Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Dent Blanche

~ Tuesday 30th September 2008

The South Ridge is a good choice in snowy conditions - it clears quickly, but parts of it are better with snow anyway. Walking up we met a couple who'd spent night at the hut - they said 5 Italians had set off that morning to climb, so we were sure to find a good track.

In the hut at 4.00pm, 5 sets of Italian kit, but no Italians. Finally at 10pm they returned, a bit tired! Apparently, battling deep snow and "winter" conditions had led to a 17 hour epic...

We left at 5.00am. The route starts right from the hut with good scrambling on dry rock,  a short glacier, then more scrambling leads to a fine snow ridge. This was very corniced, with an impressive Italian track very near the edge.

Above, the couloir was in good condition on firm snow, followed by excellent climbing on dry rock...another fantastic end of season day when we were - again - the only team on the mountain.Sunset behind the Tsa and Tsalion

Trabersing into the couloir below the Grand Gendarme

High on the ridge

Avoiding the Italian track


Mont Blanc de Cheilon

~ Saturday 27th September 2008

More perfect weather here so we went over to the Dix hut to climb Mont Blanc de Cheilon. There's still a lot of fresh snow around, but ridges and south faces are in good condition. Its been very cold, so north facing slope are still deep soft snow - about 40cm at 3600m. It was the last night of the season at the hut, with about 25 walkers but only 2 of us climbing - again, we were the only people on the mountain.

On the summit, Mont Blanc de Cheilon


Compare this to the summit 3 weeks ago here

The tricky step below the summit

Heading down through fresh snow

Glacier Research

~ Saturday 20th September 2008

I've been helping with some research on the Haut Glacier d'Arolla, investigating melting rates. We drilled some holes 50cm into the ice and set up measuring poles, then marked the ice surface level. I then set off to walk the Haute Route.

Returning yesterday to collect the poles after a week of cold snowy weather I expected to see very little change, but....

Measuring pole, black line shows original surface level


The black line shows the surface level 10 days ago, with a change of 10cm. So 1cm/day in a period of cold snowy weather - there was 5 cm of fresh snow here the previous night.

Haute Route, Chamoniz Zermatt

~ Saturday 20th September 2008

Back from 7 days on the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route - a bit of an adventure with very mixed weather and very few people in the mountains.

Day 1 up to the Albert Premier hut was wet at first, but ended in a beautiful inversion. There were only 8 people in the hut!

Day 2 was wild, with heavy snow and poor visibility. We made it across to the Orny hut with some careful navigation. and saw no-one, not even a track.

Navigating the Trient plateau in fresh snow


Day 3 we used from Champex to Mauvoisin - a brilliant service, thanks Jean-Yves! The weather cleared as we walked to Chanrion, but it could easily have been summer in Scotland. There were just the 5 of us in the hut...

Day 4 started cold and windy with more snow, but soon cleared to give fantastic views. The "3 cols" to the Dix hut is an amazing route, more so for being deserted. Pam declared this her best day ever in the mountains!

Crossing the Giétro glacier under La Ruinette


Day 5 was a semi-rest, walking to Arolla and the excellent Hotel du Glacier.

Day 6 uphill all day to the Bertol hut, where we were the only guests...

Day 7 up the Tete Blanche - stunning views and a great finale to the week, we were (again) the only people on the mountain, with not a track to be seen. The fresh snow was calf deep, and with no track and increasing cloud we decided to return to Arolla instead of descending the Stockji glacier.

On the Tete Blanche, a great end to the week


So, a week spent on possibly the most famous long distance walk in the Alps where on 3 days we In 3 huts we were the only visitors! The Alps in July and August can be over-crowded, but now in mid September they are empty...

Quiet mountains...

~ Saturday 6th September 2008

The mountains are deserted now the holidays period is over. Tuesday/Wednesday over the Pas de Chevre to the Dix hut then up Mont Blanc de Cheilon when we saw no-one.

Cheilon summit


Recent fresh snow and strong winds have made thin bridges over the late season crevasses - the traverse of the Pigne yesterday was very different to Monday, with the descent to the Dix hut now a smooth white slope. More crevasse "action" then the rest of the summer...

September in Arolla

~ Monday 1st September 2008

Good scrambling at the Pas de Chevre yesterday. This route is a great thing to do on the way to the Dix hut.

Above the Pas de Chevre, Mont Blanc de Cheilon behind             

Now we're into September the Alps are quiet, only 12 people in the hut last night! A spectacular thunderstorm cleared to leave a starry morning, but quickly clouded over and soon we could easily have been in the Cairngorms....

Heavy snow on the way up the Pigne d'Arolla


Luckily the cloud cleared and we got good views from the top...then more cloud.


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