Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fantastic ski run down the Vallee Blanche glacier

The forecast for Thursday was good so we bought tickets and headed up to the Aguille du Midi.  I chatted to a group of 6 French alpine soldiers in the telepherique.  They are based near Bourg St Maurice (near Val d'Isere) and were heading up for some training.  There were very friendly.  One mentioned the speed flyer  who had died up there on Monday.

Getting out of the tunnel into the sun was a breath taking experience.  The view is superb.  The Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, the Grand Combin, Mont Blanc and all the peaks around Chamonix were clear, we could even see to Geneva.

The skiers in the first telepherique were all hard core.  Glen Plake was among them, his blond hard down over his shoulders rather than spiked up punk style.  Most skiers headed off to do peaks from the Col du Midi.  Dan and his wife (but guides) were heading for the Dome du Gouter

The descent down the steep ridge is still scary, even hanging on to the rope hand rail. Some have slipped here and died.

After a few photos, Mark and I took off down the Vallee Blanche glacier.  If there is a heaven on earth, this is it, or at least a stepping point along the way.  The skiing was fast on firm icy snow.  We followed track to the right of the main ice fall, which turned out to be a bad move.  The slope to the right of the ice fall got steeper then was covered for sections with frozen avalanche debris.

While we were not to worried about further avalanches, it was very difficult to negotiate.  I dug a ski tip and fell, sliding for a while down hill on my back.  I came halted after a few metres and retrieved my ski which had come off my foot and its safety strap.  I was lucky not to lose it down a crevasse.  

Skiing the rest of this slope was difficult as the snow was melting and we were breaking through the crust, but we eventually made it to the bottom of the ice fall.  Most of the other skiers around had descended on the other side below the Requin Refuge (hut) which looked like a better descent.  We skied across to the tracks, stepping gingerly over a couple of crevasses.  

Our route down the Vallee Blanche

After some double poling and straight running we got onto some steeper slopes, then glacial ice.  We stopped near the staircase that tourists use to visit the ice grotto and had some lunch in the sun, with the Choucas (alpine birds) visiting us for some food.

We had a look through the ice grotto, then practiced our glacier rescue teqnique holding a fall then setting up a z-pulley haulage system.

We climbed up the staircase then up a path to the hotel at the Montenvers tourist railway, that was still not operating due to fallen trees on the tracks from the wind storm.

It was a long walk down along the tracks, then onto a path, but there were great views of the Chamonix valley.  We headed for the Cafe where we had started the day and had a beer, coffee and a lovely bowl of chips.  

This was our last day of skiing for the trip, and it was yet another hard but rewarding one.

Descent graph - part 1

Descent graph - part 2

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