Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chamonix - Skiing the Vallee Blanche

I've always wanted to ski the Vallee Blanche - a 9000 foot descent from the top of the Aiguille du Midi back to the town of Chamonix.  We were here for the Piolet d'Or (more on that in my next post) and had a couple of days to play.

Warning upon exiting the tunnel from the top of Aiguille du Midi

The Telepherique to the top of the Aiguille du Midi
The aerial tramway system (they call it a telephierique) that goes to the top of the Aigulle du Midi mountain is in two stages.  You take one car From Chamonix at around 3,000 feet to a midstation and then get off.  There you board a different telepherique that carries you in a single cable span (no towers) to the top at 12,000 feet.

Skiers descending the ridge on the Aiguille dy\u Midi
The summit of the Aiguille du Midi has been tunnelled out so you walk through the mountain and out onto a ridge.  You must then walk down the ridge to where you can put on your skis and descend the glacier on the backside.

Skiing the top portion of the glacier
You are skiing on an active glacier so the main concern is falling into a crevasse.  We had a local guide with us who is familiar with the terrain and knows where the crevasses are and always went first. 
Open slopes with little crevasse danger

We were instructed to always ski to the guide and not beyond in case there were crevasses.  Where there were open slopes without crevasses we could pick our own path through untracked snow.
Our guide - Christian Trommsdorff who also was an organizer for the Piolet d'Or
In other locations there were narrow sections between crevasses and we had to follow the exact same path behind Christian.


Michael and Julie Kennedy
It was a beautiful day with a fun group.


Climbing up using skins
We descended most of the upper glacier and then put on our climbing skins (fuzzy fabric strips that stick to the bottom of our skis) to ski uphill on the glacier below another mountain called the Dent du Geant (giants tooth).  We wanted to climb high on this glacier to get another ski run down.


From the top of Aiguille du Midi in center we skied down and left and then right of the big icefall

Skiing the good snow below the Dent du Geant
Our group on the Mer de Glace near the finish 
 

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