26 January 2020, Ski & Climb Chamonix Conditions – Le Tour – Vallée Blanche – Grands Montets

Chamonix Ski Guide

26 January 2020, Col du Midi & Vallee Blanche Ski & Climbing Conditions

Top marks to the weather forecasters today who got it about just right.   The clouds started rolling in from late morning and then light steady snowfall this afternoon but with very little wind even on the Midi snow ridge – which is now extremely well equipped!

A well equipped Midi snow ridge in late Jan 2020

On returning to the station at around 1430 we saw two young climbers topping out on the North Face.  They had just climbed the Mallory in tough conditions and it was an emotional arrival at the Z track and an easy decision to take the Telecabine down rather than ski the VB which was now full of cloud and light fresh snow.   This team had skinned up to the Plan de l’Aiguille yesterday and climbed the Mallory today, with no track and deteriorating weather plus hard ice at the top with thin snow cover above.  A hard won ascent and well done to them, we were all glad to see them arrive safely!

Modica Noury & Gabarou Albinoni area with several teams climbing.

There were several teams heading up towards the Chere Couloir which at least now has a bit more snow on the approach apron.  Further down the Vallee Blanche there were several teams heading up towards the Modica Noury – Gabarou Albinoni area.  There was also a team on the direct start to the Supercouloir and they retreated after 2 pitches.   Several teams also climbing the Cosmiques Arete.

The Supercouloir with teams on the direct start in late Jan 2020

It was a pleasantly quiet day skiing and touring in the upper Vallee Blanche area.  We skied the Gros Rognon variation down to join the classic quite early on.  The whole area was looking nice and pristine again after several cms of fresh snow yesterday and similar again today.   It was -15C at 4000m and there was no one climbing on the South Face of the Midi today!

Enjoying the velvet & enduring the wind crust on the Gros Rognon variant to the Vallee Blanche.

The skinning return from our low point back to the station gave a 700m ascent though the velvet coated wind crust!  But it was great to experience the oncoming weather across the Col du Midi and enjoy a rare quiet mid winters day with very little wind and very few other people about this afternoon.  It looks like there will be plenty of fresh snow, with plenty of wind, arriving on Monday night and all day Tuesday….so quite a reset for the conditions…

Skinning back to the Aiguille du Midi in atmospheric light with the Grand Cap sticking out behind.

24 January 2020, Ski Chamonix Conditions – Le Tour – Vallée Blanche – Grands Montets

It’s been a week of dry weather in the Mont Blanc Massif with limited new snow and some strong winds whistling over from the Italian side!  The decent snow fall last weekend was a welcome top up and snow volume remains correct above about 15000m with plenty more on the way next week by the look of it!

We have had a great week on our Chamonix off piste & mountain skills classic course and wrapped the week off with some off piste & ski touring around the Grands Montets yesterday.  The snow is certainly varied with the lift accessed side country generally being smooth firm grippy bumps which are quite fun to ski.   Venturing further afield with the skins gives a wide variety of snow types – but often not very easy to ski with plenty of breakable crust about!

Alison off piste coaching in the Lavencher bowl at the Grands Montets

The Lavancher bowl still had cold snow but was well tracked and bumpy but fine to ski.   The mini skin back across the base of the bowl and up to the Pendant Chair lift gave an impressive variety of snow types, wind effects on the snow and even some whoomphing!  Skinning up towards the Col Rachesses from the Herse chair gave some nice smooth pack turns in the Combe des Rachesses but this rapidly gave way to a variety of types of breakable crust!   Various teams were also going over the Col itself and down towards the Argentiere Glacier and there was a skinning track up towards the Col de Passon but folk reported very crusty snow on the descent to Le Tour.

Ski Touring in the Combe Maudit in the upper Vallee Blanche

On Thursday we enjoyed a team descent of the Vallee Blanche with a ski tour up in to Combe Maudit to begin with.  We accessed the VB from the Italian side via the Skyway lift but teams were coming in from the Midi too which now has the Z track in place for descending from the station.  There was a lot of crusty and wind blown snow both near cols and ridges and also well down in to the valley.  The Foehn wind effects had ravaged many areas leaving plenty of sastrugi and difficult skiing conditions.

Atmospheric skiing but varied and crusty snow in the Vallee Blanche

Back in the main track on the French side of the glacier, the skiing became easier and the mogul fields on the skiers left side of the Geant icefall were a pleasure to ski as the bumps had trapped some lovely creamy windblown snow which gave a long plume of spray during the turn.

Creamy windblown snow over the mogul fields of the Requin side of the Geant ice fall.

The Salle a Manger and lower glacier skied ok down to quite a rock section at the base of the glacier and many teams were taking the train down from Montenvers.  The lower glacier was skiable but has plenty of little rocky sections which are not easy to ski.   Likewise under the Buvette de Mottets there are plenty of rocky sections although the big traverses on the James Bond track were in good condition.  Lower down a bit of walking was required to access the pistes of Les Planards and down to Chamonix.

Ski Vallee Blanche Team

There were a few teams climbing on the North Face of the Tour Ronde and over on Pointe Lachenal as well:

Tour Ronde North Face

On Tuesday we skied and toured around the Tete de Balme at Le Tour and did plenty of avalanche awareness training as part of the mountain skills section of the course.  There was still some nice snow on shady & sheltered spots mainly on the Vallorcine and Swiss sides of the resort.   A few teams were skiing the steep couloirs on the Arollette North Face which looked fine.

Teams skiing the North Face of l’Arollette above the back bowls at Le Tour / Vallorcine

The back bowls themselves skied fine and the traverse back to the Vallorcine chair was a bit messy but ok with care.   There was still some nice pockets of fresh snow down towards the tree line and below where the wind had not made its mark.   It looked a lot more wind effected and crusty on the Col de Passon!

Nice fresh tracks on the Swiss side of Le Tour

Overall a great week of off piste coaching, ski touring and mountain skills training and there are still a few places on our March and April courses left, see below.

Ski touring up to the Tete de Balme at the head of the Chamonix Valley.

Many of our 2020 Chamonix based ski courses are now full but we do have places left on the following group courses and also availability for Chamonix private guiding so please get in touch if we can help with ski or mountaineering guiding this winter or spring season.

3-7 Feb, Ski Evasion Aravis

Places available on this course exploring the superb Evasion resorts of Combloux, Megeve, Saint Gervais and Les Contamines as well as ski touring in the Aravis.  Also B&B accommodation available during the week in Sallanches.

15-16 Feb, Intro Ski Touring Weekend, Val Feret & Rifugio Bonatti, Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif

Just 1 place left

25-28 Feb, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course

2 Places left

23-27 March, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Classic Course

3 Places Left

25-28 Feb, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course

1 Place left

13-17 April, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Classic Course

Places available

27 April – 2 May, Spring Ski Summits

2 Places Available

4-7 May, Ski Mont Blanc

Places available

Richard approaching l’Arollette on the France Swiss Border near the Tete de Balme.