/ Climbing in the Alps in May ?

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LDudill - on 01 Apr 2012
Ok, I am wanting to go climbing in the alps from the middle of may for 3 weeks, as i am away for the rest of the summer and it is the only time i am available to go. Done a few searches and cant really find a great deal about conditions during may. Just wanting to know if it will be too early for climbing around then?? Will be around the mont blanc massif area.

Any recommendations as any routes around this area that will / could be in decent condition in may ??

Also how much greater will the risks be during may compared to july/september, in terms of avalanche risk, crevasses etc.

jhw - on 02 Apr 2012
Watching replies with interest as I'm contemplating a trip then too. I'm conscious that the answer to your question re risk is, in general, "much greater"!

But I'm interested to read people's first hand experiences, in particular whether the greatest climbs in the Oberland are likely to require ski approaches at that time (seems probable/highly likely).
Al Randall on 02 Apr 2012
In reply to dudsy04: It depends upon the amount of residual snow. I once did a route on the Moine in June. We could not make the line fit the description and wandered up and down until we realised that the first 2 pitches were under a bank of snow. On the other I have done routes on the Midi and above the Envers hut in April/May and the conditions were superb even though the approach was tough going.

jhw - on 02 Apr 2012
Thanks Al, that's helpful! Jack here from Rjukan - might see you at Bosigran next week?
Bruce Hooker - on 02 Apr 2012
In reply to dudsy04:

May is still the ski-mountaineering season really - there would still be plenty of snow about so either skis or snow-shoes would help for the approach if you did feel up to tackling cold climbing.

This photo was taken in May, you can see the Albert 1er hut top left, only the winter refuge was open, no water, I had the place to myself. Unfortunately I had forgotten my matches - thought of it just after leaving the car but imagined there would be plenty of people about. There weren't so I ate cold. It felt lonely up there compared to the summer. There was a huge heap of shit in the toilets
StuartCJones - on 02 Apr 2012
In reply to dudsy04: last May it was beautiful. Still snowy above 2500m but warm in the day, frosty at night.. Watch out for the avalanches in the afternoon!
Martin Haworth on 02 Apr 2012
In reply to dudsy04: The Ecrins area is good around end of May as it is slightly lower altitude and further south. It is an ideal time for mountain couloirs. Obviously, every year is different, best plan is to be flexible and have a plan B (and a plan C).
Simon4 - on 03 Apr 2012
In reply to Martin Haworth: You can also go for "Alpinism" in lower ranges that are normally free from snow in the Summer, e.g. the Belledonne massif just north of the Ecrins. At that time of year you can get alpine-like routes there, which are much harder/impossible to do any other time.

I do recall climbing the North couloir of Les Bans in June, not normally possible much later, so that goes with your comments about Ecrins couloirs.

May can provide superb weather and very empty mountains, last year gave a week of almost uninterupted sunshine. The sheer abscence of people gives anything above the snow line a quite serious feel though, more like when the Alps were terra incognita, while as someone mentioned, the huts will almost all be shut.
pawelx - on 03 Apr 2012
In reply to dudsy04: I too am interested in this. How about stuff around Auguille du Midi? routes on north face of Tacul, rock routes on Midi obviously I'm assuming will be fine, other stuff in the area?
Alexandre Buisse - on 03 Apr 2012
In reply to pawelx: I have rockclimbed twice on the south face of midi and once on envers des aiguilles already this season, so may will definitely be ok (if the weather cooperates, of course). On the other hand, it's been so hot that all the ice routes are in pretty poor condition, including many of the classic Tacul gullies (triangle is fine as always, but Modica/Gabarrou/Supercouloir and all are getting really dry).

May is in between seasons, it can go either way. But you should definitely find a lot of stuff in condition, especially if you are ready to ski on approaches.
jhw - on 03 Apr 2012
May sounds good - except that it sounds like it's basically dangerous to do anything in the afternoon
KarimS on 03 Apr 2012 -
In reply to jhw: Just watch the avalanche forecast closely. May-June is avalanche season unfortunately. I was in the area in early june, wanting to try the three peaks route, but the whole week and a half went by without the avalanche warnings coming out of the red. There were indeed tons of avalanches in the afternoons. We'd hear a big one somewhere in the valley every hour or two.
In the end we did the Cosmique arete on the Aguille du Midi instead, as you can sneakily get the cable car to the top, skipping over the avalanche zone, then walk down the south face and round the top of the glacier to reach the start in relative safety (always watching for crevasses, which will be covered in snow that early in the season). There's also the Mer de Glace and plenty of rock to play on lower down if need be.
Big Lee - on 04 Apr 2012
In reply to dudsy04:

I'm just back from Cham. Mountains are looking quite lean with less routes in condition than is typical for this time of year. There's been a decent amount of snow through the winter I'm told but lots of simultaneous wind which has scoured the mountains and swept the snow it into the valleys. Wouldn't surprise me if July/Aug has little to offer but rock routes and PD snow routes (plus the usual Chere Couloir, North Face of Tour Ronde, etc). You might actually have a better time off going in May as there will probably be a great variety of routes to go at and the snow might be quite manageable underfoot vs what is typical in May. That's just my guess though (it's snowing all this week).

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