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Vallée Blanche, perfect day with VIDEO

Jo skinning to the Gros Rognon with the Tacul and Lachenels as the back drop, Chamonix Mont Blanc

'Lost in this white landscape surrounded by towering peaks, the skier becomes aware of his smallness. He revels in the joys of the descent the pleasure of crossing snow bridges, of skimming past icefalls or gliding unobstructed down these long smooth slopes'

Georges and Pierre Tairraz, Vallée Blanche Par l'image - 1967

When conditions are good the Vallee Blanche offers perhaps one of the greatest descents in the world, Jo and I were lucky enough to grab one of the best days of the season on a mini break to Chamonix last week.

Half time, making the traverse out for a coffee at the Requin Hut

With the conditions looking good we decided to make it an overnight with a night spent at the Torino hut on the Italian side of the range. We had a couple of days skiing in the valley but timed the hut night and descent to coincide with a fresh dump topping things off nicely. Taking the Sky Way Monti Bianco up from Cormeyaer up to Punta Helbronner. This rather spectacular lift catapults you with some flare to 3500 mts. I couldn’t help thinking as it sped up the mountainside why Cairngorm mountain could have such problems building the funicular when lifts like this can be built up to seemingly impossible positions for construction. Once at the top, we made our way down to the hut to drop off some kit before taking a skin out via the Col Flambeux into the head of the Vallee Blanche. Its a spectacular setting which we also had to ourselves. The huge peaks around this cirque give a spectacular backdrop with atmospheric clouds drifting in and out. It was also clear that the mornings descent was going to be on superb powder.

The Torino hut and the Dent du Giant

A quiet night in the hut with only us and another couple in for the night. The Torino hut which falls on the Italian side of the mountain is in a superb location perched just under the Skyway lift which has been newly done giving pretty easy access compared to the endless stairs in the past version. Great food and atmosphere with superb views in the evening across the south face of Month Blanc.

Enjoying early morning solitude descending from the Col Flambeu under Mont Blanc

With a sociable breakfast at 7:30 it wasn’t long before we where in the boot room and geared up ready to go. A perfect day outside with bright sunshine and no wind and huge views across the Mont Blanc range and across the other way to the Dent du Geant and Grand Jorasses. We skinned back to the Col Flambeau and began our descent there diving down in the shade through perfect powder. Rather than continuing on we decided we wanted to get as much of this perfect snow in as we could and donned skins and headed back up on the French side to the Gross Rognon and into the sunshine. We made the first section to here before the first bins from the Midi giving us a nice wild and remote feel to the head of the VB. Dropping from here was probably some of the best powder I have skied for many years. Superb floating turns and fresh tracks to be had all over. With legs burning we reached the traverse out from the Geant Icefall to the Ruquin hut for a coffee and tart. Perched on the moraine with superb views back up the route we had come and across the Periades Glacier and Dent du Gent and breche and back up to Mont Blanc.

Enjoying fine skiing

Traversing back in and through the last few turns in the lower icefall brought onto the long flat of the Mer Du Glace and the new lift. Earlier in the summer we came down onto the rapidly depleting glacier taking the old lift down. Walking the never-ending staircase we passed under the construction site of what was to become our lift back up. A strange thing as I thought what a mess and how much this was not really in keeping with the general move to a more preservation direction to the mountains. It did make me think about what the real problem is for the mountain environment which is us. Thankful of not having to take the stairs back up and softening to the idea remarkably quickly of a new addition to the landscape up we went to join the throngs in the cue for the train.

Without a doubt one of the best descents I have made and we caught it just right in terms of timing. I have done it in the past but I much favoured the night in the hut where you can still get a glimpse of some solitude in the high Mont Blanc mountains before descending to lifts and Poco Loco which I have to say I am fond of to!! Until next time……..

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