Mont Blanc Guides Blog

2016 Pre-Season Conditions

10 days to go before season start and above is how the route up our training peak Gran Paradiso (4061m) currently looks from the Chabod hut webcam. I don’t have a picture taken at exactly the same time from a previous season, but to give you an idea shown below is the same region from 2012 taken 4 weeks later: can you spot the difference?

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I’ve skied this peak in March with a lot less snow than this… Spring seems to have been cancelled this year (I know this because I’ve been trying to get out on my road bike) and right across the alps everything is plastered in snow. As for Mont Blanc, snow high on the mountain is less of an issue as cold temperatures mean there’s only so far you’ll sink in, but getting to the Tete Rousse hut could be problematic, at least for the first few courses. An aerial reconnaissance on the 27th May showed the railway line we usually walk up when the train is (frequently) not running to be completely banked out with snow (photo below); as there’s a big cliff below most of it, it means it’s not safe to go this way for the moment and we will have to follow the valley floor up to Tete Rousse.

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Higher up the ridge we normally walk up to get to the Tete Rousse (photo below, middle foreground) is heavily covered and would be difficult to get up in these conditions, so what we’ll do is use snow shoes and come up via the zigzag track just by the hut on the right.

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What does this mean in general for our chances on our first few courses? Well, it could go either way, if it consolidates with a bit of melt freeze and we get good cold weather on the day + a few helpful folk to help bash the track in front of us, all will be well; if it suddenly warms up however and mixed weather means less people to make the track, it will be a struggle just getting to the hut. It just goes to show how much every year is different, in June last year the heatwave was already giving us concerns about stone fall in Mont Blanc’s Grand Couloir whereas this year it’s buried under metres of cold snow.

Anyone coming out in the first 2 weeks of June: get ready for a scrap!

(John Taylor)

John Taylor
About 
John has been climbing in the Mont Blanc region for over 25 years and became an IFMGA Mountain Guide in 2002. He has been the owner / Head Guide at Mont Blanc Guides Ltd. since 2004.