TR: Chamonix 2013 – Vallée Blanche Gros Rognon

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Nicole & Jerome
Nicole & Jerome

Yesterday’s grey skies yielded some lovely powder but there’s something about sunshine that adds to the overall quality of the day, even though it does nothing to enhance the powder and in fact damages it at the right elevations and aspects.

So with this in mind there was not much decision making to be done when we saw the forecast for sunny skies, and we reserved our place in the first cable car up the Aiguille du Midi at 8:10am with our friends from Australia, father and son team Phil and Jack. Phil is another former instructor, and Jack is 19 and coming to the end of his first season instructing in Austria, and his youth combined with 3 months on snow already meant his skiing was strong. They had visited Chamonix before but it was their first time up the Aiguille which is always an occasion.

Yesterday while skiing the Combe de la Vierge we spotted some nice untracked powder in the Gros Rognon area, which is generally regarded as a place where the deeper snow settles in the Vallee Blanche, so we rode the cable car, roped up for the Arete and then made a beeline for the pow:

Arete above the clouds
Arete above the clouds
Nicole ready to go!
Nicole ready to go!
Exiting the Ice Tunnel
Exiting the Ice Tunnel
Aiguille du Midi and Arete
Aiguille du Midi and Arete
Looking across the Vallee Blanche
Looking across the Vallee Blanche
Mont Blanc du Tacul
Mont Blanc du Tacul
Looking across to the Italian Border
Looking across to the Italian Border

On our way across we spied our tracks from yesterday, hugging the massive walls below the Dent du Geant all the way to the glacier below:

Combe de la Vierge un the shadows. Epic run yesterday.
Combe de la Vierge un the shadows. Epic run yesterday.

We found a massive section of untracked snow – it was roughly 20-25cm deep and we had a ball:

Phil in the powder
Phil in the powder
Jack in the powder
Jack in the powder
Nicole & Jerome
Nicole & Jerome

As we got closer down we could see our tracks from yesterday – not another track for hundreds and hundreds of metres:

Our tracks from yesterday
Our tracks from yesterday
Our Tracks
Our Tracks

We stopped for a quick break at the Refuge du Requin – enjoying the superb views

Jerome, Phil and Jack
Jerome, Phil and Jack

Below the Requin there was one more steep pitch of tracked snow before we hit the glacier.

The last steep pitch
The last steep pitch
The crew on the Mer de Glace
The crew on the Mer de Glace

Jack was curious about Jerome’s ice screws so he had a try at placing one when we skied alongside a large serac on the lower reached of the glacier.

Jack screwing the ice
Jack screwing the ice

Today we walked up the moraine and skied the James Bond trail down to town, this is an option I far prefer to the stairs to the Montenvers train.

We had made great time so we decided to ski some more. I was pretty wrecked but happy to go along with the plan – we decided to head to Grands Montets and either do a Pas de Chevre or Glacier des Rognons. We rode the cable car up to Lognan and got a reservation for the top tram for 20 minutes later, however when I sat down to wait I tightened up in a familiar location behind my troublesome knee and decided to not head up. Nicole stayed with me as she had literally got off the plane the day before and our run on the Aiguille was her first turns since October. So Jerome, Phil and Jack headed up to the top and had a great run while Nicole and I chilled out with some beers on some funky inflatable chairs at the outdoor ‘Black Weekend’ party while we waited for them to come down.

It was a sensational day, plenty of untracked snow 2 days after the last snowfall in brilliant sunshine in an epic location. Not sure what more you could want in a ski day.

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