/ Chamonix early season

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James Jackson on 28 Nov 2016
I have a question about early season in Chamonix. Clearly, this is likely to be a very a much 'it depends' type question, but I am wondering of the likelihood of being able to get on some classic couloir lines late Dec / early Jan; things such as Couloir Poubelle and Couloir des Cosmiques. Mindful that the exit from the Midi is unlikely to be fixed then (not a problem), and exit glaciers may not yet have enough coverage for travel, I'd be interested in others' experiences of early-season. Insight from Cham locals on how things are shaping up now would be welcome too!

I see this year that things have been skiied on similar aspects already (Pas de Chevre, for example), and having taken a flying trip out last weekend to ski fresh snow there's certainly some around - but of course snow conditions can change fairly rapidly early on.
planetmarshall on 28 Nov 2016
In reply to James Jackson:

> I see this year that things have been skiied on similar aspects already (Pas de Chevre, for example), and having taken a flying trip out last weekend to ski fresh snow there's certainly some around - but of course snow conditions can change fairly rapidly early on.

I was there at the weekend but not in the mountains, only got as high as about 2200m. I can say that snow conditions have changed a lot in the last week or so. There's been very little precipitation recently, and none forecasted for the rest of the week (as yet). I was able to run most of the way from Montenvers to the Plan on a mix of trail and neve, and only bailed early because I didn't have spikes.

James Jackson on 28 Nov 2016
In reply to planetmarshall:

That doesn't surprise me, unfortunately. It did look like a thaw was coming through. Still, there's another month until I'm out again so who knows what could develop... Fingers crossed!
Frank4short - on 28 Nov 2016
In reply to James Jackson:

Which Poubelle? Monte/midi/brevant? They all have very different challenges early season.

Biggest issue with the Cosmiques/Rond is likely to be the way underneath the midi as it skirts around the Bossons glacier. From what i've been told in low snow scenarios this is extremely challenging and then are numerous recorded instances of people falling into crevasses as they cross from the exit couloir onto the glacier when the glacier hasn't had ample time to fill up. This is why the early season descents and openings are nearly always done by locals. Upper section of the cosmiques can be quite technical and steep when lean but it's always possible to downclimb through the worst of it with spiky things.

Based on what i'm seeing on the webcams at the moment it's likely that whoever skied the Pas du Chevre had a long walk out. Which probably included some sphincter tightening moments trying to get from the plan down on to the mer du glace (which is quite doable but is likely to have a lot of falling rock when getting down).
walts4 - on 28 Nov 2016
In reply to Frank4short:

>
> > Based on what i'm seeing on the webcams at the moment it's likely that whoever skied the Pas du Chevre had a long walk out. Which probably included some sphincter tightening moments trying to get from the plan down on to the mer du glace (which is quite doable but is likely to have a lot of falling rock when getting down).

Guessed they skinned back up to the top of the GM!!??
Pete Houghton - on 19:55 Mon
In reply to James Jackson:

It's way too early to tell so far, but things up high are filled in to a fantastic degree for this time in the year (I skied the north side of the Col du Belvedere yesterday, and the couloir was fatter than at ANY point during last winter) thanks to that snowpocalypse we had a couple of weeks ago, but we are about to enter a big high pressure with fairly high temperatures, so don't get your hopes up.

Poubelles, maybe... Cosmiques, maybe not...

But I'm not working at all until early January now, and I intend to spend as much of December as possible skiing, so ask again closer to the date and I'll share whatever info I can!
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James Jackson on 02:04 Tue
In reply to Pete Houghton:
Thanks Pete. That's pretty much where I thought things were going - the snow a fortnight ago was amazing for November, let alone the rest of last year! Also happy to go touring up high to find decent snow if needed. I will see how things develop and tap you up for some info closer to the time too - much appreciated!

In reply to Frank4short:

> Which Poubelle? Monte/midi/brevant? They all have very different challenges early season.

The one just by the exit from the Bochard bubble. Exit clearly a drama, as with all early season.

> Biggest issue with the Cosmiques/Rond is likely to be the way underneath the midi as it skirts around the Bossons glacier. From what i've been told in low snow scenarios this is extremely challenging and then are numerous recorded instances of people falling into crevasses as they cross from the exit couloir onto the glacier when the glacier hasn't had ample time to fill up. This is why the early season descents and openings are nearly always done by locals. Upper section of the cosmiques can be quite technical and steep when lean but it's always possible to downclimb through the worst of it with spiky things.

Aye, whatever it's looking like, and whatever we do, spiky things will be carried. My concern is mostly the exit; getting down (by whatever means needed if it's a lot worse than initially thought / than it looks on inspection) is easy, getting off the underlying terrain is tough, hence my initial question about exit routes. Technical and steep up high doesn't bother me, but dodgy glacier travel can turn it into an absolute nightmare. Thankfully (with hindsight) in my climbing days, I've spent enough time climbing on that side of the Midi to know what it can be like, but the majority in summer alpinism mode.

> Based on what i'm seeing on the webcams at the moment it's likely that whoever skied the Pas du Chevre had a long walk out. Which probably included some sphincter tightening moments trying to get from the plan down on to the mer du glace (which is quite doable but is likely to have a lot of falling rock when getting down).

Aye, again walk-outs per-se aren't a game-changer, but the objective danger with the warmth down low is one to be mindful of. The snow line is pretty well defined so those low-ish exits are likely to be the sticking point.

We'll see how conditions develop - I've spent enough time on melting Alpine routes to not be in a hurry to be under collapsing bits of mountain!
Post edited at 02:08

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