TR: Chamonix 2012 Day 1 – Col du Belvedere

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After a very worthwhile week in Turkey (more details on sister blog aussieskier.com ) I came back to Chamonix to ski for myself. After landing in Geneva I jumped in a van to Chamonix and met up with Jerome to check in to the amazing apartment he found for me. I am very spoiled and it’s great to have such a good friend here to take such good care of me.

I was pretty exhausted from the week in Turkey with various issues in the hotel conspiring to seriously impinge on my sleep time, but an early night here in a nice dark bedroom led to a 10 hour deep slumber and I was ready to roll. Jerome asked if I preferred a day of lifted off-piste or ski touring, and I decided it was best to get straight on the horse and opted to earn some turns. Being my first day skiing for myself this trip Jerome chose a medium sized tour up to Col du Belvedere.

Col du Belvedere is one of the classic Chamonix ski tours and I was excited to see what the fuss was about. As we have done many times before I bought a ‘one way’ alpinist lift ticket and we headed up to the top of Flegere, made a traverse and then put our skins on. Due to the extremely warm weather last week the surface is extremely firm underneath but with a layer of fresh on top. The traverse was a pretty chattery affair but it was over soon enough and it was time to climb. A layer of cloud enveloped the valley, the top of the Floria poma was just above it but we descended into the murk on the traverse and looked forward to climbing back out of it.

Flegere Tram
Flegere Tram
Jerome above the Clouds
Jerome above the Clouds
Mont Blanc in the Clouds
Mont Blanc in the Clouds

By the time we reached Lac Blanc we were back above the cloud and the views were spectacular. As I have often mentioned one of the best parts of skiing Brevent & Flegere is the view afforded of the Mont Blanc massif and today was no exception. There was only one other party on our route but we chose a more direct skin track and were treated to some particularly aesthetic views while climbing. The climb was a total of 500m and while that does not come completely for free it is a moderate hike and I felt good at the top.

Jerome Pointing out some Chamois
Jerome Pointing out some Chamois
Chamois on the move
Chamois on the move
Jerome Skinning Below Col du Belvedere
Jerome Skinning Below Col du Belvedere
Skin Track all the way to Lac Blanc, Aiguille Verte and Les Drus behind
Skin Track all the way to Lac Blanc, Aiguille Verte and Les Drus behind
Richard Skinning up Col du Belvedere
Richard Skinning up Col du Belvedere

From the Col du Belvedere there is a steep icy slope that requires a series of rappels to reach the glacier below. Jerome remarked that there is less snow than normal on the descent, most probably due to wind so we had to rappel further than normal, which was a little annoying but no big deal.

Arriving at the Col & Setting up the Rappel
Arriving at the Col & Setting up the Rappel
Rappelling below Col du Belvedere
Rappelling below Col du Belvedere
Hanging out in the Couloir
Hanging out in the Couloir

Once off the rope we were treated to fresh tracks all the way down to the Berard Valley. As with the earlier traverse the conditions were ‘dust on crust’ and we were feeling the bottom but it was lovely snow overall and we had a blast. The upper reaches of the glacier were steep powder turns with slough following you down the hill and this slowly mellowed as we reached the valley floor.

There had only been one party ahead of us on the glacier and they kept well to the skier’s left, so we had the whole skier’s right to ourselves and didn’t cross a track until we got to the main drag down below.

Glacier below Col du Belvedere
Glacier below Col du Belvedere
Fresh Tracks under Col du Belvedere
Fresh Tracks under Col du Belvedere
Richard Skiing below Col du Belvedere
Richard Skiing below Col du Belvedere
Richard Skiing below Col du Belvedere
Richard Skiing below Col du Belvedere

I was anticipating the usual ‘James Bond’ trail from the bottom of the valley to Le Buet but did not quite anticipate the poor condition of the snow – it was absolutely rock hard blue ice moguls, something that Mt Buller would be proud of, which is always interesting on blunt fat skis with touring boots & bindings. Skiing out of a valley after a powder run is usually an interesting affair but this was full on combat skiing. We remarked that it was amusing that the skin up and the ski down were the easiest parts of the day, it was the rappel down from the col and the bumpy trail that were actually the most tiring.

Finishing in Le Buet
Finishing in Le Buet

As with all tours in this part of the world we waited for the train with a drink a the Hotel du Buet though in true French fashion there was a strike so the trains were far less frequent. However we reached Chamonix soon enough after a great day. This tour had most of the elements that you hope for in a day in Chamonix – great views, a bit of climbing, some nervous steeps with ropes & ice axes, powder on a glacier, wide open valleys and combat skiing below.

Great day and looking forward to more. Weather permitting we are hoping to do some touring on the Argentiere glacier tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Once again none of this would be possible without the amazing guide Jerome Para – he is a full UIAGM/IFMGA Qualified guide working with the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix. For any Chamonix adventure be sure to get in touch with him either through the Compagnie des Guides or via email: [email protected] (not hotlinked to prevent spam – cut & paste into your email client)

1 COMMENT

  1. looks awseome Rich – thanks for sharing this snow day story. great pics and clearly plenty of variety 🙂

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