TR: Glacier de Toule, Italy

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Richard Skiing Glacier de Toule amongst the Seracs
Richard Skiing Glacier de Toule amongst the Seracs

This is a repost of a Trip Report posted on ski.com.au and TGR in January, and the public reaction to it formed the nucleus of my desire to create this site:

We met with our guide Jerome at the Compagnie des Guides in Chamonix, which is conveniently next to our hotel in the morning, to find him on the net looking up the weather and snow conditions and finding out what was open. The top of the Grands Montets is still shut so Pas de Chevre wasn’t possible, but Punta Helbronner did open so he said ‘On y va a l’Italia!’

30 minutes later we were in Courmayeur via the Mont Blanc tunnel – 11km underground and after the horrific accident there many years ago the safety precautions are amazing.

In the car park he started filling his back pack with Ice Axe, Crampons, Ropes, Ice Screws and various other hardware to haul people out of crevasses. The then handed us climbing harnesses which we duly donned, and started feeling incredibly hardcore, until we saw everyone in the car park doing the same.

We were in the shadows of Mont Blanc de Courmayeur, and Mont Blanc itself fleetingly revealing themselves through the clouds:

Mont Blanc de Courmayeur
Mont Blanc de Courmayeur

So with the Ice Screws jangling off his belt off we went to the first of three trams to get us to the top:

Helbronner Tram
Helbronner Tram

Didn’t get photos of the other two but they were increasingly smaller, crappier and scarier!!!! Once we reached the top we walked down a walkway with an automative Avie Beacon tester, and once we made it out on the snow we caught our first view of the Dent du Geant:

Dent du Géant
Dent du Géant

We then went for a 10 minute walk/sidestep to the top of the Glacier de Toule which was our objective for the day. Towering over us was Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Blanc de Courmayeur and of course Mont Blanc itself:

Mont Blanc, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacul (L-R)
Mont Blanc, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacul (L-R)

Don’t fall in the hole!:

Crevasse, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix France
Crevasse

Jerome and I working our way to the Glacier, with the Tour Ronde & Combe Maudit ahead, and Mont Maudit towering above:

Jérôme & Richard, Combe Maudit, Mont Maudit above
Jérôme & Richard, Combe Maudit, Mont Maudit above

An icefall/seracs off to our RHS:

Crevasses, Vallée Blanche, Chamonix
Crevasses, Vallée Blanche, Chamonix

L’Aiguille du Midi as seen from across La Vallée Blanche. Poubelle looks pretty sketch so no Blizzard of Aahhs imitations this trip:

L'Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix
L'Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix

The goods. Looking down the Glacier de Toule:

Glacier de Toule, Aosta Valley, Courmayeur Italy
Glacier de Toule, Aosta Valley, Courmayeur Italy

The first obstacle – a massive staircase to get us on to safe ground:

Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule

Me descending the final ladder:

Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule

The stairs again:

Staircase, Glacier de Toule
Staircase, Glacier de Toule

Finally we get down on to the snow and it’s time to rip it up. Jerome is very strict with his instructions on certain parts of the glacier, saying to follow closely to his tracks on the more dangerous parts, but let us open it up wherever possible. His routefinding skills were fantastic, we crossed precious few tracks all day.

CarveGirl having fun:

Nicole Skiing Powder, Glacier de Toule, Italy
Nicole Skiing Powder, Glacier de Toule, Italy

Me smiling:

Richard, Glacier de Toule, Italy
Richard, Glacier de Toule, Italy

Big powder 8’s in the middle are me and Jerome’s handiwork:

Powder 8's, Glacier de Toule, Italy
Powder 8's, Glacier de Toule, Italy

After 1300m vert of virgin powder we decided to head back up again. This time the views over to the Vallee Blanche and the Aiguilles de Chamonix were much better.

Aiguille Verte & Dru, Dent du Geant:

Dent Du Geant & Aiguille Verte, Mont Blanc Massif
Dent Du Geant & Aiguille Verte, Mont Blanc Massif

Aiguille du Midi & Upper Vallée Blanche:

Aiguille du Midi, Vallee Blanche
Aiguille du Midi, Vallee Blanche

Mont Maudit:

Mont Maudit, Combe Maudit
Mont Maudit, Combe Maudit

The upper reaches of the Vallee Blanche and variations:

Upper Vallée Blanche
Upper Vallée Blanche

The middle section of Vallee Blanche and variations:

Middle Vallée Blanche:
Middle Vallée Blanche:

This time instead of taking the stairs we decided to ski a couloir that would get us on to the glacier. 45-50deg, firm snow but unfortunately the top half had been sideslipped by so many people that it left quite a trench that would have been difficult to ski so we had to side slip too, followed by jump turns below with a sharp turn to the right to avoid the bergschrund:

Couloir
Couloir
Couloir
Couloir
Couloir
Couloir

Back on the glacier with the Couloir in the upper middle of shot:

Skiing Glacier de Toule
Skiing Glacier de Toule

Little skier amongst the big seracs: (This may be the best ski picture I have of myself)

Richard Skiing Glacier de Toule amongst the Seracs
Richard Skiing Glacier de Toule amongst the Seracs

Our handiwork in the middle of shot:

Tracks amongst the Seracs, Glacier de Toule, Italy
Tracks amongst the Seracs, Glacier de Toule, Italy

After another 1300m of largely virgin snow it was time for a fabulous Italian lunch:

Lunch! Helbronner Pavillion
Lunch! Helbronner Pavillion

This was followed by a ski down to the Valley floor – a mix of light fluffy pow in the trees, to light fluffy pow on top of avvie debris.

Safe, Sound and Smiling:

End of the day, Glacier de Toule
End of the day, Glacier de Toule

So in my usual fashion there are precious few action shots, but honestly when the skiing’s that good, life’s too short to break up the day with poses etc. So you’ll just need to take my word for it that it was without question the most unique day I have ever had on skis, and may well be the finest as well.

Here’s some Youtube footage of the day:

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