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| | |-+  March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
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Author Topic: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France  (Read 1321 times)
bcglaxer
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March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
« on: 03/10/10, 10:49 AM »

Hi all,

Long time reader, first time trip reporter. This was to be my triumphant debut into backcountry skiing. Other than a summer skin up the Muir Snowfield and some horrifying death crust turns during my Level 1 Avalanche course up at Steven's Pass, I've never really gotten out of the resorts and into the goods. Where better to get started than in Chamonix?

I hired Kathy and Mark Houston to guide me based on recommendations from TAY members and we met early on Saturday to head up the Aguille du Midi lift. The weather didn't look too great, but we thought we might be able to ski under the ceiling and still have a good day. Boy were we wrong.

When we got to the top of the lift, we took a quick bathroom break and then roped up to get down to the snow. One of the lifties asked to take a picture of "you crazy people" and as we walked through the ice cave to get to the route, everyone else that came up on the lift with us were hurriedly coming back into shelter. Undeterred, we pressed on.

Out of the ice cave, the wind nearly blew me over but we descended down to the open snowfield, unroped, and clicked into our skis. Visibility was maybe 20 feet, but we still thought we could ski under the weather so on we went. Despite the ridiculous wind, the snow was amazing: about six inches of light, fluffy powder. We cautiously side-slipped and made very gentile turns about 250 meters down the slope, but conditions didn't improve. There was a bit more skiing from that point before we'd have to worry about crevasses, but it was clear we wouldn't get under the weather and climbing back up 250 meters certainly is better than climbing back up 350 meters so we turned around. Of course, at this point, the wind picked up even more and blew straight from where we had to go, making skinning back up quite difficult.

I checked the weather telemetry later on and it said that temperatures were about -7 F with 18 mph consistent winds. I don't even want to know how powerful the gusts were. It took us about 90 minutes to get back to the cable car station and my fingers started to go numb once we got back to the fixed barriers but frostbite was avoided. I could definitely tell I've been spending too much time at sea level from all the huffing and puffing I did. We took the cable car back to town and hoped that the weather would clear in subsequent days. Unfortunately, high winds kept the Aguille du Midi lift from operating until it was time to come home. Alas, I will just have to return some day. I'm fairly certain I will be spending the rest of my life trying to figure out ways to get back to Chamonix. In the meantime, I'm eager to get this disappointment out of my system and get some good skiing in around home so if anyone's willing to show a newbie around I'd love to tag along.

Brian

PS: I can't seem to get my photos small enough to upload. Any tricks of the trade I should know about?
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Marcus
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
« Reply #1 on: 03/10/10, 11:04 AM »

You can resize them with any photo editing software.  IrfanView is a good one and it's free.

You can also put them on Picasa or Flickr and just link them using the IMG tag.

If you'd like to add a few, feel free to send them to my email address and I'll take care of it for you.

Nice TR, by the way!  Thanks for putting it up.
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Zap
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
« Reply #2 on: 03/10/10, 11:20 AM »

Brian,

Glad to hear that you had a safe "roundtrip".  The more time you spend touring the more you realize that knowing when to turn around and retrace your route is a critical decision to make.  The mountains rarely move, so they'll be there in the future.

I've skied the Valle Blanche a few times under clear and sunny conditions and it is a memorable photo ski. 
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bcglaxer
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
« Reply #3 on: 03/10/10, 12:34 PM »

Here are some pics. Beautiful day, huh?


* Vallee_Blanche_Smaller_Photo_1.jpg (199.55 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 490 times.)

* Vallee_Blanche_Smaller_Photo_2.jpg (197.99 KB, 600x800 - viewed 469 times.)
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JimD
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
« Reply #4 on: 03/10/10, 03:31 PM »

Sorry you didn't get it. Skiing that run was one of my goals when I lived in Europe for 7 years. I spent many months in and around Chamonix, but almost all of it was summer climbing. The one Chrismas I was there was terrible snow, so I never got down it. Gives us both a reason to return!
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haggis
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, France
« Reply #5 on: 03/10/10, 04:05 PM »

I've done that a couple of times, in fact it was my 1st BC trip about 11 years ago and I got lucky with cold temps, powder like I'd never seen before (Scotland not known for such conditions) and blue skys.  Climbed up the ridge far side of the Mer de Glace for what I still consider as my fav all time run.

Subsequent trips we were weather skunked which included a helicopter crashing and taking out one of the cable cars!

Thanks for bringing back memories.
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jcocci
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, Fra
« Reply #6 on: 03/10/10, 05:32 PM »

Thanks for the report. I will be there in a few weeks to do the Haute Route, but we are planning on doing the Vallee Blanche run beforehand. We'll be in Chamonix for 2-3 days before we start. So does the coverage seem to be OK? Were you able to tell at all? Is roping up to get to the snow for this run always necessary or is it because of snowpack. Either way is fine just wondering if its low snow or not. Thanks. Hope we have better weather than you.  Smiley
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bcglaxer
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Re: March 6th, 2010, Vallee Blanche, Chamonix, Fra
« Reply #7 on: 03/11/10, 12:44 PM »

Thanks for the report. I will be there in a few weeks to do the Haute Route, but we are planning on doing the Vallee Blanche run beforehand. We'll be in Chamonix for 2-3 days before we start. So does the coverage seem to be OK? Were you able to tell at all? Is roping up to get to the snow for this run always necessary or is it because of snowpack. Either way is fine just wondering if its low snow or not. Thanks. Hope we have better weather than you.  Smiley

It seems to be a low snow year for Europe, but coverage is plenty good. They've been dealing with some serious wind so you'll either get nice powder or hard ice, but it beats the exposed dirt and tree roots up at Snoqualmie Pass.
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