27 January 2021, Ice Climbing Conditions In The Aravis & Mt Blanc Massifs

27 January 2021, Quality Steep Ice & Mixed At Mont Saxonnex

Not many ice climbing or dry tooling crags have the same level of both visual interest and inspiration as Les Glaciers at Mont Saxonnex, and the ability to climb beautiful steep blue ice with a few bolts clipped on the adjacent steep grey limestone is a real pleasure.

Les Glaciers, Mont Saxonnex. A pleasant short walk through the woods and across the fields and a steep crag relatively safe from avalanches…with plenty of inspiring lines…

Conditions have been building and unusually good over the last few weeks but is that all about to come to an end as the inbound thaw and rain below 1800m washes much of the ice away down the Arve?

Brilliant ice – dry – ice mixed route at Les Glaciers. Namaste Olé M7 WI5 perhaps?

We just about managed to get one of the mixed routes done, with some bolts, some trad supplements and some helpful ice in places.  The central cascade is a seriously impressive feature and one team seemed to be going right to the top in about 4 pitches with lots of brilliant steep climbing, mainly on pure ice.

The brilliant steep, but bolted final ice and mixed section of the first pitch of the superb central ice fall at Mont Saxonnex, Les Glaciers.

As well as the superb featured ice and natural hooks there is also some fine steep mixed moves to get to the first belay on the terrace, with both bolt runners and anchor on that section.

he brilliant steep, but bolted final ice and mixed section of the first pitch of the superb central ice fall at Mont Saxonnex, Les Glaciers.

It’s a shame if this collapses over the inbound that over the next couple of days, but the dry tooling won’t be going anywhere and the fatter, higher cascades should survive too so get in touch if you would like to do some ice climbing.

The brilliant steep first 2 pitches of the superb central ice fall at Mont Saxonnex, Les Glaciers.

We are getting a lot of bookings for our summer 2021 Alpine season courses at the moment so please get in touch if you would be interested in joining one of our teams for Chamonix Alpine Intro, Gran Paradiso, Climb Mont Blanc, Climb The Matterhorn, Climb The Weissmies, Bishorn and Monte Viso!

The sustained descent of the South Face of Monte Viso. Great views but concentration on footwork required…

20 January 2021, Rive Gauche Ice Climbing, Glacier d’Argentière

We have felt very lucky to enjoy 2 physical mid winter days ski touring, ice climbing and skiing powder at a very quiet Argentière Glacier and closed Grands Montets ski area.

Newly marked ski touring trail working up through the Piere a Ric side country to the Refuge Lognan

The weather has been good, the snow light and the ice fat.  There is a nice new skinning track taking the Piere à Ric side country and working its surprisingly easy way through the sustained slopes below the Refuge Lognan, and it’s only been trashed by skiers in a few places!

The long abseil in to Deferlante
The long abseil in to Déferlante. You can reach the base of the cascade on 2x60m ropes from the lower bolt anchor on a boulder well down the snowy slope below the main summit boulder anchor. Rapping from the top on 2 x 60m ropes will not reach the base of the cascade.

The ice is wide and fat, with plenty of footholds and axe hooks on the logical fat central line on the Cascade Déferlante on the upper section of the Rive Gauche.

Pleasant steady climbing up the fat ice with some good hooks and in-situ footholds. We climbed the route both in one long pitch for endurance training and in 3 pitches for hanging belay & stance management on an ice climb

We climbed this in a variety of ways for good training mileage as well as breaking it down in to 3 short pitches to practice multi pitch ice climbing & hanging belays!

Michael rigging the ropes as part of an ice climbing training day on the Rive Gauche, Argentière, Chamonix Valley

We also climbed the very nice short pitch to the climbers right of Déferlante but didn’t carry on up the thin ice and mixed ground above as this was super thin and the snow slopes above fat with fresh snow!

Fine climbing up the Scottish like lower ice pitch of the mini ice and mixed route between Deferlante and mini Couloir, which has numerous bolts, particularly on the top pitch crux section

Resac looked to have some good steep ice higher up but is very thin at the bottom.  Over on the Rive Droite there is loads of ice…but also loads of snow around both above the crag and on the way to get there!

Rive Droite 20 Jan 2021.  Shiva Lingum looks particularly impressive!

We also climbed the fine EMHM cascade, well hidden below the Refuge Lognan!

Sustained top pitch of the EMHM with bolt belays on the climbers right above and below

The ice was pretty fat in general on that too, but much less travelled and steeper so it feels a grade harder than Déferlante.

The solid first pitch of the main EMHM cascade with a bolt belay above and below and a peg runner on the rock on the right. This pitch is shorter than the second main pitch but probably has the steepest section of the route in current conditions.

There is also some great snow around the Montets in general and it’s weird to see so much untracked powder at the GM.

Touring around the Grands Montets with the Aiguille du Chardonnet beyond au centre.

There are a handful of tracks in the Italian Bowl / Rachasses area and heading down from the Pointe du Vue run and lots of teams have skinned up to ski the powder under Lognan including a pretty much tracked out Couloir Philipe which looked well filled in.

Grands Montets powder ski touring powered

Please get in touch if you would like a half or full day ice climbing intro or progression training session in Chamonix or at one of various other inspiring venues which are in good fat ice condition at the moment.

Great position climbing above the Argentière Glacier and below – but not really ‘below’ the Seracs

18 January 2021, Bérade Valley Ice Climbing Training

Hats off to the Chamonix Guides for making a great job of steadily building up the ice on the excellent little gorge venue for climbing training above Le Buet at the Eastern end of the Mont Blanc Massif.

Ice climbing training, top roping, enjoying some easy and steep ice at the Buet ice crag

They have been helped this year by the almost constantly cold temperatures and it was a chilly -9C in Chamonix this morning with very extensive snow cover right down to valley floor level.   So whilst the lifts are closed, and the avalanche risk is high, the Valley looks strikingly beautiful and there is plenty of good winter sport action to be had, if you can get here!

One of the fine steeper pillars, walls & grooves at the Buet ice crag

The crag has a great mix of easier intro style pitches as well as much steeper ice for training, enjoying and building confidence on a crag with a very short walk in and without the other high mountain additional stress factors.

The rules for using the Buet Ice Crag

Please get in touch if you would like a half or full day ice climbing intro or progression training session here or at one of various other inspiring venues which are in good fat ice condition at the moment.

Beautiful mid winter views back in to the Mont Blanc Massif from Buet

The snow conditions for skiing are also impressive with extensive cover from valley floor level to some pretty plastered looking high mountains.  The avalanche risk is high but, with careful route choice and seeking out some more mellow terrain, there is some great snow to ski.

The Grands Montets, plastered in snow, but shut. For how long. The decision is to be reviewed on the 20th Jan but many folk in the valley now think opening any time soon is unlikely…

So whilst the lifts are closed, it’s still a good time to do some ski touring training and enjoy some fine journeys and good skiing.  Please contact us via the page below to arrange some training and guiding.

Lots of teams are out skinning around the valley and these were the velvet piste conditions today on the Piere a Ric, Grands Montets Argentiere.


12 January 2021, Le Reposoir – Ice Climbing in The Arve Valley

The technical crux of getting to the Le Reposoir ice cliffs is more about the drive than the climb with an impressively slippery road leading to the snowy parking and pleasant short walk to the crag nestled at 1420m on the North Face of Pointe d’Almet above the Col de la Columbière road.

Kev on pleasant sticky ice on the easier central section of cascade de Gauche.

Conditions were good today, there was plenty of ice and no other teams for a change.  The cool weather keeps going but as we left the crag at lunchtime, the snow was falling and temperatures warming a bit with some stormy weather on the way.  This crag has some big exposure to the snow slopes above and thus needs stable snow conditions.

Topo shot of the fine series of cascades at Le Reposior. Roughly 4+ on the left and centre and easier to the right.

As seems to be the pattern this year, after a wet autumn, these spring fed cascades keep running strongly with water which, along with the good freezing weather, has given some fine fat ice climbing features but also kept the ice falls quite fresh so the climbing today never felt fully equipped with in-situ footholds and hooks!

Kev Avery climbing the steep first pitch of the Cascade de Milieu. Bolted belays above on both the right and left of the cascade.

The Cascade de Milieu, II 4+ gives a steep start but Kev was up it in a flash and found a nice dry cave with bolt belay on the right.  After an easier 2nd pitch there is also a bolt belay on the left from where it’s possible to abseil back to the bags on 60m ropes.

The line of least resistance up through the various runnels , icicles and options forming the first wall of the Cascade de Gauche

The Cascade de Gauche is perhaps a more impressive overall line and has various options but even the line of least resistance gave some good steep ice grooves on both the 1st and 2nd pitch.

Steep climbing on the 2nd pitch of the cascade de Gauche with a bolt belay just over the lip.

It looks like plenty more snow is on the way for the rest of the week which could be good for some powder ski touring around the forests so please get in touch via the contact page below if we can help arrange some cascade ice climbing adventures and training or ski touring in Chamonix – Mont Blanc – Aravis areas.

The fine cascade de gauche II, 4-4+

11 January 2021, Cascade d’Armancette, Les Contamines

Ice Climbing Les Contamines
The ski approach to the Cascade d’Armancette with Les Contamines below and Mont Joly across the Valley

It was -13C in the parking in Les Contamines this morning but we soon warmed up on the sustained climb and inspiring journey in to the Combe d’Armancette…

The sauvage and inspiring – Combe d’Armancette

Freezing temperatures for over a couple of weeks now has seen some big and fat ice formations around the Mont Blanc Massif and the Cascade d’Armancette was no different and presented an impressive North Face style huge runnel of ice smeared across this steep and rocky SW face of the Glacier d’Armancette.

Inspiring first sight of the line of the Cascade d’Armancette at the end of the Ski approach

There are various other lines which also seemed to have plenty of ice on them and one team climbed some of the line just right of centre in the photo above.

The ice was cold and solid making for secure but not rapid progression and we gravitated towards the slightly easier left hand line over the steeper central line.  There was a surprising lack of evidence of traffic in the form of pick placements, footholds or in-situ threads!

Solid ice making for secure but not rapid climbing and sometimes more of a north face atmosphere than a cascade!

The left hand line gave some great sustained grade 4 climbing leading up to the final steepening at the head of the main cascade.

Quality sustained climbing on the 3rd pitch

This was climbed on the far right to benefit from the softer ice and avoid the central shower!

Mother and daughter team on the lovely sun and water softened last pitch of the cascade

We were treated to a surprise appearance of the sun at the top of the main cascade and rigged the abseils with warm hands for a change.   The ropes however were icy due to the short shower and cold temperatures and a belay plate had descended the route in advance of us meaning for some kinky italian hitch abseil action.

Final abseil from the cascade with a team on the first pitch on the right

We reached the snowy couloir and skis in 3 raps from the top of the main cascade using a mix of bolt and abalokov anchors.

Some nice turns on the descent from the Cascade to La Frasse. The line of the Cascade in the centre of the picture

Having watched a few teams ski the nice steep couloir on the North Face of the Tétes Tre la Tête it was good to get a few turns of our own with some lovely velvet cold snow still untracked in places before the more bobsleigh style descent through the forest back to La Frasse which was rapid and fun…but rock skis recommended!

Teams skiing a fine north facing couloir on the Têtes de Tre la Tête

It looks like more snow is on the way from tomorrow with some significant amounts falling through the rest of the week.  Please get in touch via the contact page below if we can help arrange some cascade ice climbing adventures and training or ski touring in Chamonix – Mont Blanc – Aravis areas.

Quality sustained climbing on the 3rd pitch

10 January 2021, Cascades Pissieux and Stassaz, Megeve

The big freeze continues – ice climbing conditions are good and improving in many areas around the Mt Blanc & and Aravis Massifs and the constant sub zero temperatures are also keeping the snow quality high in shady sheltered areas for some great fresh tracks on skis.  There is impressive surface hoar frost building in some locations too which is pretty, lovely to ski, but could present a significant problem weak layer if buried with new snow, which is indeed inbound from Tuesday pm and through much of the rest of the week.

Ice coaching, axe placements, front pointing with aggressive crampons, ice screw placements for runners and anchors, multi pitch ice, multi pitch abseil descents…a busy day!

We had an excellent solid intro ice climbing day with Michael who has already done plenty of rock and alpine climbing, plus some good Scottish winter routes – which meant the transition to cascade ice was easy and fun and we packed in lots of good coaching and technical elements as well as 3 short multi pitch routes and abseils.

Cascades Pissieux
The fine sustained central wall of the Cascades Pissieux above Megeve. There is a bolt belay way out right at the top of this section – or the summit bolt anchor can also be reached after about 40m of climbing.

Conditions are good on the right and central (steeper & more sustained) lines with plenty of solid ice and established footholds and pick placements despite the nearby stream flowing below!  There is also a good little steep direct pitch to start next to the icicle.

Ice Climbing Megeve
Final moves of the Cascade Pissieux

We also climbed the easier angled – but less travelled ice wall on the left and up in to the Scottish style gully leading up and left to a big tree belay which is full 60m+ pitch from the very first snow bay on the route above the intitial wall / icicle.

Megeve Ice Climbing guide
The Scottish gully on the left of the main Cascade Pissieux.

The neighbouring Cascade Stassaz, see post below, is also still in good condition but was busy again today with 5 teams in the queue at one point!  Conditions should remain good with temperatures staying quite low although warming up later in the week with more snow meaning an increase in avalanche risk and careful route choice.

Topping out on a lovely long pitch of steady grade III ice in mid winter in the Aravis.

Please get in touch via the contact page below if we can help arrange some cascade ice climbing adventures and training or ski touring in Chamonix – Mont Blanc – Aravis areas.

Cascade Pissieux, I,3 above Megeve

7 January 2021, New Year Ski & Ice Climbing Conditions In Megeve

There is a good sustained mind winter freeze engulfing the Northern Alps at the moment and quality ice climbing conditions are being reported from Chamonix to the Swiss Valais and down in the lesser known areas of the Aravis.  The combination of a relatively wet autumn, good snowfall over Christmas and now sustained freezing high pressure weather has seen some good cascade conditions and this was the case at La Stassaz above Megeve today:

Megeve Ice Climbing
The steeper right hand finish to the Cascade La Stassaz

The short walk in is just enough to warm up before tackling either an easier first pitch or a big beefy single pitch to the bolted anchors at the top.  There is a right and left hand start and we did both today as well a nice central line too which has the added advantage of a safe belay in the dry tool base camp cave!

Megeve Ice Climbing
The alternative R hand start to La Stassaz Icefall

The upper section also had a couple of both good options with a fine steeper pillar on the right and a nice hooked groove on the left…with a cold shower in-between!  There is also an anchor with a bolt in the small rocky cave in the central section.

Megeve Ice Climbing
Steep mixed climbing – with bolts! The big corner line below the Stassaz Cascade, Megeve.

The crag became busy quickly and we retreated from the ice to the rocky / mixed cave with some damoclean icicles hanging above.  The central corner line gave some fun steep moves with a few placements on ice so not strictly dry tooling but it would take a braver & stronger team to pull out on to the icicle above which is pretty thin!

Some decent conditions are also being reported from the Chamonix Valley on both the Rive Gauche and more serious Rive Droite above the Argentiere Glacier as well as the considerably more accessible La Cremerie!

Megeve dry tooling
Good training – good fun – mixed climbing on the La Stassaz bolted routes…

The weather forecast is staying cool & there are lots of routes in conditions in the area including some good intro options so please get in touch if you would like to arrange some ice climbing guiding or training and we can also offer a half day option.

Megeve Ski Touring Guide
Fine snowy early season – early Jan 2021 – ski touring conditions on the St. Gervais side of the Evasion domaine skiable.

The ski lifts in the French Alps remain closed due to Covid restrictions with the next review date being the 13th Jan and possibly more information gained from this evenings speech by Jean Castex the French Premiere Ministre.  Touring conditions remain good with the snow in sheltered locations being well preserved and there is plenty of it and lots of classic low and middle mountain tours are in condition.  Please get in touch via the contact form at the base of this page if you would like some ski touring guiding or training.

Enjoying the fresh cold powder, touring from Megeve Cote 2000