Dog days for 2007 ski touring

It has been a while since I’ve posted any snow reports but then it has been a while since we’ve seen any significant fresh snow. The last significant dump dates back to the end of March with almost zero precipitation in April a month of normally unsettled weather mixed with excellent powder ski conditions. However this morning it has snowed down to 1800-2000 meters in the Alps and Pyrenees and we are hoping for some excellent skiing once the weather clears.

Temperatures over the last month have also been hot, too hot, about +3.5C above average. The last time I saw skiable powder was early April on the Rocher de l’Homme. Admittedly I went to the UK for 10 days and missed some great skiing early April but the heat and lack of fresh snow meant that conditions soon went off.

By the time I returned and spent a week ski touring in the north Belledonne the snow was in a sorry old state with percolation columns formed by the action of the sun making the surface of the snow look like a golf ball. These were not too bad if you got them after the surface of the snow softened but were filling loosening otherwise. The huge daytime temperature ranges also meant that it was hard to time descents. It would be right at the top but then you would find soup lower down or you would have to descend the first, often steep sections on hard, icy snow.

By the end of the month the thaw was about a full month in advance. Some of the high alpine cols like the Glandon, Croix de Fer and Madelene were completely snow free even if they were closed due to the risk of snow slides from higher up.

In what may be one of the last gasps of a short season we completed 1700 meter ski tour from the Glandon pass at the weekend to the Rocher Blanc taking in the steep climb to the breche de l’Argentiere.

This takes us over 2 vestigial glaciers. Last August they were still there but for how much longer? At one time the Rocher Blanc could be tackled in early July with little or know carrying. Today we had 250 meters vertical from the car to find snow at 1900 meters which is about the current natural snowline.

The touring conditions are not too bad where there is snow but glaciated terrain is suspect with many snow bridges failing or weakened by the sun. The hard, rutted snow has lead to a number of falls and deaths, there will probably be more ski deaths from falls than avalanches this season. A Finnish skier was caught by a small slab avalanche on the north side of Mont-Blanc at 4500m, a reminder that where there is some fresh snow conditions can still be quite dangerous.

Posted by davidof on Wednesday, 02 May, 2007 at 09:58 AM

Some road pass information:

In the Southern Alps only the col d’Agnel, Galibier and Restafond remain closed. The Glandon / Croix de Fer are drivable on the south side but snow clearing was still being done on the north side of the Glandon last weekend.

Here is a list of closed cols

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 02 May, 2007  at 11:01 AM
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