High Mountain Guides / News / Chamonix & Alpine Mountaineering Reports Summer 2017

Chamonix & Alpine Mountaineering Reports Summer 2017

Dent Blanche South Ridge - Good conditions in mid - late August 2017

20 August 2017, Matterhorn, Dent du Geant & Weissmies

Conditions remain snowy on the Matterhorn despite the lovely sunny and warm late summer alpine weather. The nights have been fresh and the snow fall last week was significant. Teams were trying to summit yesterday but turning around in snowy conditions below the shoulder with crampons on from below, or well below, the Solvay Hut. Better weather to start this week and more teams trying should help conditions.

The snow benefitted the conditions on the Weissmies and our teams yesterday traversed the mountain from Almageller to Hohsaas in reasonable conditions and much improved from earlier in the summer.

The Dent du Geant was ok today, lean / patchy snow cover on the approach with loose rock in places but pleasant dry rock on the route. Likewise for the Aiguille d'Entreves which one of our teams also did today as part of Matterhorn preparation. Another team climbed the E. Ridge of the Grands Montets which gave an enjoyable accessible but not too busy scramble. The very first section is quite loose and the crevasses on the approach are significant, with a fixed rope and plenty of in-situ straw in place at the col!

15 August 2017, Dent du Geant & Dent Blanche & General Alpine Conditions

Reasonable conditions & lots of teams on the Dent du Geant today. The loose rubble approach was at least mainly still snowy with crampons on all the way to the Salle a Manger. Gav & James made good progress on this and will be transferring towards the next Dent - Blanche tomorrow. Plan A which was the Eiger which currently has well snowy conditions as Tim found out on the South Ridge today. He traversed the Monch which is a solid AD outing and much harder than the standard SE ridge from near the hut. The Jungfrau now has a track at least to the col.

The Matterhorn remains well snowy with no teams climbing in the last few days and more good sunny weather required. It looks like a couple more days of this or so before more snow on Saturday. Glacier conditions on the Italian side of the Monte Rosa are 'late summer' with plenty of crevasses which are avoided by a good track at the moment but would become serious and complicated if caught out in bad / snowy weather.

14 August 2017, Matterhorn, Eiger, Mt Blanc & General Alpine Conditions Update

The trend of hot summer weather was significantly interrupted at the end of last week as nearly 70cms of fresh snow fell at high altitudes in the northern Alps. The Mittelleggi Hut on the Eiger is currently closed due to heavy snow and poor conditions on the route. Likewise the Matterhorn appeared well snowy today and will need some hot & sunny storm free weather to bring it back in to normal summer conditions. With some more cool snowy weather forecast towards the end of the week this may not happen overnight!

Before the storm both the traverse of the Matterhorn via the Italian Lion Ridge and Eiger traverse were in good summer conditions, as was the Dent Blanche South Ridge. It was quite a major dump of snow so things will take a while to clear with the latter route probably coming in to enjoyable conditions first.

At the Jungfraujoch, whilst plenty of teams have been climbing the Monch, no one has been back high on the Jungfrau yet and the hut thought there were significant accumulations of fresh snow high on the mountain with warm and sunny day temperatures it was necessary to wait a few days before climbing again.

The Weissmies was climbed by lots of teams today with somewhat improved snowy conditions on the glacial northern side and enjoyable if busy climbing on the South side.

Chamonix also got a good dump of fresh snow high up and the Gouter Route on Mont Blanc was well plastered but with the track up to the summit from the Gouter hut going back in again quickly. Excellent weather today and lots team enjoying good summit conditions and we had teams climbing the Tour Ronde via Freshfield Arete, Les Perrons traverse, Cosmiques Arete and Rock climbing in the Aiguilles Rouges.

Over on the Tour glacier things were getting icy and the glacier is heavily crevassed with a tricky bergschrund to cross on the Aiguille du Tour normal route. The dump of snow may have improved the conditions on the icy sections but could actually make glacier travel more tricky with fresh snow obscuring old tracks and the view of fragile snow bridge, and big holes.

30 July 2017, Matterhorn & General Alpine Conditions Update

Earlier this week cool and snowy conditions presented a contrast to this summers overall context of hot, dry conditions. Whilst the mountains indeed need a lot more snow to improve the lean conditions, in the short term the fresh snow complicates both rocky routes and also adds a route finding complexity to the crevassed glaciers when fresh snow can hide holes and slots without actually adding any strength to snow bridges. So take even extra care mountaineering around on the glaciers at the moment!

On the Matterhorn, snowy conditions returned and made things difficult for our courses last week. In the end it was just too snowy & windy and teams enjoyed various other good alternatives including the very fine rocky high mountain ridge traverse of the Ecandies between the Trient Glacier and Val d'Arepette and some fine multi pitch granite rock climbing above the Orny Hut including the sustained and quite tough 9 pitch route up to F6a 'Geremaid', as well as the South Face of the Orny and 'Bon Accueil' 5c above the Hut.

Conditions remain tough and snowy on the Matterhorn and with strong winds forecast for the next few days and stormy showers today and later in the week. So another mixed week conditions wise despite some good sunny weather in the forecast.

Other teams have been climbing Mt Blanc, traverse of the Aiguille d'Entreves, Dorees, Les Perrons and East Ridge of the Grands Montets as well as the Weissmies and Lagginhorn. Tim broke trail along the 2nd half of the delicate Arete Rochefort, which was a good effort in reasonable conditions but somewhat slower and more delicate than usual.

19 July 2017, Mont Blanc Massif & General Alpine Conditions Update

The dry summer of 2017 continues with plenty of great high mountain weather! Whilst the heatwave temperatures have subsided somewhat the fine sunny weather continues allowing lots of high mountain activity despite the rather dry snow conditions. Many glaciers remain 'lean' with extensive crevassing and some fragile snow bridges and most snow & mixed routes, apart from very high altitude options, have suffered the consequences of a hot summer following on from a low snow volume winter.

However, as always, there are lots of good mountaineering options if a flexible approach is taken to prevailing conditions and the sustained good weather has made many superb high mountain itineraries possible. Both the Matterhorn and Eiger are now in good condition via the Hornli & Mittellegi ridges respectively with team summitting both peaks every day at the moment. Mont Blanc also is being climbed via both the Gouter and Cosmiques (3 Monts) routes.

We climbed Mont Maudit yesterday via the little north face above Col Maudit and then traversed the upper Frontier Ridge and connecting delicate snow & ice ridge to the summit. The traverse of the summit block was then made via a descent towards the Col de la Brenva and then via the fixed rope on the icy slope providing the crux passage on the 3 Monts Mont Blanc route.

The track over Mt Blanc du Tacul, Maudit and up to Mont Blanc was good and numerous teams were enjoying the ascent. Several teams were also climbing the Kuffner & Diable Aretes in dry conditions which is perhaps better for the latter than the former. The Triangle du Tacul looked unusually dry and icy and not in good condition although there was 1 team climbing a grey looking Chere Couloir. The Arete Laurence and Cosmiques arete were being climbed in rocky conditions but the track on Pt Lachenal again looked pretty icy.

Over on the East side of the massif the Aiguille du Tour is still being climbed from both Albert Premier and Trient Huts. Some big crevasses on the glacier but reasonable conditions on the peak. Par contre, the Aiguille du Chardonnet is not in good condition now and has not been receiving many / any ascents for a while due to the icy conditions on the classic ascent routes and the descent. The Petite Verte normal route is also in poor condition with icy slopes and loose dry rock exposed on ledges creating dangerous conditions, especially if busy. We climbed the rocky East Ridge of the Grands Montets which was an enjoyable and safer alternative.

Overall many teams are preferring rocky routes in the middle or high mountains in preference over attempting snowy / mixed routes. The traverse of the Perrons above Vallorcine has been popular and we have had numerous teams enjoying quality Chamonix rock climbing at Plan Praz, Brevent, Aiguilles Rouges & Chamonix Aiguilles.

At the end of last week we enjoyed some good mountaineering in the Swiss Valais Alps with the traverse of the Fletschhorn & North Ridge of the Lagginhorn before descending a very dry normal route on the Lagginhorn back to the Weissmies Hut. The snow couloir / slopes on the West Face of the Fletschhorn were fine but lean and melting fast so will not last much longer this summer season.

Conditions were also reported as reasonable on the Weissmies - South ridge and the descent of the North Ridge, albeit with somewhat steeper and icier conditions than normal on the latter. A strong team reported retreating off the Rotgrat on the Alphubel due to thin climbing on the upper towers to access a bolt, tough windy weather and overall having a hard time!

Snow conditions in the Monte Rosa Massif seem better than in many other areas and whilst there is still heavy crevassing above and around the Gniffetti Hut there was a good track and all the classic easier summits on this Gressoney side were being climbed. The Dufourspitze itself was also being climbed in reasonable conditions albeit with the odd icy bit.

26 June 2017, Petite Aiguille Verte - Les Grands Montets, Argentiere

Few snowy high alpine places have been spared the effects of the triple whammy of a poor winter snow volume, quite dry spring and very hot early summer. The Grands Montets is no different and late summer conditions prevail already with low snow volume and much exposed loose rock. There was some enjoyable front pointing training up the lower easy angled ice wall (the right hand side of this is exposed to rock fall from the messy Voie Normale route above).

Numerous teams were climbing the West Ridge 'integrale' which adds the lower loose rocky section to join the Voie normale higher up and does avoid the now messy normal approach to the ridge from the glacier. The low snow volume has left numerous large loose looking rocks sitting exposed in the icy slopes. We enjoyed a very short but fairly steep few moves of ice climbing through the bergschrund on the lookers left of the North Face. The snow conditions on the face above were quite good with steady climbing and the odd screw leading to the upper crescent snow col and mixed ground above leading to the summit.

Most teams were doing a traverse route up the West Ridge and down the North Ridge via a mix of abseils, down climbing and a bit of negotiating of loose rock and soft snow on the lower descent back to the station. A few teams were also heading off down the Glacier des Rognons, down towards the NE ridge and beyond.

25 June 2017, Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Middle Mountain Rock!

Our teams attempting Mont Blanc via the Gouter side this week postponed their ascents due to increased stone fall risk in the Grand Couloir but they made some fine alternative ascents including accessing the high peaks of the Monte Rosa from the Italian Gressoney Valley. A good couple of nights were spent at the hospitable Gnifetti Hut which has quite a few crevasses around the hut but with reasonable going higher up on the glacier to reach the Zumsteinspitze, Signalkuppe and Ludwigshoe.

High on the Domes des Miages, conditions proved to be not quite as favourable as usual for June with ice becoming exposed in various sections of the ridge and slopes along the traverse with poor and serious conditions & ice now being reported for the full traverse.

Other teams climbed the Cosmiques Arete, Traverse of the Perrons above Vallorcine, and enjoyed some middle mountain multi pitch rock in the Aiguilles Rouges. On the descent of the snow ridge from the Midi station conditions are relatively poor with a crevasse appearing on the ridge itself and a new crevasse lower down making the transition from station to Col du Midi more complicated than usual. Pt. Lachenal has some ice lower down on the normal route slopes and some rockfall noted from the central summit.

The Grands Montets station opened this weekend and initial reports suggest that conditions on the Petite Verte are not great either. More info to follow as we hopefully have a team climbing / training around the Grands Montets tomorrow.

22 June 2017, Continuing Hot Alpine Weather Conditions Update

Decent conditions for the ascent of the Lagginhorn this morning and our Weissmies course team also completed this mountain in style for their second 4000m peak in 2 days. Our other team on the Weissmies this morning reversed the South Ridge from the summit and descended back via the Almageller Hut. Reasonable conditions reported on the ascent to the 'first Dome' on the Miage but icy conditions reported for the whole traverse.

Tim traversed the Aiguille du Chardonnet today via the Forbes Arete and reported reasonable conditions on that (albeit with the need to place a couple of ice screws on the traverse) but also described the top slopes of the descent as 'very serious'.

Teams are climbing the easy classics of this Swiss / French Alpine frontier area between the Albert Premier and Trient huts, but extra care is required on this and all glaciers at the moment due to some major crevasses lurking beneath delicate snow bridges.

On Mont Blanc, the Prefet de la Haute Savoie have issued a Press Statement calling for Vigilance from alpinists in light of the heightened stone fall risk early this summer season, especially in the Grand Couloir on Mont Blanc and also to take great care with large crevasses and narrow snow bridges as a result of the hot early season weather.

Our Gran Paradiso team all made the summit early this morning in good style via the glacier from the Rifugio Chabod and then traversing to Vittorio Emanuelle and down to Pont. Snow conditions were ok in the track and there was a refreeze high on the mountain but soft snow outside the track lower down the route.

20 June 2017, High Alpine Heatwave....

A week on from our last post and the hot sunny alpine weather continues with wall to wall sunshine across most of the northern Alps, and heatwave warnings for certain areas with valley temperatures in excess of 30C. The good weather has meant for lots of high mountain activity and our teams have been climbing Gran Paradiso from Chabod to Vittorio Emanuelle Huts in reasonable conditions as well as the Lagginhorn normal route. Decent conditions on all of these as well as lots of good rocky ridges and high alpine rock routes. The South Ridge of the Weissmies was fine - dry but the descent down the North Flank has a very ice traverse and some thin snow bridges over significant crevasses.

Lots of activity around the Col du Midi also including the usual classic Cosmiques Arete, Pointe Lachenal and routes on the Triangle du Tacul including Chere Couloir and Left Edge Route. We also have a team now heading for the Domes des Miages traverse where reasonable conditions are reported.

On Mont Blanc there has been plenty of activity too with teams climbing from the Cosmiques Hut and Tete Rousse / Gouter Huts. However, the 3 Monts route has some steep and icy terrain particularly between the Maudit Shoulder and Col de la Brenva and the risk of stone fall in the Grand Couloir on the Gouter Side of the mountain has increased with the repeated hot days leading in to heat wave with minimal or only very high altitude overnight re-freezing. Many teams have cancelled their Mt Blanc attempts due to this hazard although many also continue to climb. With consistently hot temperatures forecast for this week it seems unlikely that conditions will improve in the short term, at least.

On the Gonella route, the hut is open and teams have been making the ascent but the glacier is reported to be in mid August conditions with large crevasses, thin snow bridges and a narrow / icy section near the top of the route linking to the Dome du Gouter.

The Matterhorn is also suffering from dry conditions with the summit snow field not snowy enough with reports of loose rock and poor conditions - before the season has even begun. This could improve quite rapidly with some sticky summer snow and series of refreezes.

13 June 2017, Rochefort, Dent Geant, Tour Ronde, Entreves, Paradiso, Mt Blanc, Tacul etc!

Lots of high mountain activity today with fine summery weather and a decent overnight freeze at least high in the mountains. Snow conditions are fine at the moment albeit perhaps a bit lean for mid June. Conditions were good this morning with stiff snow all the way up to the Dent du Geant and on to the Arete Rochefort. A fast Italian team reported good conditions for the route and were on to traversing the Marbrees extension by 0800 - packing it in!

The Dent du Geant was dry and in good condition despite the strong cool winds. The approach gully from the glacier was in good condition with a big boot track - no obvious crevasse yet and stiff snow this morning. Obviously there is lots of loose rock on the approach and even though a good boot track heads off left in ascent - it's probably safer to stick closer to the blunt rib taking a more central line up the face - as this snowy traverse track is exposed to stone fall from teams above.

Also quite dry & rocky conditions for the classic local ridge traverses of the Marbrees & Entreves although with a decent stiff snow track up the N. Ridge of the Petit Flambeau. The Tour Ronde was getting ascents from the Freshfield arete / col area and a snow gully well left of the classic winter couloir route which is in hideously loose rock conditions - to be well avoided - even on the glacier below as constant stone fall was observed.

Over on the Chamonix side of the range teams were climbing all the classic col du Midi ridges as well as there being a large track up Mt Blanc du Tacul and up Mont Blanc from both the Grand Mulets and Gouter Refuges.

Conditions over on the Gran Paradiso were also reported as good with a well filled in glacier from Rifugio Chabod and a fine rapid snowy descent almost all the way to Vittorio Emanuelle Hut.

23 May 2017, Rock - Ice - Snow. Lots Ski Climb Activity In Upper Vallee Blanche, Chamonix

Even the high mountains of the Mont Blanc Range are relatively quiet in late May but there were still a dedicated band of climbers and skiers enjoying the fine weather and much re-charged snow conditions.

Recent storms have deposited an impressive amount of fresh snow on the high glaciers and faces around the range and the hills are looking good - white!

Many fresh tracks told tales of some fine steep ski descents including the North Face of the Tour Ronde, Vallee Blanche face of the Diable Ridge, Gervassutti Couloir, N. Face of the Petit Flambeau, Mt Blanc du Tacul Voie normale and various others as well as lots of ski tracks around the upper Vallee Blanche in general.

A few teams were enjoying mountaineering & ice routes like the Pelissier Gully on Pt Lachenal and one team were also starting up the Jager Couloir on the East Face of the Tacul. A few tracks were also seen on the snowy side of Pt Lachenal, Left Edge Route, Mt Blanc du Tacul normal route, Arete Laurence and obviously the Cosmiques Arete!

Quite a few teams were profiting from the sunny weather to enjoy some south facing high altitude rock climbing with a team on the Contamine Route on Pt Lachenal, South Face of the Midi and Eperon des Cosmiques.

We enjoyed a good couple of days high altitude glacier trekking up to the Col d'Entreves and across the upper Vallee Blanche to the Midi, with conditions just ok without snow shoes - using old skinning / ski tracks etc

Best wishes for some excellent alpine climbing this coming season in the Northern Alps....Please add any relevant conditions notes & climbing reports from the Mt Blanc area / Northern Alps via the New comment button at the base of the page.

13th October 2016, Aiguille du Bionnassay Traverse

We made the most of the last day of fine early autumnal weather yesterday to complete a brilliant 2 day traverse of the Aiguille du Bionnassay via a very cold night at the Durier Hut! The weather was good but unseasonably cold and our approach to the Durier was shrouded in thi... more>

Chamonix Mountaineering

An impressive collection of galleries giving an insight in to the quality and huge variety of mountaineering within and around the Chamonix Valley. Routes include classic beginners alpine ridges, 1000m+ classic North Faces, winter style Chamonix Goulottes and many more.