Our group assembled at the Chalet on Sunday afternoon – and we were greeted by a facility that greatly exceeded our expectations – a lovely large space, towering views of the peaks on both sides of the valley, a lovely deck with a spa & comfortable rooms. Jerome and our second guide Fanny came over for a meet & greet which was followed by a discussion on safety and group goals for the week.
Dinner was served & our Chalet chef Whitney soon became everyone’s favourite as each course proved a winner. To quote Pulp Fiction, which I had re-watched recently “this is some serious gourmet shit”. The amazement continued as we woke to a stunning breakfast spread which we devoured as we would need the energy for the day’s activities.
The weather was clear with blue skies but high winds aloft, so we chose to do a mid-altitude ski tour in the Aiguilles Rouges – Jerome and Fanny met us at the Chalet to discuss the days plans. This is always a great option as the terrain is excellent and the views across to the Mont Blanc massif are peerless. Plus we had a group member who had not used touring gear and skins before so this is an excellent location to start out – no crazy steep icy kick turns etc but enough to start acquiring skills.
We ascended the lifts at Flegere, and then completed a bone-rattling traverse to the point where we donned our skins and commenced climbing. After a few switchbacks we reached the beautiful Lac Blanc area, we crossed the frozen lake and continued upwards until a decision needed to be made whether we would climb to Col du Belvedere which was the obvious valley straight ahead, or up to the lookers right to Col des Dards which could hold better snow.
While we were climbing Jerome made a detour to check out the snow and decided that the second option would be the best so we diverted left and reached the col after about 500m vert of climbing. Spirits were high as we lunched at the col, admiring the spectacular views, and then we began our descent in some lovely windblown powder, the terrain in the Aiguilles Rouges is very playful and we descended through a couple of bowls and a couloir with plenty of terrain features to keep it interesting. As we descended further the fresh snow transitioned into corn snow which was equally superb.
However this being a low snow year, and skiing on the sunny side of the valley we were soon made to pay for the lovely corn turns as we were not able to directly traverse back to the lift as a face had melted out, so we needed to bush bash a little to get back to the lifts. This was all in good humour and before long we were back at Flegere.
We decided to use the last couple hours of daylight to listen to an avalanche briefing from Jerome and Fanny, and we each conducted a beacon search. It is something that a committed off-piste skier should do regularly and we all benefited from the practice. There was a storm forecast but the skies remained clear as we went to bed and we were a little uncertain if it would arrive….