Skiing the Vallee Noire, Vallee Blanche and Glacier de Toule, Chamonix

Sunday 24th February POWDER DAY. We set the alarm early after yet more overnight snow, which was certainly enough to freshen up the 30cm from the night before. Today was going to be perfect for heading up high in the mountains from the Aiguille du Midi lift at 3800m.

In order to dodge the Sunday crowds we were going to do a small ski tour and also get up early. The advantage of living in Chamonix Sud is that we can see the Aiguille du Midi lift queue from out of our balcony. This disadvantages is the dog mess and vomit from the neighbouring bars! The queue wasn’t looking too bad. After heading downstairs we queued to get our reservation number. It was only then we found out the lift wasn’t opening until 9.15 our bin number was at 10am. So we had another 1.5 hrs in bed.

Skinning up between the crevasses

Sadly this late start put pay to our original plan to ski tour to col d’entreves then down glacier d’entreves. This small bowl is steep at the start but flattens out before the traverse back to Palud AKA the Helbronner mid station.

The start of the Helbronner Staircase to the La Toule Glacier in Courmayeur, Italy

So we ended up touring to the steps that make access to the TOule Glacier easier. The steps weren’t busy but a couple were getting freaked out by the bottom ladder. The friendly Frenchman behind was hurling abuse at them to hurry up and giving me a wry smile! In hindsight we should have checked out a couloir but it was glorious riding down in the sun in the open slopes. We took the central line between the seracs.

Marion preparing to step into heavenly powder and views.

We then stopped for an Italian coffee, without fail better than anything on the French side and worth the effort! It was then up the creaking old Helbronner lift to Puntas Helbronner. A short walk up the steps that take your breath away every time. Then on the snow for a bit before we dropped back towards Chamonix.

Riding past the seracs towards the Mer de Glace where we rejoin the Vallee Blanche crowds

La Vallee Noire runs opposite the Vallee Blanche but it is far less tracked and steeper than the classic route before joining up lower down. It does involves a tour across the glacier to the Italian side to get there. Then a traverse or climb across to pick your line between patches of crevasses and seracs.

Snowboarding down Vallee Noire back to Chamonix via Vallee Blanche

We opted for the train rather than following the hordes along the James Bond track in the trees back to town. A pleasant option, well after climbing all the steps up! A pleasant day all round and good option to escape too many people during this busy half time week.

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