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How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in July

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How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in July

Postby ogremage » Fri May 31, 2013 10:05 am

I've planned a hiking itinerary for 2nd and 3rd weeks of July (so early to mid-July) for Mercantour and P. N. delle Alpi Marittime. My main concern is about the mountain passes I'd have to cross, whether they may still have so much snow to make walking conditions dangerous.

We will have trekking poles, but no crampons or ice axes, nor do we have any experience in (winter) climbing.

I did a similar trip in Vanoise N.P. 2 years ago, in 1st and 2nd weeks of July, and only saw a few patches of snow on level ground that presented no danger.

But I'm concerned after reading the news articles that perhaps with the late spring the conditions will be worse this year.

How can I find that out?

I've looked at sites like Meteo France but they don't really provide much useful information about the passes, it is all mostly about the ski stations.

Which is the website that the refuges use to print out weather forecasts that they display? I used to know it, but have forgotten the name.

By the time I find out from the refuge proprietor that a pass is closed, it may be too late to find a good alternative route. If I knew beforehand that there will be snow, I may even have time to buy crampons or something (not sure what good it would do without any experience with them).

Am I being paranoid for no reason?

Are there any rules of thumb as to what's safe to cross and what's not?

The itinerary is:

Day 1 - St Etienne de Tinnee to R. de Vens
Day 2 - R. de Vens to R. de Rabuons
Day 3 - R de Rabuons to Pas de Colle Longue (2533m) to R. de Laus
Day 4 - R. de Laus to Tesina pass to Sant'Anna di Vinadio
Day 5 - Sant'Anna di Vinadio to Colle della Lombarda (2351m) to Bassa del Druos (2628m) to R. Questa
Day 6 - R. Questa to R. Remandino
Day 7 - R. Remandino to Colle di Brocan (2892m) to R. Soria-Elena
Day 8 - R. Soria Elena to Col de Fenestre (2474m) to R. la Madone de Fenestre
Day 9 - R. la Madone de Fenestre to R. de Nice (maybe hike up Mont Clapier (3045m) if time and conditions permit)
Day 10 - R. de Nice to R. des Merveilles
Day 11 - R. des Merveilles to St Dalmas de Tende

As you can see, it goes to 2.5km a few times, and up to 2.9km once.

Any other comments or advice you have would be appreciated.

P.S. Sorry if this is more of a hiking/trekking question, not a climbing/mountaineering one, but I posted on some other forums and didn't get any responses - I think folks here will be more knowledgeable, especially whether I'm overly concerned about the dangers or not.
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby Proterra » Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:00 am

My experience - which is quite limited concerning the Western Alps - is that you shouldn't need to worry below 3 000 metres about snow. Snowstorms have been known to happen above 2 500 metres even in the middle of the summer, but usually it will be gone within a day or two. I personally don't see a need to pack crampons below 3 200 - 3 400 metres in the middle of July, unless you're planning glacier travel as well.

I would however, plan an extra day or two - just in case you'll have to wait out the weather in a hut somewhere.
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby ogremage » Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:00 pm

Thanks, Proterra. The extra day or two are a good idea, but a bit too late now, as I've already reserved the huts. I'll hope for the best, I guess.
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby nickw1 » Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:53 am

No experience in July but the Mercantour (Merveilles - Refuge de Nice - Madone de Fenestre, as well as the summit of Mont Clapier, and, by the looks of things, Cime de Gelas) was completely and utterly snow free in mid-late September last year.

I would have guessed that far south the snow would go pretty quickly. It's supposed to have a settled climate, though thunderstorms are apparently a risk (didn't get any) and possibly sea-fog (got some on the way up the GR52 from the south, but had gone before I got to the Refuge des Merveilles)
Last edited by nickw1 on Sun Jun 09, 2013 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby ogremage » Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:57 am

Yes, but that's last year. This year supposedly they've had a lot of late snows. It SHOULD usually be snow free in July. Just concerned about it this year. :(
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby jdenyes » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:06 pm

Hey there,
No experience in the french Alps, but I am based in Zurich and have been out a few times.

TODAY the snow goes down to about 1,800m, BUT, we have finally made it into spring weather, so we are talking 25+ °C weather and a ton of sun. I expect June will clear up just about all the snow below 3,000m.

I have run into late snow on a few occasions, not on passes, and pretty high, but with trekking poles, good solid high sided mountain boots, some patience you can cross, descend, or glissade (aka slide like a little kid :-) ) down whatever is there. I was a total newb and did fine. I think they will be clear in a few weeks, July should be fine.
My advice would be to call the huts you have reserved nights in, a day or two before you leave, and ask them what is up. They are the expert on conditions.

But, I think you should be fine. We have gotten a TON of late snow, but the weather is pretty hot, and it is melting surprisingly fast. Closer to, you could try posting in the european board, or PMing someone in the area also, but I would go for the hut wardens!
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby ogremage » Sun Jun 09, 2013 7:20 pm

Okay, I will do that. Thanks, jdenyes!
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby jdenyes » Sun Jun 16, 2013 2:56 pm

Update: we just had a solid week of 30+ temperatures roll in, north of the Alps we are looking at 28-35 for the next seven days. I think you will be fine!
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Re: How much snow should one expect on the Alpine passes in

Postby ogremage » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:35 pm

That is awesome news, thanks for letting me know, jdenyes!
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