Here in chamonix the snow has continued melting fast. The snow line along the valley sides has been creeping up like the last light of the setting sun. In my opinion the snow pack today (7th April) is the same equivalent depth as mid May last year! The crevasses on the glacier are starting to reappear and snow bridges are looking cracked in places. It has just been way too warm for weeks now and sadly the precipitation that fell last week, which promised us snow was still rain at 2800m, thus ruining all the last remaining powder stashes and north facing couloirs.
Aiming to get the most out of the thin dusting of fresh snow high up, we thought the Aiguille du Midi lift at 3800m was the best bet for ski touring. The queues, like any Sunday were long in the morning but not the longest of the season. We quickly got up to the top station and strode carefully down the wide and nicely grippy z path on the arete. As I waited for the others I took some pictures of the cloud inversion down the valley far below, I then turned around to find a skiing speed flier preparing to take off right next to me!
As we dropped down from the lift station onto the snow, we sped along, on a fast smooth carpet with the thinest dusting of fresh snow on the top. There were climbers everywhere on various routes or still skiing to routes, a real hive of activity. The cloud inversion in the valley was already starting to fade but odd whispers of cloud lingered during the whole day, both around the peaks and in the valleys.
We skinned uphill along the traverse heading towards the Italian side, the track was well set and the snow was firm but pretty still good. The crevasses had started to open up a little bit, even up this high on the glacier and I was glad we were roped up. This was especially the case when Marion pointed out a rogue ski pole hole on the skin track that had punctured straight into a dark cavernous hole below. Hence being glad we took that precaution where many don’t bother to rope up on what always seems a fairly straightforward and safe track.
We then carried on up and reached the Col d’entreves, Ulrika was celebrating in the picture above! The Col is on the France/Italy border and in front of the stunning view across Aosta valley.
At the Col I spied the Tour de Ronde boot pack and a tempting looking Berschrund to huck. I boot packed up the worn path, then when I was above the bergschrund I tried to veer up a steep snow slope on the left, however the sun had hit the snow forming a compact wet layer on a harder icy layer underneath so I proceeded to drop in lower than anticipated but I still a fun little drop and steeper descent. You can just pick me out in the picture above.
After dropping back down towards the Vallee Blanche we reattached skins, split the boards and climbed up to the Helbronner lift, the sun at this time was brutally hot, so hot that black items became untouchable!
We then skied down after lunch towards the Vallee Noire. I wanted to keep on the skiers left of the Grande Seracs as the snow depth lower down was going to be questionable on the crevassed right flank. We sped across the flat middle section of snow and despite it all being wet from the sun it still let us carry speed far enough across. I dropped a little lower than intended and had to pole push back up to avoid some crevasses that the melting snow had recently revealed, I passed closer to a few snow bridge cracks than I would have liked too, but we made it back to the Vallee Blanche classic route without issue. This is where we hit the real crowds, a near continuous line of people. Those not in line had taken their skis off and were enjoying a picnic in various precarious locations.
The queues in the picture above, show what we were faced with on the steps back up to the Montenvers train!