Chamonix & Alpine Climbing Reports Summer 2015
24 September 2015, Early Autumnal Alpine Conditions
As we have officially shifted in to the autumn season we have created another news page to deal with evolving autumnal conditions around the Mont Blanc Massif and Northern Alpine Chain.
Stay posted via the new post below and thanks for following our summer alpine reports during the hot alpine season of 2015! See you next year and good climbing / training / Skiing in the meantime!
17 November 2015, Dome de Miage North Face & Aiguille de Bionnassay Traverse
The Indian summer continues across the Northern Alps with dry, sunny & relatively mild weather giving stable conditions for many teams to enjoy high alpine autumn mountaineering. Our 3 day expedition took advantage of these conditions to enjoy an aes... more>
21 September 2015, Pt. Lachenal, Chere Couloir, Col du Midi Conditions
Beautiful high mountain weather and snowy conditions characterised the day for teams enjoying the lovely quiet atmosphere from the Aiguille du Midi today. Numerous teams were climbing the Chere Couloir and reporting good ice albeit with some loose blocks on the route as well. Teams were also climbing the Contamine Mazeaud, traversing the Vallee Blanche and enjoying sunny south facing rock, despite the slightly snowy ledges, on the South Face of the Midi.
We enjoyed some fun snow, ice & mixed pitches on the North Face of Pt Lachenal and did some good mixed climbing training and preparation for future bigger north face climbs.
More snow looks set to arrive over the next couple of days with a record new low rain snow limit of C. 1700m which will briefly herald the arrival of tough autumnal mountain conditions before a return to sunny & milder conditions towards the end of the week. The autumnal swing between high mountain snow storms, sunny mild weather & overnight freezes can be extremely productive from the point of view of building excellent icy mixed climbing conditions. So lets hope for an autumn with conditions as good as last year!
19 September 2015, Wiwannihorn, Steinadler Route
Very strong winds kept us out of the high mountains and we found a superb alternative Base Camp at the tremendously hospitable Wiwanni Hut. The easy walk to the hut was characterised by 1 word. Rain. After much soup, cake, coffee, and pottering the clouds finally started to part. We left the hut optimistically and were rewarded with a lovely clearing evening where we climbed the fine Westgrat to the summit of the Wiwannihorn (3001m). This presents an enjoyable PD style rock ridge with the odd bolt and lots of flashes of blue paint for climbers descending the ridge having climbed another route.
Next day we climbed the fine long Steinadler rock route. The grade is F5c if the direct option on pitch 7 is taken but otherwise the route is a fine, logical and sustained F5a. There is plenty of rock climbing and the route took us 5 hours from hut to summit and that includes a lot of enjoyable scrambling and moving together ground near the top of the ridge. Another team joined at this point from the even longer albeit less sustained Ostgrat.
The walk to the summit finally allows easy ground to truly appreciate the high alpine panorama. Dom, Weisshorn & Lagginhorn to the South, Bietschorn to the north and the Rhone and West Oberland to the West. The descent of the Westgrat and return to the hut for cafe and cake makes for a grand day and fine alpine rock route.
Other teams have enjoyed good trips up the Gran Paradiso and Weissmies recently although the fresh snow has most likely sealed the end of the standard climbing season on the Matterhorn & EIger. Many huts shut this weekend as well as many of the lower lifts like Brevent in the Chamonix Valley. Temperatures are also dropping and this with the fresh snow up high and lovely shifting colours in the Arve Valley are all signs that Autumn has arrived around the Mont Blanc Massif.
15 September 2015, Tete Blanche - Autumn Alpine Conditions On The Trient / Tour Plateaus
Heavy overnight snow on Sunday in to Monday morning left an impressive fresh coat of autumnal snow above about 2900m across the Mont Blanc Massif and considerably lower on Northerly aspects. We enjoyed the classic mini AD scramble above the Orny Hut on Monday before embarking on the long journey across the high Trient Plateau this morning. The glacier leading up from the Orny Hut to the Trient Plateau is now well crevassed and after zig zagging our way through these this morning - we took the rocky Trient to Orny path on the way down!
The Trient Plateau itself had a good 30cms of fresh snow with more in wind accumulation zones. The fresh snow on top of the previous lean & open glacier did nothing to add strength to the snow bridges but quite a bit too hide existing holes, so glacier travel required care, especially when trail breaking! It was a fairly meaty effort to even get across to the Tete Blanche this morning and we noted that all teams from the Albert Premier / Tour Glacier side did a U turn in the crevassed glacial bowl on the Southern side of the Tete Blanche.
Many teams headed over to the Aiguille du Tour but the teams coming from Albert Premier were pretty late indicating a substantial effort on the trail breaking front! We enjoyed a very snowy traverse of the Tete Blanche making the ascent via the enjoyable scrambly NW ridge with some fine short more technical pitches. The descent was made via a now tracked NE ridge. There was also a faint track on the Petite Fourche but no fresh tracks on the steep & icy looking Col Blanc.
9 September 2015, The Matterhorn
Autumn arrives early in the high mountains and the snowy pyramid of the Matterhorn viewed from Zermatt told a story or much cooler and snowier conditions than have prevailed during this years hot mid-summer period. The North Face was so snowy that one young & keen team of Brits tried to climb it. They did not get very far due to hard & thin ice, but top marks for enthusiasm!
The Hornli Ridge was our chosen route of ascent and conditions were snowy with considerable snow & ice on the ascent to the Hut from Schwarzee. A hard overnight frost only added to the magical feel of the mountain now in early autumn conditions. The snow was compact however and had a good track giving good progress and a pleasant contrast on some of the easier & looser sections. The steep, harder rock pitches above & below the Solvay hut had been totally stripped of snow and thus gave pleasant warm & dry rock climbing. Snow on the slopes leading to the shoulder, the fixed ropes and upper snow field gave fine conditions and the snowy traversing summit ridge to the Italian summit gave a fantastic climax to this ascent.
Other teams had climbed the Italian / Lion Ridge and were either descending to Hornli or returning to Cervinia via the same route. Watch our fun 1 minute film clip below with the fine summit panorama, taken from the Italian side of the Matterhorn summit ridge...
5 September 2015, Mont Blanc
Great to be back on Mont Blanc!
After a hot & bothered summer with the Gouter Hut closed and climbing this route not advised due to stone fall in the Grand Couloir, it was great to have cooler conditions which allowed us to climb the highest mountain in the Alps in enjoyable style. We descended from the Gouter hut this morning in cool & snowy conditions with fresh snow down to 2700m and a totally silent and still Grand Couloir. The traversing path across the couloir is very quick and easy and it felt like good early autumn conditions. Whilst this could of course all rapidly changed with warmer weather next week, it was good to see the Gouter Hut & climb in general 'back in business'.
Conditions above the Gouter Hut were good and a fine track led up through the Dome du Gouter Glacier, to Vallot Hut and all the way along the Bosses Ridge with very little exposed ice. Many teams were climbing the mountain via both the Tete Rousse & Gouter Huts with a few teams also traversing the 3 Monts Route from the Cosmiques Hut & Aiguille du Midi. With the Gonella Hut closed due a very crevassed glacier no tracks were seen coming this way or via the Bionassay Ridge although a hut guardian told us the latter had indeed been climbed recently.
1 September 2015, Matterhorn, Pollux, Breithorn, Castor, Lyskamm
Enjoyable 3 days climbing on the Zermatt skyline, initially on a snowy Matterhorn where teams were using crampons well below the Solvay Hut. The mountain was particularly busy as folk had noted todays arrival of snow and trying to squeeze the climb in before it's arrival. A good overnight freeze then gave fine snow conditions on the glacial journey over to Pollux for an enjoyable ascent of the Voie Normale via some brand new chains on the fixed sections. Good conditions were found the glacier between Kleine Matterhorn and Pollux was surprisingly good too considering the very hot summer.
Many teams were heading over to the Ayas hut with continuing journeys on to Castor and Lyskamm which were both being climbed. Many teams were also on the Breithorn doing the full traverse, half traverse & Voie Normale.
Large tracks were also seen on the Dufourspitze above the Monte Rosa Hut, although teams were apparantly doing the aller recur journey on the summit ridge rather than descending the fixed ropes to Silbersattel due to the large crevasses in the glacier below that.
Snow arrived from 1130 this morning with steady precipitation falling for most of the day as snow above around 3300m. This showery pattern looks set to continue for the next few days with some fine weather towards the weekend. The mountains should look pretty good and with a slight chill of Autumn already in the high Alps.
27 August 2015, Pt de Mourti, Mont Blanc & Tour - Trient Traverses
The very fine late summer weather has given great opportunities for getting high in the mountains and enjoying the fresher conditions than prevailed during mid summer. Our 3 teams out this week all enjoyed great traverses with a taxi ride from Le Tour to Champex and nights in the Orny & Trient Huts setting up a fine high level traverse of the Western Edge of the Mont Blanc Range. From Champex back to Le Tour via the Trient & Tour glaciers and climbing the Tete Blanche and Aiguille du Tour en route.
Our Aussie - Kiwi - Brit team left the high Base Camp of the Gouter Hut this morning and climbed the Bosses Arete to the summit of Mont Blanc before traversing the 3 Monts Route back to the Aiguille du Midi and Chamonix.
Above the lovely Lac, Cabane & Glacier de Moiry our Liverpool team traversed the Pointes de Mourti, 3564m before tagging on the Traverse to Dent de Rosses, 3613 m. described as a beautiful ridge climb on good rock.
Over in the Breggalia Tim & partner a slightly damp Cassin route on the North Face of the Piz Badile. Good effort. Teams enjoying the North Ridge also. Straightforward dry conditions reported on the approach terrace.
The traverse of the Pigne d'Arolla was also made but with reports of a pretty significant crevasse on the ascent from the Dix Hut just before the flat section leading to the Serpentine Roll.
21 August 2015, Pollux, Gran Paradiso, Aiguille Du Tour....Mont Blanc?
Marc & Hannah enjoyed sporting snow conditions on Pullux today as the Plan A climb of the Matterhorn was very snowy and the plan B climb of the traverse of the Breithorn was pretty snow too! Pollux was good though!
On the Gran Paradiso good conditions were found on the ascent via the Vittorio Emanuelle Hut and the bounding rocky ridge between the Chabod & Emanuelle Hut in ascent and on the normal glacier route on the descent. The upper Chabod Glacier was fine and enjoyably atmospheric with the fresh snow. Surprisingly the snow conditions were good all the way down the glacier and even down the final snow slopes in the hanging valley above the hut.
Our Mont Blanc team this week were pleased to hear of the re-opening of the Gouter Hut and indeed there is already a big track shooting up the glacier above the Gouter Hut. The Grand Couloir is already quite dry again and whilst teams at the Tete Rousse reported quiet conditions in the couloir, the temperatures for next week look to be around 30C in Chamonix again which is not the ideal situation to help stabilise things.
The training climb on the Aiguille du Tour today proved highly enjoyable, again with a somewhat refreshed & snowy glacier. Obviously the big holes remain but there was a good track weaving through them. The final bergschrund was thin but easy to cross and the rocky scramble back to dry conditions & completed without crampons.
Another very fine late summer day looks on the cards for Saturday before stormy & snowy conditions Sunday PM in to Monday and then much better weather from Tuesday onwards, initially cool, then getting hot again.
Bon weekend and please let us know if have any useful alpine conditions info and we can share it here.
18 August 2015, Gouter Hut Re-Opens
The Mairie de St. Gervais and Prefecture de Haute Savoie have announced the re-opening of the Gouter Hut at 1200 tomorrow, Wednesday 19th August. The official notice refers to the new snow that fell this weekend, see post below, and period of cooler temperatures.
Clearly an official re-opening of the hut does not mean conditions are perfect again, but the cooler, snowier conditions do currently present a step in the right direction for making the ascent of Mont Blanc via the Gouter route a more reasonable option.
Continuing cooler and showery weather with light snow down to 3000m would appear to continue this trend...although does not present very good weather conditions for climbing Mont Blanc! Although the weather does indeed also look good from Thursday, which would be the first summit day anyway, and also currently looking like good weather in to the weekend.
Clearly, with another period of hot weather, conditions could all change again and the notice refers to the possibility of another potential closure for the hut should this happen. If conditions remain ok, the hut is due to stay open until late September. Lets hope for a good few late summer and early autumnal ascents of Mont Blanc in the meantime.
18 August 2015, A Snowy Weekend In The Northern Alps
An abrupt end to the mid summer heatwave arrived in the form of very wet & cool mid August weather with plenty of fresh snow above 3000m across the Northern Alps. This has now cleared back up towards 4000m but left a more autumnal legacy in its wake! The Matterhorn went from being very dry & swift to being totally plastered. This morning there remains just a little snow around the Hornli Hut but with cool cloudy conditions prevailing and more snow due tomorrow the chances of climbing this week are slim at best. The team at the hut suggested that there maybe as much as half a metre of fresh snow in places higher up the mountain.
Our Matterhorn course enjoyed some Scottish winter climbing in the Italian Alps! Traversing both the Aiguilles Marbrees & Entreves provided a challenging but fun snowy / mixed mountaineering challenge. They have set sail for Zermatt but knowing there is no chance of climbing the Matterhorn. Pullux and the half Briethorn traverse are instead on the cards with an overnight stat at the Ayas Hut (3420m) on the Southern Italian flank of the Breithorn / Pullux / Castor area.
Other teams are heading for the Aiguille de Tour and Gran Paradiso later in the week both of which will have benefited from the fresh snow although care will be required from now right in to the winter after fresh snow starting to mask, but not bridge some of the big late summer crevasses. Mont Blanc remains 'closed' via the Gouter route and the fresh snow will hopefully have deterred parties from trying via the 3 Monts also, although conditions on both could improve if the snow stabilises and conditions remain cool.
14 August 2015, Lightening On The Gran Paradiso & First Taste Of Autumn On The Meteo
An uninspiringly cloudy and fairly mild morning above the Rifugio Chabod this morning gave way to the immediate and fairly spectacular arrival of a lightening storm higher up on the glacier. The team did a demi tour and made a hasty retreat to the hut! The lightening did not last long but the cloud, wind and rain intensified and there was no chance of a summit for team Zurich today.
Todays wet & much cooler weather is only the start of a pretty autumnal looking weekend with lots of precipitation falling as snow as low as 2600m. This, along with a cooler and showery situation next week should cool the mountains down a little and add some welcome fresh snow to the increasingly ice and bare glaciers. So whilst the long term conditions for climbing the Paradiso and perhaps even Mont Blanc improve, ascents of the Matterhorn & Eiger will become a lot harder with the fresh snow potentially putting both mountains out of condition until the next warm period of stable weather.
Whilst the Gouter Hut remains closed on Mont Blanc with that route strongly discouraged teams have been climbing the 3 Monts route and report improved conditions. Thus after the fresh snow from this weekend has fully stabilised that route will be seeing traffic again. Unfortunately the Gonella Hut will be closing for the season this weekend due to the heavy crevassing on the Italian pope route.
Other routes on the Italian side of the range continue to be climbed like the Tour Ronde, Entreves traverse and Dent du Geant, although the latter has a poor combination of tricky bergschrund and loose approach.
Teams doing the Dent Blanche last week reported already snowier conditions and did pretty much the whole route in crampons.
Bon weekend, it looks like a wet one here in the Northern Alps...
7 August 2015, Good Matterhorn Conditions & Teams On Mt Rosa, Lagginhorn & Chamonix Aiguilles
Whilst the new Hornli Hut is much improved and quite different from the old hut the unusual pre dawn alpine show of the 0420 departure for climbing the Matterhorn remains exactly the same. If you buy into the process...and follow the rules(!), it can even be fun! Teams do have to be fit to stay with the 'lead bunch' though and many aiming to just climb the mountain in a steadier time may be advised to leave the Zermatt Guides led bunch to it! The route finding advice is extremely helpful though - as finding your way through the maze of initial paths, gullies, grooves, ridges etc for the first time in the dark is unlikely to be successful!
We enjoyed good swift dry conditions yesterday and climbed to the summit in 3hrs 40mins from the base of the Hornli Ridge. Crampons were worn above the start of the fixed rope section for just the odd patch of snow on the north face section and then snowy / icy paths towards the top of the ropes and on the summit 'roof'. The descent took a bit longer than the climb. A bit more time was spent looking at the view on the way down!
The new hut is pretty flash and you can check a few images out on the High Mountain Guides Face book page.
Our other teams enjoyed traversing the Weissmeis, the normal route on the Lagginhorn and climbing 4 of the principal summits of the Monte Rosa from the Rifugio Gnifetti. We also met a team in Zermatt who had just enjoyed the fine 'Spaghetti Tour' on the Italian side of the Monte Rosa completing this great long round trip from Zermatt.
The Chamonix Aiguilles team got down late after an enjoyable traverse from Midi to Blaitiere and spent a relaxing evening and fine slow breakfast at the Refuge Plan de l'Aiguille.
On Mont Blanc, the Gouter Hut is again closed and that route strongly discouraged due to the stone fall in the Grand Couloir in the latest round of hot weather. The 3 Monts alternative route is being climbed a bit but is icy in places and requires very good cramponing. We would recommend climbing another peak at the moment. There are lots of other things that are still in good condition.
5 August 2015, Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix Aiguilles & Mt Blanc By The Gouter 'Fortement Deconseille'...
Great final day of Matterhorn training in the Aiguilles Rouges above Chamonix today. Climbing both of the real classics of this side of the valley gives a nice contrast in styles. The short pitches (up to F4b) on the Aiguille de l'Index gives ground more sustained & technical than anything on the Hornli Ridge whereas the traverse of the Crochues gives long sections of easy flowing scrambling which is ideal for gaining confidence in momentum and keeping a good pace up on moderate scrambling terrain. Perfect dry conditions for both routes with zero snow encountered on the approach / descent to either.
Our Chamonix Aiguilles traverse team made it to the Col de Caiman and reported "Having dinner at the Col Caiman. 5 Star Bivvi & watching the sun set over the Jorasses / Rochefort". Fantastic! A lot more climbing and descending for them tomorrow as well as our other teams attempting the Matterhorn, Weissmeis and Monte Rose over the next 2 days. Bon courage! Stay posted for conditions updates from all these peaks.
The return of 30+C temperatures in Chamonix has again caused some stone fall problems in the Grand Couloir on the Gouter / St. Gervais side of Mont Blanc and the Prefecture de la Haute Savoie & Maire de St. Gervais have renewed the status: 'Itineraire Fortement Deconseille', meaning they strongly advise changing your plans if you were planning to climb Mont Blanc by this route.
There are still lots of other good things to do in the high Alps - so best to change plans completely. Our team on the Mont Blanc course this week have climbed the Gran Paradiso, done some mountaineering training at Punta Hellbroner, completed the traverse of the Aiguilles Crochues and are now heading for the brilliant Gnifetti hut in order to climb on the Italian side of the Monte Rosa. An action packed week without Mont Blanc!
4 August 2015, Entreves, Tour Ronde, Peigne, Blatiere, Brevent. Enjoyable Late Summer Chamonix Conditions
The crevasses in the upper Vallee Blanche certainly paint a picture of dry late summer conditions. There are some big holes but this mornings journey around to the Col d'Entreves had a fine frozen track and gave very atmospheric views down Val d'Aosta from the col with the 3 big peaks in evidence on the Eastern skyline being Grand Combin, Matterhorn & Monte Rosa.
We made a very swift traverse of the Aiguille d'Entreves in almost completely dry conditions and without crampons. Other teams were climbing the Freshfield / SE Arete on the Tour Ronde. Various teams were making tracks towards / back from the Dent du Geant which looked fairly dry again after Saturdays storm. The approach also looked pretty dry and thus back in to later summer looser conditions.
Other teams climbing this week have been enjoying some classic rocky Chamonix outings and preparing for bigger projects in the good weather later this week. Petar & Neil climbed Nabot Leon on the West Face of the Blatiere, Pillier Rouge, the tough Voie Normale on the Aiguille du Peigne and the sustained trad 6b on Brevent today, Ex-Libris. They are hoping to traverse the Chamonix Aiguilles from Midi to Blatiere over the next couple of good weather days.
Matt & Tim have also climbed the Entreves, Cosmiques Arete & Dent du Geant in preparation for a Matterhorn ascent attempt on Thursday. Reports of rock fall high in the upper chimneys of the Cosmiques Arete today with some of the chockstones in the upper pitches being dislodged, thus care may be required here to avoid climbing under other teams if areas of loose rock remain on those final pitches on the north face.
3 August 2015, High Alpine Conditions Summary - Northern Alps
Good weather systems have been predominant over much over the Northern Alps in the last week or so with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. Saturdays poor weather did however put some considerable fresh snow down above 3500m in both the Mont Blanc Range, Valle d'Aoste and Swiss Valais.
Prior to that the dry conditions were still allowing very fast ascents of the Matterhorn and the Eiger remained in excellent condition. Teams also reported fine conditions from the Dent Blanche South Ridge. Other routes in the Valais were climbed in good dry conditions for the Rotgrat on the Alphubel which was then linked with an ascent of the Taschhorn normal route. The traverse of Mont Blanc de Cheillion was also completed in bonnes conditions.
Over in the Oberland the Aletschorn was climbed before the even greater challenge of walking all the way up to the Jungfraujoch was completed afterwards. A very long couple of days!
Back in Chamonix Saturdays storm covered the Grand Couloir in a thin layer of snow and cooler conditions appeared to have a temporary stabilising effect on the stone fall problem in the couloir. Numerous teams climbed to the summit today via the Gouter Hut. However, the return to hotter temperatures and conditions does not appear to be promising for later in the week where the combination of afternoon thunder storms, rain, and hot temperatures could all increase the likelyhood of stone fall.
On the Italian side of Monte Bianco the Gonella Hut are reporting OK conditions for the ascent of the Voie Normale from that side of the mountain. This is long & tough however and the lower crevassed section is best tackled early. One creative summit option to avoid most of the current hazards could thus be to climb via the Gonella to the summit, spend the night in the Gouter Hut and descend early back via cappuccionos galore at the Gonella hut and onwards and downwards down to Val Veny. This could be a long & tough but rewarding high alpine expedition!
Other popular rocky ridge routes like the traverse of the Entreves are being climbed but with some pretty impressive crevasses on the approach and return from the mountain on the glacier. The Dent du Geant has also been climbed in snowy conditions recently with fresh snow holding the loose approach together a bit, but this could deteriorate again quickly with more hot weather on the way.
The Gran Paradiso remains popular with the conditions holding up on the glacial ascent from the Chabod Hut and one of our teams making a very swift ascent and traverse over to the Vittorio Emanuelle Hut this morning. There are now 2 ladders in place for the ascent & descent over the summit ridge bergschrund.
31 July 2015, High Level Journey Into The Monte Rosa Sanctuary....
A real pleasure to enjoy such a stunning and very high mountain journey with so little technical difficulty....It's no wonder the ascent to Punta Gnifetti / Signalkuppe and visit to the highest hut in the Alps, Margherita Hut (4554m) is so popular. A charismatic alpine Rifugio (Gnifetti, 3611m), Stunning high mountain views, a real sense of high alpine geography and a long & physical glacier ascent combine to make this a special trip. We climbed from Gressoney direct to the Gnifetti Hut using the high ski lifts and enjoyable scrambling approach. This provides a great spring board for penetrating deep in to the Monte Rosa Massif and travelling through both the Italian & Swiss sides of the range. Whilst we just climbed the Punta Gniffeti summit itself there were many teams also climbing the Zumsteinspitze, Dufourspitze and many of the other subsidiary but fine summits of the Massif.
Other teams were also enjoying what looked to be good conditions on the ascent and traverse of Lyskam and the lower 'Nasso' route from the Quintino Sella Hut. Many teams were also climbing the more independent 4215m 'Pyramide Vincent' which provides a short & pleasant 2nd day climb from the Gnifetti or Mantova Huts or can be climbed direct from Punta Indren via the lifts of Gressoney or Alagna.
29 July 2015, Mont Emilius, Aosta
One option in the hot weather is to avoid snow completely and it's still possible to adopt this strategy on some pretty big routes (currently including the Matterhorn!). We opted to head south in to the beautiful Italian Val d'Aosta and use the ski lifts of Pila to leap frog a few hundred metres up the walk in to lovely Rifugio Arbolle (2510m). This provided a fine Base Camp for our ascent of the entirely rocky and not very technical ascent of the South Ridge (F+) of Mont Emilius (3559m). The summit towers 3000m above the city of Aosta and offers remarkable views across the valley over to the Swiss Valais as well as further South to the main Gran Paradiso chain.
The ascent from the hut, or, in our case, from the top of the Pila Chairlift is quite long and physical and although does not have any real climbing difficulty, presents a sustained ascent on rough rocky ground, boulder fields and then the sustained easy scrambling of the South Ridge. Various other teams had climbed the North West Ridge of the mountain which is equipped with a Via Ferratta route which can be accessed from the Rifugio Arbolle or the higher Federico Zullo Bivi Hut (2912m).
The ascent of Emilius is only one of many walking and mountaineering options from the Arbolle and a visit to this beautiful area offers an interesting geographical insight in to this part of the Italian Alpine chain linking the Paradiso National Park to the South and the high Italian - Swiss Frontier mountains to the north. Our onward journey took us further down the Valle d'Aoste before re-ascending the Gressoney Valley to make tracks on the very high glaciers on this South side of the Monte Rosa Massif...
27 July 2015, Italian / Lion Ridge On The Matterhorn Closed Due To Rockfall Danger...
Unfortunately more news of rock fall causing problems in the high Alps this morning. Despite the good dry conditions on the Swiss / Hornli side of the mountain serious rock fall on the way to the Carrel Hut has resulted in the Mayor of Cervinia officially closing the route until further notice.
Re-opening depends on the clean up operation of loose rock and of course weather & conditions in the meantime.
Over in the Italian Val d'Aosta the guardian at the Vittorio Sella Hut above Valnontey is reporting poor conditions on the Gran Serra (3552m) with teams not climbing it any more due to the effects of the hot weather on the glacier & snow conditions in general. Lower down the Val d'Aosta but higher up on the Monte Rosa the team at the Mantova Hut are still reporting good conditions for the glacial ascent on to the high peaks of the Monte Rosa and Margherita Hut.
In other better news, over in the Swiss / Italian Bregaglia Alison has just got back from a great trip climbing 60+ pitches of quality high mountain granite including the uber classic 'Cassin Route' on the North Face of the Piz Badile.
A long, tough and brilliant day's alpine mountaineering on the world's most iconic mountain, The Matterhorn. There can be few alpine climbers (or even armchair climbers!) who have not dreamed of scaling this strikingly beautiful peak. The classic route starts from the pic... more>
26 July 2015, Swift Matterhorn Ascent & Chamonix Conditions Round Up
Yesterdays snow on the Matterhorn settled below the Solvay Hut but cleared very quickly today only leaving snow above the shoulder. Thus crampons were required for this section which had been previously totally dry. Good dry conditions have prevailed for the Hornli Ridge although the flash new hut has not been particularly busy. Conditions on the Eiger continue to be very good with the hut Mittelleggi Hut full again over the next few nights.
Chamonix presents a mixed bag with some dry & crevassed glaciers and messy / loose rocky areas although parts of the range still have reasonable snow conditions. Teams doing the Aiguille du Tour this morning reported good conditions on the glacier with a decent overnight re-freeze and easily managed bergschrund. Teams also doing the Purtscheller South Ridge. Surprisingly a team also just completed the Midi Plan traverse and although they experienced some icy sections and soft snow on the South side completed the full aller retour journey albeit in a fairly long day!
Rocky options are currently more popular in Chamonix with teams climbing the Moine above the Courvecle Hut as well as the Nonne and in similar lower, rocky and quite technical fashion - the Aiguille Croux above the Monzino Hut has received lots of attention. Whilst the Aiguille de la Bernangere is being done from the Conscrits Hut the other classic and more snowy options from there, like the Domes des Miages & Mont Tondu are not in good condition with dry / icy sections / crevasses / stone fall.
Our Mont Blanc teams avoided the mountain last week (Gouter Hut still closed by the Maire of St. Gervais) but climbed some excellent alternatives above Cervinia on the Breithorn & Italian side of the Monte Rosa Massif as well as rock routes around the lovely Swiss Wiwanni Hut (including the 15 pitch Steinadler Route) and Chamonix Aiguilles Rouges.
This week we have teams hoping to climb in the the Gran Serra, Mont Emelius & visit the super high Margherita Hut, all above the Italian Val d'Aosta as well as climbing the Gran Paradiso, Eiger & Matterhorn. We also have teams looking for lower & warmer but more technical rock climbing options at the Chamonix Brevent & the Col des Aravis and Col de la Columbiere so stay posted for conditions updates from some of these trips.
More fresh snow is forecast this evening above around 3500m although only around 10-15cms at 4000m and then a relatively cool & dry week looks installed until later in the week.
23 July 2015, Multi Activity on The Eiger & Bernese Oberland Conditions...
The effects of the hot summer so far are less prevalent in the Oberland than the Mont Blanc Massif. More frequent storms seem to have kept things a little cooler generally although the glaciers are still pretty dry. Snow conditions however remain reasonable with lots of teams climbing the Monch & Jungfrau each day when reasonable overnight conditions have left the snow firm enough. We climbed the Monch in preference to the Jungfrau as a wet & warm storm passed through during the night. Snow conditions were fine although the descent had some soft & thin sections in the track over a firm - icy base.
Conditions for the Eiger traverse were good with many teams arriving at the Monchsjoch Hut via the Mittelleggi Ridge and Eiger Summit. We took an easier path for our approach on this occasion and enjoyed the combination of the Eiger North Face Via Ferrata, easily accessed by a pleasant walk along the Eiger Trail from Eigergletcher station - with an ascent by the Jungfraujoch railway and easy walk along the pisted track to the hut.
We met other teams who had been rock climbing on the North Face including an ascent of the Geneva Pillar (reported as fairly hard & bold 7a!) although not the last few crack pitches which were wet after recent storms.
Back in Chamonix conditions remain generally very dry although temperatures have been freshened by yesterdays big storm. High on the Grandes Jorasses North Face there has been many ascents of the Walker Spur but increasingly reports of serious rock fall from the Red Chimneys with at least one serious accident due to stone fall here.
Watch our 1 minute Monch Summit Panorama and brief Oberland conditions report here:
17 July 2015, Difficult & Dangerous Conditions on Mont Blanc...
The photo here shows an idyllic view of the Mont Blanc Massif this morning, taken from the lovely little ski station at Plan Joux above Passy. Conditions on the mountain however are far from idyllic and the very sad news came in yesterday of a fatal accident in the Grand Couloir. The accident took place whilst crossing the couloir at 0430 in the morning and was as a result of stone fall, with the victims companion being able to shelter and alert the Mountain Rescue team (PGHM).
The fact it was so early in the morning and the fact that there is now very little snow left in the Couloir itself points towards deeper instability in the rock than just the normal sun softened snow releasing loose stones. The extremely hot weather has continued for over 3 weeks now and this comes on the back of a relatively low snow volume winter and some very heavy rain, even high up the mountain in the late spring time.
The resulting hot & dry conditions appear to be de-stabilising the already loose rock in the couloir even further and conditions have become unjustifiably dangerous due to the elevated risk of stone fall. This has led to the Compagnie des Guides de St. Gervais suspending ascents of the mountain by this 'Voie Normale' route. Our teams have already made alternative arrangements to climb other fine mountains like the Gran Paradiso, Weissmeis & Monte Rosa.
The alternative route via Chamonix and the Aiguille du Midi is being climbed but is also not without its objective dangers and subjective hazards. Whilst there is generally a good track up the Mont Blanc du Tacul Voie Normale, there are widening crevasses (one currently bridged by a fixed ladder) and a delicate icy section between the Mont Maudit shoulder and the Col de la Brenva. The track is reported as very narrow (10-30 cams or "only wide enough for 1 boot!") with icy ground around it. This means many local Guides are only taking 1 guest on the route and, even then, only strong & competent climbers with existing experience.
So, if you have come to climb Mont Blanc, what to do? The answer for most teams is simple. Climb something else which is in safer & better condition. The Monte Rosa for example, 2nd highest peak in the Alps is reporting many daily ascents with good conditions on both the track on the glacier and dry rock on the summit ridge. That is also a tough ascent and infact somewhat more technical than Mont Blanc and almost as physcial. The Gran Paradiso offers a steadier ascent of a 4000m peak in this lovely Italian National Park. There are of course many other very fine alpine objectives and climbing in Chamonix which can be sought out and exercising this flexibility in planning and decision making is a crucial part of alpine mountaineering, staying safe & enjoying your time in the mountains.
Good & safe climbing, best wishes & bon weekend, Rob.
16 July 2015, Mont Blanc Massif, Swiss Valais & Val d'Aosta Alpine Conditions Round Up
The hot weather continues! Yes, that's 3 weeks of hot & sunny weather in the high northern Alps now. Great for getting up high and enjoying the mountains, especially on rocky routes...or very high snow routes with a good track! Some storms forecast for this weekend may freshen things up a little but the hot weather goes through into next week as well. So, we'll start with the good news but there is some 'not so good' news afterwards!
The Good News....
High alpine rocky itineraries are in great shape as the snow has been fully stripped back. Teams have been climbing the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses as well other classic high rock alpine routes as discussed in posts below. The Diable Ridge has just been done in fine dry condition although the approach was mainly rocky & loose. The descent of Mt Blanc du Tacul was reported as in good quick condition now there is a ladder across the gaping crevasse! Many teams have been leaving the Chapoua Hut for the traverse of Les Drus with conditions still ok on the glacier.
Other classic accessible Mont Blanc 'mixed' routes like the Cosmiques & Entreves Aretes have become very dry so are in essentially 'easy' conditions with crampons only required on very short sections or, for some teams, not at all. By contrast some of the easier snow objectives have become icy which can actually offer some more interesting climbing and good 2 tech tools training e.g. the North Face of Pt Lachenal & Petite Aiguille Verte.
News from the Swiss Valais, Grand Combin & Bietschorn in this morning. Decent conditions on the rocky Metier Ridge from the Valsorrey Hut with teams climbing each day. Teams also traversing the Bietschorn via the East & West Ridge as well as North Ridge although the dry conditions on the latter are not ideal according to the hut.
High in the Monte Rosa range snow conditions remain ok with many teams climbing the Dufourspitze each day from the Monte Rosa Hut above Zermatt. The Gnifetti Hut also report ok conditions for accessing the remarkably high Margherita Hut (at 4554m, take your paracetamol!) although the glacier is quite open and crevassed leading up to the Col Vincent at 4088m.
Further up the Val d'Aosta and in to the The Gran Paradiso National Park - The Paradiso traverse continues to work from the Chabod although the crevasses are big. The route from the Vittorio Emanuelle Hut is less crevassed but now dry in the approach valley with some bare ice at the base of the glacier. Teams are still doing the Tresenta from the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle.
Above the Sella Hut in the Valnontey / Cogne region of the Paradiso Park, decent conditions were being reported on the Gran Serra (3552m) with it's steady North Facing glacial ascent and conditions for the Grivola seemed unsure although there must be very little to no snow left on the face of the normal route although that would equally apply to the approach couloir which would be rocky & loose.
The Not So Good News.....
The hot weather & lack of overnight freeze has caused major snow recession and thus most snow itineraries, unless they are super high, have been adversely affected. Crevasses are starting to open right up, sections of lower delicate snow routes have icy sections and untracked snow is not a good option unless there is an uncanny overnight freeze!
The traverse of the Tre la Tete ridge above the Conscrits Hut has been in poor condition with rotten snow and the guardian advising against climbing at the moment. The Aiguille du Tour has a large bergschrund which still passes but has a delicate snow bridge as does the route up to the Tete Blanche with big crevasses on the Tour Glacier. The approach to the Dent du Geant & Arete Rochefort is dry, which means loose and some sections of the Arete itself are also icy.
Whilst snow conditions high on Mont Blanc (above the Gouter Hut) are still good the deterioration in the Grand Couloir has caused major stone fall - both from the melting & receding snow but also significantly from patches of bare loose rock that have been de-stabilised in the hot weather and produced some big & serious stone falls down the couloir. Thus whilst some teams still proceed, many Guides are now no longer climbing that route until an improvement arrives with cooler / snowier weather. The 3 Monts route has been climbed via the Cosmiques but has a pretty icy section between Mont Maudit shoulder and the Col Brenva, so this is also not in particularly good condition.
Thus in summary best to head to rocky routes or snowy routes which are both very high and have a very good track....and get up early....and climb fast!
Good climbing & please keep us posted of any alpine conditions from your own trips via the comments button below.
10 July 2015, Hot & Sunny Weather Producing Good Conditions For Eiger & Matterhorn Ascents...
In stark contrast to the wet & cold summer of 2014 the last few weeks here in the Northern Alps have been a heatwave. Whilst this has caused problems for some snowy & mixed routes it has stripped back some of the high mountain rock ridges well and produced good "correct" conditions where dry high mountain rock is the order of the day. Both the Hornli Hut on the Matterhorn & Mittelleggi Hut on the Eiger are open and hosting guests who are currently climbing the Hornli Ridge & Eiger Traverse via Mittelleggi & down the South Ridge.
Also in the Bernese Oberland, good conditions are reported from the Monch & Jungfrau normal routes although folk are starting very early to avoid the hot conditions & soft snow later in the morning. Our team on the Jungfrau today reported some steep icy ground near the top of the Voie Normale.
Good news for our various teams planning Eiger & Matterhorn ascents in the coming weeks.
Here in the Mont Blanc range, teams have profited from the dry & sunny weather to make the most of the high altitude rock and the Central Pillar of Freney has been climbed as well as the Diable Ridge on Mont Blanc du Tacul and several teams have started the summer season on the Grandes Jorasses Walker Spur. The Traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles has also been climbed recently.
7 July 2015, Fast Forward To Late Summer Conditions In Gran Paradiso National Park & Mont Blanc
Hot, sunny & dry conditions with the absence of an overnight freeze have made a big impact on snow conditions in the GP NP. We still enjoyed a fine traverse of the Paradiso via the Chabod Hut and down via the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle but there was some pretty soft snow, puddles and, moreover, significant crevasses opening up. The route went fine but snow & glacier conditions now feel more like late summer rather than early summer.
A team were approaching the Paradiso North Face but with a certain amount of reticence! Not surprising considering the pretty bright shade of blue indicating the amount of ice now on the central section of the face. The Ciaforon North Face looked a lot worse with dirty, dry and rocky conditions although a team seemed to be making good progress on the Ciaforon Voie Normale.
Over on the St. Gervais side of Mont Blanc conditions in the Grand Couloir were unsurprisingly poor with reports from several teams that they turned back before crossing the Couloir due to rockfall. Snow conditions above the Gouter however are good. The 2nd half of the week looks a bit cooler.
3 July 2015, Brilliant Middle & High Mountain Rock - Orny & Purtscheller
All the talk of the problems of the heatwave have ignored the fact that there is lovely high mountain weather with warm & dry rock even at high altitude. We profited from this with 2 fun alpine rock days based at the lovely Cabane d'Orny above Champex Lac on the Swiss side of the Mont Blanc range.
After a swift hut walk in and cool indoor lunch we made tracks for the base of the La Classique South West Face of the Aiguille d'Orny (3167m). A fine mountain breeze made for pleasant conditions and we enjoyed 9 pitches of fine granite up to F5b with a brilliant wall pitch just above half height. There are various new bolts & anchors on the route & summit block, but some others have been removed with the idea of giving a slightly wilder feel than just a mountain sport route. This has certainly been achieved and we used much of the medium sized rack of cams & a few nuts.
This morning dawned quite cloudy and with a stiff SW breeze there was anything but a heatwave on the abrupt first pitch of the Aiguille Purtscheller (3478m). This is a brilliant 5a pitch up a cracked wall with great high mountain granite, good climbing and excellent protection. The first belay is then fully bolted but none of the others were until the summit block.
The Dulfer Chimney at half height also provides a memorable pitch of steep flakes followed by rattling back & foot chimneys over 'blocs coince!'. Whilst in theory the final pitch has the only 5b move on the route, this is very short, well protected, enjoyable climbing and just a couple of long reaches from the summit! Many new rappel stations adorn the descent, as does quite a bit of loose and broken rock - so care is required to avoid jammed ropes and rockfall.
5 days, 5 routes and 5 good leaps forward along the tough road to 'Becoming Alpinists'. A great team who will hopefully be back for more - and our next progression course - 'Chamonix Alpinist'.
Bon weekend & good climbing....
1 July 2015, Mountaineering Training on Aiguille d'Entreves
Fine AD ridge traverse high on the French Italian Alpine border giving a lovely high mountain feel with very mild conditions and warm sunny rock. our Becoming Alpinists team made a good job of picking their own route along this impressive and exposed ridge. There are also some pretty easy moving together sections for practicing taking coils and moving together as well as the interesting issues around the 4 short pitches in descent and whether to down climb or abseil. A grand day out mountaineering & training.
30 June 2015, Alpine Boot Camp Continues on Pt Lachenal, Col du Midi
Our team 'Becoming Alpinists this week took to the steep snow & ice for perhaps the last time this week - if the forecasts for nearly 40C are correct at least! The great weather however was giving loads of teams a fun day in the mountains and we found some fun snow, ice & mixed pitches on the North Face of Pt Lachenal.
Lots of other teams were climbing most of the Col du Midi classics on rock & snow including the Tacul Voie Normale, Cosmiques, Arete Laurence, Frendo Spur, Midi Plan Traverse, Left Edge Route etc as well as the traverse of the Vallee Blanche.
Teams were also enjoying the warm temperatures for sunny high altitude rock climbing on the Tacul Satellites of Petit Capucin (Roi de Siam), the Salluard Route on the Pic Adolphe Rey and Lepiney on the Trident in the same area.
29 June 2015, Alpinist Training in the Aiguilles Rouges
Day 1 of our Becoming An Alpinist saw a fit and strong team tackling various pitches of rock climbing up to 5b, scrambling & rope work training in the lovely Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve. After rock climbing we moved together along the fine alpine ridge traverse of the Aiguilles Crochues. The snow cover in the Rouges is now spartan and it is possible to access the ridge via the final steep approach couloir with only a few foot steps in snow. The descent held snow well infact however and it was not far from the Refuge before we left the snow line & took cover with cafe and cakes in the Refuge Lac Blanc.
Other teams made a half aller retour on the Midi - Plan traverse reporting slightly icy conditions, delicate sections & care required. With temperatures this week well in to the 30s in the valley this is likely to continue rapidly!
One strong team of British Guides made a quick ascent of the Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi North Face & reported good conditions - even on the snowy upper face despite the late start from the first Midi lift. Just getting a little soft right at the top.
26 June 2015, Aiguille d'Entreves - Tour Ronde & Chamonix Weekend Conditions
Perfect summer alpine weather continues in the Northern Alps with good early summer snow conditions high on the glaciers & faces but with generally dry warm rock for sunny high mountain cragging as well.
There were many teams out enjoying these good weather & conditions from Punta Hellbroner today and the first lift at 0730 was well packed. Many keen teams were heading over the Gran Capucin for hard high altitude rock climbing with a small Base Camp of tents established on the glacier below. The good snow approach is preferable at the moment to later in the season when the rock fall risk increases. Teams were also climbing Roi de Siam on the Petit Capucin and various rock routes the Pic Adolphe Rey. Whilst the Glacial access to the the E/ Eidge of the Pyramide du Tacul looked ok the whole bowl had been swept by a large serac collapse from the glacier above with much debris down in the upper Vallee Blanche area.
The tracks crossing the VAllee Blanche however were threefold with a choice of upper middle or lower version! Various teams climbed the Tour Ronde via the North Face, Winter / Voie Normale Route and the Freshfield Arete route, all of which looked good & snowy for the moment. We traversed the Aiguille d'Entreves in pleasant dry & sunny conditions with no crampons for the ascent after the initial snowy rock section but used crampons for the descent & continuing traverse both along the rest of the Entreves and then up the West Face of the Aiguille de Toule, along the North Ridge to finish, all on good stiff snow before a less attractive descent of the East Face in soft wet snow mixed with loose rock.
Various teams also climbed the Vierge and Petit Flambeau North Ridge, Aiguilles Marbrees and were heading up towards the Dent du Geant & Rochefort Arete in good looking snow conditions. A track was also leading up to the ridge near the Col de la Fourch Bivi Hut & Frontier Ridge. In other local news of this area - the Torino Hut will now be open until late August as building works are delayed.
In other parts of the range, the Migot Spur on the Aiguille du Chardonnet was climbed today in good conditions (for the descent also, for now) and the South Ridge of the Aiguille Noir was also done with reports of more bolts on the notoriously loose & tricky descent. A "PD" followed by a lot exclamation marks!!! The Metrier Spur on the Domes des Miages North Face was also climbed recently as was the Sans Nom Face of the Aiguille Verte as was the North Face of the Gran Paradiso.
Lots to do & good weather to boot...Bon Weekend in the mountains...
25 June 2015, Mont Blanc, Weissmies & Lagginhorn
We had various teams enjoying the excellent crisp early summer snow conditions both high on Mont Blanc and, across in the Swiss Valais. on the Weissmies traverse & Lagginhorn ascent today. Snowy conditions up high combined with cool clear nights gave fine snowy conditions and fantastic mountain views.
The Guide on the Lagginhorn commented it was the best conditions he had done the voie normale in 15 years. The Weissmies South Ridge was in enjoyable snowy conditions, still crampons all the way. Mont Blanc was good and snowy with plenty of snow still in the Grand Couloir, although this will steadily diaperse as the temps this week exceed 30C in the valley.
22 June 2015, Gran Paradiso & Tresenta
A perfect chilly alpine morning in the Gran Paradiso National Park saw 12/12 of our Climb the Gran Paradiso team reach the summit, despite the chilly northerly winds. The glacier was in good early season condition and the snow pack well re-frozen with a strong overnight freeze.
One team also climbed Tresenta this morning and reported fine snowy conditions with some slightly exposed cramponing near the summit.
Team members now moving on from the Gran Paradiso to climb Mont Blanc & The Weissmeis. Weather forecast looking promising. More conditions info to follow....
19 June 2015, Blanc, Tour Ronde, Marbrees, Dent du Geant
Another stormier than forecast morning was in full swing during our 0400 breakfast at the Torino this morning. After returning to bed for an hour or so the wind seemed to be abating and pockets of blue flickered through the clouds. We set off in 10cms of fresh snow but more significantly than the fresh snow, from a glacier travel / progress point of view, was the unfrozen old surface below. Progress was slow going and the deteoriating visibility deterred any thoughts of heading round to the Tour Ronde. We made a rapid & fun ascent of the Aiguille de Toule voie normale on the East Face.
Yesterday we had traversed the Aiguilles Marbrees whilst other teams climbed the Dent du Geant, turned back (due to wind) on the Arete Rochefort and also climbed Mont Blanc via the Gouter Hut.
Previously teams had climbed the Tour Ronde North Face in reasonable snowy conditions.
12 June 2015, Cosmiques Arete
Somewhat wilder weather than anticipated greeted the climbers at the Aiguille du Midi this morning. I think we were all pleased to find the snow ridge equipped with fixed rope for the alpine Academy as we descended in a mini blizzard! We forged round to the base of the Cosmiques Arete with half a mind to divert for a brew at the Cosmiques Hut instead of starting the route.
A brief parting in the clouds and the promise of fun mixed wintery scrambling encouraged us onwards and we were glad we had. A very swift and good fun ascent followed with no queing at any point along the way.
We thought we were going quite fast and then we were left standing by an extremely fast solo climber, who turned out to be Killian Jornet. What a nice guy! He wasn't in such a hurry that he didn't stop for a brief chat!
11 June 2015, Aiguille du Chardonnet
Snowy early summer conditions persist high on the Tour Glacier and Aiguille du Chardonnet above the excellent new Albert Premier Hut. We were one of 4 teams climbing on the Chardonnet and one of two teams enjoying the snowy mixed traverse of the mountain via the Forbes Arete. The upper Tour glacier is still in good early summer condition and we made the long pre-dawn approach march via the left bank with only a few larger crevasses opening up but with a reasonable track and relatively good going.
Another team climbed the Migot Spur in good quick style whilst another team very much enjoyed the mixed conditions on the Gabarrou 79 Route.
The steeper snow climb over La Bosse was in good condition and the start of the Forbes was reached in 3 hours from the hut. The traverse then took another steady 3 hours with a fair bit of trail breaking, and a couple of slightly delicate passages of thin snow over ice. Otherwise very enjoyable climbing and a swift descent of the West Flank made on cool stiff snow descending to then make 3 abseils on a single 60m rope with the first one, down the steep granite wall and in to the snowy gully, just reaching the anchor.
The lifts being shut made for a long day with the walk to Le Tour on top of the route - but the excellent omelettes and salads at the all new Albert Premier provided a fine pit stop en route.
9 June 2015, Col Du Geant Conditions Round Up
Great to start the day by checking out the long awaited new lift on the Italian side of Mont Blanc - the Funivie Monte Bianco. After 4 years in the pipeline it has now been open a couple of weeks and running well. The massive windows & rotating structure of the lift really do enhance the remarkable views to the wild site of Mont Blanc as well as the more mellow Val Feret & Val Veny. There are decent new cafes at the bottom, mid & top stations so no excuses for letting the caffeine / sugar / pasta levels run too low!
There was a few cms of fresh overnight snow adding a pristine feel to the well covered glaciers and snow slopes. Teams had put in a track all the way up to the Dent du Geant / Arete Rochefort start and snow conditions walking round to make the traverse of the Aiguilles Marbrees were good in the track and not too bad out of it.
The traverse of the Marbrees itself is rapidly heading to full summer condition with several teams climbing the east ridge without crampons. All teams donned crampons for the snowier traverse of the South ridge and it's short icy traverse on the Eastern side.
In other news, staff at the Conscrits, Couvercle & Albert Premier Hut were reporting ok but not great conditions on the Domes des Miage, Mont Tondu & Aiguille du Chardonnet. Above the Couvercle the Moine was a little snowy whilst the snowy routes on the Droites & Courtes South face were a bit soft and waiting for a decent freeze.
8 June 2015, Col Du Midi Conditions Round Up
Lovely quiet early summer conditions around the Midi today - but with lots of handy tracks left over from the weekend. Handy as the snow around the Col du Midi was not well frozen and easier progress was made in the tracks. The current weather pattern of afternoon storms and a weak overnight freeze is not conducive to great snow conditions although they were fine on the North side of Pointe Lachenal which we made an enjoyable traverse of.
Many other teams were climbing a relatively dry early summer Cosmiques Arete and many teams were also climbing fine dry steep rock on the Midi south face which had generally been well stripped of snow. Teams were also climbing the Tacul normal route and making the traverse over to the Italian side of the range via the upper Vallee Blanche. The Panoramic Mont Blanc bubbles lift is now open so it's possible to do the Vallee Blanche aller retour using the lift to save walking both ways!
There were also boot tracks at the top of the North Face of the Midi leading up from the Mallory area up to the station. Ski tracks were seen in the serious Gervasutti Couloir as well as lots of ski tracks on the descent of Mont Blanc which was skied today in good condition.
4 June 2015, Early Summer Mountain Conditions Report for the Mont Blanc Massif
A wet May led in to a very warm & sunny start to June. Summer has arrived! Hot temperatures & strong sun have stripped a lot of snow back from the ledges on South facing crags and lower down even on shady aspects too. However, high up good snow conditions prevail on the glaciers and some fine snow & ice climbing has been done on the North Faces...keeping high mountain rock climbers & alpinists alike both happy!
Yesterday was a busy day on Mont Blanc du Tacul with lots of teams both climbing & skiing the mountain in decent condition. An 0500 start from the hut was actually a bit early for making the most of the spring snow softening slightly later. Conditions were also good for the ski traverse of the upper Vallee Blanche.
Whilst the more mixed & narrow routes on the Tacul, like the Gabarrou Albinoni have probably now been overly stripped until the autumn season, the other high snowy mixed classics like the Chere Couloir & Left Edge route were in good snowy condition. The Frontier Ridge on Mont Maudit was climbing in good condition & The Midi Plan traverse is also tracked.
Lots of teams have been climbing on the Aiguille du Chardonnet including the Migot, Forbes and Escarra with decent conditions on the snowy descent route. The Albert Premier Hut will be open from next week but the lift at Le Tour does not open until the 13th thus adding an extra couple of hours to the walk in / descent.
Lots of good snowy itineraries have also been climbed around the Conscrits Hut basin including the Domes Des Miage, Arete Metrier on the Miage North Face and the Aiguille Nord de Tre la Tete.
Up in the Argentiere basin favourable reports have come from teams climbing both the Swiss Route on the Courtes & Ginat route on the North Face of Les Droites.
5th June - Update - poor snow conditions high up where there is no track....
As an update to the positive comments about climbing conditions above - the very hot temperatures over the last day or so with out a decent overnight re-freeze have given some rotten snow conditions out of the tracks high on the glaciers. So care should be taken with route choice with regard to snow conditions - in the absence of a freeze - a good track is required!
18 May 2015, Good Snowy Conditions In the Northern Italian Alps
Snowy late spring conditions matched with lovely early summer weather have given some great high mountain mountaineering conditions. In training & acclimatisation for the Gran Paradiso we climbed the North Ridge of the Petite Flambeau and traversed the Aiguilles Marbrees from Punta Hellbroner. Both were in fine snowy conditions and a pleasure to climb. Both were accessed without snow shoes with only minor trail breaking.
Further south on the Paradiso the snow line had rocketed up the hill and was rapidly approaching hut level at 2700m although the last couple of hundred metres were still snowy and teams were using snow shoes here and higher up the mountain. Good snowy conditions prevail on the glacier all the way up to the shoulder and junction with the Vittorio Emanuelle route at 3750m.
The steep slope above that was in fine snowy condition as was the summit ridge. A bit more snow inbound on the forecast this week with snow down as low as 1700m which should maintain the good conditions once this settles.
The Gran Paradiso (4061m) is the highest mountain entirely within Italy and a constant snowy companion on the southern skyline from the Mont Blanc Massif. Lying in the beautiful Paradiso National Park this is a delightful high mountain area, set above the Italian Val d'Aosta and... more>
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