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Mountain related articles from WINTER-SPORTS.com

The Vallee Blanche : A mythical itinerary at the foot of the Mont-Blanc

A sumptuous and mythical panorama

View from the Aiguille du Midi on the Grandes Jorasses

View from the Aiguille du Midi on the Mont-Blanc (on the right)
The descent of the Vallee Blanche is more than just off piste-skiing (which, depending on the itinerary and the conditions, can sometimes only be of limited interest), it is a hike in a mythical and sumptuous setting. As soon as you arrive at the Aiguille du Midi's cable car, the tone is set and the panorama, wherever you look (if the weather is good) is breathtaking. On the way down, you'll ski through a fabulous scenery alternating seracs, vertical granitic cliffs, glacial spreads, blueish crevasses, for your eyes' greatest pleasure...
Transportation
To start the descent, take the Aiguille du Midi cable car which brings you vertically up to above 3800 meters (12467 ft) . On the way up, the view of the valley is amazing. On the way back, if there is enough snow, it's possible to ski all the way down to Chamonix. If it is not possible due to lack of snow, there is a train you can take from Crémaillère du Montenvers to Chamonix.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car : Departure>
< Aiguille du Midi cable car: Arrival
The start of the run
Coming out of the cable car at the top, you must go down a fairly tricky path sculpted in the snow and the ice. This is a place where one must be extremely prudent : if you slip, you'll only stop some 3000 ft down.... For (relative) safety, there is a guide rope to hang on to while climbing down. A few tips: firmly attach your skis and your poles together with a strap: you must be able to hold them in one hand... If you have crampons put them on...

If you go with a guide (something we strongly advise), he will rope you up.

You can put on skis on a little plateau (a little higher up on the picture), which overlooks the fairly steep and bumpy start of the run.

The itineraries
The area offers a number of different routes:

The normal route (mostly flat with some in the more narrow passages),
l'envers du plan (more sustained slopes),
, le glacier du rognon...
Etc...

The choice of the itinerary will depend on your skiing abilities. In most cases, it is possible to stop for lunch at the Requin refuge (it has a nice little terrace....).
Safety
Despite what many people think, the descent of the Vallee Blanche is not something every one can do. A lot of people think of it as a simple ski hike but it should not be forgotten that this is a high-mountain itinerary. The most common danger is to fall in a crevasse. Glaciers are similar to Gruyère cheese, they are full of crevasses that form as the glaciers move. In most cases, these crevasses are not visible as they are covered by snow bridges, which are more or less solid. Straying from the tried and tested path, even as little as one or two meters away (three - six feet) can result in going over a more fragile bridge, through which the skier might break. You must therefore be able to completely control your trajectory on sometimes difficult grounds (non packed snow, often hard or extremely fresh, moguls in the narrower passages). Unlike piste ski, it is not possible, when facing difficulties to modify your route to stop a little further down.
A few tips:
If possible, ski with a high mountain guide. Follow his tracks and never go in front of him,
Wear a harness (usually provided by the guide)
Never take off your skis! You could break through a ski bridge.
Ski with a guide!
Skiing with a guide can prevent a run from turning from fun to drama. The Chamonix Compagnie des Guides regularly organises outings that will allow you to discover the Vallee Blanche in the best possible way, as the company ensures your safety and shows you around the mountains and glaciers. If you and your friends would like to hire a guide, ask for Alain Payot (our guide for this article): he'll make your day unforgettable.

P.S: the Company of the Guides of Chamonix was founded in 1821! It also organises other hiking trip, more or less mythical but very interesting all the same... and if you get a chance, go to their office, it has a very moutain feel to it! Phone number : 00 33 4 50 53 00 88. http://www.chamonix-guides.com/index.php?langue=en
Our opinion
If you like high-mountain areas, the descent of the Vallee Blanche is something you have to do a least once in your life....
Special thanks
Many thanks to Chamonix's Tourism office for their help in writing this article. Don't hesitate to visit the Chamonix website, it's really well thought out : http://www.chamonix.com/page.php?page=0&r=accueil&ling=en
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