Checking the mountains around my home today there was little sign of any spontaneous avalanche activity although some of the couloirs are either very dry at the exits (north-east winds) or have runnels/goulots which will make skiing fun. At St-François-Longchamp there was a spontaneous avalanche at 15h30 which damaged one of the pylons of a chairlift. The chairlift couldn’t be run and users had to be winched off.
La Grave is proving difficult for some skiers with the CRS almost flying a taxi service this week for groups stuck in couloirs. On the 1st March they rescued half a dozen skiers blocked in the couloir d’Orcières, five skiers stuck in the morning on the couloir du patou and another pair in the afternoon in the same couloir. The Orcières leads from the Girose glacier to the valley and requires an abseil.
In le Mont Dore a local skier was serious injured after falling on ice in the Val d’Enfer at the base of the couloir ‘Y’. He suffered head injuries. The alert was given by a ski tourer who came across the man’s body.
Another drama yesterday in the Gorges de Malpasset in Val d’Isere. A 46 year old man fell through the snow into the river below. Despite a rapid intervention by the rescue services the man could not be saved. He was with a ski instructor, his wife and their two children. The gorges can be dangerous, especially in low snow years, but normally due to falls and avalanches (see links below). Recent conditions described the gorges as passing without problem and like a ski piste.
The recent thaw had probably weakened the snowpack. Skiing above or crossing rivers is always a dangerous affair with little chance if you fall through and are swept under the snow by the current.
Snow was down to 550 meters on the Jura and Saleve foot hills this morning, although it had pretty much melted off below 1000m by this evening. We had a fall of 15cm on Sunday which refreshed conditions and brought powder skiing earlier in the week.
However as you can see in this photo it was accompanied by some very strong winds and these formed some thin slabs (10cm+)
as you can see on this NW facing slope in the Belledonne (fracture line after a whoumph). Last night we had a further 10cm in the Northern Alps, perhaps a bit more in the Vosges and Jura. This has covered much of the uneven base. The predictions for the next week are for spring like temperatures. Hopefully the snow pack will transform better than after the recent heatwave.
With valley temperatures above 20C now we are firmly in spring skiing territory. Snow cover below 1300m is vanishing fast and some routes already require an approach walk.
Some more rescues in la Grave. Four skiers were blocked around 14h00 in the couloir de Chirouze, they didn’t have ropes and harnesses. The CRS des Alpes provided the helicopter taxi ride down. Same thing a little afte 15 h 30 with a couple of skiers blocked in the couloir du Patou.
Remember that some routes that may ordinarily be skiable may be dry now, either due to the strong northerly winds we’ve seen this winter or the thaw.
Last week was the “big thaw”, to give some figures. On East slopes we lost around 50cm snow depth at 1600m, the loss was more limited at 2300 meters, more like 30cm however temperatures were above freezing all week. Only at 3000m on the Bellecote were average temperatures closer to zero with just 10cm disappearing. However on sheltered slopes, for example at 1300m on the Col de Porte in the Chartreuse only 20cm was lost leaving a still substantial 70cm of snow depth.
As the graphic shows, this has still been one of the best seasons for a decade in mid mountain areas; at least in terms of snowdepths.
We were out today but touring between 1200 and 1800 meters. It was pretty warm and windy and snow was settled “firn” but good to ski, at least at 10am. We are expecting some fresh tomorrow afternoon. Between 1200-1500m according to the Meteo France national bulletin but the avalanche bulletin suggests the zero iso will be at 2000 meters with 15cm of snow above 1800m.
Temperature records were broken all last week in France. With temperatures 6 to 10 °C above normal Auxerre and Bourges both recorded maximum temperatures 1.5°C higher than previous records yesterday.
Some of the snow here. The first couple from yesterday on the backside of the ridge behind Leysin and today on Mont Chevrueil looking towards Château-d’Œx which is pretty bare. north facing slopes though still holding snow at low altitude. We were doing some probing exercises and found snow depths around 1.5-2m
It was snowing down to 1000m today when we were out, probably lower than I expected. I’d slightly altered my route down with the group, the line I normally take crosses a couple of steeper sections and I was slightly concerned about warming cycle. While we sat at 900m waiting for transport back in the cake shop the rain turned to snow even down 900m.
A nice fall of snow, still skiable, albeit slightly heavy, down to 1300m here in Leysin. Quite empty on slopes although some of the Valais will be busy as it’s a public holiday there. The actual snow line is down below 1000m as I’ve just been down myself.
There is some fresh snow in the Pyrenees above 1500m today. The Western Pyrenees, (Canigou sector) have received 30-40cm of new snow. The avalanche risk high at altitude.
On Tuesday evening the PGHM in Chamonix were involved in a crevasse rescue in the vallée Blanche. A father and son had fallen 20 meters into a crevasse. They were able to get a phone signal and via the father’s wife in Italy, alert the rescue services.
The la Grave lift is still out of action. It should resume service on Friday 23 March.
In Vallorcine the Tête de Balme char is closed until Sunday due to a broken pulley. The Vallorcine gondola is also shut. A bus service had been put in place for skiers.
It has been pretty warm the last few days and this looks set to continue for another week with maybe a break in the anticyclone arriving on the 31st March. It is +5C warmer than average at the moment. Not much refreeze below 1700m but the snow is fairly dense and can still be skied lower down.
Some avalanche activity about where I’m based in the Isere. A couple of skiers marking out the Belle Etoile ski mountaineering competition triggered a slab on a north facing slope around 2400 meters yesterday afternoon around 2pm. Risk 2/5.
The slide finished on the Vallons de la Pra ski run (7 Laux domain) which was open at the time. Maybe being out at 2pm wasn’t the best idea given the summer like ski conditions coupled with fresh snow on Sunday after a long period of calm weather. There was another skier triggered slide in the Belledonne today.
The hot weather continues. On Saturday, at least, it was still possible to find settled powder above 2000m on very sheltered north west facing slopes, a week after the last fresh snow. Otherwise conditions were getting very soggy although the snow has really settled now so is not too bad to ski.
There was an avalanche on Saturday at 12h00 in the col du Longet sector of Saint-Véran en Queyras. A man suffered leg injuried but his dog was buried by the slide. We don’t know if they found the dog or not.
Hottest March since 2003 in France, that was the year of the glacier shrinking heat wave (canicule).
“Miss Crevasse” posted to this thread on CampToCamp about her experience falling down a crevasse on the VB
Yesterday afternoon, great weather in Chamonix, my childhood friends, a nice guide, an exceptional day for a wonderful ski down the vallée blanche. Then a surprise, a bit above the Requin hut a snow bridge broke under my skis and so, in a few seconds I was at the bottom of a hole! A strange and unpleasant sensation to be a few meters from the surface between two walls of ice, stopped by an unstable and thin layer of snow. Impossible to move, my legs were cramped and my position was really uncomfortable. I don’t thing I was injured. I tried to stay positive, my friends were behind me and saw me fall into the abyss, my guide was in front and he’s coming to help, another guide was not far and helped him with the rescue. Time passed slowly but I saw a rope appear with enormous pleasure. I had a guide who was experienced and efficient, a helmet and harness, a screwgate karabiner. I know that I had a lot of luck because crevasses are not always so indulgent. Thank-you to the passing guide who took the time to help out. I love the mountains due to their savage beauty but I will never forget that they do what they want to whoever and whenever.