Alpine Climbing Conditions – update 23/07/11

It’s been a very unsettled and snowy week here in the Alps, so plenty of ducking and diving to keep the ball rolling, but as usual we’ve climbed each day.  In terms of what’s been going on, everywhere has seen quite a bit of snow and low temperatures, so most peaks and many mountain rock routes too are pretty well plastered in fresh snow – ie high peaks that require dry climbing conditions (like the Matterhorn and Weishorn etc) are well out of condition, whereas ice routes are benefitting.

The biggest issues are the still unsettled weather and the amount of fresh snow in many areas, which is either making travel difficult or causing a considerable avalanche risk, certainly around Chamonix over the next few days.

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Yesterday we climbed the Chere Couloir and Cosmiques Arete, which are both in excellent condition (Cascade des Cosmiques looks in, team on Goulotte Perroux, Tacul Triangle plastered, Tacul N Flank covered in windslab as you’d expect – very few people around except on the cosmiques arete).

We had a look at the Rochefort Arete on Thur on the promise of a clearing forecast, but it snowed all day, so we turned round at the salle a manger – conds on the ridge look fine once the weather settles down. A snowy ascent of the Aiguille du Toule, multipitch rock climbing over at Machabe in the Aosta valley and a trip to the Grotte des Glaciers for an underground ice climbing adventure earlier in the week.

Dave H and Steve climbed the Monch on Monday (good conds) before bailing from the Oberland to Saas where they did a route above the Almageller Hut, traversed the Weissmies and climbed the Fletchhorn.  A quick note on the normal route on the Weissmies (NW flank from Hohsaas) – there is considerable serac danger at the moment, so possibly one to steer clear of.  We we had a beer with friend last night  who stayed on in the Oberland last week after Dave left (ie working for another company!) and he said it snowed loads and they didn’t get up anything other than the Monch.

Bairdy headed over to the Dix Hut with the intro team and did the Pointe du Pas de Chevres and the La Luette before bailing off the Pigne in poor weather.

Owen did the Petit Face Nord and N Ridge of the Gran Paradiso on Thur, as its been slightly better over there.  Plenty of teams have also been bailing over to the Moiry Hut, which is always a good spot when it snows loads higher up.  Crags in the Aosta Valley have been busy too.

As for the next few days it’s still looking unsettled and cool, but no big system forecast – so it’ll be fine for teaching courses and doing ice/mixed routes near the lifts, but tricky for any bigger objectives.  My best advice would be to either head over to Italy, or plan on doing day routes till it clears, as the forecast aren’t very reliable at the moment – but above all steer clear of any steep, heavily loaded snow slopes!