17 June 2018, Gran Paradiso & Skyway Monte Bianco – Great Snow Conditions

What a difference a few days makes!  In contrast to last weeks almost liquid snow, we have now had a good few warm sunny days and chilly starry nights – giving classic early summer alpine conditions and a real pleasure to be out crunching crampons in to stiff snow.  With the Aiguille du Midi lift station still shut the Skyway Monte Bianco and Torino Hut area continues to be very popular and there are some great conditions for early summer mountaineering with lots of teams leaving the hut for different routes after 0200, 0400 and 0600 breakfast times.

Mountaineering Training in Chamonix
Gran Paradiso team training on the enjoyable mountaineering ridge above the Col d’Entreves

There were lots of teams climbing the Tour Ronde, mainly via the Freshfield Arete as the old / winter normal route is getting messy with stone fall and an increasingly steep bergschrund.   Likewise teams were traversing the Aiguille d’Entreves, Toule & Marbrees.   There was also a good track leading up through the well snowy / mixed approach to the Salle à Manger for the Dent du Geant / Arete Rochefort.

Team of alpinists descending the Freshfield Arete on the Tour Ronde with the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey beyond

We also made an enjoyable ascent of the North Ridge of the Petit Flambeau accessed very rapidly from the Torino Hut and descending from the Col de Petit Flambeau.  The snow conditions were excellent and whilst snow volume is generally high – some the central rock sections are now dry and loose as always!

Rachel & Tony climbing on the snowy upper half of the North Ridge Petit Flambeau near the Skyway Monte Bianco lift and Torino Hut

Whilst the Cosmiques Hut apparently remains open – without the Midi lift it’s probably not very busy!  There were however a few teams traversing the upper Vallee Blanche and there was a good track across to the Col du Midi as well as teams heading on to the famous granite rock spires above Cirque Maudit.  Some teams were still approaching on skis and other teams were skiing in the upper Vallee Blanche and on some of the steep little north faces like the Petit Flambeau.  Before we leave the Rifugio Torino bound for Gran Paradiso National Park a big thanks to Jean Marc and the hut team for our last minute upgrade to their lovely room 31, well worth checking out for couples, families etc.

Also of interest is that the Rifugio Monzino is now also open.  This is a great hut beneath the magnificent South face of Monte Bianco, with a pleasant walk / scramble / via Ferrate from the Val Veny to access it

The Rifugio Torino and its magnificent view south and east to Gran Paradiso (centre) and Grivola (left)

Over in the Paradiso National Park the streams are gushing with white water and the waterfalls impressive.  The Marmotts are busy and the wild flowers bursting out.  It’s looking great and the warm weather over the last week has stripped back a lot of snow between 2300m and 2700m to hut level.   This made the hut walk even easier and more pleasant but there is still great cover on the glacier and crampons were put on well before the glacier was even reached, infact not far above the Chabod Hut.

Trekking in to the Gran Paradiso North Face / glacier normal route from the Rifugio Chabod
Trekking in to the Gran Paradiso North Face / glacier normal route from the Rifugio Chabod

There were at least 20 climbers on the North Face profiting from the fine chilly early summer morning and excellent crisp snow conditions.  No ice was visible on the face and most teams were moving together and many were carrying skis, generally to traverse the summit ridge and ski the normal route descent.  But apparently some also skied back down the face!

Teams climbing & skiing the Gran Paradiso North Face in good conditions, mid June 2018

Snow conditions were also excellent on the normal route and there was only a short period of cold, windy and cloudy weather whilst a summit lenticular cloud passed over.   We had wrapped up well for the ensuing suffer fest of queuing along the summit ridge.  Then, suddenly the weather turned and a calm & sunny morning allowed time to admire the great views across to Monte Rosa & Matterhorn whilst the summit ridge teams eventually departed.

Great conditions and weather on the Gran Paradiso summit ridge in mid June 2018

The descent via a pasta and café pause at Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle was in excellent fast condition with high snow volume and easy going all the way down the glacier and valley / snow covered boulder field above the hut. It’s worth noting that there still currently remains one or 2 small but quite steep snowy slopes covering the path below the Rifugio which require care as they are steep and have bouldery slopes below!

Conditions looked good and well snowy on the North Face of Ciaforon and Becca di Monciar although no tracks were noted.  There may be one on the former now as 1 team were heading in to climb this face with the lower and upper snow fields split by a narrow rock band.

Tete Rousse Ascent, Mont Blanc
A snowy ascent to Refuge Tete Rousse on Mont Blanc, mid June 2018

Over on Mont Blanc, conditions have also come good again after the storms earlier in the week.  Things have settled down, the track from Tete Rousse / Gouter Hut is back in place and many teams have been sumitting in good conditions.  Our next Gran Paradiso / Mont Blanc course starts today and we still have a couple of places available on our 5 day Chamonix Alpine Intro to Mountaineering course 25-29 June, so please click that link if you would like more details.

Good climbing and please let us know if you have any good Chamonix / Alpine mountaineering conditions info to share with us.

Gran Paradiso Summit as part of the fine journey through the upper Valsavarenche via Rifugios Chabod & Vittorio Emanuelle