Chamonix - good PD climbs?


Original Post
Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 81

Hi all,

I'm going with my gf to Chamonix this August and am looking to do some gentle climbing with her. She's not super into climbing but wants the full alpine experience, so nothing "hard or scary" (lol). I'm trying to find some cool climbs in the PD range. Ideally mostly single day scenic stuff on snow.

The only one I can really think of is Mont Blanc du Tacul's normal route. I'd like to put one or two more down on the list as well.

Any help would be much appreciated! 

Michael S. Catlett · · Middleburg, VA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 70

Try Aig du Tour.....it has a bit of everything including great position in the range, glacier travel, steep snow and rock. The Albert Hut is a nice hike and hut, and well situated for this climb.

Good Luck

pierref · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

Up for aiguille du tour. From refuge d'argentiere, aiguille d'argentiere (mainly snow, barely ice.)

In the central area, tour ronde (normal route starting from rifugio torino), aiguille de toule,  arete des cosmiques (easy & fun mix climbing - from the aiguille du midi lift in one day)

Enjoy

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 81

Thanks guys! Any more suggestions would be really appreciated! 

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

rock ridge traverses:

* Aiguille Crochues S->N (lotsa fun scrambling with great views across to M.B. massif) - (also good to extend farther N to Col des Dards, then rap off to E side and continue North-ish then up NE ridge of summit of Aig Belvedere. (Located in the Aiguilles Rouges from La Flegere + Index lift (should be operating in August). Might need some snow/ice maneuvers on approach (in early season), likely easy snow/ice (glacier?) on the descent to Refuge Lac Blanc. (though there are short rappels, they can be down-climbed, so makes a great "low class 5" solo route). 

* Aiguille d'Entreves S->N (overall interesting scrambling in spectacular setting, with a couple awkward/puzzling moves) : on Italy / France frontier (near some other routes mentioned already in this thread), usually done from Pointe Helbronner lift  (Rfg Torino), with significant glacier approach. Snow/ice sections on the ridge itself in early season -- and on descent in late season. Unless very confident leading around 5.6 solo, bring some medium-size cams (in addition to rope and of course long slings to protect your follower).

* Les Perrons de Vallorcine E->W (though can also be done W->E). Multiple rappels required. In the N sector of Aiguilles Rouges (perhaps in Switzerland?), from Finhaut / Lac d'Emosson (which is a wonderful view area).
Haven't done this one myself, but well-recommended. Perhaps snow/ice on descent in early season.


Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 784

For a true beginner outing on snow and some easy rock scramble try Pointe Lachenal traverse on Col du Midi (below Mt Blanc du Tacul) approached from A. du Midi.  Another beginner outing is Aiguille D'Entreves (traverse SW to NW), approached from Torino hut.  Both of these are far easier than the Arete des Cosmiques route. 

From refuge des Conscrits you can do the Domes des Miage (traverse W to E) another classic snow ridge traverse, most frequently done as a ski traverse in the spring.

In case you want to add rock climbing to the mix the Southeast side of Pointe Lachenal holds some very good rock climbing (Voie Contamine, grade II, 6a/5.10b eight pitches).

Conditions in Chamonix this year are very, very dry. I would expect that in August most snow and ice routes are going to be in poor condition.

I would not recommend the Normal Route on Mt. Blanc du Tacul as a first outing.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632
Rui Ferreira wrote:

Conditions in Chamonix this year are very, very dry. I would expect that in August most snow and ice routes are going to be in poor condition.

Well as of yesterday there's still 6 feet of snow on North-facing slopes at merely 9000 ft altitude. Two weeks ago I was able to ski almost all the way down to Le Tour village around 5000 ft altitude. All the glaciers I skied on had their normal ski routes well-covered with crevasses well-bridged (where even noticeable).

But it's already hot, and one long-term weather simulation distribution for this summer is skewed toward hotter and hotter (like new record) -- so I think Rui is right that things are going to be rather dry by August.

Not just a problem for snow+ice routes, but could be new or wider gaps opening up on _approaches_ to some classic alpine rock routes. So it might be good to be aware of non-glacier-approach rock routes (such as I mentioned in the Aiguilles Rouges). Also some on the "front" (W) side of the Aiguilles de Chamonix granite.

Ken

Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 784

On this picture of the South side of Les Droites things are looking pretty dry for early April

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

I don't look there every April to compare, so I'll take your word for it being dry-er.
. . . (not that different from how it looked when I skinned up on skis on the low snow slope in the center a few years ago -- maybe that was later April?)

Since that's South-facing, I think it confirms the reports of already-hot temperatures, with lots of sunshine lately.

Things should be plenty dry in August this year, like you warned.

Ken


kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

Just back again this morning to northern French Alps. Visible from the interstates looks like still decent snowpack. Fits what the MeteoFrance avalanche reports say. I'm looking forward to two weeks of good ski mountaineering at high altitudes.

I'm reporting this to offer hope for alpine climbing in late May + June.
. . . (I still don't see August as a good bet).

Ken

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 81

I appreciate the beta Ken. I hope you have fun out there!

And yeah, I kinda knew that August would be a long shot. I was there last August and most the routes I wanted to do were out of commission. I gotta get there earlier!

This is my first (recreational) trip in years where I may not be climbing. Weird to wrap my head around that..!

Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 140

Petit Vert should be on the list. Easy approach (grand montet cable car), good views, and lower altitude than the stuff off the Midi. There's nothing hard on it, but there's a little glacier travel on the approach, a little ice climbing above the bergshrund (AI2), and a good deal of mixed climbing (M2) on featured granite along the ridge, so a bit of everything. Plus you can practice glacier skills pretty easily right off the cable car steps before venturing further.

Just be aware, the french guides seem not to complete the route. They stop at the crux belly roll, a false summit, and then turn around, with their clients none-the-wiser, so don't take your cue from them. Follow Rebuffat's beta and go past the belly role to the apex of the ridge.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

More recent runs of one long-term weather simulation model (based on more recent current starting data) are showing probability distributions _not_ so much skewed toward hot hot for this summer in the mountains around Chamonix Mont Blanc. So perhaps better chance of more alpine climbs (and approaches) staying in condition later in the summer.

Meanwhile I've been getting some rather fun days of Skiing in the northern French Alps at altitude 2500m / 8000ft and higher. I expect to be getting some more nice skiing days, at least into the coming weekend.

I think key point for current snow is that the snow coverage + depth on South-facing slopes are very different from North-facing, because there's been an unusually high percentage of sunny days in the past three or four weeks. So photos of N-facing look "below average" while photos of S-facing look "very dry".

Ken

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

Cold + wet for almost three days in the northern French Alps. Snow sticking at well below 3000 ft altitude in the pre-Alpes, easily visible just driving on the valley highways.

Later yesterday afternoon, the sun at last took over, so today I went out skiing -- rather fun powder day. Good coverage skiing down all way the to my car. 

Another sunny ski day for me tomorrow. Then more wetness in the forecast for early next week.

Hope ongoing for not-so-unpromising alpine climbing conditions this summer.

Ken


Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 81

Thanks for the updates!

Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 784

Ken is just trying to make us jealous with all the great skiing he is getting in the French Alps

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632
Rui Ferreira wrote:

Ken is just trying to make us jealous with all the great skiing he is getting in the French Alps

Well I have been wishing I could use my skis to approach some alpine Rock climbs -- like S-facing granite above the Argentiere Glacier -- by riding the lift up to the Grands Montets and then skiing down.
. . . (A couple of years ago in April we were skiing out from the Glacier du Milieu and say the ultra-prolific Michel Piola putting up a new route).
And today (Labor Day) is the last operating day for the G.M. lift for the winter season. 

But with all this new snow, there's too much melt-water coming down onto the rock.

Even at lower altitude in the pre-Alpes, like multi-pitch on the Rocher du Midi or Dent de Crolles in the Chartreuse . . . I can just see from driving on the main valley roads that the top plateau of the Dent de Crolles is plastered with fresh snow -- seeping down onto the cliffs.

I have been getting out for valley single-pitch, trying out new sport crags and finding good climbing at each one. And on rainy days (like Thursday) just hiking around to _find_ some other crags in the new sport-climbing guidebook -- which like many info sources has great detail topos of the actual climbing, but sketchy directions for how to get there, combined with incorrect GPS numbers. So  after I succeed in actually reaching the bolted routes, I've been posting correct GPS numbers for both rock and parking, and careful detailed directions for the approach hike -- on the UKclimbing "destinations" forum.

Anyway for spring skiing we've got a few weeks more in the California Sierra.

Ken

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

Update . . . Just when we thought it was over after a second full-sunshine day yesterday . . . 

Snow all the way down to the valley interstate A41 early this morning as I was driving to the airport to fly home. Only sticking to the ground for a short section of the road -- but it was cold and solidly Raining the whole way for me driving thru the northern French Alps. 

More hope for the summer.

Yesterday I skinned up to some N-facing slopes over 3000m altitude. Because  I figured all the S-facing slopes would be crusted after big sunshine on Saturday. I did three nice  runs in soft snow, but only at the top could it be called "powder".

Forecast for another two or three days of cool + moist (which I guess is better than the typical springtime weather in recent years of warm + moist) so with no near hope of big ski-mountaineering objectives, time to give up on France and get out.

Ken



grubbers · · Mass. · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 0

Hey Ken, where do you get your weather forecasts from for the Chamonix area?

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632

I don't know any single best source. I look at several different text forecasts (for Mont Blanc) and graphical models (for western Europe). Weather around MB is fairly​ tricky, so you can get a variety of opinions.

JaredG · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

dang kenr you really seem to get around.  How do you do it?  Anyways thanks for sharing your knowledge on this and many other threads.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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