After our equal worst year ever last year as a result of the intense heat wave making Mont Blanc’s grand couloir too dangerous to cross for a big part of the season, this year we have the opposite problem. In the second week of June last year Chamonix temperatures were touching 40°C; the same time this year they were around 14°C (“normal” would be around 24°C in my experience). The three photos of the grand couloir below show in order: early July 2014 (something like normal conditions), June 2015, and June 2016.
Our first course this year made the top under snowy but reasonable conditions, then around 12th June we had a major storm that put nearly half a metre of new snow low down on the mountain. This made conditions on this section very difficult and though we struggled up a couple of times, we only made it to the Vallot refuge about 3/4 of the way up the route. We then had to stop all together for a bit as the temperature suddenly went up and it all started sliding off!
Our most commonly asked question is probably “When’s the best time to come?”, and the answer is, any time in the season is as good as any other. To illustrate this, here are some more statistics from our June courses over the last three years:
2014: Our first 11 courses all summited Mont Blanc;
2015: 10/11 of our first courses summited;
2016: 1/7 of our first courses summited.
Every year brings new surprises and we have to be constantly ready to adapt in order to maintain our safety margins. Happily at the time of writing things are getting back to normal, we have a team in place at Tete Rousse this evening ready to make an attempt tomorrow and the weather looks pretty good for the next couple of courses as well. A return to normality is long overdue.