Archive for July, 2008

Dome du Miage Traverse

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Our final trip with Jerry and Mike involved an attempt on the classic Mt Blanc traverse via the Conscrits Hut, Dome du Miage, Durier Refuge and Aiguille de Bionnassay.

The approach to the Conscrits Hut is not short, so allow plenty of time (4-5 hours). Fortunately the trip is easily broken with lunch at the Trelatete Restaurant, after emerging from the shade of the lower forest.

The nature of the approach changes considerably for the second section, including old rubble on the glacier and a final long section of ladders. Currently it is also possible to continue up the dry glacier to a rocky path leading to the very modern and friendly hut.

Refuge Conscrits

Bouquetin browsing on lichen and scrub grasses outside of the hut. co-existing in harmony with the transient alpinist.

The traverse of Dome du Miage is not too high and only just pips 3600 metres in a few places.

A mixture of long, flowing, snowy ridges, cut by some simple rock sections.

The view from the last peak on the traverse, towards the tiny Durier Refuge, which sits on the snowy col at bottom left of this picture. The peak on the left is the Aiguile de Bionnassay and the route follows the obvious ridge of snow and rock from the col.

Grand Beau Temps and Garden Gnomes

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Climbing at Arnad A wonderful location just an hours drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Plenty of multi-pitch climbs at a variety of grades from Very Severe (UIAA 5B) upwards.

The cliff has a brand new wire ladder and steps, which is not complete at present, due to a major rockfall on the lower sections. Some abseiling required on that section.

At the foot of the crag you can buy the guidebook and a variety of climbing gear in the shop, which is situated next to the coffee shop, bar and restaurant.

Happy summit for Chris Ensoll, Jerry and Mike.

Chamonix Weather

A really good, cloudless start to the day and it appears set to continue for a few days.

Yesterday, climbing at Arnad in the Aosta valley. Beneath the crux pitch of Lo Dzerby. The Gnome and Jerry!

Clear Sky and Strong Wind

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

On Sunday with Chris Ensoll, Jerry and Mike I climbed Tour Ronde, via the Gervesutti Route. This was in good shape, with plenty of good snow, very little icy sections and a few steps inserted by previous parties. All in all, very good conditions and we moved together up the whole climb.

We then moved on to the Gnifetti Hut, accessed from Stafel in the Gresonney Valley (Italy). From here we climbed Lyskamm via it’s south ridge. From the main East summit we traversed towards the West summit and down to the Quintinno Sella Hut and back to the valley. Check out Le Reve Bed and Breakfast for a good nights sleep and a very friendly helpful landlord,

This ridge is graded AD (A real AD!) and is fairly committing due to the nature of the descent ground. Once on the main summit, the routes off require some considerable concentration and continuing hard work.

The view towards the west summit. The cold north winds were very strong and searching all day and made life fairly unpleasant and challenging.

The last section towards the lower West Summit (don’t believe the Alpine Club guidebook) was the most exposed and airy part of the day out. Snow conditions were very good and not too icy.

Approaching the main Lyskamm summit (East).

Fine Weather

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Reasonable weather, but a large cap of cloud over Mt Blanc suggests a breezy summit day. I’m off over to Lyskamm again and will hopefully have some good reports next week.

Check Chamonix Weather. And Swiss Meteo

An unsettled week in Chamonix

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Victoria Kimber

Paul and Hannah
Since arriving back in Chamonix on 11th July, the weather has been very changeable. Sunday and Monday were very wet and produced snow down to 2000 metres. Tuesday and Wednesday were perfect days in the high mountains. Today (Thursday) is overcast and rain is forecast later in the day. From the comfort of Mark and Jane Seaton’s family home the conditions at altitude look windy and cloudy.

Check Chamonix Weather.

Yesterday (16th July) crossing the Vallee Blanche. A simple, yet stunning three or four hour journey, using the Aiguille du Midi cable car as approach and returning via the smaller ‘bobble-cars’ from the Italian side, on completion of the trek.

Still plenty of snow on the Gervesutti Pillar yesterday.

Looking across the Peuterey Ridge, Freney Pillar and Pear Buttress. Still loads of new snow above 3000 metres, which will make for difficult conditions on any really high routes which rely on dry rock for crucial passages. The South Face of Aiguille du Midi is looking okay, as is Pointe Lachenal. Any steep south-facing routes at around 3700 metres are drying out fast.

The popular snow routes are in very good shape with very little ice showing and good trails.

The view yesterday towards the Monte Rosa group from above the Torino Hut.

Family Kimber and BamberFor lower level day treks or rock climbing, the Aiguille Rouge group has possibly the most photogenic set of trails and routes anywhere in Europe. Easily accessed by foot or cable car to a height of around 2000 metres, this south-facing area is very, very popular and crowded. Sections of the Tour of Mont Blanc pass through and the cliffs all have good and well documented rock climbing at a variety of grades.

Hannah & PaulThis last week has been a family trip. Our two Daughter’s wanted to show my Son-in-Law, Paul, how they spent summer holidays with Sue, whilst Dad was away working in the mountains. As usual it rained a little!

Considering how busy and developed the Aiguille Rouge is, the wildlife does not appear too bothered. Maybe those of you out there who suggest we ‘Respect Nature’ should actually ask nature how it feels about co-existing with humans, at least in the Alps!

Ibex are supreme animals when it comes to traversing steep and exposed ground. I regularly meet them on very high, remote and difficult ground. Sightings on glaciers and graded rock climbs are not uncommon.

This week in the Aiguille Rouge, many young families of Ibex were to be seen browsing amongst the climbers and trekkers.

Look no ropes!
Buck Ibex, picture. Courtesy of Victoria Kimber

No dogs allowed in the Aiguille Rouge Walter!!

Alpine Viola
Climbing above Argentiere

Plenty of snow on Aiguille Verte, which might just make an ascent of this mountain less serious, so long as the temperatures at altitude stay low.

Looking towards the normal ascent and descent route on the Aiguille du Chardonnet. Starting down the diagonal snow ramps and couloirs, leading from top centre, rightwards to the large snow patch just above the centre of the image. This looks to be in good shape and benefits from the bonding of loose rocks by the current snow layer.

Far too much snow on Grande Jorasses for ascents of Walker Spur just now. Unless anyone any knows different.

Fine and Dry in Zermatt

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Today has been splendid in the high Alps. We started last Sunday in rain, thunder storms and high winds. The first night was spent at the comfortable Gandegg Hut, which is accessed from cable cars, departing from Zermatt.

Gandegg HutToday at the Gandegg Hut

This hut provides a good base for acclimatisation and snow skills revision at the start of the ‘Spaghetti’ Route. On Monday we spent a full day in ‘white-out’ conditions, along with thirty other optimistic alpinists, traversing to the Ayas Hut.

Fortunately Tuesday dawned clear and cold, if rather windy. This strong wind was to stay with us until today. Never powerful enough to be really dangerous, the conditions did combine to prevent some groups from traversing Lyskamm yesterday. Our route took us to the Quintino Sella Hut via the summit of Castor.

Ferrino Tents are tested here, out side of the hut and guests are offered the chance to spend a night outside in one of the tents.

Quintino Sella Hut with Lyskamm on the skyline

The older hut on the adjacent site with Castor beyond.

The Quintino Sella Hut is a very useful base if accessed from the south via Stafel above Gresonney off of the Aosta valley. Cable cars on either side of the head of the valley can be used to approach either Quintino Sella – Mantova – Gnifetti – Margherita Huts and plenty of 4000 metre summits. Many climbers from the Italian side do traverse over to the main summit of Monte Rosa and return from this side.

The south ridge towards the Quintino Sella Hut is well equipped.

Three hours from the top of the cable car should arrive at the hut.

The approach walk is very scenic and the lower slopes are cloaked in plenty of fine alpine flowers.
All of the splendid alpine flowers pictured below were found on a rocky, south facing section of ridge, at around 2500 metres. I don’t profess to be any sort of expert, so please let me know if my assessment of genus or species is incorrect.

Alpine Forget me Not

Looks like Glacier Crowfoot


Possibly Round-Leaved Pennycress

f=”” target=”blank”>Moss Campion

Matterhorn, south side from Cervina on 10th July. With some of the party feeling the altitude, I descended into the Aosta valley and using bus, train and taxi accessed Cervina easily, by leaving the Quintino Sella Hut around 0830. The remainder of the party continued with Bruce Goodlad

Bruce and I were working together on this trip, and the next six images were taken by Bruce with his Canon Powershot G9 digital. Thanks Bruce.

Approaching the summit of Castor

Looking back towards the Breithorn and Pollux from the south-west slopes of Castor. A good route, as it stays in the shade for sometime. Fitter ropes will also ascend Pollux before going over Castor.

Looking back towards the East Ridge of Lyskamm.

Looking back towards the Passo Naso descent slopes. leading to the Gnifetti Hut.

Descending from Parrotspitze towards the final ascent to the Margherita Hut.

A view down the Grenz Glacier, towards Zermatt. A wonderful high alpine basin.

Weisshorn East Ridge on 11th July.

Ober Gabelhorn to Weisshorn on 11th July.

Taschhorn and Dom on 11th July.

Lots of snow on the Matterhorn on 11th July. Not many people on the mountain due to the amount of snow. During our stay in Zermatt we used the Hotel Tannenhof They have a very clean, tidy and friendly service. Alpinists can leave gear securely whilst away on multi-day trips. If you use Taxi Schaller for getting from Tasch to Zermatt, be sure to mention you will be staying at this hotel, as discounts and transfers in Zermatt are readily available.

Winds Aloft

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

From an almost clear start this morning the clouds have been gathering and winds increasing on the high summits. Chamonix Weather is a good spot to find out what is going on in the next four days in this valley. I’m moving over to Zermatt today so Swiss Meteo will be the more important site.

Strong winds over the summit dome of Mt Blanc.

Fine day in Chamonix

Friday, July 4th, 2008

After the poor weather welcome yesterday, Chamonix is now gleaming, for the time being at least. The high tops look very snowy and routes such as the Walker Spur are not in good shape. High couloirs and snowy ridges might be worth a look if the overnight temperature falls and allow consolidation of the snowpack.

Today I was up in the Aiguille Rouge at around 2,800 metres, just losing a few calories and helping the acclimatisation process.

Aiguille du Midi
Mont Blanc
Grande Jorasse

Moss Campion bunches on the high alpine faces of the Aiguille Rouge today

Very wet in Chamonix

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

No pictures due to the lack of anything to photograph in the Chamonix valley. Plenty rain though, but the forecast is on the mend by all accounts. Watch this space!

Snowpatch Photos Needed

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Please have a look at this folks and if you can help get in touch with Iain on

Hi Alan,

My name is Iain Cameron and I am co-author of an annual paper* on snow patches and survival on Scotland’s mountains. You have doubtlessly heard of Dr Adam Watson, who is the main author (and has been for a good many years). I must confess to being a regular visitor on your excellent web site, and enjoy your reports and photographs of conditions on Ben Nevis. It is with regard to this that I am contacting you.

I am trying to build up a list of contributors who would benefit studying of certain areas. Due to your unrivalled knowledge of Ben Nevis (and the Aonachs) I thought I would contact you with a view to see if you could be persuaded to help out.

What would be enormously advantageous to have are pictures from any time you are climbing in the Nevis/Aonachs area that show the state of the snow-patches. Last year myself and one or two others pitched in with some information/photographs of the patches (in Observatory Gully) that lasted through the year into the new snows of November 2007. However, it is always good to have others that are out on the hills regularly and can report/photograph regularly.

As well as Nevis, you are no doubt aware that there are sites on Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag that have been know to persist through to the next lasting snows of the new season:

Aonach Mor – snowpatch: NN193736 (altitude approx 1120 metres)
Aonach Beag – Bottom of north face summit cliffs: NN196718 (altitude approx 950 metres)

These sites both lasted until the new snows of 2007 (November) and I will try and keep a close eye on them again this year.

Perhaps if you are on the hills and are near any of these locations then you could photograph them and email them to me? Any contributions will, of course, get a mention in the journal when it is published

Thanks in advance,

Iain Cameron

* – Royal Meteorological Society Weather publication.