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Peak Transfer | The Vallee Blanche: A Detailed Guide
9th November 2015

The Vallee Blanche: A Detailed Guide

So your thinking about taking on the almighty Vallee Blanche on your next Chamonix (or surrounding resorts) ski holiday. And why not? It’s on every ski or snowboard enthusiasts’ high mountain off-piste bucket list. We at Peak Transfer thought rather than us tell you about the route we would ask (politely of course) someone with a lot more credibility, experience, and… well… style to give you the low down of the infamous Valle Blanche. So we got in contact with our friend and Salomon sponsored athlete Dave ‘searler’ Searle to explain in the route in detail himself.

Dave is a dedicated British climber and skier whom at a young age was lured to the ‘Mecca’ of all things alpine Chamonix, Mont Blanc. Like most visitors to Chamonix once here he could not leave the climbing and skiing playground paradise of the Valley and ended up remaining here. Currently training to be a International Mountain Guide he maybe youthful in years but he has enough climbing and backcountry skiing adventures that would rival most in a lifetime, all of which you can read about in Dave’s Chamonix based Mountain Blog. Dave blogs about local routes, pitches and itinerates as well as their conditions including pictures, stories, videos and occasionally some wise words! So hers what Dave had to say about the Vallee Blanche…

Dave Searle and Peak Transfer looking back over the Vallee Blanche on Mont Blanc

Probably one of the most sought after ski runs in the world.  The Vallee Blanche which snakes its way through the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif is desperately spectacular and sufficiently challenging for most, but it’s not without its dangers.

It covers some impressive terrain over its 17km length and you need to be reasonably proficient at skiing to enjoy the day.  It is often recommended you are able to safely and efficiently ski red runs (blue slopes if you’re American) and have a reasonable amount of off-piste or backcountry experience too.  In the Spring-time after a prolonged high pressure there can be a good amount of moguls and the snow could be in a bad way. Way out in the middle of the Mont Blanc Massif is not the place to find out your skiing isn’t up to the job.

The danger lies with the often hidden crevasses that you ski over on the way down. If you don’t know what one is, how to spot them or how to get someone out of one then you will need to go with a mountain guide. The mountain guide who takes you out will safeguard you against falling into a crevasse by choosing the best line to ski and will also be able to help should you fall into one. They also have an intimate knowledge of the mountains so should the weather set in you’d be very grateful of their expertise and guidance.

Peak Transfer recommends caution on the Vallee Blanche Snow Arete in Chamonix Mont Blanc

After you take the lift up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi you’re are faced with an often intimidating walk down the infamous snow arête that leaves the Ice Cave.  In the winter the Staff at the midi equip the arête with thick ropes anchored in by long metal stakes.  These act as a handrail and with your skis on your backpack you have to slowly make your way down to the end of the ropes.  It can often be quite Icey and if you are with a guide they will tie you to a rope as well to further keep you safe in this vertigo inducing section.

At the small plateau at the bottom of the arête you put your skis on and begin your descent.  Short, slightly steeper sections break up the longer flatter sections that give you a chance to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding mountains. From the huge East face of the Mont Blanc du Tacul with its spikey red Pillars and huge couloirs that split the face to Dent du Geant that sits high on the frontier ridge overlooking the valley of Courmayeur, Chamonix’s Italian counterpart, the views are nothing short of breath taking so be sure to bring your camera.

Mont Blanc du Tacul from the Vallee Blanche by Peak Transfer

After what seems like an eternity you come level with the impressive and chaotic Geant Icefall with its huge towers and blocks of ice. This gully marks the last of the steeper more technical skiing and is also a good area to find a spot for some lunch.  To the left and up a short uphill section is the Requin Hut which serves drinks and snacks during the season or if you prefer a wilder stop your guide can find a safe area at the bottom of the Icefall in the Salle a Manger, right in the middle of the glacier.

After this you enter onto the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) which leads you down and back to civilisation.  Snowboarders be aware that this section often requires poles or some pushing especially in the spring when the snow is stickier!

Peak Transfer recommends hitting the Vallee Blanche on a Powder Day

After the last crevassed section you turn the corner where you can see the Montenvers in the distance which is finishing point.  Some winters it’s possible to ski the whole way to Chamonix passing by the Buvette du Mottets via a short hike (20mins) which gives you more skiing but is defiantly only for good skiers as the track down from the buvette is narrow and steep in places.  It being referred to as the James Bond track because you feel like 007 himself when you are skiing it.  If you need to take the train (due to the lack of snow) then you will have one final battle up the 400 or so stairs to the bottom of the cable car.  Due to glacial recession this section is getting longer and after what feels like an epic journey this can be the final sting in the tail!  Things can be put into perspective with the signs showing the level of the glacier over the last 200 years.

At Montenvers it’s worth taking a minute to appreciate the view of the Petit Dru and Grandes Jorasses before taking the funicular back to Chamonix for a much deserved beer!

The Vallee Blanche lets go ski the powder

So there you have it your very own guide to the Valle Blanche. For those of you that would like details and inspiration for other local off-piste or climbing itinerates ideas whilst you’re in the Mont Blanc Region why not take a look at Dave’s blog or Chamonix Topo site. Dave is also the founder of Chamonix Topo where real life climbing and skiing stories, photos videos and high quality route maps are available providing essential information and details of local routes in one convenient place.

If you still require Airport Transfers for your winter ski holiday or summer climbing adventure then Peak Transfer provide low cost reliable door-to-door-transfers across the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. Book now or receive an immediate quote here.


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