/ Mont Blanc range conditions
- a German climber has died on the normal route of the GJ, while he was climbing unroped with two friends. A snow patch as given way and the climber has fallen for almost 600m all the way down to the Whymper Couloir
- two Swiss climbers (a guide and a client) have fallen while crossing the great couloir on the Innominata ridge. The hour was very prudent (5:30am) and the altitude 4400m, but still snow conditions seem to be the cause of the accident.
In particular, it's been suggested to avoid for a while the normal route to Tour Ronde (at least until temperatures return to a decent level).
You're right. I got the weather forecast tonight (absolutely crap for Sunday) and it included stonefall warnings due to the high temperatures.
I remember the first time I did the Tour Ronde, mid seventies. The middle person af the party of three behind us was killed by stonefall on the descent in that broad couloir. It's a really dangerous place.
Any comments on this?
> Any comments on this?
Yes, is a false problem. No weather service is infallible, and Meteo France, despite their resources, is no exception. I could quote instances of gross mistakes made by almost every weather forecast bullettin that I use, but I've never stopped using them! The only reasonable way to deal with mountain meteo is to use multiple, reliable sources AND be able to read local weather signs on your own AND to make provisions for the fact that weather may change without letting you know in advance.
On the specific episode quoted by MF, both VdA Meteo and Nimbus (two italian weather services that are available on Internet, and used by people climbing in the MB, Gran Paradiso and Maurienne / Vanoise area) had forecasted instability for July 7th, with snowfall down to 2500m. And there had been ample warning sign for that. And this guy wants to make us believe that 25 people got trapped in mountain because they've all read Chamonix Meteo? Come on...
I thought Chamonix Meteo was totally predictable, if not necessarily infallible :
Demain : Orage, grande averse, 0 degree isotherm 5000m, vent forte, pas de visibilite
Journee prochaine : la mauvais temps continue
2 ou 3 jours : beau temp et chaud
Where beau temp et chaud is always in 2 or 3 days!
Few information here and there that may be useful, taken from the Fondazione Montagna Sicura bulletin (+ some personal info)
- Access to the Eccles hut is becoming difficult because of the hot weather. There are also problems accessing the pillars, particularly the Red Pillar.
- The serac on the normal route of Grandes Jorasses has grown unstable again, and is highly suggested to descent using the Rochers Whympers (the rock rib down the Italian side of Pt. Whymper. Remember that the "snow stakes" that visible from the summit of Pt. Walker are ther to monitor the movement of the serac - they do NOT indicate the way down!
- Some trouble on the rimaye of the Aiguille d'Entreves, take care.
-Main ridges on the frontier (Kuffner, Rochefort, Brenva etc) in good conditions but becoming rapidly thin, particularly the beginning of Rochefort. Still in good conditions, but quite busy. The Jorasses ridge is in good conditions.
- Traverse from Torino Hut to the satellites (Capucin, Pic Adolphe etc) is a bit delicate in the area of huge crevasses, but access to the routes (including Grand Cap) is still ok.
- A bit off area, but still interesting - there's a new bivy hut (room for 12) at 3200m on the Valsavarenche normal route of the Grivola. This may help revamp interest in that "near 4000m", a beautiful but serious mountain.
- In case you haven't heard - the Gonella hut is still NOT open.
Personally, I'm happy to stick with chamonix-meteo.com which seems just as accurate.
Do you mean access from below Luca? What particularly is the problem do you know?
I had a trip planned with clients that involved going to the Cab. de Trient today from Le Tour. (I would never willingly stay at Albert 1ère.) I got the Cham Meteo and Meteo Suisse. (... and TF1, FR2, FR3, Meteo Suisse Romande etc...) Cham Meteo forecast the end of the world at about 5 this morning, violent storms, hail, wind... then a calm period, then violent storms again, all day, gradually clearing some time tomorrow (Monday). Meteo Suisse said bright spells due to a fohn, then some showers with the odd storm thrown in, maybe (yes, I appreciate they are on two different sides of the massif, and both could conceivably be right, but I'd be right on the border). I had to believe the French - I've already been caught in the Col Sup du Tour twice in an electrical stormm and have no desire to repeat the experience!
Apart from the short but quite noisy storm at 8:00 this morning, nothing much has happened (yet). OK, I wouldn't have left the valley in the weather we had this morning, but I had to decide last night so had only the meteo to go on. So far it's nowhere near the end of the world... that of course could change as soon as I click on 'submit message'. Now I've got my clients sitting drinking coffee somewhere, probably moaning about me being wrong, not wanting to get wet, probably doesn't know how to use a compass or GPS... Life's not easy!
... now 12:30 and the sun's come out!
if it makes you feel any better, I somehow ended up at the Torino last night (polenta and meat and gravy for a change ;-) ) and, unsurprisingly (due to the lack of any panorama) the panoramic wasn't running this morning. 37EURs to get home!! although, it was the first time I've been in a telepherique going through a thunderstor so probably worth every penny...
Don't know. I searched for something I could print out and show my clients but only found something with a few graphics. There must be one though. The Cham Meteo I referred to was the phone one 08 92 68 02 74.
Polenta, eh. Now there's a treat.
Whatever the weather is doing in Cham, it'll arrive here (Vallorcine) in a few minutes. I hope that's the end of the bright spell and it's going to bang and crash and piss down again!
... so how did you 'somehow end up staying at the Torino last night'? Something to do with asking what time the first lift to Helbronner was, no doubt... Grand Cap?
Walked up Mt Blanc yesterday in beautiful weather. Hs been raining in Chamonix this morning with low cloud but apparently should be clearing up shortly.
> ... so how did you 'somehow end up staying at the Torino last night'? Something to do with asking what time the first lift to Helbronner was, no doubt... Grand Cap?
I would have expected to miss the last lift on the Grand Cap...I just wasn't expecting it on the Petit...!
Still, it was a pleasant day out (east face) with great views of its big brother - just maybe not worth the price of the refuge+lift and bus home...
Yup, that couloir on the Tour Ronde is pretty hazardous. Last July we found out that as soon as the sun hits it, stuff starts raining down. Luckily we were back down before too much of it was exposed to the sun but there was a little rockfall as we neared the bottom. Tour Ronde is all about timing, if you're going up by that way.
The only safe way when it's like that is to do the whole ridge from near the Col d'Entreves. Once gained via a shortish snow/ice slope, it's climbed on the Brenva side. Chossy though.
> Do you mean access from below Luca? What particularly is the problem do you know?
Yep, it's the access from Monzino. The section of the glacier immediately before the col de Freney (north of Pt.Innominata) and the short slope above leading to the hut is icy and somehow awkward.
Not very accurate on the prediction, did they run out of timber or what has happened? It was atleast an outer shell when I passed by last time.
Hopefully it will be a real toilet (not like Gouter hut...)!
> Well, it sounds like the time plan was: "Let's renovate this hut and open it in 3-5 years time!"
> Not very accurate on the prediction, did they run out of timber or what has happened? It was atleast an outer shell when I passed by last time.
> Hopefully it will be a real toilet (not like Gouter hut...)!
I believe they stumbled upon the scourge of Italian huts - getting on official permission to open. The hut itself is ready, and when opened it's going to be a good place to stay, the ambition is something like the Cosmiques but without the crowd and the fast food feeling.
This said - it's a 5 hours walk from the road, and the Italian normal route to MB aint going to be any easier (well, thank heaven!). So I guess the Gonella will not become an instant hit...
In many ways, I prefer it that way, even if sometimes it become difficult to imagine how the huts on the Italian side will sustain themselves.
> I hope it will be a real toilet...
usually does the job for us ;)
Conditions on Tour Ronde North Face were good on Friday - frozen snow and good ice. The following night was quite mild however and the snow on the Vallee Blanche plateau didn't freeze properly. Things change on a daily basis... Abseil descent down the rubble couloir was sheltered from stonefall but there were some impressive volleys down the couloir just to the side. Given that three of the four abseils are longer than 30 metres and none are steep enough for the rope to be thrown down cleanly, I wonder whether it's not much longer to reverse the ridge (would probably be safer as well).
Rimaye to get onto the right hand side of the Entreves ridge (looking from the Tour Ronde) has a dodgy snow bridge but it's possible to step over safely onto the right hand extremity of the rock. The rimaye on the other side of the traverse has a very dodgy snow bridge but can be jumped in descent. I wouldn't tempt fate by going up it even first thing after a cold night.
The rimaye on the Aiguillette couloir between the Trident and the Grand Cap is impressive but on Saturday was still passable in one place on snow and it also looked like it would be possible to climb up some boulders blocking the rimaye just to the side of the snow passage. There's an ab station for the descent but didn't look at how good that was as could possible to down climb to and through the rimaye, a bit delicate though.
> usually does the job for us ;)
thanks but that is a forecast produced by a local expert as opposed to the offical meteo forecast - if you go the ohm you will see they display both.
> thanks but that is a forecast produced by a local expert as opposed to the offical meteo forecast - if you go the ohm you will see they display both.
I think thats as good as you can get online the alternative is graphics based from Meteo France IIRC and therefore not much good if you're checking it on a mobile phone from a refuge as we usually do. To be fair to the local forecast it always seems to serve us pretty well.
Then on the actual Jorasses Traverse it is also pretty dry:
You can bail off the South side now safely from the Canzio bivouac which is also good to know (in guides it talks of old landslides etc but they have been recently re-equipped). There are also fixed lines up the first two 'crux' rock sections after the Canzio
and yet another goes on Mont Blanc, at last count that was at least 6 in the last week or so. It must be one of the most decepetive mountains in the range.
On Wednesday two Romanian climbers were rigged together when the first one lost his footing and slipped 200m in the Dome du Gouter crevasse. He died and the other is critical in hospital.
Yet another source of info on MB conditions. Sources: FondazioneMontagnaSicura.org and few personal info
Valleè Blanche: the Helbronner Midi traverse is in conditions, but few snowbridges in the central area are becoming to get rather "wobbly". The Aiguille di Midi ridge is now rather thin, and requires some caution. There's been few episodes in the last few days of people who had to be helped back to the Midi station because they weren't able to walk the ridge in the "upward" sense.
Satellites: seriously crowded, particularly Pic Adolphe, Petit Capucin and Chandelle. Lot of people on the Lachenal too. Rimaye delicate here and there, but still no serious deal.
Tour Ronde: normal route now back in ok conditions, but it's better to make the complete traverse from Col D'Entreves
Aiguille D'Entreves: still ok
Dent Du Geant: approach now very dry, and way too many people on the classic route. Consider doing Geant Branchè. As a completely personal aside, I think that's about time someone consider taking out those fixed ropes
Central Pillar of Freney: repeated several times in the last week, conditions good but not exactly dry. You can see few pictures taken by an italian team here
Grandes Jorasses: west ridge in excellent nick, normal route ok, but the the traverse of the Whymper Couloir is now starting ending quite above the top of the Reposoir.
The Gervasutti route on the East face has got a repeat via the Berhault ledges.
Aiguille Noire: the Ratti Vitali has been repeated few times, the route is in conditions, but the Freney traverse is extremely complicate (as usual). South Ridge now more or less dry, repeated few times.
Triolet: all climbs on the R side of the basin (above the Dalmazzi hut) are in conditions. Davide Gonella (the Dalmazzi warden) has equipped a couple of new lines near the Pointe Centrale, and Anna Torretta (a girl guide from Courma) has equipped another route on the Paroi de Titans. Ask in Courmayeur for the topo.
Freney: Armando, the Monzino warden, has re-equipped a small crag below the hut, above the Brouillard glacier. Several routes from F3+ to F5. Quite good if you're in the area and the weather is bad
Tour de Mont Blanc: The crossing of Col Ferret looks like Tokyo during rush hour. Please, someone give me a neutron bomb.
You may be interested to know that French magazine "Montagne Magazine" is running this month a luscious special on the Aosta Valley, with plenty of informations (in French) on itineraries, history etc. For all you Brenva bivy hut lovers (all three of you) there's also a complete description of the "new" access to the Brenva, via Pavillion, ferrata to the Mont de La Brenva and semi-equipped descent on the other side. Not as fascinating as the old access, but way simpler.
The issue include several interviews - theres even the comedy sidekick at page 48!
Luca - saw the Montagne Magazine you mention and your own contribution - a good issue!
Was on the Midi-Plan traverse on Wednesday - very icy on the Chamonix side and very soft snow towards the Plan one the sun hits it. Descended the Envers glacier - just passable with extreme care - probably not to be recommended.
>Grandes Jorasses: west ridge in excellent nick, normal route ok, but the the traverse of the Whymper Couloir is now starting ending quite above the top of the Reposoir.
Have you heard about the new fixed ropes in the traverse?
...of the Jorasses (West Ridge).
Magnificent photos Tony.
> ...of the Jorasses (West Ridge).
If it's the rope at the start of the traverse outside the Young couloir (see Tony post) it's been here in one form or the other since year. If someone decided to change it and put something decent he gets all my approval! The first thing one should to once he arrives to the Canzio is to do a quick recon up the Young line - as Tony said, it's VERY easy to lose your way in the early morning darkness.
Arete du Diable repeated, conditions excellent - few pictures here:
I think the ropes are here http://picasaweb.google.com/ukclimber/TraverseOfTheGrandesJorasses#5142031959844428514
If they've been there for years then no problem with them being refreshed, but i have not seen any ropes there, or neither has Tony (I assume by his post).
Still, no one knows the Jorasses as well as you do, so i probably went a different way since i did it in reverse. I think i traversed lower down the face.
Definitely no fixed gear at all on those pitches when I was up there. The odd sling used by people abbing down the line - in places verfy hard to climb up to - but that was all. We had hours the previous evening to inspect the whole area, so I'm certain it was all clear.
If I was up there again, I'd be inclined to remove the fixed rope rather than replace it with something decent. They are the crux pitches after all, and if people can't do them without it, then surely better to fail close to the safety of the bivi hut than way out on the ridge?
> I think the ropes are here http://picasaweb.google.com/ukclimber/TraverseOfTheGrandesJorasses#5142031959844428514
I've been confirmed that there's no local knowledge "official" fixed gear left there (i.e. no guide has fixed stuff on the ridge).
In all honesty - there's been old, tattered fixed ropes on the initial pitches for several years. While hardly counting as real fixed gear, they've been helping (like it or not) people out of the couloir for ages. I agree with you that part of the satisfaction is to do the route finding entirely by yourself (and fixed ropes are not exactly a nice view), still the W ridge is so complex (and tense) that I don't think that fixed ropes on the first pitches really spoil the experience. Ok, just my 2 p.
Really nice pictures.
Another round of info. Sources are the usual - Fondazionemontagnasicura.org plus information gathered locally
Brouillard: there's a 60m (temporary) fixed rope leading down to the Brouillard glaciers from above the Eccles hut. It's meant to be an help for the descent on the glacier, but its quite strenous to re-ascend!
Gervasutti pillar: good conditions, the higher ledges are snow free. The rimaye is ok only in the early morning (i.e. an afternoon start is now dicey)
Aiguille Noire: south ridge in dry conditions, relatively busy. In the upper part of the descent there are now rock cairns more or less giving you some help on navigating down. The few abseil points on the lower part have been strenghtened, but there's still plenty of downclimbing to do.
As an aside note - the Noire is DRY - no water. Take 2lt for each climber (at least) as dehydration casualties are starting to mount again.
Grandes Jorasses - some trouble near the Canzio because of eccessive traffic. Appartely last week a group of German climber decided they should have the hut all for them, and tried to get all the others who were now piling up on Col des Grandes Jorasses (in total 30 people) to sleep outside. After some considerable chaos and a "near" punching contest (surely the most remotely placed in the whole Alps!) reason triumphed. Also, apparently some f***er has decided to use the small glacial lake on the col as toilette / washing basin, with the result that the water is not drinkable anymore.
Again on the Col Des GJ - while the abseils down the Italian side have been re-equipped, there's still serious rockfall danger along the whole descent, and a couple of close calls in the last couple of weeks. Use the line only as an escape route.
Tour Ronde - the rimaye on the NE Pillar is difficult.
Hi Luca, just a quick question if you don't mind.
Do you know how you go about getting to the summit of the Aiguille Blanche after ascending the Gugliermina? Do you have to abseil down the couloir to link with the Dames Anglaises or is it possible to just get down to the notch and follow the ridge?
Had a look at a few photos and it doesn't seem obvious.
> Hi Luca, just a quick question if you don't mind.
> Do you know how you go about getting to the summit of the Aiguille Blanche after ascending the Gugliermina? Do you have to abseil down the couloir to link with the Dames Anglaises or is it possible to just get down to the notch and follow the ridge?
> Had a look at a few photos and it doesn't seem obvious.
On the "back" of the Gugliermina there's a small and very obvious needle/stack of rock called locally the Epée (the sword). In descentyou first abseil down to the col betwen the Gugliermina and the Epée. You turn the Epèe on the E (the Brenva side)until another notch and then you continue up the ridge (awkward and exposed at the start, becomes easier later) towards the Blanche.
Hope this has been clear enough.
Perfect. Thank you very much.
We had a similar problem at the Eccles bivouac last week, 20 something people for 18 hut spaces. In the end some people bivied higher up and lots slept on the floor. The central pillar of freney was rammed the next day with something like 7 parties on the route = lots of queueing!
or it might have been the contamine-mazeud... either way it was in good condition.
For general information the decent from col. Moore is impossible due to a massive gap between the rocks and the glacier >15m wide and ?? deep. After 4 abseils we had still not reached the glacier, a 5th would have dropped us into this hole, in the dark.
So do not go this way until next year!!
Just looking for some up to date info please. We arrive out in Chamonix next wednesday. Had hoped to do Mer de Glace face of Grepon, but have some concerns about Nantillons descent - had been quite good apparently, but few recent reports on OHM and elswhere saying danger levels and instability have got pretty high in last few weeks.
I know it can be pretty dangerous at the best of times, but any recent info much appreciated!!
Just read the other thread where you were hit by a rock and helicoptered from the descent from the Fourche... was this on another occasion? Where were you going on the other side of Col Moore? Just curious?
Last year there was a crossing around the center of it following the 'river' that forms in the middle of the slabs. Only a 1m gap, but very dangerous to get to it, as it involves down climbing the steepening smooth slabs that turn vertical at the bottom, and when you cannot down climb anymore you have to do a cat-like jump to get down and across.
The other option is to traverse on the right following the Route Major approach and then down the couloir after the first rock rib.
Doing the Aiguille Blanche or the GP?
> For general information the decent from col. Moore is impossible due to a massive gap between the rocks and the glacier >15m wide and ?? deep. After 4 abseils we had still not reached the glacier, a 5th would have dropped us into this hole, in the dark.
> So do not go this way until next year!!
Thanks Simon, I forwarded this to the Courmayeur guides bureau.
> Hi Luca,
> Just looking for some up to date info please. We arrive out in Chamonix next wednesday. Had hoped to do Mer de Glace face of Grepon, but have some concerns about Nantillons descent - had been quite good apparently, but few recent reports on OHM and elswhere saying danger levels and instability have got pretty high in last few weeks.
> I know it can be pretty dangerous at the best of times, but any recent info much appreciated!!
The Nantillons are very much outside my area of "interest" (I'm more involved with the going-ons on the Italian side and the main frontier ridge) but yes, apparently the descent on the Nantillons is at the moment delicate but hardly desperate. Keep in mind, however, that the alternative (the 25 abseils descent back on the Mer De Glace via "Rendez-Vous a la Lune") is quite a tough proposition, and even Piola doesn't recommend it.
There's at the moment a lot of confusion about the weather outlook aftern the next few days, but the consensus (sort of) at the moment is that there's not going to be a break of the current conditions (thermal zero above 4000m) until AT LEAST the August 22. This means conditions on the Nantillons may deteriorate again, but not that quickly. In any case, check again at the OHM when in Cham.
Hope this may be of some help
Would we need to book? What are the chances of just turning up?
We'll have full camping gear anyway, just didn't want to book to much so we have freedom to match with the weather.
Thanks for your reply Luca. Much appreciated!!
Always book Iain, you can always cancel with no problems at all. Have you ever stayed at Orny? It's usually full of youth groups...
> Would we need to book? What are the chances of just turning up?
> We'll have full camping gear anyway, just didn't want to book to much so we have freedom to match with the weather.
sorry, I saw your question just now. Jon's answer is correct - booking a hut before showing up is always good manner, and in case you don't really show up, no one is going to be really upset. The other way round may create more trouble.
Done a couple of routes overlooking the nantillons glacier in the last 2 weeks. Saw a lot of rockfall including one huge one from the top of the face on the other side, which released a volley of rocks that poured down the face and across the tracks leading down the glacier that I assume represent the descent route.
Have a good trip
Its still possible to descend the nantillons glacier, but near the bottom (after you pass the bit exposed to serac fall) it now requires an abseil on rock (on your left as you descend) to avoid one crevasse which now spans the entire slope (in ascent would be doable but require a bit of grade 4 climbing in a narlyish position).
Was talking to two climbers coming down into Les Contamines who said that snow conditions were poor on Les domes de Miage. Very icy. This concurs with the info given on the Chamonix OHM site. Hot week forecast so probably no immediate change likely.
Does anyone know what the conditions are like on the Treleporte glacier, and around the Envers hut in general. Are the rimayes totally impassible? Rock routes in the sun is a great idea, so long as you can actually get to them!!
Let me know if you find out...
Horrid news from the frontier ridge (again). A guide from Courmayeur, Alberto Cheraz, has died this morning on the Tour Ronde, killed by a falling block. His client was luckily unscathed. Temperatures are seriously high there now, and the area seem to be particularly prone now to rockfall.
Dent du Geant: the suggestion is to keep to the L (west) of the last gendarme before the "Salle a Manger" at the base of the Geant, as the S side seem particularly unstable.
Jorasses: the normal route is now very dry, particularly on the Reposoir and the Glacier below. Few repeat of the Walker Spur, in conditions but still icy high up.
Has anyone recently descended the Envers glacier from Col du Plan, that can give me an idea of conditions?
was there last week staying in the envers for 4 days, and had no problems accessing any of the rock routes, and didn't hear of any other climbers who had a problem while we were up there...
We just phoned today and were told the hut's full tomorrow and wednesday.
Some pics to give you an idea:
Lots of parties on the Freney as usual but the approach is starting to look a little dicey.
Are you guys taking the minimal equipment approach to new levels? Or was it a long night at Le Pub the day before?
looking forward to catching up tomorrow
Good to see the UKC yoof team getting some fantastic routes under their belts!! Tom, Luke et all have been active on the Freney, Walker and the Dru. Great stuff!! And hope to see some of you still out there in Sept!!
Kuffner, Tour Ronde, Fourche etc - stay away, as in "don't go there". Conditions are simply too dangerous now, at least until the isotherme decides to go down (unlikely for the next three days)
Damm, hopefully things will cool down by the time I get there (29th). The Kuffner was a route I had on my ticklist!!
Any ideas how the north face of the Chardonnet is looking, Migot in particular although I doubt whether the gullies are in any sort of nick.
Also, does anyone have any info on the Envers rimayes pretty please!!
Cheers, there's loads to do there so we'll find something to amuse ourselfs for a couple of days!!
Walked up the Tacul normal route today, fine condition, obviously slushy by 1130 when we got back to the bottom.
Yesterday, Central route from the Grande Montets cablecar straight up the petit aiguille verte gives you a 55 degree 60m ice climb at the top, 2 pitches. No snow on it. (My sisters first bit of alpine ice)
The Cormayeur authorities have issued a formal warning against climbing (or descending) the normal route of the Grandes Jorasses, in any section between the Boccalatte hut and the Reposoir (including the area below the hut). Apparently the monitoring equipment on the upper Jorasses plateau are predicting an imminent collapse of the huge serac below the summit. Other routes (like the West Ridge) are considered safe.
Here's the note:
As usual, this kind of "prohibition" is not stricly enforced - but should aything happen there while this access restriction is activated (particularly to guided parties), legal and insurance consequences may be unpleasant.
I had to lead all the back from the base of a very unstable Col Moore, from above the monster schrund, then down the other side, to the slope below the Forche, when he said he couldn't walk any further. I was quite capable of leading the ice-pitches then rock back to the hut, but he really didn't want to carry on. As he is not the sort to make a fuss about nothing, I was firmly convinced that his foot was broken, but fortunately the doctor in Aosta hospital said it was just very bad bruising.
Much less happily, we think it is quite likely that one of the Italian chaps we had a shouted conversation with, who called out the Italian rescue for us, may have been the one killed the next day on the Kufner. Makes it much closer and more personal like that, though in an odd way I am glad that it was none of the people we shared the bivi hut with, as there was a very good atmosphere there that night, everyone being friendly and helping each other.
I think there's a photo in the notice board of the OHM of that serac along with a notice. Not sure if it's the same, as my French is nought.
Well, that's put paid to my attempt on the Walker Spur then!!
> Well, that's put paid to my attempt on the Walker Spur then!!
I'm seeing the medium term projection for weather in the area (good way to get some sleep - I need some way to fight this awful, damp heat weather!), and the general consensus is that next week will be still somehow stable and hot, but from the next weekend things may change dramatically. I don't know how much time you may have - in any case a big drop of temperatures would still put the north face out of conditions.
I'm afraid that the GJ have become a "non target" for the rest of the season. I'm following the whole serac saga, will keep you informed here.
I'm coming out on the 29th for two weeks, so was prepared for a storm to put the Walker out anyway, nevermind. Do you think that with cooler temperatures, the approach to the Fourche, and the Freney will become safer again?
> I'm coming out on the 29th for two weeks, so was prepared for a storm to put the Walker out anyway, nevermind. Do you think that with cooler temperatures, the approach to the Fourche, and the Freney will become safer again?
I believe the answer is yes for the Fourche, not sure about Freney, as colder temperatures there may involve some serious snow.
Just came down from Leschaux hut yesterday and echo all the above warnings re GJ.
Petits Jorasses has had numerous ascents with reports of minimal stonefall.
By the way, lovely rock climbing on Pointe a Daniel, just behind the hut - we were the only ones on it!
Is the descent from Pointe Walker also affected or is just the normal route?
And another quick question...
What's the approach like at the moment to get to the Ratti-Vitali? Safe to cross the glacier or is it a bowling alley?
Sorry for all the questions, but you are more reliable (and knowledgeable) than the OHM...
Thanks a lot
> Is the descent from Pointe Walker also affected or is just the normal route?
"Descent from Pt. Walker" mean descending from the summit dome right down the upper plateau along the upper Pra Sec? You're above the serac there, so, no it's not affected. However, you have then to traverse right below the serac!
The most likely scenario for the serac collapse is that it will hit the junction between the Whymper couloir and the R branch of the Grandes Jorasses glacier, all the way down to lower reposoir and the glacier below. We're speaking almost 40.000 tons of ice here, so the area affected may be huge.
You may consider returning via the Col des Jorasses, as apparently the descent via the Hirondelles is not in conditions.
> And another quick question...
> What's the approach like at the moment to get to the Ratti-Vitali? Safe to cross the glacier or is it a bowling alley?
Was been done (and the route has been repeated) until two weeks ago, but according to friend of mine who's done the Gervasutti/Boccalatte at Gugliermina, several teams have turned back well before the base of the route (the rimaye is well open). In any case, you may take the longer detour from col de l'Innominata, as the Brogliatta access seem closed.
Best suggestion I can make - phone to the Monzino and ask Armando! Or take the time for a hike to the hut, it's always a pleasant little trip.
> Sorry for all the questions, but you are more reliable (and knowledgeable) than the OHM...
Thanks for that, but I really hope you're just pulling my legs here. OHM and the other information service for the MB the area are based on a huge network of first hand sources, which a single individual could never hope to rival (and that's definitely not my intention!). I would be quite worried at the idea that someone reading UKC could misunderstand all this (ok, not your case of course) and base his idea of the mountain conditions on my little Internet blurbs, instead of doing the right things - which is asking locally for conditions info (OHM for the French side, Fondazione Montagna Sicura and Courmayeur guides for the Italian) AND - most important - make a personal assesment of how things are really like (i.e use your eyes and judgement - again, not referring to you Oscar!).
In other words (and deliberately mixquoting Michael Palin) "Strange Italians lying on the Internet distributing random conditions updates is no basis for a mountain information service!"
>We're speaking almost 40.000 tons of ice here, so the area affected may be huge.
if it hasn't fallen by the winter, do you think the authorities might help it on its way with a few explosives?
> >We're speaking almost 40.000 tons of ice here, so the area affected may be huge.
> christ! i didn't realise it was quite that large! i hope someone has got a camera videoing its collapse - it is going to be somewhat dramatic!
> if it hasn't fallen by the winter, do you think the authorities might help it on its way with a few explosives?
Sorry Tobias, it's 40.000 m^3, not tons (when I'm posting late at night my brain gets sometime detached from my fingers). The prediction is that at least 20.000 m^3 will fall down by the end of next week.
> Sorry Tobias, it's 40.000 m^3, not tons (when I'm posting late at night my brain gets sometime detached from my fingers). The prediction is that at least 20.000 m^3 will fall down by the end of next week.
ah, that sounds slightly less cataclysmic - maybe i should have thought about quantities before posting...still, a block of 40 tonnes of ice will still make for some interesting effects.
How much does a cubic metre of ice weigh...?
Not quite a tonne I imagine
10cm cubed is a litre which is a kilo if its water
There are a thousand litres in a cubic metre (10 along each dimension), so 1000kg if water....... itll be a bit less because ice isn't as dense as water. Could be lighter if its aereated ice rather than solid stuff.
Probably that kind of order of magnitude though.....
Exactly my point!
Normal water ice weights around 930grams for each "litre". One m^3 contains 1000 litres of water, so the weight of a m^3 of ice is 930 kg. Multiply for 20.000 and you get around 18600 tons.
The 40.000 m^3 figure is calculated taking in account the - theoretical - mass of the serac, but as I've said, according to the Swiss institute that doing the monitoring job for Courmayeur, the actuall fall should involve half of the mass. The ice is moving 34 cm per day, so the collapse is expected any moment.
Just of the records - when the serac first fell in 1998, 180.000 m^3 of ice got airborne - there were serious excpectation for Planpincieux being obliterated!
I couldn't tell if you were asking rhetorically or not :)
So in fact 40,000 cubic metres is not far off the 40,000 tonnes you posted in the first place...
> So in fact 40,000 cubic metres is not far off the 40,000 tonnes you posted in the first place...
But only 20.000 are "really" going to move (and m^3 are not tons...).
I always strive to be as much precise as I can when "reporting" these news, as you'll never know where they may end up (I've seen that UKC is often frequented by people hunting for news)
> How much does a cubic metre of ice weigh...?
hmm, probably not the kg i thought last night :-)
you'd never have guessed i had a masters in theoretical physics would you?
Yes, we thought about that, we are considering every option, and just trying to make our mind as to the safest descent. So far seems that the West Ridge is the best option, though it'll be logistically awkward. We also considered crowbarring the serac loose before the descent... ;)
I'll do that. Cheers
> In other words (and deliberately mixquoting Michael Palin) "Strange Italians lying on the Internet distributing random conditions updates is no basis for a mountain information service!"
Of course, getting info from different sources before making decisions is very important, but as an example, only recently they said to some young guys that approaching the Freney Pillar going up the Freney glacier was ok...
It's recurring event, but it appears to have been somehow accellerated because (as strange as it may sound) of glacial advance - there's more ice there than there was few years ago!
Actually, Val Ferret is seriously avalanche prone, and thus this specific event, as big as it will be, is not such a big deal if seen in a historical context. Few historical precedents - the great avalance in 1952 that nearly vaporized Planpincieux (the entire front of the Planpincieux glacier gave way), the 2001 freak avalanche from La Saxe (that destroyed Pont, the small group of houses just before the Golf Club), and what happens almost every winter between Tronchey and Pra Sec...
I'm hear that the last time the upper plateau was measured, it had gained a full metre of ice from the year before.
> It's recurring event, but it appears to have been somehow accellerated because (as strange as it may sound) of glacial advance - there's more ice there than there was few years ago!
Interesting. I remember seeing evidence and photos of avalanche damage in Val Feret, including a picture of one the campsite's bathrooms full of ice!
Hi Luca, do you have an idea of the weather pattern for the next week? Am on on Sat, and even though the GJ is out of the question now, I still want to do some climbing!! Cheers
> Interesting. I remember seeing evidence and photos of avalanche damage in Val Feret, including a picture of one the campsite's bathrooms full of ice!
There are two "historical" funnels there, which are under a strict prohibition for any type of building - the Mayen plain (between la Palud and Planpincieux, right under the vertical of the Dent du Geant) and the Tronchey plain. Actually, I believe that the Tronchey - Pra Sec basin is considered the second tallest avalanche slope of the Alps (of course the first is the East face of the Monte Rosa).
Everything else should be relatively safe in theory - but in practice, the only safe spots are those protected by huge natural barriers - thus Planpincieux, Tronchey, Pra Sec and Lavachey. However the La Saxe - Entre Deux Sauts - Malatrà slope on the S side of the valley act often as a "edge", so avalanches ricochets and sometimes come back falling in the wrong place.
It should be remembered in passing that Val Ferret is the site of one of the biggest rockfall ever recorded in historical times - the September 12 1717 event on Triolet - more than 12 millions m^3 of debris came down into the Triolet basin, destroying two settlements and covering almost 8 km of the valley with a thick strata of material - all the way to Lavachey. The actual mass of the rockfall is debated - some researcher believes it may have been up to 20 milions m^3!
> Hi Luca, do you have an idea of the weather pattern for the next week? Am on on Sat, and even though the GJ is out of the question now, I still want to do some climbing!! Cheers
HI Liz, if you want to have a good argument with someone you are welcome to step in and discuss next week weather - at the moment confusion reigns supreme...
The most reasonable scenario for the NW is - next weekend will be moderately unstable (the Dolomites may get the worst of it), then weather will stabilize again for most of the following week, followed by another relatively unstable spell. After that, it's a typical case of "who knows" - there are some early indications that ALL September may be settled, but I wouldn't bet my wage on it.
It'll be fantastic weather in the alps for a month starting from the 8th sept. That's the day we leave for the States...
> It'll be fantastic weather in the alps for a month starting from the 8th sept. That's the day we leave for the States...
You're probably being superstitious here...
Checking right now some of the latest analysis on the available long term models (usual stuff - GFS, Reading, UKMO) and there seems to me a sort of agreement that temperature will fall well below average at around Sept. 5th, and a serious break of this unusually long summer spell may follow.
This said - I'm on the sceptic camp when it comes to long term weather forecast.I prefer to rely on old fashioned three day analysis bulletin like Nimbus, Meteomont or Meteo Vda (and they are just forecasting a sharp decrease of temperatures)
... superstitious, moi...?
Innominata: in conditions, but this doesn't mean that you should go there.
Pilastro Rosso: in conditions, but glacier access almost to the limit.
Tour Ronde: only the normal route can be done safely. Avoid everything else.
Dent Du Géant: access to the "gum" completely dry. The level of idiocy of some of the people who tries to climb this mountain is almost unbelievable.
Rochefort: seriously icy
Capucin: Couloir des Aiguillettes dangerous, Bonatti line still accessible via the shallow spur on the L (some move of F5+)
Trident: access is ok
Chandelle: R hand couloir dangerous (see above)
Jorasses: normal route still closed, waiting for the serac collapsing any minute (two days ago a large chunk fell into the Whymper couloir). BOCCALATTE HUT CLOSED!
Aiguille Noire (south ridge): dry and somehow busy
Mt. Blanc: dry and horribly busy.
Hi Luca, any info on the Chardonnet, particularly the Forbes.
Also routes on the Tacul Triangle>
After your post earlier this year about you going to the states & the weather being ace in the Alps while you are away, being praying for your departure.........
Yipeeeeeee, nothing personal mind.......
> Hi Luca, any info on the Chardonnet, particularly the Forbes.
In all honesty, nothing beyond a generic indication that most of the (Forbes) route is now icy. Descent seem to have become tricky, but the most important thing there is NOT having someone up your head.
Still in relatively good condition but busy, make sure you're coming from the Aiguille du Midi as the Vallèe Blanche traverse is now quite crappy (big holes everywhere). Traffic there will seriously decrease by next week (a lot of people is leaving this weekend).
... my pleasure. Enjoy it.
If Luca, or anyone else with some experience, would like to talk in a little more detail on the current 'crappy' conditions of the Vallee Blanche mentioned above, I'd very much appreciate them taking a look at the thread: 'Effect of current conditions on Cham snowplods / glacier hikes?' in this section and replying there.
For someone looking to gain basic glacier crossing experience does 'crappy' equate to 'lots of route-finding practice and taking ages to get from A to B' (i.e. plain boring or tiresome to someone with plenty of such experience)
Or... something else? If so what?
Thanks for reading (and sorry for the semi thread hijack!)
Was in the Envers hut early last week (23rd-25th) - didn't hear about any problems crossing rimayes. Was told that the start of Marchand de Sable is worrying because of low snow level & consequently very high 1st bolt.
Did Envers et Contre Tout - well worth it
There are now strong indications that by next Monday the weather on the area may take a sudden and stable term turn to "worse" (i.e stormy). While this is really an early forecast, and I know that many of you who have taken their climbing holidays in September may be disappointed, believe me, us "locals" we're on the verge of popping out champagne bottles and start dancing in the streets. Believe me, 30 continuous days of above average temperatures is too much even for (northern) Italy.
In meanwhile, temperatures in the area are now back to slightly above season average (thermal zero at 3700m)- In the next couple of days expect moderate instability, then a short lived return to sunnier weather.
the fact that there were 100k less people than the day before probably helped too!!
i'm presuming that this will be covering the whole range?
Bummer. I am in Les Gets until the weekend and the rain/storms look like they are moving in overnight tonight and here until at least Friday :-(
Well, looks like you've been lucky (and us unluckier :-( ), as the turn for the "worse" of the weather has been postponed until further notice. So, after the modest front that is passing tonight in the area, thing will turn back to "normal" for at least another week, with only some afternoon instability. The only good news is that temperatures have plunged down, so good night refreezing will be guarantee.
Some of the latest models seem to indicate that this obnoxious summer stability will end up by next Wednesday, but after so many disappointment I'm not guaranteeing anything
(I know that you're all for the obnioxious summer stability, but try to understand that I live here...)
Just a side note - water temperatures in the Western Mediterranean have been reported to be very high. This could create, as soon as the above mentioned instability arrives, major convection phenomena, with (in presence of currents from SW) huge precipitation on SW Mt. Blanc, not necessarily with much warning. Keep an eye to weather bullettins.
Just to add to that... The serac problem is avoidable by long, tedious, and generally ugly abseiling down the ridge coming down from the Whymper. Loads of recent tat in place.
Main problem though, is crossing from the ridge into the rognon. Extremely dangerous snow conditions and crazy deep crevasses with a thin layering of rubbish snow everywhere!
We must have punched through at least 10 times in 200 metres. A very scary game of russian roulette that is not recommended. Definitely a no-go zone at the moment.
In the other hand, brewing up above the serac waiting to see if it goes is quite enjoyable...
Did the serac fall yet?
> Did the serac fall yet?
Some secondary fall, but not yet the "big one". According to the people at the Fondazione Montagna Sicura the serac is still moving around 30cm per day, so it shouldn't last long.
Any idea why they don't just blow the hell out of it?
Last time hitching back from the Jorasses we were picked up by a girl that works for the FMS, it looks like she gets flown weekly around the serac to get photos of it's development. Anyway, when we asked her why they don't knock it down themselves she just shrugged and laughed, so still a mystery to me.
I'm no expert, but I understand that there's no "normal" velocity. It depends from the mass involved, the steepnes of the slope below, the type of ice etc, and in general, the so called "ice plasticity" (I hope the translation is correct). In general, a vertical velocity of let's say, 5 cm per day of the entire mass of ice (we're speaking the the whole glacier, not just the serac!) may be normal, but there are glaciers outside the Alps were the "descent" goes at 1m per day, and much more.
The problem here is the speed of the movement of the serac in relation to the rest of the Grandes Jorasses summit plateau. I believe (but I may be entirely wrong here) that the speed of the Grandes Jorasses glacier is quite limited, and thus the "normal" serac speed was below the 5 cm mark. The ETH has developed a set of "curves" to predict the serac collapse which was tested over the years and it's - apparently - quite accurate.
If you're interested in the topic you may read this
> Any idea why they don't just blow the hell out of it?
> Last time hitching back from the Jorasses we were picked up by a girl that works for the FMS, it looks like she gets flown weekly around the serac to get photos of it's development. Anyway, when we asked her why they don't knock it down themselves she just shrugged and laughed, so still a mystery to me.
Besides the obvious practical problems, I think the problem is that the whole serac monitoring business is a part of a huge set of experiments made by Zurich Polytechnic (the ETH - Einstein's school) in the context of some climate / meteorology study. For instance, I know they have taken plenty of ice core samplers on the upper plateau and they're looking for changes in consistency, materials trapped inside etc. The serac monitoring system is quite complex and sophysticate toos, as it's based on a network of laser devices "checking" the position of the reflecting poles that have been stuck around the serac.
So, unless there's some danger for Planpincieux, no one is eager to "blow up" the experiment! Also, I suspect Courmayeur is getting paid for this, and so...
Mr. Lopez; a suggestion: I reckon you should shoot straight back up there with a video camera and see how many cuppas you can get in before it falls. I really want to to see this one going down in full hi-rez slo-mo technicolor!
I'd just like to point out that the descent ridge from the Aiguille du Midi is at the moment ****ing horrible.
Care to elaborate? ****ing horrible how, exactly?
I'm interested as I was thinking of going for a stroll on the Col du Midi tomorrow. There was a storm this afternoon (which I assume was snow up at 3800m). Will that make things better or worse, I wonder?
Any opinions folks?
It's not that bad, narrow yes, but I wouldn't be put off. My sister went down it on friday and I've been down twice in the last week. Just take care, that's all!!
The arete is currently split by a huge crevasse, which is crossed by a pretty thin snowbridge. Someone's going to get unlucky at some point, me reckons.
In reply to gav p:
My partner had to leave today, as did another UKC climber we had met, so my new plan was to go on my own first thing tomorrow. Just down the arrete and back up - a good way to finish my first trip and plenty exciting enough for a newb like me - but crossing a snowbridge like that without being roped up sounds just a little TOO exciting. I very much doubt my daughter would appreciate it.
Oh well, there's always next time....
...unless someone reads this in time and fancies a little jaunt like that?
Back on topic; the weather seems to be getting unstable quite early in the afternoon at the moment (just had rain a few minutes ago and can't see the Midi for cloud) so I'd only go if we could make the first car.
Yeah thats pretty much what I meant, the snow bridge looked..... dodgy on Thursday. Plus it's very narrow and icy.
I ended up trying out the trip down the Midi arrete solo (forgive me, Daughter!) and was surprised to find not one but several (!) snowbridges, with at least two of them looking like strips of icy swiss cheese complete with fist-sized and bigger holes. I was using poles so could distribute my weight in the least scary manner possible and my luck held. However, as others have stated in this thread, it looks (to my inexperienced eyes, at least) like someone is going to get unlucky pretty soon. Let's hope they're not as dumb as me and are roped up when they fall through.
There is a way to miss out on the lower two or three bridges but it was not the most obvious path going down. A kindly guide (who also took the dodgy path down) suggested returning by the higher, skirting route which I did.
So, all-in-all a touch dodgy but bloody great fun.
To add some 'on second thoughts' perspective, there were loads of people going up and down the arrete in the hour or so that I was sodding around, so maybe these bridges look scary but have a lot of life left in them yet?
How's the weather out there at the moment? It look's pretty grim on the webcams and in the forecast... supposed to be flying out this weekend for a few days but considering pulling the pin and following the high pressure to Scotland!
Thanks in advance,
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