7 August 2018, Heatwave In The Alps – But Good Conditions In Places

Chamonix scrambling

Hot & sunny weather has been the feature of the Alps for the last few weeks.  So in general, high altitude rocky climbs are good and snowy things are to be avoided!  Despite this heatwave, in some places, the whopping snow volume at the start of the season has still retained decent conditions and glaciers, whilst crevasses are indeed starting to open up, are still a lot better than last summer!

The approach to the classic East Ridge of the Pyramide Tacul for example remains fine and the approach to the North Ridge of the Gran Cornier, both of which can become icy in mid-summer are reported as being still fine for the moment,  Likewise the glacier du Tour and Trient for accessing the Aiguille du Tour and Tete Blanche remains ok, albeit with crevasses well in evidence now, unlike the start of the season.   Things which have steeper / sunny / more delicate dispositions, like the descent from the Aiguille de Chardonnet and Voie Normale on the Aiguille d’Argentiere are now icy and to be avoided.

Approx line of ascent (red) and descent (black) of the classic Chamonix high altitude rock climb, the East Ridge of the Pyramide du Tacul. Good climbing in a great position and a relatively amenable grade!

Things which are usually climbed when quite dry and rocky – including some big routes like the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and North Face of the Drus, have been well dry and the former has seen many ascents in the last few weeks.   With temperatures more recently being well over 30C in Chamonix, this has led to some significant rock fall including a huge block which fell down the Grand Couloir below the Refuge du Gouter on Mont Blanc, causing intense  rock fall and leading the main Chamonix guiding company to cease climbing that route for now.

Our classic shot of a fine exposed belay on the ascent of the North Face of Les Drus, Chamonix

Things often improve with regard to these problematic conditions in early autumn as the nights become more chilly and the first frosts and snowfalls of early autumn arrive in the mountains.  This often starts in September and can give some great conditions for an early autumn ascent of Mont Blanc or other alpine routes in the massif.

Other rock falls have been significant and include on the loose slopes approaching the Dent du Geant and another significant rock fall reported today on La Meige in the Ecrins.

On the more solid rock routes there has been plenty of teams enjoying the sun with cooler mountain air, especially on the shady Chamonix Aiguilles side of the valley with good conditions for dry middle altitude mountain granite and lots of teams climbing on the Aiguille de l’M, Peigne, Blaitiere & Pelerins.

Rock Mountaineering In The Chamonix Aiguilles

Also on the rocky ridge front, many teams have been doing the traverse of the Aiguilles Crochues, with very little snow left on the ridge but plenty for a more rapid descent to Lac Blanc!  Also the usual favourites from the Skyway Monte Bianco, Aiguille du Midi and Grands Montets – Traverse of the Aiguilles Marbrees, Entreves, Cosmiques Arete, Tour Ronde, Petite Verte & NE Ridge of Les Grands Montets.

Over on Monte Viso there is still some snow, meaning crampons and axe are ‘obligatoire’ and with both good conditions and good weather forecast for Saturday, the Sella hut is now full for the weekend!

In the Swiss Valais there has been lots of activity in good conditions including Castor, Dent Blanche, Grand Combin and, bien sur, the Matterhorn also which received a swift ascent by friends from Chamonix in less than 12 hours from Cervinia to summit and back!

High on the Italian Ridge of the Matterhorn, well above the Rifugio Carrel & en route to completing the traverse of the Matterhorn via a descent of the Hornli Ridge.

Our summer courses are mainly now full but we do have the following spaces still available on group programmes in Sept and early Oct.  All of the following courses are running and have existing teams to join.  Only 1 place available for the early Sept Alpine Intro course and 1 left for the Weissmeis course. All the details are here: