High Mountain Guides / News / Chamonix Winter Climbing Conditions 2013/14

Chamonix Winter Climbing Conditions 2013/14

The fantastic ice smear on the Col du Plan North Face that provides the long crux section of 'Fil a Plomb', Chamonix

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January 13th 2013, Spring Like Weather Giving Reasonable Conditions For 'Winter' Alpinism....

Despite it being full mid winter the relatively mild temperatures and dry snow conditions have allowed reasonable access to some of the high mountain routes. Conditions have generally been a bit dry with tough old grey ice in evidence. Nevertheless some good routes have been climbed including Fil a Plomb on the North Face of the Col du Plan, Vent du Dragon and some of the other lines on the NW face of the Midi as well as the Chere Couloir in fairly dry & tough conditions. A similar situation of 'doable but dry' has been reported for the Tacul goulottes like Modica Noury & Gabarou Albinoni as well as the classics of the Grands Montets / Pte. Farar face like Frendo Ravenel & Claire Chazal.

Over on the ice of Cogne conditions remain reasonable despite some recent mild & thawing days. Lots of good cascades are getting climbed like the Patri twins, Pattinagio, Crystal Guisy, Lillaz Gully, Stella Artice, Sentiero de Troll, Chanbdelle Levure, Cold Couloir, Candelabra del Coyotte, Tubourg, Tutto Relativon & even reports that Repentance Super has been climbed in good conditions.

December 30th 2013, Lillaz Gully & Lau Bij, Cogne

The Val d'Aosta shared the same perfect weather as the Mont Blanc Massif today but was much colder. It was -13C in Lillaz this morning and -9C when we returned after the route. With plenty of snow around too routes are building well with the big freeze and snow melt bank. The avalanche hazard is currently considerable so care is required with route choice.

Dan & I enjoyed the early season sporting mixed conditions on Lillaz Gully. Good fun with a dry / mixed wall on the central pitch providing the crux section. The switching gullies & tarzan pitch always provide entertainment too!

As we descended by the path through the champagne powder snow (which would have been a great ski) one team were engrossed below the steep icicles of Lau Bij. The 2nd pitch looked hard with no tunnel through route and a long exposed traverse on steep icicles!

December 28th 2013, Good Ice Climbing on the 'Wall at the End of the World!', Argentiere

The gathering foehn winds provided mild but not too breezy conditions for climbing on the Argentiere Glacier cascades this morning. The ice softened slightly but not too much and gave pleasant chewy placements and decent ice screws. One team approached the 'Wall at the end of the world' on skis via the glacier from above the icefall and climbed 2 good, steep looking lines before lowering off.

Dan & I climbed the Rive Gauche classic 'Deferlante' (4) and it's close neighbor the 'Mini Couloir' (4). Fat ice on the former and good sporting early winter lean conditions on the latter with some powder trail breaking thrown in to improve the overall training effort!

December 23rd 2013, Christmas Round Up of Climbing Conditions

Lots of good winter alpine routes are getting done in the mountains at the moment as teams take advantage of the very mild Christmas weather before the next big influx of snow to the Chamonix Valley on Christmas day. From the valley cascades to high on the 4000m peaks there has been a lot of good ice & mixed conditions and here is just a snippet of what routes various teams have been climbed & reported in the last few days...

  • Grands Charmoz North Face in a day from the town by John Griffith & Ally Swinton
  • Profit/Perroux, Aiguille du Midi North West Face
  • Gabarou-Albinoni, Mont Blanc du Tacul East Face
  • Contamine Mazuead, Triangle du Tacul
  • Y Couloir, Aiguille Verte
  • Swiss Route on the Courtes North Face (quite icy conditions)
  • Supercouloir - good conditions reported on the direct start

Things will all change a bit from Christmas day when there is heavy snowfall forecast. Not good in the short term but should help to build conditions on some of the ice routes, goulottes & faces, depending on the wind!

December 18th 2013, A Winter Alpine Traverse of the Aiguilles Marbrees

The winds were a bit lighter on the Italian side of the Mt Blanc Massif today and we only received a light buffeting from the stiff SW breeze. Not unpleasant with the relatively mild air temperatures. The Geant glacier was heavily sastrugified. Unappealing to the skier but the firm windblown surface allowed us decent progress across the Col du Geant and around to the enjoyable traverse of the Aiguilles Marbrees. The rock had been blasted with light snow & blanched a little, giving a sporting winter feel to the traverse.

Note the position of the new bolted abseil anchors for the descent from the col just north of the south summit. There are now 2 bolted anchors in the col itself. If the further South bolts are used a descending traverse can be made over easy & loose ground to another double bolt anchor which gives a short rappel on to the glacier. Both rapps were fine on a single 50m rope today. Photo of this abseil here.

It felt like we had the Mt Blanc Massif to ourselves today. A real pleasure to be in the high alpine mountains in winter.

December 17th 2013, Argentiere Icefalls - Rive Droite - Good Ice Climbing Conditions

Despite it being the best valley ice crag in Chamonix the Argentiere Rive Droite is rarely visited these days by ice climbers due to either the danger or complexity of the approach. The lower glacier approach is exposed to serac fall and the upper approach is quite long, complicated and traverses some serious avalanche terrain. With the current good freeze but avalanche hazard level 1 now seemed like a good time to visit this great ice crag and we were rewarded with a great atmosphere to climb in, fine ice conditions and a brilliant ice route - The great classic 'The Grand Bleu' (4+).

Conditions also looked good on many of the harder lines - check out the Rive Droite ice conditions from today in the photos in the gallery below.

Conditions across on the Rive Gauche are also good in places & several teams climbed Deferlante but various other ice lines are complete. Again, check the Rive Gauche gallery below for photos of conditions taken from the Rive Droite today

December 12th 2013, Good Ice Climbing Conditions in the Valleys & High Mountains

With the Aiguille du Midi lift closed until the 21st December attention has turned to the Italian Punta Hellbronner as means of accessing Chamonix's high mountain goulottes, eg on the East face of Mont Blanc du Tacul where conditions are pretty good. The continuing high pressure weather system & sustained freeze is giving good mountain conditions with lovely calm, sunny & mild feeling weather.

From either the Torino Hut or the Hellbronner lift teams have been climbing on the following routes. There are tracks in via skis for the further away routes & boot tracks for the closer routes. The snow is generally heavily windblown with some impressive sastrugi. Not good for skiing!

  • Tour Ronde normal route
  • Aiguille d'Entreves
  • Aiguilles Marbrees
  • Modica Noury
  • Supercouloir
  • Fantasia per Ghiacciator

Good conditions are also being reported from Cogne.

Reports are of the following routes having been climbed on:

  • Patri - Left & Right Hand finish
  • Cascade Lillaz
  • Sentiero de Troll
  • E Tutto Relativo

For a more detailed look with lots of good photos check out the excellent blog site of Mountain Guide Adrian Nelhams.

There are also reports of decent conditions on the classic Argentiere Rive Gauche' icefall 'Deferlante'.

Early December 2013 Conditions Round Up

The sustained period of bright & cold weather over the last few weeks has left skiers starting their snow dance routines for the winter ahead & climbers enjoying the steadily building ice conditions and stabilising snow cover, both in the valleys & high mountains.

With the Midi lifts closed teams have been climbing from the Italian Hellbronner lift, Plan de l'Aiguille, a bit from the Grands Montets and more recently over on the cascades of Cogne. Here is a quick summary of recent activity so far this winter climbing season...

  • Many teams have been active from the Plan de l'Aiguille hut with reported ascents of the Carrington Rouse (Rebuffat Terray) route in good conditions and without need for skis or snow shoes on the approach.
  • Ascents in the Combe Maudit (high in the upper Vallee Blanche basin) have been made with access from Punta Hellbronner. Matt Helliker climbed a dry Rebuffat Gully, Tour Ronde and Matt & Jon made a stylish ascent of the hard classic: 'Fantasia per Ghiacciator'
  • Recent teams ice climbing at the Cremerie have reported decent early season conditions. It seems the precipitation earlier in the autumn has kept the springs pumping and this freeze has produced the ice. Perhaps the Cremerie at its best, before it gets buried in deep winter snow.
  • Over in Cogne the freeze started weeks ago - we climbed an easy but fun mixed route right of the left hand start to the Cascade Lillaz and noted that Lau Bij was pretty much complete, albeit very thin, back then. More reports fom Cogne in the next day or so.

January 13th 2013 - Argentiere 'Rive Gauche' Icefalls & Carrington Rouse

The popularity of the Argentiere Rive Droite icefalls has diminished in proportion to the increasing objective danger on the approach. They currently look superb but there is no one climbing there which is not surprising considering the toppling seracs of th... more>

Winter / Spring / Autumn Mountaineering in Chamonix

There are some alpinists who consider summer to be the only 'off-season' period for alpine mountaineering. It is in winter, spring and autumn that the combination of snow, ice, low temperatures and quiet mount... more>

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