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News

Report: 21 January 2022

Some summary information during this (long) high pressure system!

The good weather means that all winter mountain activitiesare feasible.  All the ski touring routes are being done. You will find all sorts of snow. The classic routes on glaciers are also beginning to be done, with decent conditions (the glaciers are on the whole relatively well filled in).

There is also some activity in the gullies (it's generally quite dry) and on icefalls.

Ski touring

Sector Contamines/ Notre Dame de la Gorge : always a lot of people in this sector. The bottom of the Roman road is deteriorating (stones/ice) but nothing dramatic.

Some portage to the chalets of Chailloux, as well as on the Bel Oiseau side.

All the itineraries of the Aiguilles Rouges are tracked, the snow quality is changing!

Access to the Loriaz refuge by ski touring is via the forest road (no portage at the moment).

Less snow in the Trient sector than in the Chamonix valley.

Glacier Skiing

The Aiguille du Midi arete is equipped (on the crest of the arete, Z to come). This should not make you forget that the Vallée Blanche is a high mountain itinerary which requires the appropriate knowledge and skills (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Qkpf_TRj1es&feature=emb_title). Do not hesitate to call on a professional!

The exit couloir of the Grand Envers is ice, so avoid it.

The Vallée Noire has deteriorated, only for good skiers. The classic valley or the slopes of the Rognon seem to be the most suitable variants at the moment.

The Requin refuge will reopen tomorrow, Friday 22nd January. The Mer de Glace is still not very snowy but you can slide reasonably to Montenvers. It is possible to go down to Chamonix via the Mottets buvette for good skiers (some stones on the James Bond track and in the turns before the Planards farm).

Brèche Puiseux : good route up, good boot track in the couloir, a few dry meters (rock) to reach the col. 2 abseils of 30 m to get onto  the glacier of Mont Mallet which is relatively well filled in.

One team on the Pointe Isabelle side. 

Bassin d'Argentière/ Glacier du Tour: Col du Passon tracked, descent towards Le Tour still not exceptional but good snow conditions. Col du Chardonnet (30m abseiling towards Saleinaz, at the moment!) and Trois Cols frequented, good general conditions. You can ski on the Améthystes glacier, the Tour Noir and the Rouges du Dolent.

Y couloir skied about ten days ago without more information (it must have changed since).

On the N side, it's dry. Some skiers on the Col des Cristaux(hard snow but grippy), dry at the top. One team has baled at the rimaye on the NE face of Les Courtes.

Some activity on the Trient side (glacier des Grands, couloir du Pissoir; in spite of a thin snow cover on the lower part you can descend the cross-country ski trails) or on the Italian side (col d'Entrèves, glacier de Toula, Marbrées without more information; glacier de la Brenva on the other hand not in conditions).

Goulottes

It's quite dry in the high mountains. Activity mainly in the Vallée Blanche sector.

No news from the N face of the Aiguille du Midi. GoulotteChéré ok, some people daily in the Gabarrou-Albinoni (beware of rock falls when it's hot) or in the Modica-Noury. Quite dry conditions in the Pellissier gully. Some ropes on the Super Couloir without more information, as well as on the Valéria and the Lafaille. A bit of activity on the Combe Maudite (Filo D'Arianna...), it goes but it's not very busy. Good conditions on the N face of the Tour Ronde, the Rebuffat goulotte is dry.

Experienced climbers took advantage of the anticyclone to do an expedition on the N face of the Jorasses (No Siesta, Gousseau-Desmaison, Rolling Stones).

In the Argentière basin (there is still wood in the refuge), it's dry. One team in the Lagarde couloir (the mixed section at the top is even drier!). Petit Viking: the lower slope is completely dry. By eye, the Charlet-Couturier (Dolent) is "thin but doable".

It's also dry on the Chardonnet side.

Ice falls

There is a little bit of ice in the valley (be careful with the overcrowding).  You can climb on the Bérard (please respect the instructions at the bottom), climbing is starting at the Crémerie but it's not very thick or wide.

The waterfalls on the left bank of the Argentière glacier are rather thin and not very attractive (Mur des Dents de la Mer sector). It's better on the right bank.

You can climb around the Armancette, Le Reposoir or Cogne.

Snowshoeing

The routes are now well marked and groomed. Good shoes, poles and small crampons are generally enough to complete the marked routes. Snowshoes are not necessary to go up to Loriaz, it is better to use small crampons.

Report: 13 January 2022

Some news in this anticyclonic period!

The lifts are open. The snow cover is overall OK. The cold has returned. There is some fog in the plains. An almost "normal" situation for a month of January!

The main activity remains ski touring. Even if the snow cover is good, you have to be careful below 1,600m as here you can easily touch the ground or frozen avalanche debris. Since the last snowfall last weekend, there has been quite a lot of NE wind but in a very localised way. Some areas are trashed while others have remained protected. This is where you have to be good at choosing your route!

As a consequence, you have to be wary of the presence of wind slab here and there. Similarly, the quality of the snow varies greatly from one sector to another (from powder to sastruggi and everything in between)! The southern slopes are starting to warm up. Watch out for the isotherm rising from tomorrow!

All the classic sectors are frequented but we are struggling to get precise feedback, especially on the lower parts of routes (whether you need to carry skis...).

Very good conditions are reported around Les Contamines (around Lac Jovets and Cols Fenêtre, Cicle and Chasseurs). The Roman road is ok and you can ski to the car park. The new refuge des Près is open.

 

Pointe Noire de Pormenaz from Plaine Joux: The Chorde couloir is ok, wind affected snow above the lac de Pormenaz.

 

Aiguilles Rouges: The classics are getting tracked.

The traverse between the Col des Crochues and the Col de Bérard is again reserved for good skiers (alternating frozen snow and wind affected snow).

 

Generally speaking, the Bérard valley remains fairly protected from the wind except at the top: the further down you go, the better it is. On the steep slopes, we were told that there was a lot of ice, which was not recommended according to the feedback we got. The bottom of the valley is relatively easy even if the snow cover is quite poor.

Crampons are useful to access the Pointe Alphonse Favre. The top of the glacier du Mort has very hard snow, 50m side slip necessary; packed powder below.

Quite a lot of tracks at the col and at the brèche de Bérard (very good snow).

Le Buet is tracked without more information.

The col de Beugeant was tracked today. Tracks also on the N side of the Belvedere pass.

The Lac Blanc sector (Col des Dards, Col du Belvédère) and the Col de l'Encrenaz were very affected by the wind.

 

Loriaz: You can ski from Le Couteray, either by the 4x4 road or the summer path. Pointe des Charmoz and Col de la Terrasse are tracked, good ski conditions.

 

Bel Oiseau sector: some portage in the forest, good conditions above in the sector. Carraye, croix de Prelaye, pointe Ronde: OK

 

Bassin d'Argentière sector: Col du Passon tracked, better skiability by going back the same way (lots of wind damage on the Le Tour side even if the snow cover is good).

Col du Tour Noir and Argentière have been tracked.

No activity yet to our knowledge on the Col du Chardonnet/Trois cols.

No one back on the N faces either (Col des Cristaux etc...).

 

Vallée Blanche: Arête still not equipped (expected early February, to be confirmed) but in fairly good condition (no ice; however, reserved for ski mountaineers). All routes except the "vraie vallée" have been tracked. The snow quality was good at the beginning of the week, the upper part was a bit windy between yesterday and today but it was still quite good. The salle à manger is ok.

 

One team has been to the Brèche du Tacul with a descent on the Mont Mallet glacier which went quite well on 12/01. Brèche Puiseux tracked today without more information.

The mer de glace is quite dry, you have to be careful not to scratch your skis too much. You can stop at the grotto or continue to Les Mottets (there too there is still a lack of snow). The refreshment bar is open! The descent to Chamonix is OK except for the few turns before the farm where you have to go slowly due to a lack of snow.

 

A bit of activity on the glacier Rond and the couloir des Cosmiques but only for the elite.

 

You will scrape your skis on the lower part of the Pré du Rocher.

 

Concerning the gullies: Regular activity on the side of the Aiguille du Midi (Jottnar; Vent du Dragon), the Triangle du Tacul (Chéré), the E face of the Tacul (Gabarrou-Albinoni/Modica- Noury: be careful with the rimaye which collapsed in part ten days ago), Pointes Lachenal (Pellissier), the Petit Capucin (Valeria gully). Probably some lines formed in the Combe Maudite (Filo D'Arianna...).

Nothing heard from the Argentière basin but there will be soon because of the good weather that is coming!

The return of cold weather has meant that ice falls have reformed! No detailed information but there must be scope on both the rive gauche and the rive droite of the Argentière glacier.

 

Snow shoeing routes are accessible. The more experienced can go up to the chalets de Chailloux and to the Loriaz refuge (unmarked routes).

 

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Piero Nava

We have recently received from his son the sad news of the death last September of Piero Nava.  He joined in 1973 and became an ACG member in 1986.

Members can log in to submit their tributes or send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that they can be posted on the website. 

Report: 31 December 2021

A brief overview of conditions: the last one of the year!

As expected, the heavy rain (it rained up to at least 2,700m, on top of wet snow) and the wind did some damage.

The quality of the snow for off-piste and ski touring is generally irregular and not very good, sometimes dangerous (breakable crust: for the knees, hard: watch out for injuries). There have been many avalanches which have ravaged cwms (“combes”) and couloirs. The snow cover is still good for the season, you can still skin from the valley floor.

On the northern slopes, the snow is crusty (will it break, won't it?), which hardens as you go up in altitude. Above 2,000m, there is icy snow in places, be careful when it's steep or exposed. It is better above 2,700 m (wind blown, compacted snow, sometimes powdery), with for example some good turns at the top of the Vallée Blanche. The latter is more than ever suitable only for very good skiers in these conditions (sometimes very hard snow) and with mountaineering skills (Midi arete still not equipped, early season glacial conditions).

On sunny slopes, you can find a little spring snow that softens in the sun but you have to aim right (the right time, the right altitude). Otherwise it's “croute” (crust) but without the “fromage” :) which is tough on body and soul. The refreeze is limited to the surface of the snowpack and you must not be too late (wet snow slides).

In short, ski touring and off-piste skiing at the moment are for good skiers and those who know how to find the best conditions. And don't forget your “couteaux” (ski crampons)!

For the rest, you can always go up by the marked routes and go down by the pistes!

Everyone will find a way to enjoy the good weather and the mountains!

Reagarding the goulottes, we don't have any feedback yet, you will have to take advantage of the good weather forecast and the lack of wind to go and see this weekend. It is possible that you will find even on steep ground crust, fresh snow etc.

The icefalls have been very affected by the rain and the thaw. The managers of the artificial site of Bérard has asked that nobody climbs there until further notice (for safety reasons and to preserve the remaining ice). At the Crémerie, there was already no ice before! Bad conditions also reported on the left bank (Mini Couloir: all dry; Déferlante: a big shower, 1 dry passage...); to be continued!

The marked routes for snowshoeing at the bottom of the valley remain practicable, those at altitude (access via the lifts) will be more pleasant (less icy snow, more open landscapes).

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Report: 23 December 2021

Some feedback after this period of good weather.

The main activity has been ski touring. The last snowfall was a while ago. The sun and the wind have had a big effect on the quality of the snow, you will have to be crafty to have a good descent! All the classic itineraries are being done, from les Contamines to the Pointe Ronde. Reasonable snow cover but not always optimal skiability! The only important information is that the crossing between the Crochue and Bérard cols is bullet hard and very exposed. It is therefore reserved for excellent skiers with sharp edges.

As far as the glaciers go, the Aiguille du Midi opened last weekend. The Midi arete is beautiful but very thin, steep and icy, you will need the feet of a mountaineer! Good conditions (here too, variable snow quality, still quite good at the last news on the slopes of Rognon and Petit Envers) on the whole on the Vallée Blanche even if it is reserved for experienced skiers on the glacier (knowledge of the terrain). At the Salle à Manger level, take the lower track which is safer. The descent to Chamonix via the Mottets (refreshment bar open!) is fine. Some skiers have been towards the Brèche Puiseux but bad snow conditions are reported. A bit of activity also on the Argentière side: Col du Passon (bad snow quality on the descent towards the Tour : sastrugi, breakable crust!!!); col du Tour Noir, col d'Argentière.

Some resumption of activity in the gullies. Teams in the Chéré couloir and on the S face of the Pointes Lachenal (no more information), in the Modica-Noury and the Gabarrou- Albinoni (good general conditions but sometimes thin ice, take short ice screws) or on Valéria (last two pitches quite dry). No news from the N face of the Aiguille du Midi (Fil à Plomb, Vent du Dragon...) or the N faces of the Argentière basin. Don't hesitate to give us your feedback!

Ice climbing: You can climb on the left bank (rive gauche) of the Argentière glacier (Mur des Dents de la Mer/Déferlante sector). Crémerie (no ice), EMHM and Ressac in bad conditions. Teams seen on the right bank (rive droite) but no more information (except Mer de Rêve is said to be in good nick). By eye, the cascade des Pétoudes (Trient) could go (not the case for the Loriaz cascades (no refreeze at the hut for a week!).

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Polish Team Climb Hard New Route on Uli Biaho Gallery

Polish mountaineers Marcin Tomaszewski and Damian Bielecki have climbed a new route, 'Frozen Fight Club' (A3, M7, 780m), on Uli Baho Gallery in the Pakistan Karakoram, enduring temperatures as low as -32°C over the 11 days of ascent.

Planet Mountain have the full report.

 

 

 

 

Kev Reynolds

We are saddened to learn of the death on 10 December of Kev Reynolds, renowned author of Cicerone guidebooks, and a member since 1979.

Members can log in to submit their tributes or send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that they can be posted on the website. 

Report: 17 December 2021

A few bits of information before the weekend and the holidays.

A high pressure system has replaced the unsettled weather of the first half of December and seems to be set to stay for a while. The weather in the mountains is pleasant, with mild temperatures, especially on the sunny slopes.

The snow cover is very good for the season, at least below 3000m and at the bottom of the valley. Above 3000m, it is generally quite dry.

Most of the slopes and lifts will open tomorrow (18/12). You can find the schedule and information here. As we are at the beginning of the season, please beware of rocks off-piste!

The Loriaz, Lognan and Les Prés (les Contamines) huts also open tomorrow.

Generally conditions are good for ski touring even if the snow quality can be variable due to the effects of wind and sun.
Skinning is possible from car parks thanks to good snow cover at the bottom of the valleys.
There is some activity around les Contamines (lacs Jovets, Chasseurs, Cicle etc), on the Aiguillette des Houches, on the Argentière glacier (col des Rachasses, col du Tour Noir: the descent on the left bank of the Argentière glacier is said to be technical with some bits on ice and slabs), around le Tour (Aiguillette des Posettes), on the col des Montets (col de l'Encrenaz). No news from the Vallon de Bérard or the Bel Oiseau sector but there has probably been some activity. The opening of the Aiguilles Rouges lifts will get the ball rolling in this area.

The opening of the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the mild temperatures should also allow a resumption of activity in the high mountains. The arete is said to be “narrow, steep, smooth and icy" and there is no handrail in place.
The north face of the aiguille du Midi, looks relatively dry (Mallory-Porter, Fil à Plomb: they should go but only just, see photo). There might be a bit more on the East side of the Tacul or on the North side of the Argentière basin: you'll have to go and see and let us know!
The glaciers are relatively well filled in but we remind you that we are at the start of the season and crevasse bridges are fragile. The Vallée Blanche, like the other glacier routes, is very technical at this time of year. Good experience in reading the terrain is essential.

As far as ice climbing goes, it's possible to climb on the left bank of the Argentière (as a reminder, access is only possible on skis as pedestrians are not allowed on the Plan Joran cable car).

The snowshoe and walking routes are all practicable and marked (info here). For the more independent amongst you, you can go for a walk near the chalets de Chailloux or Loriaz by the forest track (unmarked and unsecured off-piste itineraries) as long as the avalanche risk does not increase.
All the pistes of the three Nordic areas (Chamonix, Argentière, Servoz) are open. Note that in Les Houches and Servoz, the multi-activity areas (cross-country skiing/hiking/snowshoeing) are also groomed and (soon) marked out, and access to these is free!

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Emilio Comici: Angel of the Dolomites | Review

In a review from the 2021 Alpine Journal, (on sale now via Cordee), Ed Douglas examines the 2021 Boardman Tasker winner; 'Emilio Comici: Angel of the Dolomites' by David Smart. He discovers not only a well-researched and considered portrait of Comici, a man whose identity was bound up in the muscularity of Italian nationalism, but also a book with a contemporary resonance and huge value for an English-speaking audience who have rarely been given much insight into this period of Italian climbing. 

Emilio Comici
Angel of the Dolomites
David Smart
RMB, 2020, pp248, £31

On 7 August 1915, as the summer sun bleached the fields of northern Italy, the poet and proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio arrived over the port of Trieste in a flimsy biplane piloted by his friend Giuseppe Miraglia. The white city, D’Annunzio noted, shone against the backdrop of the Carso, the limestone plateau that traditionally divided Italians from Slovenes and offered Triestino climbers a training ground for the challenges of the Dolomites.

From his cockpit, D’Annunzio, then in his early fifties, released bombs on Austrian submarines floating in the harbour and also threw packets of messages – garnished with green, white and red ribbons bought from a Venetian haberdashery – to the people below who were watching the air raid from Trieste’s main piazza. Written in D’Annunzio’s florid style, they promised that soon the Italian tricolour would fly over the castle of San Giusto, the city’s heart. Irredentists, desperate to be free of Austrian rule and part of a reunified Italy, stood in the streets and cheered during later bombing raids, despite the risks.

There’s no evidence that Emilio Comici watched this first air sortie over his city, but it’s safe to say that if he didn’t then he would have heard all about it, and would have revelled in its daring. In this fascinating biography, improbably the first for such a titan of 1930s climbing, David Smart makes it clear that news of Italian success left Comici exhilarated. How could it not? Italians in the city had chafed for centuries under rule from Vienna, whose brutality they blamed for the war. Plus, he was 14 years old and already vulnerable to the romance of adventure. Italian boys’ clubs were shut down by the authorities so they had more time on their hands to dream of freedom. Always a bit of a mammone, a mummy’s boy, he would strum the family’s mandolin as she made his dinner and sing about their beloved city, and how it fretted under the Austrian heel.

Among the names that would have thrilled the teenage Comici was Napoleone Cozzi, a brilliant pre-war climber who made the Val Rosandra just outside Trieste a training ground, a palestra, where a young alpinist could perfect the skills required for the hard new climbs being put up in the Dolomites by such great names as Paul Preuss, Angelo Dibona and Tita Piaz, the so-called ‘devil of the Dolomites’. And it was in the Val Rosandra that Comici would start on his path to fame, if not fortune. But as Smart makes clear, Cozzi was also an irredentist, famous for his arrest in 1904 and subsequent trial in Vienna after Austrian secret police discovered what are now called IEDs hidden under the floorboards of the Trieste Gymnastics Society. Years later, during the war, when Comici walked those same floorboards, notions of climbing and adventure were inextricably fused in his mind with the nationalist, irredentist cause that so inspired him.

Emilio Comici in his signature climbing jacket and basketball shoes at Val Rosandra outside Trieste.
With journalist and occasional benefactor Severino Casara and good friend Emmy Hartwich-Brioschi, who had been Paul Preuss’ lover, at Lake Misurina in 1935

Politics, however, was moving on rapidly. The colourful, ludicrous extravagance of Gabriele D’Annunzio had morphed into something new and darker. In October 1922, while Comici was doing his national service, Mussolini’s fascists levered their way to power. Already a member of the Associazione XXX Ottobre, the date news of Austria’s defeat reached Trieste, Comici joined Mussolini’s party and became one of the squadristi, a black shirt. Something in the fascist aesthetic appealed to Comici, a climber who would have understood very well how to use Instagram: it was modern, clean and seemingly progressive, and well dressed, like he was: so unlike the well-heeled romanticism of Mitteleuropan alpinists like Julius Klugy, long a mentor to successive generations of alpinists in Trieste, including Cozzi. For a working-class climber like Comici, the future seemed elsewhere. After he climbed his eponymous route on the Cima Grande, one of the most striking landmarks in the history of alpinism, he wrote in the hut book: ‘By the same light that illuminates the value and tenacity of the Italians of Mussolini, we have opened the path to the north face of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.’

There is a great deal to recommend this book, not least David Smart’s ability to paint a broad canvas without exhausting the reader’s attention. All this historical perspective is not only fascinating and rich with detail, but also necessary, because of the equivocal place Comici holds in the climbing firmament, the glamorous risk-taker adding sheen to Mussolini’s project. At times, Smart strains a little too hard to excuse Comici’s political allegiances, although I think mostly he gets it right. I would like to have heard more from Comici’s near-contemporaries on this; Fosco Maraini famously tore up his fascist party membership card when his father enrolled him. Comici, on the other hand, averted his gaze. Towards the end of the book, Smart writes:

Even after the Trieste section of the CAI hung signs forbidding Jews in its huts, Emilio had fretted over the predicament of his Jewish friends, not as if racism was a core program of his beloved party (which, after 1938, it was), but as if it was some kind of unintended oversight by a regime he saw as benevolent.

For much of this book, until its poignant and fatal conclusion, I wondered whether Smart’s considerable talents would have been better deployed writing a history of the whole sixth-grade scene, which for English readers is woefully underexplored and yet forms the basis for the explosion of big-wall climbing in Yosemite and elsewhere after the war. Because Emilio Comici did seem to bob around on the surface of his own unusually interesting era, like a cork on a storm-tossed ocean. The portrayal of his childhood is, presumably through necessity, somewhat hurried. The poor leave little trace. But it’s clear he had little meaningful education. That left him with a sense of inferiority, especially around some of his intellectual clients, and a lack of traction in the wider world.

Music was a comfort and a pleasure throughout his life and there is a wonderful scene towards the end of the book when, now living in the Dolomites, he takes up the piano under the instruction of one of his clients, Rita Palmquist, a Dane who had performed concerts all over Europe. Mussolini had tried to suppress folk songs and mandolin playing because they led to unmanly display of emotion. But Il Duce approved of the piano, which he could play himself. Comici had some natural talent and persevered, but learning the piano in his late thirties was understandably frustrating. After one lesson ended badly, Comici stood up and closed the lid, telling his teacher:

You have witnessed the most splendid symbol of my spiritual life. A closed door. You see, I have worked hard to develop my body, my muscles. I managed to do so, but at the detriment to my inner life. A few years ago, I thought I would be a writer, but it was an illusion. In the spiritual realm, there is a closed door for me.

Palmquist, understandably, was deeply moved at this declaration, the austere man of the mountains revealing briefly the torment beneath the surface, a man ‘who some accused of turning climbing into a mechanical thing, was, in fact, deeply sensitive.’ And the rest. Smart paints a convincing portrait of a man who was if anything hypersensitive, particularly to criticism. Like his beloved home city Trieste, Smart writes, Comici had a certain distacco, an aloofness from the world, and a self-sufficiency, or lontananza, that added to the impression that he was somewhere on a higher plane. ‘There have been few more haunted alpinists,’ Smart writes at one point. He’s speaking of ghosts, but it stands for his character too.

This self-absorption, from an Alpine outsider like Comici, must have come across as arrogance to some, and petulant arrogance when the Dimai brothers were rude about him after the Cima Grande climb. Comici appealed to the fascist authorities for resolution, but they just shrugged and suggested he stand up for himself. Even when he took the initiative and soloed the north face to counter the Dimais’ sniping, he had to spoil the effect by having another sulk. You want to shout at him across the decades: you made your point, Emilio, let it go! Enamoured of press attention but reluctant to engage through a natural shyness, Comici certainly suffered for his art. He wanted to be taken seriously as a man but often ended up as a symbol of something, of a legend that became a trap that slowly compressed him.

Perhaps that was what the piano playing was all about. It was also to please his ageing mother, a kindness the fascists would have frowned on as effeminate. One of the most striking aspects of this book is the ubiquity of women. They’re everywhere in this story, a reminder that women have more often been excluded from the story of climbing, not the actual climbing. There’s the Slovenian Mira ‘Marko’ Pibernik, as Smart calls her, although she preferred her maiden name Debelak, since her first marriage was arranged and soon discarded. A woman familiar to students of Ben Nevis history, she was on the first ascent of Slav Route. She’d also swung leads on the first ascent of the 900m north face of Jôf di Montasio. There’s Riccardo Cassin’s climbing partner Mary Varale, who brought Comici to Lecco to teach them pegging and later quit the CAI because of its blatant misogyny. Comici would take her on another truly great Tre Cime climb, the Spigolo Giallo. Anna Escher, one of his richest and most regular clients. And Emmy Hartwich-Brioschi, Paul Preuss’ lover at the time of his death, introduced to Comici by their mutual friend, the rather flaky journalist Severino Casara. Paula Wiesinger is there, the first woman to climb grade VI in the Dolomites. Trieste itself was home to more women climbing grade VI than anywhere else in the world, in particular Bruna Bernadini, who rarely followed. Finally there was the celebrated poet Antonia Pozzi, another of Comici’s clients, a brilliant young woman who faced her own demons. She took a long cool look at Comici and saw him high on his lonely perch among the mountains where ‘ … you will only see/your rope/encased in ice/and your hard heart/among the pale spires.’ She committed suicide aged 26 but Comici, the ‘sullen, poor, uneducated kid from the docklands of Trieste’, seems not to have noticed.

Towards the end of his short life, Emilio Comici began to grasp more fully his place in the world, how the populism of men like Gabriele D’Annunzio had twisted the urge of all Italians to be free. Comici had gone to the Dolomites so that an Italian might, in his own country, surpass the achievements of the Germans there. Naïve perhaps, even self-regarding, but not I think necessarily malign. The only new route he climbed in the war, during which he served as a minor fascist functionary, was dedicated to Italo Balbo, Mussolini’s great rival who had opposed Italy’s Nazi-style race laws. Smart offers this as an indication that Comici’s fascist ardour was cooling. I’m not so sure. Either way, we shall never know whether Comici would have joined Cassin, who’d had his own flirtation with fascism, in fighting with the partisans against the Nazis. Because shortly after the Angel of the Dolomites was dead.

‘They will only get me in the end,’ Comici wrote of the mountains even as his passion for climbing waned. Ironically, it was the palestra he created in Vallunga that did for him, a place where he could teach but also perform for an audience, a banal accident caused by a rotten rope. Having fallen 30m and struck his head, he stood up again, blood streaming down his face, the broken ends still clutched in his fist, before dropping dead on the ground. David Smart has done the English-speaking climbing world an immense service with this book, capturing all the grandeur and vanity of our sport and the politics that informs it, all trapped in the amber of the 1930s, that turbulent era that looks so much like our own.

 

 

 

Report: 8 December 2021

Winter is here! 

One storm has followed another and there is now good snow cover, even on the floor of the valley. Excellent news then: 

- The ski areas will be able to open up gradually. 

- You can go ski touring, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. 

 

On the other hand, it snowed a lot and as usual it was windy. The risk of avalanches is high. On the eve of the opening of some of the lifts, we call on you to be very careful. It is also important to follow good habits: 

- Careful preparation of the outing: read the “BERA” (avalanche bulletin) carefully, consult the weather forecast, find out about the conditions, study the route, choose your companions. 

- Once in the field: observe - analyse - discuss - decide - adapt or even give up. 

We are all keen to get out there, but we need to give ourselves time to get back into the swing of things and to get back into shape physically! 

 

Here is the schedule for the opening of the lifts in the valley: 

- Friday 10 December: Grands Montets ski area open continuously 

- Saturday 11 December: Part of the Les Houches ski area in continuous operation 

- Saturday 11 December: La Flégère ski area only for the weekend (continuous opening from 18 December). 

- Saturday 11 December: Plan de l'Aiguille cable car (second section opens on 18 December) 

- Saturday 18 December: Domaine du Brévent + Balme/Vallorcine. 

 

The ski areas are currently being prepared. The groomers are working, sometimes using a winch. Be careful with the cables and that you don’t find yourself on a slope with a snow groomer pushing the snow from above. Please respect the work of the operators!  

After a snowfall, PIDAs (Plan d'Intervention de Déclenchement des Avalanches – controlled avalanche release sometimes involving explosives) are put in place (usually in the morning, which sometimes requires delays in opening). Signs prohibiting access for the duration of the operations are put in place. For the "early bird" ski tourers, please respect these prohibitions! 

 

The marked ski touring itineraries are practicable, (except when there is a high avalanche risk; ask for information!) but they are not necessarily marked yet. You can download this little booklet which includes all the itineraries in the Mont Blanc region, while waiting for the brochure which will be available soon. 

 

Remember: 

- These marked routes, although close to the slopes, are not secured by the ski patrol. The activity is done under your own responsibility. Remember to equip yourself accordingly (avalanche transceiver/probe/shovel, phone) and to plan your outing (avalanche risk, weather, etc). 

- Although they are not opened or closed by the ski patrol, a ban on access can still be put in place at the start of the route by the commune concerned or the operating company in the event of a high avalanche risk or PIDA. 

- They are not maintained on a daily basis and their technical difficulty varies according to the conditions (icy passages, lack of snow etc.) and the amount of traffic they have had. 

- Although separate from the slopes, they are accessible only during the opening of the ski area as the descent is made via the slopes. 

- Beware of dogs running loose. 

 

For those who leave the marked routes, we ask you to be extremely careful and to choose your route carefully. 

 

 

The Nordic area opens this Saturday 11 December. 

The marked routes for snowshoes and pedestrians can be used, but they are also being marked out. You can find the map here! For those who would like to leave these routes, you will have to wait for better snow conditions. 

 

 

What about ice climbing? All this snow isn’t good for ice formation at the Crémerie. On the right and left banks of the Argentière glacier, you will have to go and see once the conditions allow it! 

 

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Video: 'Everest - East Side Story'

The video of Stephen Venables's lecture; 'Everest - East Side Story,' given at the opening of the 2021 Everest Centenary Exhibition is now available to watch in full via the Alpine Club's YouTube channel or by clicking on the player below.

 

                                                         

 

 

 

Report: 17 November 2021

It’s still inter-season in the valley.

Ski lifts are closed except for the Flégère gondola (access to Lac Blanc and the Chéserys lakes OK but a little snow on the top and signposts not in place; Via Ferrata des Evettes OK).

You can find the opening dates of the lifts and ski areas on this page of the Mont Blanc Natural Resort website.

The snow that fell at the beginning of the month quickly melted in the “moyenne montagne”. So at the moment no skiing, but let's keep our fingers crossed! The fog has been sitting on the valley floor for the last few days but above it's much more pleasant, with nice sun and pleasant temperatures. 

You can hike (on foot!) with no worries below 2200-2300m depending on the orientation. As a reminder, a large part of the signposting is no longer in place. There may be some snow/ice and slippery paths, so it is important to be well shod.

These anti-cyclonic conditions allow for good activity in the high mountains with generally good conditions in the gullies/mixed routes. Some classic routes (Aiguille du Tour, Mont Blanc by the Goûter, Dômes de Miage...) could also be doable but we have no feedback. Snowshoes are still very useful to get around on the glaciers. Beware of snow bridges which remain fragile at this time. 

Many people on the Pélerins side (Rebuffat-Terray, Beyond Good and Evil) or in the Rebell Yell goulotte: the Plan de l'Aiguille winter hut is full every night, think of bringing a sleeping bag and even a mat.

Many people at the Albert 1er (no more wood) and on the Chardonnet. The latest news is that the Charlet-Bettembourg (the rimaye was committing because of variable snow, pitches 1 and 2 are mixed) and the Escarra are in good general conditions, but not the Aureille-Feutren. No news of the Gabarrou 79. The Aiguille du Tour normal route, Tête Blanche or Petite Fourche should be possible for those looking for an adventure!

No news yet from the Argentière basin but no doubt there must be something to do (Lagarde couloir? Ginat?).

 

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

Stephen Venables - 'Everest: East Side Story' YouTube Premiere

At 19:00 on Thursday 18 November, the Alpine Club will premiere a short film of a lecture given by Stephen Venables at the opening of the 2021 Everest Centenary Exhibition via our YouTube channel

The lecture, entitled 'Everest: East Side Story', intertwines Stephen's personal experience of Everest, (he climbed the mountain via a new route and without the use of supplemental Oxygen in 1988), with the larger story of the mountain itself. The talk is packed with humour and histoy, offering a unique insight into the mountaineering community's relationship with Everest over more than a century.

By subscribing to the Alpine Club YouTube channel, you will receive a notification when the film goes live. You can watch it on the channel as it goes out on November 18 or catch up any time thereafter.

 

 

 

2021 Christmas Cards Now Available

This year's club Christmas cards feature a charming watercolour painting of Everest by Howard Somervell, reproduced with the kind permission of the Somervell family.

As with our previous Christmas cards, this year's card does not carry a date and features a simple seasonal greeting.

The cards come in packs of 10 at a cost of £7.00 per pack. (Postage and packaging is £2 for one or two packs and £3 for three packs).

You can purchase the cards here.




Also available are a selection of cards from previous years. These are offered at the reduced price of £5 per pack, with the same postage and packaging rates as the new cards.

 

 

 

Report: 3 November 2021

The first real snowy episode in our mountains this week! It even snowed at the valley floor.
 
There is a dusting on the ground from 1400m.
 
In the "moyenne montagne", there is between 20 and 30 cm depending on the sector and the altitude (20-25cm at Planpraz; 20cm at la Flégère, 25cm at Lognan; 30cm at Montenvers). The webcams of the valley can help you to get an idea (be careful with the dates of the pictures).
 
We're going to disappoint you but it's still too early to get out your skis or snowshoes!
 
On the other hand, this complicates things for hiking. It is now reserved for those with a good experience of the mountain (absence of markers...) and correctly equipped (decent boots, warm clothes, poles...). The sectors above 2000m are to be avoided for the moment in our opinion. On the other hand, low level walks such as the lower balconies or the access to the various buvettes (Floria, Chapeau, Cerro, Bérard and Dard waterfalls etc) is all fine.
 
Little information concerning the high mountains, we note about 50-60 cm at the Aiguille du Midi and there was a lot of wind.
 
Beware of the risk of avalanche (the first avalanche reports of the year are already out).

Skis or snowshoes will be useful for the approaches and it will be necessary to dig out the gullies!

 

Report translated from La Chamoniarde.

 

 

 

David John Ford

We are saddened to report the death of David John Ford, a member since 1975

Members can log in to submit their tributes or send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that they can be posted on the website. 

Report: 25 October 2021

At last some information but still not enough considering the activity at the weekend! To be continued...

Thanks to all the contributors who feed the information chain.

Watch out, the glacier approaches are laborious when you have to break trail (breakable snow crust) and remain delicate (crevasses and snow bridges only just covered).

 

Albert 1er Sector

- Chardonnet: teams on the Migot - the Escarra goulotte. The normal descent route from the top of the Chardonnet and the Col Adams Reilly are tricky. Beware that there is a false track too far to the right on the way down from the summit and many climbers get lost. The Charlet-Bettembourg is tracked without more information.

- Aiguille du Tour is being done by the normal route and the SW ridge of the Table de Roc only has a bit of snow on it. The Table de Roc couloir is not very attractive: a little more patience is needed.

 

Aiguille du Midi Sector

- South face of Aiguille du Midi : you can climb the Rébuffat : 1 snow patch on the 1st pitch.
- Sightings of teams on Vent du Dragon: no information.
- Arête des Cosmiques, Lachenal traverse and traverse of the vallée Blanche are being done.
- Triangle du Tacul: Chéré couloir is in good condition (abseiling down the route) - a team has been seen on the Contamine Mazeaud.
- One track of a descent on the normal route of Tacul: ??? No info.
- East face of Tacul : A team has been seen on the Super Couloir - Valéria goulotte on the Petit Capucin: Good conditions.
- Rognon du Plan: Some people on Pas d'Agonie I: Good conditions. It looks like Pas d'Agonie II is also possible.

 

Torino Sector

- Traverse of the Aiguilles Marbrées: In good condition
- Tour Ronde - north face / grand Flambeau : see our route page

 

Aiguilles Rouges

The rock is dry on routes with the right aspect. Be careful with the aspect: it is autumn and the sun is "dropping" quickly in some areas, even in the south and it gets cold quickly! (Example: Frison Roche route at Le Brévent).

 

Hiking

This is the magic time of autumn! Paths with the right aspect are dry but be careful with the aspect because a covering of snow and/or ice (from about 2200m) can make some passages tricky even at medium altitude.

Equipment and markings have already been removed in many areas, so you will need to be independent in terms of navigation. Some footpaths are currently closed for work; a list of current closures is available on The Chamoniarde website.

 

 

 

Women With Altitude - Joint Exhibition to Highlight Female Alpinists of the Last 100 Years

Women With Altitude - Joint Exhibition to Highlight Female Alpinists of the Last 100 Years

2021 marks 100 years since the foundation of The Pinnacle Club, one of the UK’s only all-women climbing clubs. As part of their centenary celebrations, the Pinnacle Club have partnered with the Alpine Club to host ‘Women with Altitude’, an interactive exhibition that profiles ground-breaking female alpinists from the last 100 years of both clubs.

As in so many areas of history, the lives and accomplishments of female climbers have often been overlooked, forgotten or diminished. This exhibition seeks to rebalance that narrative by making the biographical details of these women’s lives accessible and by foregrounding their stories with the use of their own words and possessions.

Alongside biographical displays for the 12 featured climbers, visitors will also be able to listen to audio recordings via QR codes, (a smartphone will be necessary for this element of the exhibition), and view a number of films featuring the profiled climbers. It is our hope that a combination of traditional exhibition materials, such as artefacts and displays, alongside these interactive elements will bring these women to life for a modern audience and allow us all to more fully engage with their stories.

 

Micheline Morin, Nea Morin & Alice Damesme at the Aigle Hut after completing the Meije Traverse
Dorothy Pilley

The exhibition will link these historic stories to the present using a timeline of women's achievements that runs up to the present day and shorter profiles of contemporary female mountaineers.

The exhibition is located at the Alpine Club’s premises of 55 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3QF and will run from 8 November to 8 January with closures on the 9 November, 14 December and for the Christmas period of 20 December to 5 January.

It is open 10AM – 5PM Monday to Friday, with extended opening to 9PM on Thursdays.

Entry is free and on a drop-in basis, but we do ask that larger groups of 8 or more visitors make a booking in advance by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to ensure we can accommodate you. 

As part of the exhibition, the Pinnacle Club and Alpine Club have commissioned the production of teaching materials to be used by visiting school groups. The materials are linked to the national curriculum and are designed to accommodate children from KS2 to KS4 (11-16 years of age). If you are aware of any schools or youth organisations who may be interested in arranging a visit to the exhibition, please get in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.

 

 

Report: 21 October 2021

A beautiful end to the season allows us to enjoy the mountains. Here is some summary information about the high mountains.

The Aiguille du Midi lift reopens on Saturday 23 October until Sunday 7 November inclusive.  

There has been a lot of activity around the Albert 1er hut. The classics (Aiguille du Tour, Petite Fourche, Tête Blanche) are in good condition. The Chardonnet is a little dry, but some teams have done the Forbes arête and the Migot spur (rimaye ok, variable snow below the spur, reasonable ice on the mixed section, easy snow and ice on the summit slope). The rimaye below the col Adam Reilly and the crevasses on the Glacier du Tour are tricky.  

Some activity on the North face of the Grandes Jorasses without further information Linceul; Colton-MacIntyre(hard snow, top part very dry) Desmaison, Rêve Ephémère (descending via the Canzio bivi hut and a few Abalakovs below the col des Grandes Jorasses on the Chamonix side to get down on to the Mont Mallet glacier). 

Climbing is still possible at low-level around the Envers des Aiguilles (depending on today’s bad weather).  

Thanks to the opening of the Plan de l'Aiguille lift last weekend several teams have done the Rebuffat-Terray as well as Beyond Good & Evil. Conditions may have deteriorated thanks to the warm weather in the middle of the week. Beware of overcrowding.  

The North face of the Aiguille du Midi still seems dry. 

Aiguille du Midi sector: we will know more after the opening of the lift. Remember that the Cosmiques hut is closed (but the Simond bivi shelter is accessible). There may have been teams on Pas d'Agonie and in the Supercouloir probably without topping out. The goulotte Valéria on the Petit Capucin is said to be in good condition. 

Lots of activity around the Helbronner (the Skyway lift is open until 2 November as well as the Torino hut). The Marbrées traverse is being done regularly as well as the Tour Ronde and the Rebuffat couloir. The Gervasutti couloir, the North face and the normal route are also being done. The goulotte “Filo di Arianna” on Mont Maudit has been done but we don’t have any further details.   

It continues to be a beautiful finish to the season on the normal route on Mont Blanc. Remember that it's much more committing at this time of year with winter conditions (cold, fresh snow, trail breaking often needed). The ascent to the Goûter is more technical and huts and lifts are closed. Only consider it if you have lots of experience in the high mountains. 

A few teams have done the traverse of the Bionnassay. The rock section is OK but the East ridge is said to be narrow and icy. 

Lots of people around the Conscrits hut in this good weather. Be careful of crevasses in the centre of the Trè-la-Tête glacier. The traverse of the Dômes is OK.    

Finally hiking and climbing in the “moyenne montagne”. Nothing particular to report apart from magnificent autumn colours. 

The Planpraz lift opens this Saturday 23rd October until Sunday 7th November inclusive. The Montenvers train and the Plan de l'Aiguille lift are also open. Days are getting shorter so think about leaving early and giving yourself a bit of extra time. 

 

 

Everest Exhibition Catalogue Now Available Online

Everest Exhibition Catalogue Now Available Online

Following the end of its run, the accompanying catalogue for our exhibition 'Everest by Those Who Were There - 1921, 1922, 1924'  is now available to view online via our Publications Page.

Written by the Alpine Club's Honorary Librarian Barbara Grigor-Taylor and with a foreward by mountaineering writer Peter Gillman, the catalogue wonderfully captures both the depth of historical material and the many human stories that were so wonderfully explored by the exhibition.

Replete with high quality photographs from the expeditions themselves, along with art works and artefacts, the catalogue places these early expeditions in the context of the time, detailing everything from how the idea of climbing Everest first came to be, all the way up to the blow-by-blow movements of Mallory and Irvine on their fateful summit push.

We are pleased to be able to make it free to all online so that anyone who was unable to attend the exhibition can still engage with the material. Whether you are an Everest expert or entirely unfamiliar with this era of mountaineering, you will doubtless find it an absorbing and informative read.

Read it here.