With poor weather on the horizon and the end to the bluebird skies we had been enjoying, we were attempting to squeeze out one more day before taking a day off on Sunday. With the foehn increasing in the Chamonix valley we drove around to Les Contamines which is a resort below the east face of Mont Blanc.
We rode the rickety gondolas and slow chairlifts to the top:
By this stage the wind was increasing, we donned our skins and started hiking:
By the time we reached the col at the top of the valley we were to ski, the wind had reached gale force. Jerome was amazed that we were not at all fazed by the weather – it was like skiing Baldy at Mt Buller.
To make things even better, in the time it took to ride to the top and skin to the valley, the snow that Jerome had spied from below at the start of our day had been blown somewhere west of the resort. So we descended in a gale, flat light and snow alternating between hardpack and wind crust.
The main amusement of the day was the cat track to return us to Les Contamines – due to the warmer sunny weather water had been draining down the gullies and settling on the track, turning it into a sheet of near-glacial ice. Lower end skiers and ski tourers with flimsy gear were either flailing or donning crampons to get down. It was like a scene from a Benny Hill movie:
The good news was that at the bottom there was a good coffee and a Blueberry tart:
While the skiing was pretty poor it was good practice skinning on ice in a gale – if we are ever stuck somewhere it is good to know our Australian skiing training will allow us to ignore the weather and focus on the task at hand!