Fin janvier 2011, une belle semaine de ski hors-piste avec le guide's tour de Montblancski & guidecompagnie.
Le groupe était encadré par Damien Tomasi de la Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, il ont descendu, ce jour là, la Vallée Blanche.
Allan Winstanley nous fait part de ses impressions de la semaine.
Il nous envoie ses photos et le texte, en anglais.
"After many years of being a reasonable red/black piste skier, I was finding myself a little bored by the lift queues and crowded slopes. As a keen mountain walker with a recently rekindled interest in climbing, the thought of trying some off-piste skiing appealed so I searched the web and came across something that seemed to fit the bill. The Cham’Ski Fun Tours offered off-piste skiing at a variety of locations close to Chamonix. Organised by the Mont Blanc Ski and Guide Company based in Chamonix, these involve daily trips in groups of between 4 and 8 people, accompanied by a guide, and aimed at intermediate/expert skiers.
I spent 4 days in Chamonix and, after some great skiing in Courmayeur and at the Grand Montets, the weather looked good enough for us to attempt a descent of the Vallee Blanche. There were four of us in the group that day, plus Damien Tomasi the guide. Although the sky was blue in Chamonix itself, Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi were shrouded in cloud and this certainly added to the mystery of our adventure.
The trip starts with a lift up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi (over 3800 metres high) from the centre of Chamonix. In some respects, leaving the comfort
of the Aiguille du Midi is the most frightening part of this trip. After getting roped up, you pass through a snow tunnel onto quite a sharp arête that leads down to the departure spot."
In good conditions, there is a magnificent view of Mont Blanc at this point. We were not to see this view but the clouds added an air of drama which offered some compensation for this.
There are a number of routes which can be taken to ski down the Vallee Blanche. The easiest is the “voie normale” but our guide suggested that we try an alternative, slightly
harder descent called the “Moyen Envers du Plan”.
I found skiing at altitude very demanding physically but we maintained a gentle pace with frequent stops to allow my aching thighs to recover. Although some of the initial slopes were quite steep, the snow was incredibly good, especially considering that there had been no fresh snow in Chamonix itself for over 3 weeks).
As we descended, the danger of our situation was occasionally emphasised by the appearance of a gaping crevasse or the realisation that we were skiing beneath enormous seracs. The thought of attempting such a descent without the aid of a guide would simply not be conceivable.
To my amazement, at about the half-way point, the Requin Hut appeared on the hillside beneath us. This offered a welcome respite and some hot food in the most amazing of scenery.
After lunch, the descent continued and led us to what I found to be quite a challenging steep couloir which led down to the glacier itself.
Skiing on the glacier amid such magnificent scenery, knowing that all the difficulties had been overcome was marvellous. The views down to the valley below and also around us in every direction were breath-taking.
The glacier ends at some ice caves which tourists from the Montenvers railway can drop down to via a gondola and some steps. The steps represented the sting in the tail at the end of this ski – an exhausting plod up to the gondola station, in ski boots and carrying skis over one shoulder.
At the end of the day, I was left feeling that I had had one of those very special experiences combining challenge, good company and outstanding natural beauty. Our guide had been forever attentive not only to the mountain conditions but also to our particular needs and I felt at all times in safe hands.
This is a trip I would definitely recommend!