24 May 2020, Désert de Platé & Snow Conditions In The Aravis, Fiz & Mont Blanc Massifs

Mont Blanc Massif

After Saturday’s downpour Sunday morning dawned cloudy, cool and wet and it was a pleasure to burst through this valley based cloud and enjoy the stunning clear views from above the inversion on the Platé Plateau on the South side of the Fiz Massif above Passy in the Arve Valley.

The ascent from Charbonnière to Platé takes an initially improbable looking route through these limestone cliff bands…but there is a way!

The major rainfall this weekend, with a rain snow limit above the summits of the middle mountains, has polarised the snow pack with now even less snow in the middle hills whilst the high mountains looked stunning plastered in a thick fresh white coat of fresh snow.

Unlike last weekends sortie in to the hills, which found a continuous snow line above 1650m on the north side of the Quatre Tête, on the south facing slopes of the Platé Desert it was necessary to go (just) above 2000m to find the snow line and after the rain and a cool night up high, the snow leading to the Platé Refuge was rock hard!

Platé Refuge
The Chalets and Refuge de Platé with the south facing slopes leading up towards the Col du Colonney behind

There were a few ski tracks above the Refuge de Platé but the lower snow slopes are now really pitted due to sand and gravel melting hollows in the pack, so there would not be much magic smooth spring snow skiing here.  Higher up there was less sand and grit in the snow and probably some nice spring turns once the early morning sun softened up these sunny slopes after a good overnight freeze.

Platé Varan
A section of the Dèsert de Platé skyline with Tête de Lindars 2560m, Tête du Colonney 2692m and Le Sautet 2622m going from R – L.

There is not as much snow as this time last year but, for now, there is still plenty of cover on the Désert de Platé and the peaks of Colonney, Varan etc would all required ice axe and crampons to make a safe approach / traverse although it was easy enough to get to the Refuge Platé without crampons and the lower paths on this sunny side of the Arve Valley, like the traverse to the Varan Hut are now all completely snow free.

Exposed section of path above the ‘Les Egratz’ section on the ascent to Refuge Platé from Charbonnière. Tête du Colonney 2692m centre background.

It was great to see the Marmots again after their long winter of hibernation.  Various Marmot burrows on the Désert de Platé had been exposed by the retreating snow pack and several hungry teams could be seen out making the most of the lean early season pickings up high.  Lower down on the path leading to the Refuge Platé there were around 20 playful Ibex including one impressively climbing a tree in order to eat the branches!

Ibex near the path to Platé

Apart from perhaps on the shadiest northerly sides, the lower peaks in the Aravis, like the Petit Croise Baulet, now have minimal remaining snow.  A few patches remain on the north ridge of Mont Joly and tucked in tight to the Combe above Refuge Doran leading to the Col de la Forclaz which would still require crampons but many other lower mountain walks are now possible with a light pack free of the heavier mountaineering tools!

By contrast, the Aiguille du Midi was open for the long bank holiday weekend and numerous teams enjoyed routes like the South Face of the Midi, Cosmiques Arete and Chere Couloir with other teams also climbing on the Tour Ronde and Mont Blanc du Tacul.  The Midi lift is now closed again until next weekend, 30-31 May & 1st June and the Skyway Monte Bianco is still closed until further notice.

The Kohlman Route, one of the easiest routes on the magnificent South Face of the Midi.

Access to the mountains & cliffs in the Mont Blanc and surrounding Massifs is permitted but restricted to single day trips with no stays in the mountain huts, winter rooms or bivis for now.  We are happy to arrange guided days or half days for any of the following activities…

We are working with several guests who are keen to Climb Mont Blanc In A Single Day later this summer.  So get in touch if that is something you are also keen to do…and keep up the training where possible!

Mont Blanc Ascent in 1 day
The physical toll of nearly 3000m of ascent starting to be felt, a short pause en route to the summit of Mont Blanc…