Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Skiing the Vallee Blanche, Chamonix Mont Blanc

What an amazing day!! The Vallee Blanche in Chamonix is a 20km off-piste ski route with a vertical descent of approximately 2700m. The views on a good day are stunning and being surrounded by high mountain peaks gives a real sensation of being in an unspoilt wilderness. This is one of those experiences that you will be ever forget. 
Henrietta at the bottom of the Aiguille de Midi Cable car
  Henrietta, my youngest daughter,  and I have just returned from one of the most memorable days skiing ever. The Vallee Blanche has been on my list of things to do for a very long time and today we were blessed by some of what were apparently the best conditions of this year's ski season to date! Blue skies, light winds at the top of the Aiguille de Midi and unbelievably 60cm of fresh powder snow - no wonder it was busy. A relatively early start saw us at the bottom Aiguille de Midi cable car at 8.45am and after waiting for our telecabin number to be displayed  (we were on the 19th one of the morning - there's  a reservation system during the ski season which seems to, based upon our experience, work well). By 9.45am we were up at 3750m at the top and suffering the typical shortness of breath that such a rapid ascent to altitude brings. The temperature was apparently -21 according to the digital display within the tunnel that's  been carved out of the rock, and -32 taking into account the wind chill! After a few pictures from the viewing platform above the cable car of Mont Blanc and across into both Italy and Switzerland it was time to rope up and start the treacherous descent down the snow ridge that links to the glacier below.
Henrietta and I (she's the good looking one even wearing goggles!)
Mont Blanc
    Poor Henrietta really doesn't likes heights however she did extremely well to manage the narrow roped track down to the where the skiing starts (which took around 15 minutes). Any slip here without being roped up would certainly lead to your death as you would first slide down a 60 degree snow slope before entering free space and then land on some rocks some 600m below you.  
Skis safely secured to Henrietta's rucsac for the initial descent
The descent from the Aiguille de Midi
The first part of the route is straight forward passing close beneath Mont Blanc du Tacul and then the descent starts in earnest with slopes increasing in angle and difficulty. After approximately an hour and a half we were just below the Requin hut and enjoying not only a picnic lunch but also spectacular views of the the Dru, the Aiguille Verte, the Dent du Geant to name but a few and all in stunning surroundings coupled with blue skies.  
First part of the route
Looking back up to the Aiguille de Midi
The second  half of the day was much more straightforward gliding along the freshly snow capped glacier down to beneath the Montenvers train station and the end of the Mer de Glace.  Here we had a steep 25 minute climb up the side of the valley to take us up over a small ridge and then down into Chamonix itself.  
Negotiating the seracs du Geant
Lunch time!
Looking at the upper reaches of the Mer de Glace at our lunch stop
Requin hut on the sky line towards the left
After an exhilarating day! The end and waiting for the bus
After a well deserved Coke and beer we the made the final 30 minute ski back down though the forest and into Chamonix. What a day!!   By chance we met Ben Bradford of Vertical Frontiers at the end who said how lucky we had been with the conditions and that it was the first time he had been able to ski all the way back into town. Lucky indeed. Stay safe

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