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Conditions on Mont Blanc

There was a serac fall with associated avalanche on Mont Blanc du Tacul yesterday (photo left, helicopter bottom left of avalanche for scale), which triggered a rescue operation but I understand it turned that out nobody was hurt. Skis had been found and people naturally assumed the owners had been buried. However they had left their skis to continue on foot and later returned safely. However this serves as a reminder to take special care, particularly with the  current winter levels of accumulated snow and summer temperatures. I will be avoiding the 3 Monts personally!

I’ve heard there’s a good track on the Gouter Route and parties report good conditions to the summit.

To see more photos from the last week please click here.

Charley on Cacao Girls

Yesterday Charley and I had a day of sport climbing on Cacao Girls at Gietroz, which is close to Barberine and directly above the French-Swiss border controls on the Col des Montets to Forclaz route. The route provides 12 pitches of good climbing mostly around 5b/5c with one pitch of 6a+, so it gives a good long route that’s easier than most of the other’s hereabouts. You can download the topo here. Highly recommended!

Descending on snow shoes from the Albert Premier Hut

It’s lovely weather here in the Alps right now, but the first 2 weeks of our season were pretty tough on account of the winter conditions. Large amounts of snow in the mountains severely restricted travel on foot, and it was raining or even snowing right down to valley level. We used snow shoes to reach the Albert Premier Hut via the moraine 2 weeks ago, but skis would have been better! The same week we did a glacier training day on the Mer de Glace, went rock climbing and crevasse rescue training at Les Gaillands and Le Fayet, went for a recce and acclimatisation to the Col du Midi and finally climbed Via Corda Alpina in big boots, a long alpine style rock route starting near Les Praz. This provided an excellent introduction to movement on alpine rock, but with snow down to the valley floor the route threatened to be Scottish in character! Fortunately we lucked out with the weather and the sun melted the early morning valley snow leaving the rock climb itself pretty clear.

The second week provided a couple of sunny days at the start, so we went back to the Midi and climbed Point Lachenal and the Arete Laurence to the Cosmiques Hut, where we spent the night. Next day we put fresh tracks on the Cosmiques Arete with an incredible depth of snow necessitating some careful belaying and route choice and making the climb rather more serious than usual. The usual crux wall was totally banked out with snow however, and we could just kick steps up it, and now that a steady stream of people have been consolidating the trail the entire route is in really easy condition. Next we wanted to do some multi-pitch climbing and abseiling so we went to Vallorcine, and the weather deteriorated again prompting a retreat to Machaby where we climbed the excellent Bucce d’arancia and enjoyed some wonderful Italian hospitality. We rounded the fortnight off with some cragging at Pontey in the Aosta Valley where Angus made his first lead of a rock climb before catching the airport shuttle for his onward trip to Thailand.

This week I’ve been preparing the rest of my alpine season, but I’m out on the hill tomorrow with Charley. Lets hope the fine weather continues to consolidate and stabilise things so we can look forward to some excellent summer climbing conditions in the coming months.

Click here to see photos of the season so far!