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The Chamonix effect

Skinning into the Argentiere Basin

Rolling into the Chamonix valley the cloud was down coming over from the Swiss side on our drive through from Germany. A break in the bookings meant we had a few days spare and opted for a trip over to France. There is always a mix of feelings coming into the valley excitement, nervousness a sort of self imposed pressure seems to arrive as the Aiguilles come into view.

Well into the trip we had a moment which I think often typifies Chamonix. Walking across the head of the Valley Blanche back towards the Torino hut we passed an American skier who asked if we had seen an axe to which I replied ‘no sorry’, he then asked where we where heading and we established we where both staying the night at the Torino hut and we would see each other later in the evening. He also mentioned that he would look for his axe before skiing off the Italian side then launch a wing and fly off to the mid station and come back up. Having previously been satisfied with our walk back I couldn’t help starting to think everyone seems to be operating at a much higher level and that my walk across the glacier now seemed a bit tame. Ive noticed this before though while filming and making an advert on the Brevant for a friends guiding company I lined up the camera as Rob made some moves on the Frison Roche route and almost immediately someone wing suit jumped off the top of the crag and plummeted past us. It’s a valley where people push the limits but it's also a place of great beauty and endless possibilities at all levels on great summits and endless superb lines to ski. So better to swallow any ego and just soak it up and enjoy the show.

The impressively built and priced Skyway lift

We got established in a very off season valley which hung somewhere between winter and summer and started to plan where to first. We had a quick trip up to the Argentiere glacier on foot to have a look at remembering glacier travel and crevasse rescues and to get the legs going.

Early light on the Deant du Geant

We decided to head up high booking a night at the Torino Hut which lies on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The new Skyway lift giving a quick but expensive boost from Cormeyer to the top of the Valle Blanche. It was certainly still winter higher up making movement on snow nearly impossible beyond eleven without skies. We went to the Petit Flambeu and also the Aiguille du Toule for some mixed pitches. Returning to the valley we decided that ski’s where the way forward and some end of season ex hire bargains gave way to a much easier mode of travel. We had a nice tour in the Argentiere basin and around the Grand Montet.

Under the Chardonet

We finished off by visiting friends in Salienche for some cragging at the very steep Le Fayet crag. With the arrival of rains it was time to head back to Bavaria for the next round of groups. Its a nice time to visit the valley off season, the crowds have gone and a sort of slow calm comes over the valley. Hopefully that’s not it for this year and perhaps a return towards the end of the summer might be in order.

Rob Jarvis at Le Fayet

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