Friday, April 18, 2014

Vallee Blanche ski descent in icy conditions

The forecast was for deteriorating weather so we decided to head straight down the Vallee Blanche after a nice breakfast. Nils said the direct run down the Vallee Blanche glacier was heavily crevassed.

It was fast but difficult skiing on the firm icy snow.  Turning could be tricky with ruts from other ski tracks.  The run steepened as we approached the Geant icefall, then got very steep as we descended to the left of the icefall.  It was spectacular being so close to the icefall, but turning on the steep icy moguls was very challenging.

This was my hardest descent of the Vallee Blanche glacier run.

At about the traverse to Requin hut Simon tweaked his knee during a fall and decided to walk the remainder of the steep section.  Tufu (a local) and Sara (a Swede) were also descending.  Sara was happy to put her crampons on and tie onto a rope with Simon.

The descent route became even narrower right next to the icefall, then it was over.  We emerged onto a flatter section.  There were crevasses however, so everyone put their skis on and we zipped across to the other side where the descent was now easier.  The ice finally gave way to some softer more enjoyable snow as we continued down the Mer de Glace (the "Sea of Ice") glacier.

Its a relief to get out of the area of difficulty and just cruise down the wide expanse of glacier.

We skied almost to the staircase, then climbed it to the small gondola lift, again marveling at the marked level of the glacier over the last decades and its dramatic retreat.

The Montveners railway was busy. We had to be 22 euro tickets to get down it (having bought one way tickets up the Ag. du Midi the day before).  I had a nice coffee while we waited and finally got a photo of most of my gear all together.

The train ride down is certainly much easier than walking, as Mark and I did two years ago.  We had great hamburgers at the popular Elevation 1904 bar near the railway station.


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