec d'Oiseau S spur (complicated rimaye). The Nantillons glacier is becoming very problematic (you have to abseil - Abalakov - into the crevasse below the serac, which is getting bigger all the time, and the bottom of the glacier is also in poor condition, with tottering boulders). Teams on 'République Bananière' and 'Le soleil a rdv avec la lune', amongst others.


Helbronner

Access to the Salle à Manger is dry again: you need to be sure-footed and follow the right route (roughly on the spur) or you risk causing rockfalls on other teams.

Arêtes de Rochefort still in good condition (read the outing). Dent du Géant well travelled. A number of teams on the Jorasses traverse (OK visually) now that the wind has died down. Lots of people on the Marbrées and Aiguilles d'Entrèves traverses. The snowfall did not get the Kuffner and the Aiguilles du Diable traverse from getting back into good condition. There’s climbing on the Tacul satellites. Be careful on the crossing of the Vallée Blanche: best to take the lower track between Pointe Adolphe Rey and Helbronner.


Aiguille du Midi

This is the end for the Lachenals (it’s totally ice, it may be possible to do the last point just there and back). Due to unstable boulders and rock falls in the abseiling area, the Compagnie des Guides is no longer selling the Cosmiques Arête.

Midi-Plan, Triangle du Tacul still out of the question, especially with the hot weather forecast. There's still some activity on the normal route on the Tacul (the route has been changed due to the collapse of a snow bridge) and on the Trois Monts for good climbers (most teams descend via the Goûter). There’s climbing on the S face of the aiguille. 


Plan de l'Aiguille

The rock has dried out and it's still a good sector for cool climbing!

There is no more snow to reach the red pillar of the Blaitière.

The Nantillons glacier is no longer in good condition (see above).


Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter

Perfect conditions for August! Provided you cross the couloir early. To be continued with the hot weather forecast.



Conscrits/Durier

Still good conditions on the traverse of the Dômes de Miage and the Aiguille de Bionnassay.


Monzino

Still climbing: (Aiguille Noire, Aiguille Croux, Punta Innominata, etc.)

Given the weather, there has been no recent activity from the Eccles hut. The ascent to the bivouacs via the glacier goes well. Access to and especially the return from the red pillar of the Brouillard can be a problem (large crevasse, passable by abseiling). No news on access to the Freney pillar.

Some teams are heading for the Intégrale du Brouillard. With a good freeze, the Innominata is certainly a possibility!

 

 

Translated with 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: 6 August 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 6 August 2023

 

It almost feels like Autumn this morning, but it's great to see the mountains looking so beautiful on the 7th of August!


The ground was white this morning up to an altitude of 2000m! Above that, it's plastered and we're seeing between 5 and 40 cm depending on the sector and altitude (10-15cm at the Goûter and Cosmiques, 4cm at the Couvercle, 5cm at the Conscrits and up to 40 cm on the traverse of the Dômes de Miage, 5cm at the Index, 0.5 cm at the Brévent). We estimate around 30-40 cm at 4000m. There has been a lot of wind, with the potential for decent accumulations (watch out for the risk of slides over the next few days).

This nice dusting of snow will no doubt improve the conditions for the snow routes that were still being done (Miages traverse, Bionnassay traverse, Mont Blanc via the Goûter or the Trois Monts, Rochefort Arête, Cosmiques Arête, Pointe Isabelle, Aiguille du Tour etc.) but it won't be enough to restore the conditions for those for which it was already too late. We're going to have a month of August with good conditions on the glaciers and on the snow routes for a summer in the 2020s!

As for the rock, we're going to have to be patient and adapt: it's going to dry out slowly because it's going to stay cool up there with the wind forecast.



Webcams can help you get a feel for the conditions: https://www.chamoniarde.com/montagne/meteo-avalanches-webcams

 

 

Translated with 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 Vice-President Nick Kekus

Alpine Club Vice-President Nick Kekus has been at the heart of the British climbing scene for several decades. He’s climbed with a host of famous faces and attempted some of the most sought-after lines in high-altitude mountaineering. We caught up with Nick to talk about his ‘80s expeditions, his career as a mountain guide and his plans for his time as VP.

The North Face of Shivling - © Nick Kekus Collection

Hi Nick. Thanks for sitting down with us. I’m always interested to ask this question of mountain guides: what did you do before you started guiding?

So I started out as a Civil Engineer working in construction and then got into guiding, but I’ve always kind of run the two in parallel. Sometimes I’ve done more guiding than my “proper job”. I always refer to myself as being “semi-retired from guiding” but the last two years I’ve probably done more guiding than I have for a long time.

 

And do you still find guiding rewarding?

I think if you’re doing an awful lot, it can be very physically demanding and quite stressful. But doing the bits that I do now makes a nice contrast to my other work. So yeah, I think I find it more rewarding now than when I was always looking for the next job.

 

When people ask you about it as a career, what do you tell them?

Many years ago I worked in Canada and the guy who ran the business, a Kiwi called Dave Begg, he always said: “When you get into guiding, you have to have a plan for how to get out”. Because it has a finite life. You’ve got to have a plan for the future.

 


© Nick Kekus Collection

© Nick Kekus Collection

 

In the 1980s, you went on a lot of expeditions to the Himalaya – the NE Ridge of Everest, the SE pillar of Annapurna III – were you consciously seeking out these routes that are often referred to as “last great problems”?

I probably was [seeking them out] but I don’t think it was that conscious. There was a great groundswell of enthusiasm at the time with what people like Boardman and Tasker and Alex Macintyre were doing. And I always had this idea of aspiring to take alpine climbing, in its purest sense, to the Himalaya.

The route on Shivling in 1982 with Richard Cox, which sadly ended tragically when Richard was killed, it was such an aesthetic peak and such an aesthetic line, that north face. I think for me it felt like a logical step from things I’d done in the Alps.

The previous year I’d been to the Nanda Devi sanctuary and 3 of us climbed Kalanka by the regular route. We climbed light. It wasn’t very technical. But it set my ambition to try harder things in the Himalaya in lightweight style.

I went to Ganesh II with Rick Allen in ‘84 and that was kind of the epitome of what I’d been trying to do. Just the two of us on this great face that had quite a lot of technical climbing. And we basically went with minimal gear; 2 ropes, a big rack and a bivvy tent.

 

You climbed quite a lot with Rick, who was tragically killed on K2 in 2021, do you have any particular memories of him you’d like to share?

Rick was a member of the Midland Association of Mountaineers, and they had a hut down in Coniston, and we always used to arrange quite a few pre-expedition meetings there. And on a few of these occasions Rick, coming down from Aberdeen, would bring this very talented young Aberdonian climber. But I don't think Rick wanted to climb with him because he was always wanting to do really hard routes. So Rick would always point at me and say: “you go climb with the brat”, and “the brat” would drag me up these horrendous routes on Scafell and Dow Crag.

There were lots of aspects to Rick's life. He was a committed Christian and he had lots of interests in charities and other organizations, not just in the UK, but around the world. He was certainly not a one-dimensional person by any means.

 The team below south face Ganesh II in 1984, Rick Allen on the right, Nick on the left, with their Sidar, LO and Cook - © Nick Kekus Collection

 

 

You’ve recently become one of the Alpine Club’s Vice-Presidents alongside Adéle Long. Is there anything in particular you’re hoping to achieve in your time in post?

I'm taking my steer from Simon [Richardson] and Simon's obviously very enthusiastic and really looking to take things forward. One of the areas where he's really keen to do something is in developing the future direction of the ACG. It’s not really as dynamic as it used to be and lots of people have talked about wanting to resurrect it or to develop another organisation that speaks to young alpinists. A group of young climbers, not necessarily people climbing at the cutting edge, but people who have just got a real passion and interest in alpinism. I think both Simon and myself are really keen to encourage and develop that.

 

I think I’m right in saying that you originally met Simon in the infamous Snell’s Field. Do you have any stories of our President from that time that you could share?

We always used to call Simon “Mr Mega” because whenever he talked about something it was always “mega”. He did some amazing things with all sorts of people, and he was really enthusiastic at recruiting people to his objectives and his ideas.

When Simon was working for Shell in Holland, myself Mark Miller and Sean Smith got the ferry over and Simon picked us up. The idea was to do the north face of the Eiger, which we didn’t do, but we did climb a super route on the Mönch – the Lauper Rib.

We drove into Grindelwald really late at night and parked the car in the railway yard. We had nowhere to sleep and there were these old railway carriages, like cattle trucks, in the sidings and someone noticed that they were open. So we all jumped in, got our bivvy bags out and slept in there, because this was the middle of winter.

And then, in the early hours of the morning, we felt this carriage start moving. And we all panicked, thinking the train was off to Interlaken. And we open the door and we’re all throwing our sleeping bags out and trying to get our shoes on. And we suddenly see that there’s no train attached to the carriage. It’s just this little old man pushing the carriage, getting everything marshalled in the yard as we’re trying to get out!

 

 

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

 

 

 

Simon Richardson Accepts 2023 Pelmo d'Oro Award on Behalf of the Alpine Club

Simon Richardson Accepts 2023 Pelmo d'Oro Award on Behalf of the Alpine Club

On 29 July 2023, Alpine Club president Simon Richardson was in the Provincia di Belluno, Italy to accept the 2023 Pelmo d'Oro Award on behalf of the Alpine Club.

The Club was nominated for the award by the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site to mark the link between the region and the first president of the Alpine Club, John Ball, who made the first ascent of Monte Pelmo in 1857.

In a speech during the ceremony, Simon commented that Ball had chosen to climb the mountain because he considered it to be the most beautiful of all of the peaks in the Dolomites. Having climbed the peak the day prior as part of the Pelmo d'Oro celebrations, Richardson commented that he could "only agree" with Ball's assessment.

He was also keen to highlight the link between the province, the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Alpine Club who all share the goal of protecting mountain environments for future generations to enjoy. As a symbol of this, he presented Roberto Padrin, the President of the region and Vice-President of the Dolomites Unesco World Heritage Site with a print of an Elijah Walton painting of Monte Pemo. Walton was a friend of John Ball and the the print was produced from an original painting from the Alpine Club's collection.

               

The Alpine Club would like to thank the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site for the award and the Club Alpino Italiano and Provincia di Belluno for their hospitality. We hope that this event will rekindle a strong and lasting relationship between all four organisations.

 

 

 

Report: 27 July 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 27 July 2023

 
Just a few bits of info before the weekend.
 
Not much has changed in the high mountains, apart from a small snow fall in the middle of this week (whitened ground up to 2300m, between 10 and 30cm above that depending on altitude and sector). The rock has been plastered and is gradually drying out (at this time of year, it's slower on the N faces) but it could snow again tomorrow, Saturday, with the passage of a new rainstorm. These spells of snow will allow the snow routes that were still being done to continue.
 
Generally speaking, the glaciers and rimayes are still going well, even if it's the end for most of the technical mixed routes.
 
In short, we've had much worse conditions for the end of July, and we are fine about that!
 

Le Tour

All's well except that the 10cm of snow that fell has already melted and we now have to concentrate on Chardonnay (wine) as the Chardonnet (mountain) is finished.
 

Argentière Glacier
 
Access to the hut via the ladders (2 rungs missing but not a problem). Access is possible via the glacier but it's more tricky so only for those who know how to get out of the labyrinth.
 
There’s climbing in the sun up here!
 

Charpoua

Everything's good in this sector! Stay tuned for a possible closure of the refuge for a few days next week due to a technical problem.
 

Talèfre / Leschaux

Normal route and S ridge of the Moine: nothing to report

Some of the rimayes are starting to suffer and you often have to fiddle around and be a bit daring (climb down and back up) to get over them (Contamine, Nonne-Evêque).

No one on the Moine ridge still (apart from some rock-hunters who didn't make it to the summit a fortnight ago). The rimaye is gaping and seems to be the crux of the route.

Pointe Isabelle is still a decent route.

The N face of the Grandes Jorasses is once again quite white...
 

Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

No changes here either.

Most recent feedback (last weekend), you had to pass between the rocks on the descent of the Nantillons glacier. We'll have to keep an eye on this as the temperatures drop, but it doesn't look too good.

The glacier de l'Envers du Plan to climb to the eponymous aiguille is still ok.

 
Helbronner
 
The traverse of the Jorasses can still be considered when weather conditions allow (normal route still in good condition). The Arêtes de Rochefort and Dent du Géant are still being done a lot (take care when accessing the Salle à Manger).

The S faces of the Tacul satellites have dried out, but watch out for the new snow forecast.

Vallée Blanche traverse: OK.
 

Aiguille du Midi

The Trois Monts route was retracked yesterday (around 20cm of fresh snow on Maudit) in conditions unchanged from our 21/07 update.

The S faces are dry, with just a little snow on the ledges.


Plan de l'Aiguille

All's well except for the situation on the Nantillons glacier (see Envers sector), which needs to be monitored. If you are doing the traverse of the Aiguilles you should descend down the Blaitière abseils.

The Grands Mulets refuge has closed for the season a few days early!


Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter

A burst of snow and a drop in temperature that's reassuring! No abnormal rockfalls in the Goûter couloir. Crampons now stay on for the ascent to the Goûter hut after the snow fall. Good conditions for the end of July!


Miage / Bionnassay

Still great conditions on the traverse of the Dômes and the Aiguille du Bionnassay.


Gonella / Monzino

The Gonella refuge closes on 30/08 (winter room open with mattresses and blankets). For the moment, the Dôme glacier is still a good route to the Piton des Italiens. There is still some activity on the Tournette spur in decent conditions.

The S ridge of the Peuterey Noire is dry. Quite a few people on the Ratti Vitale this year (access is now via the Col de l'Innominata).
 
Access to the Eccles bivi is still OK via the glacier. No one on the “grandes courses" (Innominata, Freney, Intégrale) recently because of the weather.
 
 

Translated with 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.

 

 

 

Winners Announced in 2022/23 Alpine Club Photography Competition

Winners Announced in 2022/23 Alpine Club Photography Competition

There was a good entry for this year's photo competition with 113 images submitted over the four different categories.

AC member John Cleare, an internationally renowned professional photographer specialising in mountains and landscapes, was the judge, and he selected the following winners in each category:

 

Alpine Climbing 

'Approaching the NW summit of Mount Waddington, Canadian Coast Range' by Simon Richardson

 

AC Gatherings

'Regrouping on the Windjoch en route to the Nadelhorn' by Nathan Moore

 

Mountain Landscape

'Sgurr a' Mhadaidh Ruaidh, Trotternish, Skye' by Andrew Moore

 

The Unusual 

'Lac Noir, summit fishing with Mont Blanc in view' by Tim MacLean

 

John chose another nine very strong entries, which together with the four category winners will feature in the 2024 Alpine Club calendar. Details on this will follow. 

There will also be an exhibition of the entries at Charlotte Road from early September to mid-November 2023.

Many thanks to all those members who submitted entries and congratulations to our four category winners.

 

 

 

Report: 21 July 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 21 July 2023

As anticipated in our last update, a rather exceptional southwesterly weather system (high temperatures, strong winds, poor refreezing) has been in place over the massif for the past week. This has slowed down activity and dried out the high mountains, particularly the snow routes (given initial feedback, it could have been a lot worse).

Because of the low level of activity, we don't have much recent information and you'll have to ‘go see' when the weather permits to see how a lot of the routes are doing! There's still a bit of wind forecast at altitude over the next few days, and the weather isn't exactly perfect, but there are still some slots up for grabs!

Here's some information sector by sector:

Le Tour

It's still OK for the classics. However, it's the end of the road for the Aiguille du Chardonnet: the descent has become very problematic at the Col Adams Reilly rimaye (several rescues).


Argentière

It's the end of the road for snow routes except for the Col du Tour Noir.

The arête du Jardin (Aiguille d'Argentière) can be considered for experienced climbers if the descent times are respected (bivouac recommended on the arête).

Rock climbing remains the main activity.


Charpoua

The glacier to get to the Drus is still OK (the ascent track is rejoined on the descent after abseiling): one team yesterday on the Contamine.

Unlike last year, the “roture” (gap between snow and rock) on the Evêque is easy to climb.

Access to the Flammes de Pierres via the fixed ropes ("Passage des guides") is not easy this year and it is better to use the 3 pitches on the “roche moutonnee” (https://www.chamoniarde.com/images/files/Acc%C3%A8s-Charpoua-et-Flammes-de-Pierre.pdf). 


Talèfre Basin

As a reminder, access to the Couvercle refuge is only possible via the ladders at the foot of the Moine. The moraine below Les Egralets is very poor.

You can climb on the Moine (normal route, S ridge, Contamine: deep gap between snow and rock), La Nonne, L'Evêque, behind the refuge...

Quite a lot of (soft) snow and big cornices at the top of the Moine arête, which has not been climbed in its entirety.

Curtains for the Droites, the Courtes... Still a few people on the Pointe Isabelle but the end is approaching (the big crevasse is opening up, 10m of ice on the steep bit).


Leschaux

There are still climbers regularly on the Walker on the N face of the Jorasses, which is in good condition, as is the descent via the normal route (a serac fell from the top and cut the track).

The glacier leading to the Petites Jorasses is still easy.

The balcony path is dry.


Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

No particular problems in this sector apart from a major rock fall at the start of the season at the bottom of the 3rd Pointe des Nantillons (route L'homme du Rio Grande").

The rimaye for the République/Grepon Mer de Glace is still going well.

There have been few changes to the descent of Les Nantillons since this report in our cahier de course.


Helbronner

The access to the Salle à Manger is now completely dry. If you stay on the route, it's fine. Otherwise it's very loose. There are still teams on the Dent du Géant and the Rocheforts Arête. A few brave souls on the Jorasses traverse and the Hirondelles Arête (the first 150 metres of the ridge are tricky because of a recent rockfall).

Conditions are no longer good for the Kuffner (overhanging rimaye + dry ridge) and the traverse of the Aiguilles du Diable (dry access couloir + rockfalls).

Nothing to report concerning the rimayes on the satellites, apart from a serac fall that has affected access to the Pyramide du Tacul (ice blocks) but which is still passable.

Traversing the Vallée Blanche is fine. 


Aiguille du Midi

The steep part of the Aiguille du Midi ridge is ice (steps are forming but you need to know how to use crampons well). The rimaye is starting to open up.
 
It's the end for the Triangle du Tacul and Midi-Plan (except for teams leaving early for the Chamonix Aiguilles traverse: descent via the Blaitière abseils).
 
The Cosmiques arête is very dry. Ice on the access to the first peak on the Lachenal traverse.
 
The Tacul is still passable but is not at its best: crevasses are opening up and several seracs have been rather active over the last few weeks (with no consequences for the moment).
 
There is no ice on the Col du Mont Maudit, but two ice axes are handy. On the way down, a 60m abseil is required. It is also possible to go via the summit of Maudit and the finishing ridge of the Kuffner to get back to the normal route lower down (1 step to cross a rimaye, no ice or abseiling).
 
The rimaye on the Contamine route on the S face of Les Lachenal is beginning to open up.


Plan de l'Aiguille
 
You can climb wherever you like.
 
Crampons are still needed for access to the Gendarme rouge on the Peigne (watch out for the “roture” - gap between snow and rock), the Grutter arête, the red pillar on the Blaitière and even the normal route on the Peigne when there is a freeze.

There's climbing around the Cordier pillar (watch out for stuck ropes on the way down). As long as the Nantillons glacier is OK , so is the Charmoz-Grepon!


Mont Blanc via the Grands Mulets
 
Almost no man's land!


Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter
 
Despite the unusual weather, conditions are holding up for now. There's still a bit of snow in the Goûter couloir and few rockfalls if you go at the right time of day (watch this space). Some slots are opening up on the Dome du Goûter but nothing too serious.


Miage Bionnassay
 
Conditions are still pretty good on the traverse of the Aiguille de Bionnassay (wide arête with snow). A few sections of both rock and ice on the Piton des Italiens.
 
The traverse of the Dômes de Miage is holding up well (no ice on the ridge or on the slope above the Col de la Bérangère). Still some snow patches on the descent between the Bérangère and the Conscrits hut making this easier.
 
The lower slopes are dry but we're still okay on Mont Tondu.


Monzino Sector

You can climb the Aiguille Croux, Punta Innominata, Ratti Vitale to the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey.

Access to the Eccles is still OK with a freeze.

Access to the Pilier Rouge du Brouillard (particularly on the way back if you don't go up to Mont Blanc) is becoming more complicated (watch this space). The most recent info is that the Col Eccles went very well (without abseiling).

It remains to be seen whether the Innominata has withstood the heat. The last feedback was that there is a tricky ice section on the Brouillard ridge, but it could be avoided.
 
 

Most of the footpaths are now dry.

Crampons are less and less useful on the Aiguilles Rouges to access the routes.
 
 

Translated with 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: 17 July 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 17 July 2023

An update on conditions up high which are being seriously affected by the strong south-westerly wind.

Even if the sun is shining (except sometimes on the high summits) the wind has been blowing hard since Saturday above 3500m (more than 100 km/h), and is expected to continue until Wednesday inclusive (possible closure of the Midi cable car).

The isotherm is above 4000m.

As a result, refreezing is mediocre below 4000m and there is little activity due to the storm at altitude. It’s advisable to consider rock routes not too high up for the next few days and above all avoid starting on routes where it will be difficult to retreat.

Snow conditions are likely to change quickly and for the worse and may no longer correspond to our report of 13 July. More information is expected when the weather settles down and we can go back up to altitude (we are waiting for your feedback).

Maybe it’s time for crag climbing.

 

 

Translated with 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: 13 July 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 13 July 2023

The dreaded heatwave has arrived, with the expected consequences: rock falls have started, the mountains are drying out and some glaciers are beginning to open up...



To see the glass as half full (it's always better), these temperatures are good news for hikers, who can now enjoy almost all the routes with dry feet. Only a few areas above 2400m remain tricky: see the dedicated article.

Getting back to the high mountains, in addition to the heat, it's blowing hard and a freeze is having trouble establishing itself these days. 


Le Tour 

Only a tiny névé left on the ascent to the refuge. The classics are still being climbed in good conditions: Aiguille du Tour via the Arête de la Table and normal route, Tête Blanche, Petite Fourche. It's getting tricky on the Chardonnet, where ice is emerging little by little on the “bosse". On the descent, the Col Adam Reilly rimaye has collapsed and longer abseils are needed (allow 50m) on the left bank, which involves a tricky traverse. 


Argentière

No choice but to use the ladders to access the basin! Be careful at the foot of the ladders: unstable rock. A new fixed rope is in place to cross the snow slope behind (good path). Soon there'll be nothing but rock to get your teeth into up here! The Glacier du Milieu on the Aiguille d'Argentière is now reserved for experienced climbers. About ten metres of rock in the ‘narrows", with a 25m abseil to cross on the way down. The Jardin arête on the Aiguille d'Argentière can still be considered in decent condition (snow everywhere for bivouacs), but the Flèche Rousse and Charlet-Straton arêtes, as well as the Whymper route, are now finished.


Charpoua

Everything's good around the new hut! The American Direct is still busy (watch out for falling rocks in the current heat - there's snow in the niche) and the Drus traverse is still here (there's still a bit of snow to reach the Flammes de Pierres arête). The Contamine route on the Grand Dru is dry, with the exception of a small steep névé before the "characteristic roofs" of pitch 14, for which crampons may be useful when leading. On the abseils of the Grand Dru, one belay is under the snow. 


Talèfre Basin

The Moine is being done by all routes. Everything is good, except for the Contamine-Labrunie rimaye, which is starting to open up. We'll say it again: it's all over for the Whymper and the S couloir on the Col Armand Charlet. The Arête du Jardin is still possible but is reserved for very good climbers. The Moine arête has not yet been done, so we're still waiting for motivated climbers to take it on! The Droites have dried out and some of the teams who set out for the traverse have turned back. Good climbers who can keep to schedule might consider the Courtes traverse. Pointe Isabelle is still all snow, with the exception of the mixed section, which is dry but goes fine. 

Finally, the balcony path to the Leschaux is virtually dry, with only the occasional snow patch remaining.


Leschaux Sector

Apart from the Eboulement where the SW couloir is finished, the classic routes in the area are in good condition. This is particularly true of the approaches to the Aiguille de Leschaux and the W face of the Petites Jorasses. On the Grandes, the Walker is being done. When temperatures are high, a lot of water flows under the triangular nevé and into the red chimneys. The advantage is that if you want to see the glass completely full, all you have to do is hold it out! For the descent via the normal route, the snow is fine and the crampons are taken off at the Boccalate. 


Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

No significant changes in the sector since the last updates: the rimayes are all relatively easy. To get up to the Requin, it's still on the left or right bank, then you have to descend into a blocked crevasse before finding some brand new ladders (9m)! The Chapeau à Cornes Ridge on the Dent du Requin, the Ryan Ridge and the normal route on the Aiguille Pierre Allain are busy: good conditions. Beware of the torrents for the access to Congo Star, go early. The ascent of the Vallée Blanche is still fine. 


Helbronner

The Kuffner rimaye has collapsed and the ridge has dried out a lot: good conditions are no longer there! Conditions were a little better for the Diable Traverse although the access couloir is far from ideal (sections of loose rock, watch out for the teams below!) and you absolutely need a good refreeze to cross it. Then it's all good. There is climbing on all the satellites of the Tacul (although beware of possible instabilities at the bottom of the Bettembourg-Thivierge at Pointe Adolphe Rey). Otherwise, the classic mountaineering routes in the area are being done (Tour Ronde via the SE ridge and back, Entrèves, Toule, Flambeaux, Marbrées, etc.) For access to the Dent du Géant, the first rimaye is starting to cause problems: prefer a passage via the rocks on the right bank (on the left as you climb up). Good conditions and plenty of people for the Rochefort - Jorasses traverse. For the descent see the Leschaux report.


Aiguille du Midi 

After the Mallory, it's now the end for the Frendo and therefore the routes on the N face of the Aiguille du Midi. A little above, Midi-Plan is still passable, although some of the sections are dry and make the route a little more technical than usual. Some teams on the Chamonix aiguilles traverse, done in good conditions: a few short passages on ice, otherwise snow on the N faces and dry on the S faces. There's snow to make water at the Col du Caïman bivouac. For the descent, the Spencer is dry and loose: prefer abseiling (x5) via the spur on the left bank. To get back to the Col du Midi, you can still climb just about everywhere on rock, but it's getting late for the mixed routes and gullies on the Triangle du Tacul. Serac falls have been observed on the N face of Mont Blanc du Tacul. The Trois Monts can still be climbed by those with good crampon skills (plan to abseil 2x50m or 2 ice axes for the descent from the Col du Mont Maudit).


Plan de l'Aiguille

Little has changed in this sector since the last update. However, beware of the Nantillons glacier, which is getting worse by the day: plan to get there early! 


Mont Blanc via the Grands Mulets

Not many people left in the area, the Jonction still passes through a few zig zags, then there are a few traces of snow below the refuge and finally the N ridge is ice. All good above!


Mont Blanc via the Goûter

Not much change here either: the sentier des Rognes is still covered in snow and is not a shortcut at the moment! The runnels in the Goûter couloir still mean that you lose time crossing it, but there is now a good track. Of course, the current temperatures mean that there are more rockfalls: get there early and of course be careful! Above the Dôme du Goûter, conditions remain good, although there are some crevasses to negotiate on the N face of the Dôme du Goûter.


Dômes de Miage / Bionassay

From now on, we won't be walking in the snow at all to get up to the Conscrits! It rained all the way to the top of the Dômes last night, but conditions remain good on the traverse. Still OK at the Bérangère and Mont Tondu, although it's starting to open up after the col below the Pyramide Chaplan. It's all over for Tré-la-Tête and the Mettrier arête. The conditions are still good for the traverse of the Aiguille de Bionnassay.


Gonella / Aiguilles Grises

Little change, watch out for the freeze...


Monzino

Provided the freeze is good, good conditions around here! Pilier Rouge du Brouillard, Innominata, Central Pillar of Freney... are regularly climbed! On the Peuterey Ridge: a few snow patches allow you to make water before the bivouac at the summit of the Noire. More snow at the Dames Anglaises bivouac. Lots of snow from the Blanche onwards, but all goes well. 

 

 

Translated with 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.

 

 

 

Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers: Tips for Expeditions

In January this year, the Alpine Club, in partnership with the Mount Everest Foundation, the BMC and Montane, hosted ‘Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers’. This first-of-its-kind event, located at Plas y Brenin, was attended by 45 delegates alongside 20 speakers, organisers and sponsor representatives.

All of the obvious expedition information and skills were covered; with advice on destination selection, maps and communication devices, what to eat before and on the trip and greener travel options. Perhaps less obvious were the discussions on how to manage periods and personal hygiene and understanding how to deal with the effects of menopause. There were a series of workshops on how to manage the psychological aspects of being on an expedition, staying safe in remote areas, what to do in an emergency and how to plan a ski expedition.

One of the highlights of the weekend was Paul Ramsden’s session in which he shared his top tips for a hardcore (or not so hardcore) Himalayan expedition. In his talk, Paul managed to perfectly distill the key elements that help lead to happy and successful expeditions. These principles will be useful to anyone planning an expedition, regardless of gender, and are summarised below:


1. Make it about the journey.

You won’t always come away from an expedition with exactly what you planned, but you’ll come away much happier if you’ve spent time somewhere you wanted to visit and kept yourself open to options beyond your primary objective.

 

2. It’s as tough as you want to make it.

You don’t have to be pushing the limits of the possible to have an enjoyable and worthwhile expedition.

 

3. If you want to be ‘looked after’, then do so.

It’s about what you want to get out of an expedition and, if the harder elements of basecamp life aren’t something you’re excited for, go to the places where you can employ someone to take them off your hands, such as India or Nepal.

 

Paul on the way to the Summit of Nyainqentanglha South-East, Photo: Nick Bullock

 

4. If you can climb VDiff in the rain, navigate in bad weather and understand the basics of crevasse rescue, that is a better test of your capability on an expedition than climbing an E5.

Those bad weather days out in the UK hills often prove to be invaluable experiences, not just traumatic ones. Being able to climb hard in perfect conditions often proves less valuable than being able to get by in bad ones.

 

5. Choose your partner(s) carefully – trusting them, having a similar sense of humor and shared goals are all more important than being the best mountaineer.

Don’t ignore the personal/human elements. After all, you’ll be sharing a tent with your partner(s) for weeks at a time. Be aware of how situations of stress can affect yourself and your companions and know how to manage them.

 

6. Research well - Read expedition reports, find out what other people did, (and what they failed on), look at maps.

Journals, the Himalayan Index and report archives like the MEF’s have a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. Often report writers go above and beyond, drawing their own maps and spotlighting areas where there are potential new routes. For less well-documented areas, Google Earth is brilliant!

 

Location Finding, Photo: Nick Bullock

 

7. Allow enough time. 3-4 weeks minimum - maybe more if your objective is over 6,000m.

Weather windows are fickle things. By going for longer, you increase your chances of finding one and you also build slack into the system in case of unexpected problems. Taking a few extra days to acclimatise is a lot less stressful if you have a week to spare and it will get you into better condition for a successful attempt.

 

8. Put the date in the diary 12-18 months ahead - get others to prepare for you being away.

A month away is a long time. The further in advance you can get things rolling, the less stressful things will be in the period immediately before you depart. Childcare, work and family responsibilities may all need to be handed over to others. This can be mentally and physically prepared for well ahead of departure.

 

9. Careful what you eat and drink on the way in.

No one wants to abandon an ascent because of an upset stomach, but it happens. Even if you don’t have to bail, sickness will still make the experience less enjoyable overall. Enjoy the local culinary experience on your way home.

 

10. Acclimatise carefully.

Take your time and you’ll be in better shape higher up. Paul thought ascending slowly and sleeping high, worked best.

 

Paul descending from Jugal Spire, Photo: Tim Miller

 

11. Plan your route.

Draw a topo for your intended line, mark on suitable camp or bivouac locations. Consider your descent. Pick objectively safe routes, always remembering that gullies & snow slopes are prone to avalanches and serac fall. Buttress routes are safest.

 

12. Take a small, lightweight tent.

The difference in weight is more than made up for by the added comfort you get compared to a bivvy bag.

 

13. If you’re planning a technical route, wear boots warmer than you think you might need. Your toes will thank you!

 

14. Don’t climb into the dark - stop at 3PM.

You need at least two hours of daylight to set up a camp, melt snow and cook your dinner. Not only does this help to avoid epics and accidents, but it gives you time to rest and recuperate properly in the evening, setting you up far better for the next day.

 

The vital hanging stove set up, Photo: Paul Ramsden

 

15. Buy and know how to use a hanging stove.

The weather may preclude cooking outside the tent, so a hanging stove is essential. Practice ahead of time! Pans are very easy to drop and you don’t want to get it wrong at 6,000m!

 

16. Think about taking a snow hammock if doing a long, steep route.

The many and varied benefits of a comfortable night’s sleep should not be underestimated! A snow hammock is a reliable way of making a decent sleeping platform where otherwise you’d be looking at a cold night sat on a bum-sized ledge.

 

A Freshly Stamped Snow Hammock Ledge, Photo: Tim Miller

 

17. Things will break.

Take repair tape with you and use it as needed. Green Betrafol / Rissan tape is a good choice.

 

Summary by Adéle Long

 

This article first appeared in the Summer 2023 Alpine Club Newsletter. The Newsletter is published three times a year and, alongside regular trip reports, cultural highlights and news about the Alpine Club, it also features articles on mountain medicine, environmental issues and mountaineering skills. Members receive print copies as part of their membership, but digital copies are also made available to the public via our website with a delay of one issue.

 

 

 

Report: 7 July 2023

La Chamoniarde mountain conditions report for 7 July 2023

The summer continues - so far we have been spared the heat... An initial period of heat seems to be looming this weekend (isotherm above 4000m, thunderstorms?..). Despite this, conditions are drying out in the high mountains, although a large number of snow routes are still possible provided there are good refreezing conditions (watch out for what happens this weekend...) Naturally, we will be gradually moving towards rock climbing. Be careful, it snowed in the thunderstorms on the south side two days ago and the rock may be plastered.

There hasn't been much change since last week, but here's some brief information area by area (if nothing is specified, it means there have been no changes since our last bulletin). Don't hesitate to give the guardians a call to get the latest information on the route you're planning! And don't forget to give us your feedback once you've downed the beer(s)!


Le Tour

There are a few bits of névé on the way to the refuge, but these are not a problem for most hikers!

It's the end for the Migot spur: the last attempts failed at the rimaye.The Forbes Arête is still in decent condition. The rimaye at Col Adam Reilly is in bad shape. Nothing to report on other routes.


Argentière Glacier

Following a breakdown, the Plan Joran gondola has reopened.

Some people are still using the left bank of the glacier to avoid the ladders, but this may change.

The route via the ladders is also popular. To get back on the glacier, you have to descend a very steep section of snow. A fixed rope is in place under the snow. It is possible to abseil from a bolt at the top. 

Rock routes are getting a lot of traffic (Charlet-Straton, Jardin etc)!

One team has climbed the Grands Montets ridge. Quite a few sections of bad rock. The alternative route to avoid the Pointe Ségogne was not/is no longer possible (loose rock, landslide). On the calotte, there are some very steep rimayes to climb (bring two ice axes). They tried the descent via the Moine ridge (untracked, too much snow). They reached the Whymper but it was a bit late and it felt like the end anyway.


Charpoua

There are still climbers on the American Direct (beware of the heatwave and falling rock fall).

The window of opportunity for the Drus traverse is here (still a bit snowy). The Contamine on the Grand Dru has been climbed (still névé on the route). The glacier is fine.


Talèfre Basin

An attempt to descend the Moine Arête (by a team coming up from the Grand Montets) was abandoned because of the snow and lack of knowledge of the route. It might work for other climbers who know the route. This is the end for the Whymper. The Jardin Arête would be climbable, but there's then the problem of the descent. We're in a bit of a pickle when it comes to all the snow routes (Droites, Courtes), a good freexe is vital and that you're a good climber. However, conditions are no longer optimal.

Moine (S ridge, normal route, Contamine), None-Evêque OK.

Pointe Isabelle is ok if it freezes. 


Leschaux

New website for the refuge!

Top conditions on the W face of the Petites Jorasses (glacier ok, dry rock).

Alert: The Walker spur on the N face of the Jorasses is in (optimal) condition. Dry rock up to the triangular névé, winter conditions above. Beware of overcrowding!

For the motivated, the Brèche des Périades is still a possibility.


Envers des Aiguilles / Requin

The climbing season is in full swing! No particular problems with rimayes or anything else!

The snow is disappearing on the way up to the Envers hut.

Grepon-Mer de Glace and the other routes are OK.

It's complicated to get to the foot of the Ryan Arête (some find it, others don't!). The start is a wet 4c crack. Access also possible from the Requin!

Access to the Requin via the Mer de Glace on the left or right bank is possible.

The Envers du Plan glacier is still accessible (right bank). As for the lower part, following several route finding mistakes, the guardian has drawn up a small sketch for you (see photo below).

Dent du Requin & Aiguille Pierre Alain OK

People are still going up (and down) the Vallée Blanche!


Helbronner

Arête de Jetoula: snow approach to the start of the couloir. All dry. New tat on the abseil points. A little snow on the way to the summit of the Marbrées.

Rochefort-Jorasses traverse: Good general conditions. Access to the Salle à Manger is drying out, a few rockfalls after the 1st couloir.

Rochefort arête: very good conditions.

Pointe Young is dry except for the last 2 pitches where there is still a little snow (climbing with crampons). The couloir below the brèche de la Pointe Marguerite is full of snow. After Pointe Croz, it's all snow: a narrow ridge at first, then a bit easier. Descent via the normal route in good conditions.

Rochers de Reposoir: mixed (snow/rock). Glacier well filled-in with snow but a few large snow bridges to watch out for below the Reposoir. A few teams also on the Hirondelles arête.

Kuffner Arête: continues to dry out. A good refreeze is absolutely essential.

Aiguilles du Diable traverse: access couloir: snow at the bottom, rubble/snow at the top. Good conditions once on the ridge, then poor mixed conditions again on the exit to the Tacul.


Aiguille du Midi

Conditions remain good overall, but the route to Tacul - Maudit - Mont Blanc is becoming increasingly technical: it hasn't snowed recently and you need to be comfortable with cramponing. There are still a few ice blocks falling from the seracs on Tacul. Two ice axes may be useful for the Col du Mont Maudit (particularly on the descent if you want to avoid abseiling, as there is no fixed rope in place).

The traverse of the Vallée Blanche changes according to the snow bridges, but is still OK. 


Plan de l'Aiguille

Grutter: ice axes/crampons for the approach, then it's all dry!

Crampons still needed for access to the main sectors (Peigne, Pilier Rouge etc).

The Nantillons glacier is holding its own!

Crampons no longer needed for the Frête des Charmoz (dry descent).


Mont Blanc via the Grands Mulets

It's all dry from the Plan de l'Aiguille. You can cross the Jonction, you’ll just have to find the right way! A little snow as far as the refuge. Ice on the N ridge of the Dôme (take two ice axes). The plateaux route is also passable. Peace and quiet guaranteed. Climbing the N ridge and descending Trois Monts can be a great combo for those with the necessary skills.


Mont Blanc via the Aiguille du Goûter

The "Sentier des Rognes" is still very snowy.

The conditions in the Goûter couloir are not changing in a good way: big runnels, rock falls during the day or when the freeze is poort. Watch this space! In any event, you'll have to get there early and be careful. It is possible (and advisable) to clip the cable by taking the lower route.

Above, the conditions are still good. The section on the N face around the crevasse on the Bosses ridge is fine.


Dômes de Miage/Bionnassay

Good conditions on Mont Tondu, the Aiguille de la Bérangère, the Dômes de Miage traverse (also fine as a there and back) and the traverse of the Aiguille de Bionnassay. People on the traverse of the Aiguilles de Tré la Tête, but no info at present. Two ice axes recommended for the Mettrier Arête. The summer path to the Conscrits hut is almost completely dry.



Gonella

Good conditions overall, but still exposed to seracs on one section. Ascent to the Col de Bionnassay fine.



Monzino

Still a little snow on the S ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey.

Ratti-Vitale: access to the Freney Glacier via the col Brogliata (15m abseil), the glacier is easy and the bridges seem solid. Rimaye ok (big snow bollard). The route is dry.

The Col Eccles is easy to traverse.

A rockfall has affected the start of the Pilier d'Angle. A V+ pitch on the crest is necessary (good rock, a few pitons in place).

The climb up to the Eccles is still a good one (as long as it's not too warm)! Innominata possible when it refreezes.

It has snowed high up in recent thunderstorms (the Freney pillar looks very snowy, and a rope team was evacuated from Divine Providence for the same reason).

 

 

Translated with 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.