Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vallee Blanche

The following day was our "shakedown tour" for the Haute Route on the Vallee Blanche. The tour starts with an incredible tram ride to the Aiguille du Midi rising over 9,000 feet to a height or more than 12,600 feet.

This is the view from the mid station.

And a view from the tram above mid station.

Upon our arrival we geared up for the hike down from the station to a point where skiing was possible.

A crowded walk through an ice tunnel brought us out to the trail.

The trail is groomed with handrails as the exposure is significant, especially to the north.

The view back showing the trail and the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. Aiguille translates roughly to needle.

Here we transitioned from boots with crampons to skis.

Another view back shows the trail and the tram terminal on the right.

The group skied down a firm, bumped slope to flats under the watchful eyes of our guides Dave and Jed. I was quite impressed with everyone's ski abilities and was surprised to find myself among the weaker skiers in the group in those conditions.

Jed with the Aiguille du Midi behind.

Jed and Isaac ready for the next pitch.

Dave gives direction.

and Dave skis.

Big glaciers. Big mountains. Just amazing!

It was great to see young kids skiing with their families here.  Also note the tan tinge to the snow which Dave informed us came from dust storms off the Sahara Desert.

Nicki readies for the next run of firm, difficult skiing under a huge granite pillar. For sure the skiing was not the greatest, but the scenery more than made up for it.

Lucien enjoys the views. Note again the tan tinge to the snow.

Impressive ice fall.

We took a short break about half way down at the Requin Hut. Gavin and Lucien digging the scene.

Clark and Lucien on the deck.

We continued down along another impressive ice fall.

 The skiing got a little better lower down. All smiles!

Lucien poses but certainly not a poser!

Dave checks on the crew as the weather briefly came in.

Looking back up the glacier from whence we came while another party follows.

Under huge peaks.

We took a break for lunch and beacon practice on the Mer de Glace (sea of ice).

At the terminus of the glacier there are stairs and tunnels for tourists coming up via a train and gondola.

Hiking the stairs to the gondola - which was closed for no apparent reason, resulting in still more hiking.

The views along the way were astounding.

The amazing Aiguille du Dru.

 Back up the Vallee Blanche.

We then boarded this classic cog train back into Chamonix.

A glorious day in the mountains!

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