Monday, April 12, 2010

The Aguille du Midi and Adventure skiing with Dave

The fabled Aguille du Midi is one of the most ridiculous ski lifts in the world. Putting a tram to the top of this tower of rock was a crazy idea, and it is even crazier that they actually did it. It does, however, offer access to some of the most extreme ski terrain in the entire world, and that is pretty cool. The other day Lynn and I headed up there to do a quick little tour, and eventually we headed down the Vallee Blanche. Our ski was more like a little sightseeing mission as the conditions down the Vallee were a little rough. It is pretty amazing to ski through huge seraced glaciers for miles and miles, and cool to check out even if the skiing is bad.
One of the most interesting parts of our run was finding this cave that they bore into the glacier. At the end of the Mer de Glace, or Sea of Ice, they have made a cave that you can walk through as a tourist attraction. I'd never walked around inside of a glacier before, and it was pretty cool.

And in typical French fashion they had to take it to the next level. There was a thirty foot long carved ice bear in the cave, Why Not? They had also lit up the cave with all different colors of lights and had carved a number of rooms. In this photo you can see the Ice cave, and a variety of older ice caves that have since been abandoned. I think they make the cave in the same spot every year, and that gives you a good idea of how fast the glacier moves down the Valley. I think it is also pretty interesting to notice how the top of the ice is cover with so much rock and dirt, it almost looks like the ground, a moraine in the making I guess...
The Mer de Glace is truly an amazing sight to see. Even though our ski run wasn't that great I was really psyched to check out this incredible place. Touring the ice cave alone was something that I'll probably never forget. Mid winter you can often ski down to town from here, but later in the spring, like now, you would end up walking down. They have an old cog railway that runs from the spot this photo was taken and that was a really unique and fun way to end a great tour of the Valee Blanche and the Mer de Glace.
The next day Dave and I decided to go for a ski in the afternoon. The snow hadn't been great, so we were going to go on an "adventure" ski. It was clear as a bell until we got to the top of our run, the Ronde Glacier. As soon as we got ready to drop in a cloud rolled in and completely whited us out on top of a very steep and firm ski run. Having been down this area many times before, Dave was fine with it, since I'd never even looked at what we were about to ski, it made me a little nervous... Here's Dave sitting at the top of the Ronde, hoping the cloud might lift...
It didn't really lift, but it was in and out, so we made our way down to a variation of the normal route of the Ronde called the Heart of the Ronde. This variation usually involves a little bit of rappeling, and the photo below is a shot looking straight down the line. Dave wanted to do a variation of this variation, and this is where the real adventure began. Directly left of this line is a knife-edge ridge which would lead to the skiers left side of the Heart of the Ronde...
And this is what the first half of the knife-edge looked like. We roped up and Dave went ahead and made some nice steps for me to follow. This ridge may not look that crazy, but a slip down either side would have been pretty ugly.
We followed up our ridge walk with a little rappel to get into the top of our line. Remember, any rock you see is vertical.... I don't commonly rappel with skis on, but that sort of thing is the norm here in Chamonix. Thank goodness for our ropes because without them we couldn't even really have attempted this line. Eventually we made it through these rock cruxes and got to the slope we had set out to ski.
And ski it we did. Here's a shot of Dave shredding a powder turn down the variation of the Heart of the Ronde. The clouds were in and out all day, and it was even snowing from time to time. For all of our efforts and rope work we were rewarded with about 15 sweet powder turns which was pretty awesome considering that most of the snow elsewhere had turned to crap.
Getting to this line truly was an adventure, and I thank Dave for showing me this little gem. While the conditions may not be ideal it sure is a lot of fun playing around in these huge mountains.

No comments:

Post a Comment