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Report: 13th March 2021

A quick update of the conditions in mid-March.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Albert 1er: April 4

- Argentière: March 13

- The Requin: March 19

- Les Grands Mulets: March 27

- The Conscrits: March 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Report: 3rd March 2021

This update is specifically for hikers and snowshoers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

  

Report 26th February 2021

Some information for the weekend!

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


Ski Touring :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alpinism/Ice Routes :

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

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

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


Snowshoeing/ Hiking :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Report 8th February 2021

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 08/02/2021

Some brief info at the start of the week.

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

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

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

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

No news from the high mountains (gullies etc).

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

 

Report 15th Jan 2021

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 15/01/2021

This was a week of mixed weather in the valley and the northern alps generally. The weather fronts from the NE have brought a lot of snow, with wind at altitude and a temporary re-warming, (giving some rain in the mid mountain.)

This has resulted in 50cm of new snow at the valley floor and 80cm to 1m at 2000m.

As one can imagine, the snowpack is particularly unstable. There is a high avalanche risk (4) which will remain for the weekend.   The avalanches could be impressive.

There is likely to be many people about, (especially tomorrow, Saturday, with a return of sunshine to the mountains.)  Nonetheless, caution is needed over the next days.

There will be numerous  PIDA* (avalanches set off by the pisteurs) on Saturday (lire l'info spéciale). Please, therefore, avoid these sectors at the times indicated.

Ski tourers should not go wherever.  Possible areas are at Les Houches, (Prarion), or where the slopes are less exposed ( < 30º) e.g.  Aiguillette des Posettes, there and back, chalets de Loriaz by the forest track, chalets de Chailloux, Tour des Ayères.

On foot it is best to keep to the signposted routes and to take snowshoes : e.g.  Granges loop (Vallorcine), Tines loop  (Chamonix), Bossons Glacier loop (Chamonix), Cerfs loop (Les Houches), Lac Vert loop (Servoz) and Barmus loop (Servoz). 

In general, the ice conditions are good but be aware of the avalanche danger, (on the approach and from the slopes above).  On Saturday morning the Argentiere true left bank is to be avoided due to PIDA. (setting off avalanches).

*PIDA (plan d'intervention de déclenchements des avalanches)

 

Report 06th Jan 2021

MOUNTAIN CONDITIONS 06/01/2021

The team at Chamoniarde wishes everyone a happy and successful year in the mountains.

The lifts remain closed, so the main activities are ski touring, snow shoeing and ice climbing.   

There is enough snow cover  to start skiing up from the valley floor, though be aware of stones on the descent, and also higher up in areas affected by the wind.

In the Chamonix valley the downhill ski areas, (Les Houches, Grands Montets, Balme) are popular with ski tourers.  Less popular are the Nants (Brévent) and Lanchers (Flégère) pistes.

Ski touring is also happening at Pormenaz from Plaine Joux, the Aiguillette des Houches, in the  Berard valley ("combat skiing" low down, average snow quality at Buet, better at the Col de Bérard) and in the Loriaz sector, (Tête de la Chevrette, Frête des Charmoz, Col de la Terrasse).

Glacier skiing has taken place to the Col du Tour Noir and over the Col du Passon (lack of snow low down on the Tour side, it is better to traverse to the Montagne de Péclerey path.)

Snow conditions are generally better at Val Montjoie, the Aravis and Chablais.

In Switzerland conditions are good at Bel Oiseau / Fenestral,  Catogne and the Col de la Forclaz (Croix des Prelayes, Pointe Ronde, Mont Arpille).

It is slowly getting colder and the conditions are improving for ice climbing. It is just possible to get something done at the Cremerie.  The artificial  site at Berard, (paid for and maintained by the Compagnie des Guides) is closed for the moment, (under formation.)  Conditions are good at the Argentière glacier, both at the rive droite (mur des Jumelles, count on 3/4 h for the approach with skis) and the rive gauche (mur des Dents de la Mer, EMHM : 1h30/2h ski approach).  Likewise, for the Cascade Loriaz area (here also best approached on ski).

Lastly, there are plenty possibilities on the signposted tracks, either with good footwear and poles or with snowshoes. The more adventurous can go to the chalets de Chailloux or Loriaz or in the Bérard valley. As a reminder, the buvette du Chapeau sector is closed because of a large landslip (lire l'arrêté).