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:
So with the Ice Screws jangling off his belt off we went to the first of three trams to get us to the top:
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:
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:
Don’t fall in the hole!:
Jerome and I working our way to the Glacier, with the Tour Ronde & Combe Maudit ahead, and Mont Maudit towering above:
An icefall/seracs off to our RHS:
L’Aiguille du Midi as seen from across La Vallée Blanche. Poubelle looks pretty sketch so no Blizzard of Aahhs imitations this trip:
The goods. Looking down the Glacier de Toule:
The first obstacle – a massive staircase to get us on to safe ground:
Me descending the final ladder:
The stairs again:
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:
Big powder 8’s in the middle are me and Jerome’s handiwork:
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:
Aiguille du Midi & Upper Vallée Blanche:
The upper reaches of the Vallee Blanche and variations:
The middle section of Vallee Blanche and variations:
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:
Back on the glacier with the Couloir in the upper middle of shot:
Little skier amongst the big seracs: (This may be the best ski picture I have of myself)
Our handiwork in the middle of shot:
After another 1300m of largely virgin snow it was time for a fabulous Italian lunch:
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:
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: