The Vallée Blanche – Off piste in Chamonix, January 2018

The Vallee Blanche is a classic route in the French alps, a ridge walk from an epic cable car and then onto a 20km slope down through a colossal glacier above Chamonix. Just before we had arrived in Chamonix in late January they had some of the heaviest snowfall for a generation, which sounds great but threw up quite a few problems… The resort avalanche risk was level 5 (the highest possible) and you could hear avalanches high above the town below. Other people had been stranded in the weeks before in other resorts, but we at least flew in easily enough! The result of this being that for our first couple of days boarding most of the valley was closed and we had to go to the lower valley of Les Houches.

It is amazing to sit in your apartment and look up and see where you are going to walk along a few thousand feet above. We had a few days to find our feet before we met our guide Stuart. We had a coffee and sorted out the various harnesses and crampons over a coffee in the morning and the legendary Aiguille Du Midi cable car was still shut. We were planning other options until eventually the lift opened and we were able to ascend the 2800 meters to the top.

Later in the season the path along the Vallee Blanche ridge becomes quite wide and is well roped but at this point it was partially roped and pretty narrow! We put our crampons on, strapped our skis/boards to our bags and headed out from the lift station onto the exposed ridge. I had been a little apprehensive about this but it is actually fairly chilled walking along as the crampons give so much grip.

Crampons on and boards strapped in for the ridge walk

Jim navigating the lower ridge

Once we had finished the climb down the ridge it was time to start the long descent down into the valley.

Jim Dickson

Will Laws

Due to the recent snowfall the snow at the top was fantastic long powdery runs whilst admiring the vast and empty space around us.



Our guide Stu

Sketchy ice boulder drop off

Glacier floor. I was worried this would be a long walk but was actually okay even on a snowboard!

Natural ice cave

Moon rising over Chamonix

All in all it was an amazing day and well worth the effort, thanks again to Stuart for guiding us.

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