Feb 12 28
The temperatures in the weeks before we came out to France had been well below freezing, as low as -20°C, so the icefalls next to the snout of the Argentiere glacier were fat! Alas, the week we arrived temperatures rose considerably and as we approached the falls we could see they were wet, detached from the rock, and incomplete. A couple of large (car sized) chunks fell as we watched! Plus, as we skinned up the glacier, there were some massive full depth avalanches triggering by the high temperatures and subsequent melt water running beneath the snow pack. One particularly scary avalanche swept right across the glacier and up the opposite bank leaving a wall of debris some 6m high across the route back down. Luckily – and clearly ‘cos we are still alive – we were some way above this avalanche and merely got a grandstand view of the devastation! Although it did mean we had to climb some way up to get past the debris where we would have normally been able to ski straight through on the way home.
Les Grands Montets & Le Tour Skiing
In between attempts to reach melting icefalls we enjoyed several days skiing on the fun-side of the rope at Les Grands Montets and Le Tour. Both of these ski areas have massive off-piste potential, although with the warm weather we were cautious of conditions and avalanche… The best off-piste area at Le Tour is nicknamed the “Scandie Trap” as some time ago an avalanche buried and killed two Scandinavian skiers!
The highlight of the week was when Dean & Dave overlapped their week’s skiing with the end of ours and we joined up for a weekend of fun that ended with a descent of the Vallée Blanche…
Dean was worried that he might not have found his ski legs and fitness in time for the descent on Sunday, but after a couple of runs at the Brevent area he thought it would be OK. We caught the lift to the Aiguille du Midi at 11AM, normally that’s plenty of time to get back to Chamonix, it gets dark at 5.30PM-ish. However, the avalanches around the valley had also claimed the Montenver railway! 100 train passengers got an unexpected helicopter flight the day before when 25 flights were arranged to rescue the passengers as the railway was swept by another massive release.
What this meant for us was that the normal end to the Vallée Blanche descent was extended with a ski from Montenver down to Chamonix. Normally this is a great bonus, but Dean’s legs were already well past their best when we reached the Geant Icefall, absolutely knackered at the normal end (Montenver), completely ruined by the time we had ascended to the buvette at the top of the Montenver track, barely walking (not skiing) as we approached the top of Les Planards ski area, and nearly passing out as we stumbled back in to Chamonix well after dark!
A great day out, with spectacular scenery, but it was a team effort to get down safely… Hopefully Dean enjoyed the day despite the over commitment! I know the next day was a forced day of rest!
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