Chamonix Crevasse rescue training

1st October 2019, Gran Paradiso Ascent & Skyway Monte Bianco Conditions

The superb late summer weather and dry conditions on the glacier – combined with the incoming autumnal storms meant this felt very much like the last day of the ‘summer’ season on Gran Paradiso and for most of the high Alps.  We were lucky with the weather as our summit day came after the strong winds earlier in the week and before the significant snow fall inbound tonight.  The lovely red and autumnal colours on the walk up to the Chabod Hut, quiet mountain and wonderful starlit night more than made up for the fact we had to take our own dinner to use the winter room as the main hut is now closed.  The boil in the bag was surprisingly good!

Winter Hut stay
Dinner at the Chabod Hut winter room on our autumn Gran Paradiso course…boil in the bag!

The route from Chabod is all very dry and in late summer condition.  There is an increasingly good path through the moraine and over to the retreating glacier although there is now one exposed section right at the end as the descent to the glacier has increased and some smooth slabs have been exposed.  The lower section of the glacier is dry and thus there is no real track until the steeper and more sustained section of the climb up the central glacier valley begins…

Gran Paradiso ascent
IFMGA Guide Mark Seaton leads the group up the lower dry glacier section on the ascent from Rifugio Chabod

There are some big crevasses wide open up this valley but the late summer bridges have held on and there was a good track in place weaving through them and over some pretty narrow bridges.  Snow conditions higher up were fine and improved by last weeks fresh snow.   There was a decent track up the steep slope after the junction with the Vittorio Emanuelle route however, now the huts are both closed, the ladders across the final summit slope crevasses had been removed and stashed on the rocky ridge nearby. This meant we had to climb the ice slope to the left, via a 50m pitch, to reach the dry summit ridge.

Gran Paradiso Summit slope
The final crevasse and summit slopes on the Gran Paradiso – in early autumn the ladders across the final crevasse had just been removed and we climbed a 50m ice pitch on the left to reach the rocky summit ridge.

It was a pleasure to have the mountain to ourselves, with the exception of 1 solo climber following us up, and the views were magic – a veritable alpine panorama showing the fresh snow was hanging on in places on the north faces whilst south faces were bone dry, even at 4000m like the Dent du Geant.  The north face of the Paradiso itself looks quite icy in it’s upper half but not bare polished ice, so maybe it will get some sticky early autumn snow on it soon!   Before our Gran Paradiso ascent we had done some training from the Rifugio Torino Base camp accessed from Skyway Monte Bianco and it was great to feel the arrival of early autumn in the Mont Blanc massif…

Glacier Travel
Lovely Early autumn morning light near the Col de Rochefort as part of our Torino Training Phase

There are plenty of crevasses around here too and we crossed plenty of snow bridges and weaved around various crevasses on the journeys round to both the Col d’Entreves and Col de Rochefort.   There were quite a few teams doing the traverse of the Entreves and one team going up the Aiguilles Marbrees from the Dent du Geant side.  The approach to the Dent du Geant was very dry and rocky with no snow in the approach couloir and lots of loose rock!  We had a great couple of days mountaineering training and enjoying the high altitude hospitality and good value at Rifugio Torino which should be open during October along with the Skyway lift itself.

Rocky Mountaineering
Rock scrambling training on our Gran Paradiso course during the Torino warm up phase.

Back in Chamonix the storms started in the evening and lots of fresh snow is being put down above about 2500m with strong winds in the mountains and a bit more snow to follow tomorrow and at the weekend.  Welcome to autumn in the Mont Blanc Massif.

We have various places already booked on our summer 2020 Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc courses and some are nearly already full.  You can check out the details and dates for them here:

We also have places available on both our Matterhorn & Mont Blanc training weekends in Snowdonia October 12-13, 2019 and then again in the Scottish Highlands in April 2020 and Snowdonia in May 2020.

Summer 2020 courses….

Chamonix Mountaineering
Gran Paradiso Team training at the Col Marbrees during the Torino Hut training phase. Monte Bianco behind.