29 June 2019, Mont Blanc, Peigne, Allalinhorn Conditions Update

The continuing heatwave has transformed conditions on Mont Blanc and given a more summery feel to the mountain after the tough late spring conditions that had persisted until recently.   It was great to get all 4 of our summit teams to the top yesterday and enjoy the good snow conditions on the upper mountain and it was also good to see tracks and teams on the big 5 routes on the mountain – Gouter – Grands Mulets – Cosmiques – Gonealla – Bionassay, as well as some tracks coming over from the big routes on the Italian South side of the mountain & Mont Blanc de Courmayeur side of the mountain.

The North Face of Mont Blanc, with the Bosses Ridge on the ridge and the Vallot Hut in the lower centre.

Snow conditions from the Gouter Hut to the summit are good with a decent track all the way and even a reasonable re-freeze giving firm snow in the morning despite the very high, near summit, freezing level.  There is very little ice showing through thanks to the fine early summer snow volume and likewise the glaciers seem to be well covered although some crevasses are now appearing especially around the crossing of the Dome du Gouter.  The upper Bosses Ridge was in excellent condition and a real pleasure as always to take the last few steps along it to reach the summit.  Well done to all our teams who summited in good style thanks to good training and preparation and ascents of the Grand Paradiso & Weissmies last week in the build up to Mont Blanc.

Marcel on the summit of Mont Blanc, June 28th 2019. Great conditions on the upper mountain.

There was a track coming over from the shoulder on Mont Maudit and then to the summit via the Col de la Brenva and with one or teams seen making the aller retour via this route – but not many – so probably the difficult conditions on Mont Maudit and hot weather putting folk off tackling these big snow slopes.  However, talking of long snow routes – and big glaciers – there were various teams climbing from the Gonella Hut and making the summit via the Pitons des Italiens and reporting pretty good conditions on the ascent, and very pleasant conditions at the Rifugio Gonella with the free drinking water being a pleasant change from the expensive bottled water at most other huts!

The Miage Glacier ascent of Mont Blanc from the Rifugio Gonella. Decent conditions in late June 2019. Photo Alberto di Giuli

Also coming over the Pitons des Italiens and Dome du Gouter were tracks traversing the Aiguille du Bionassay, although only 1 team was actually seen on the route.   Tracks were also coming up from the Grand Mulets Hut to reach the Col du Dome.  There were plenty of old ski tracks in evidence on the north face with nicer looking skiing now than we had in May when we were trying to ski Mont Blanc then!  Snow conditions were surprisingly good this morning with crisp snow nearly all the way down to the Nid d’Aigle.

Approaching the Gouter Hut for a quick coffee pit stop – before climbing Mont Blanc. Good conditions on the upper mountain in late June 2019

The Gouter Ridge scramble is now in nearly full summer dry conditions and gave fast scrambling with only a few snow patches remaining at the very upper and lower ends of the ridge which were hard and better in crampons this morning.  Likewise there was a good stiff snow track across the Grand Couloir this morning making for a swift crossing with no stone falling at the time although a few flurries of rocks were seen going down the couloir whilst we were scrambling on the ridge and reports from folks crossing later in the day reported more rock fall.

Enjoyable scrambling on the way up to the Gouter Hut, after the crossing of the Grand Couloir. Dry conditions on the ridge in late June 2019.

As the photo below shows, there is a debris runnel in the middle of the couloir which needs some careful footwork to manoeuvre around but the real problems lie higher up the couloir as the snow line is rapidly receding down the couloir in the hot weather and revealing more and more (loose) rock.   If the hot weather continues the rock fall problems will likely get worse although we heard reports that work had started cleaning and preparing a new approach route on the left of the Grand Couloir.  Watch this space!

Conditions in the Grand Couloir in late June 2019

Many teams have been taking to the rock in the hot weather and Gav & Joe wrapped up their brilliant granitey week with consecutive day ascents of the Arete de Papillons and then back for the fine long alpine rock journey up the Aiguille du Peigne itself. They took crampons and used them for the descents of both routes and whilst some teams did not have them, snow and even icy patches remain on the ascent of the Peigne on the couloir round the first gendarme.

Joe on the Aiguille de Peigne in the Chamonix Aiguilles. A brilliant tough day of rockaneering! Photo Gav Pike.

Matt, Ed & Steven finished their Chamonix mountaineering week in style with an away trip to traverse the Allalinhorn via the Hohlabrat from the Brittania Hut and down the normal route.  The weather for the week ahead looks more stormy with lower max temperatures and lower minimum temperatures, so hopefully things will cool down a bit!

Ed & Steven leaving the Brittania Hut at dawn en route to traverse the Allalinhorn via the Hohlabgrat.  Photo Matt Stygall

We also still have a few places available on this summers alpine mountaineering courses…

Thor, Robert & Gary accessing the final snow ridge on the approach to the new Gouter Hut, and just above the old Gouter Refuge. Good snow conditions in late June 2019