/ Alps in May? -

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lukehunt - on 15 Apr 2013
I'm thinking of heading to the Alps in May, but haven't heard about many people going out at this time of year (for a reason?)

Has anyone got stories of climbing out there/ ideas about what might be in?

Seems quite snowy just now. Anyone know how this might translate into conditions on the north faces? (or is this crystal ball territory...)

Luke
MG - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt: I went in May once. 8hrs to do a 3hr hut approach. Not much further the next day but did see some ski tourers and Understood. Now have skis and am getting better at using them!
marmot hunter - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to MG:
If you need to ask advice to climb North Faces I reckon you shouldn't climb north faces!

Huts have no guardians as a rule, no cable cars, quite a few hotels etc will be closed. Lots of melting, lots of avalanches.

I guess that's why. Some people ski tour but most have done their touring by then. Our skis are currently being serviced and then packed away till next winter.
MG - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter: Depends on the area. The higher peaks only really come into condition for touring in May. Huts are wardened appropriately.
walts4 - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt:

Every year & its conditions are different so be prepared to be totally flexible.

As for this year, its really is crystal big ball territory with the amount of snow present & the now complete omission of spring with summer temps already here.

Good luck
Martin Haworth on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt May can be a good time for some north faces and couloirs, depending where you head and obviously every year is different. I am familiar with the Ecrins and late May is a good time to head there for couloirs, I am heading there myself last week in May. Routes like Norh Face of Ailefroide (Fourastier route), North face of Pelvoux, and the various Glacier Noire couloirs have a good chance of being in condition. If not you just climb the lower level multi-pitch rock routes.
Doghouse - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter:
> (In reply to MG)
> If you need to ask advice to climb North Faces I reckon you shouldn't climb north faces!


Here we go!! Every time someone ask for advice some smart ass has to pipe up with 'If you need to ask.. you shouldn't be doing it'

Well done, you win the prize on this thread :-)

marmot hunter - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to Doghouse:
Thank you, my acceptance speech will follow.
marmot hunter - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter:
Fellow climbers, ramblers and knitters
It is with great honour I accept the State The Bleedin' Obvious Award for 2013.
Every now and again someone asks a fairly niaive question and many responses follow.
On UKC if you dare to challenge the Kiterati you will be hounded down, I take this challenge with honour.
If you need to ask - don't do it. If you know, do it.

I'd like to thank my mum, Brownie leaders and everyone who raised me to this high status. One day I may even join the Kiterati.

(leaves stage in tears )

PS - I wouldn't go near the Alps at the moment!
Doghouse - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter:

Awwww, what a shame. I was hoping you'd ask for advice on what to write ;-)
marmot hunter - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to Doghouse:
Any suggestions... ;)
lukehunt - on 15 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter:

Guess it's going to be a last minute decision then.

Hope the knitting goes well
x
Heike - on 16 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt:
Hmm,is it only north faces in the usual spots (i.e. Hautes Alpes)you are after? How about going to the Verdon, Dolomites, other places slightly lower to do some top quality stuff? You might get more done then there (and it might be just as good!) only with better weather...
Bob_the_Builder - on 16 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter:

If you're not allowed to ask questions, how do you get the knowledge to do it?

I'm sure your mum is very proud of you, never asking questions makes parenting much easier.
Simon4 - on 16 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt: I believe that there is quite a lot of Alpine climbing done at that time of year (also in June), but it is pretty serious and needs a lot of understanding of conditions and as others have pointed out, mostly the ability to ski into and out of routes/huts. Having said that, I have seen quite effective use of snowshoes to approach if you are not confident of your ability to ski with heavy weights in serious positions.

North faces CAN be very good, but they can also vary from bullet hard ice to massive quantities of snow - there is not a general answer to your question, it depends on the area, the individual face and previous conditions. You also of course need to check the condition of descent routes in your area of interest, and to work out what you are going to do about climbing with skis/snowshoes or returning to your start point.

The weather can be glorious at that time of year, but the mountains feel much more serious, also as others have mentioned many huts will be shut, or rather unguardianed (roughly in the late May-June gap after the ski-touring season tends to stop and before the Summer season starts). Mostly you can check the opening dates of an individual hut on websites, they will invariably have a Winter room but then you need to carry food yourselves and sometimes stoves.

http://www.camptocamp.org/

is a good website about trips/conditions in specific areas, or you can ask about routes/areas here, there are quite a few people who live much of the year in mountain areas, though this will certainly give a bias toward Chamonix which is not always helpful.

So in summary, Alpine climbing at that time can be good to very good, but is mostly for the experienced and those well equiped to judge local conditions. If you have that ability, it can be very rewarding.
David Rose - on 16 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt: I think people are being a little pessimistic here. May has long days, and the likelihood of good conditions on snow and ice routes, especially after a big winter and spring - such as this year. If the weather is settled and the snowpack stable you might well get plenty done. The Midi cable car and Montenvers railway will be running in Chamonix. That gives you access to a whole lot of ice climbing at venues such as the Tacul, Mt Maudit, the Jorasses, the Grand Pilier de l'Angle etc. There is also every chance that the south facing rock in the Vallee Blanche will be in good nick. I once did the Midi south face in March, using rock shoes, on dry, warmish rock.
cb294 - on 16 Apr 2013
In reply to marmot hunter:

Post of the week!

CB
testagrigia - on 17 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt: Huts are generally open mid-March to Mid-May for the ski touring season, opening again mid-June to mid-September for the mountaineering season, with some exceptions. It's been a very snowy winter. There's masses of snow at the moment starting around 1500m and more snow forecast this weekend. If you're aiming to go above the snow-line, Skis or snow shoes will come in handy for getting in and especially out, unless you are happy wading through thigh-deep snow. But it's a lovely time for rock climbing lower down.
Bruce Hooker - on 17 Apr 2013
In reply to lukehunt:

May is more ski touring season, and a lot of huts will be shut - often an unguarded winter hut is open with just bivvy facilities. I've been there in May on my own and when I'd skinned up to a col it was lovely but felt very lonely! So possible but not for the faint hearted or inexperienced.

Just one point there is a lot of snow in the Alps at present according to French TV and with the sudden warm up a lot of avalanche danger - there have just been several deaths, so be careful.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=29363
http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=29354

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