|Vallee Blanche - Normal Route||F|
|Normally done in descent during winter/spring on skis. Exit the Midi tunnel and get down the arête. Tip: If there are crowds, put on crampons and walk on the outside of the fixed line trench, passing all the tourists and guided groups who do not have crampons. If no crowds, slide down the trench with just ski boots using the fixed line. If no fixed lines (May-January) and good snow and you are feeling brave, you can sideslip or ski down, slightly below the ridgeline on the North Face. It is not recommended to ever rope on on the Midi arête, except when taking unskilled partners, because it is not protectable. There have been many deaths here. Be careful.|
Halfway down the arête you can put on skis and descend the South face shoulder (35-40 degrees, sustained) or continue on foot to a large plateau, then ski a brief steep slope (35-40 degrees, often icy and bumpy). Ski across the nearly flat plateau near the Col du Midi making a large left-turning arc towards the Gros Rognon. At the Rognon it gets slightly steeper - bear towards the Italian border making a wide left-turning arc.
From here the route varies depending on the state of the glacier. Generally you want to stick to the left bank of the glacier (skier's left) aiming generally for the Refuge de Requin. However this area is complex and full of nasty crevasses and the route meanders among them, sometimes precariously.
When about level with the refuge, turn right and thread through the zone just below the Seracs du Geant. This zone is likewise riddled with crevasses and the route typically zigzags wildly between them.
When nearly in the centre of the glacier, turn straight downward, negotiating a bit more remaining glacial nastiness, until you finally reach safety at the long and flat Salle a Manger. Late on a Spring day or early on a powder day, this may require a lot of effort to push through. Continue down this nearly flat and boring glacier for nearly five kilometres, picking a route among the mostly-harmless glaciated terrain. Aim for the Montenvers train station which appears on the left bank.
Towards Montenvers the glacier again becomes complex and potentially dangerous. Route finding is not helped by the countless trails of lost skiers so take some time to plan a good route instead of blindly following the path in front of you. You have three choices at this point - 1) Montenvers by the gondola - aim straight for it, negotiating some tricky final terrain. A gondola takes you to the train, which takes you back to Chamonix. NOTE: This is included in the ChamSKI pass but not in an Aiguille du Midi ticket. 2) Descent to Chamonix - continue along the centre of the glacier past Montenvers 500-1000m until you reach a place where the left bank moraine can be climbed. Climb up 100m or so to reach a path that climbs gradually to a small indistinct col where there is a nice little buvette. Then continue down a narrow switch-backing path, sometimes pisted, sometimes wild, bumpy, icy, and/or rocky. You eventually cross the train tracks and reach the Planards pistes which make for a gentle final stretch to Chamonix. CAUTION: Be careful in the zone just before the train tracks. The owner of the farm there likes to dump rocks onto the trail and put up makeshift barricades to prevent people from jumping the train tracks. Many have been injured here due. Slow down, even if it means losing speed on the flat traverse.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON SAFETY:
THIS IS NOT A PISTE! Even if the high traffic makes it look like one. The Vallee Blanche is the most sought-after ski run in Chamonix and because of this it receives a lot of traffic that it shouldn't. ** Many people die on the Vallee Blanche each year ** and many more make the descent in a way which endangers their lives. A qualified mountain guide is recommended for any parties with questionable ability.
All people in the group must have adequate crevasse and avalanche rescue skills. All people in the group must wear a climbing harness and carry on the harness the minimum equipment for crevasse rescue: 1-2 ice screws, 1-2 slings, 2 prussiks cords. In addition, there should be at least two people in the group carrying a 30-45m rope (so that is, at least two ropes per party) and additional gear for building anchors and pulley systems.
All members of the team must carry avalanche rescue gear - beacon, shovel, probe - and be trained in their usage.
All members of the team must be able to ski confidently as you often ski within a meter of death by crevass fall. You should be at least able to descend black pistes that are icy and mogully (bumpy), perhaps slowly, but confidently and without falling.
Ideally, one member of the team should have already skiied the route. If not, review guidebooks and maps before and during descent. Be aware there are dozens of variations, some quite dangerous and difficult. It is very easy to get off route.
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