Vallee Blanche, France 2/17/04

Tony Crocker

Staff member
Our NASJA travel agent Daniella Gugliotta of had not made explicit provision for us to ski Vallee Blanche, but after several of us expressed interest she arranged for Vincent to take 8 of us (maximum permitted with one guide) today. She also postponed the day trip to Courmayeur because today was expected to be last day of clear and calm weather in the Chamonix valley.


Here we await the upper Aiguille de Midi tram, which climbs 5,000 vertical in a single cable span.

At the top we first take an elevator up another 200 ft. to the observation deck at 12,600.

Here's a close view of Mont Blanc, 15,700 ft.

In the opposite direction is a panoramic view across the Alps. Can you spot the Matterhorn in the far background upper right?

The next step is the infamous descent along a ridge of snow with ropes before you start skiing.

The tram ascends to the right peak. After crossing the bridge, the elevator goes up to the deck at the base of the antenna on the left peak. Then you can see all the skiers hiking down the ridge.

There are several options for skiing the first 3,000 vertical of the Vallee Blanche. The Classic Route is to far skier's right and stays on broad gradual snowfields. It is joined by routes coming from the Helbronner tram in Italy. The more interesting Envers du Plan routes thread the icefields and seracs and can have steeper and more exposed lines.

We had one guide and at least one tentative skier, so Vincent chose the Petit Envers route, which had only gradual pitches but did thread the icefall for more dramatic scenery.

Below the icefall we got to make a few tracks.

Here we take a short break where we join the Classic Route.

Heading down, the Mer de Glace is visible at lower right. The Refuge de Requin restaurant where we have lunch is on the small rock overlooking Mer de Glace from the left.

Many people are negotiating the Passage Des Seracs just before lunch. The Envers du Plan routes join the Classic just to the right of the large rock. The most expert route is the Grand Envers, where guides prefer small groups of 4 due to the exposure.


Here's my view while eating lunch on the sundeck at Refuge de Requin. Lunch was quite tasty and reasonable considering that most privisions have to be helicoptered in. We also saw a few rescue helicopters flying over Vallee Blanche.

After lunch there was one more short icefall before reaching the flatter Mer du Glace. An alternative for stronger skiers is a couloir behind the restaurant.

There are alternative ways to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Vallee Blanche. Check out the 2 orange parapentes!


Two glaciers merge to form the Mer de Glace.

Viewed from farther down, just before we go into the shade.

The lower Mer de Glace is a smooth snowfield on skiers right with a jumble of ice and crevasses at left.

Here's where we cross the ice to skier's left.

From here you can see the Dru, the dramatic spire at upper right. If you follow the ridgeline to the left of the Dru you'll see a flat section of snow instead of jagged rock. That section is near the top of the Grands Montets tram and you can hire a guide to ski from there down to Mer de Glace.


Here's where our ski day ended after 6,700 vertical. The stairway climbs 200 feet and then there is a gondola up to the Montenvers, where you catch a train back to Chamonix. In high snow years you can ski another 2,000 vertical into town. There were 3 tele skiers who skied down and had about a half hour of walking after the snow ran out.


Active member
Great pics once again...

Our guide told us that last year was probably only the third time in the last 20 years that you could ski into town. Something that was more common previously.

Chamonix is a place I want to go back to.