It’s been quiet around here except for Ethan and Peter handing you the keys to the Grand Traverse castle and a couple other random tips. Even though Taylor and I went to Japan for Christmas, I still haven’t even downloaded those photos. It’s been crazy time, but the crazy time ended when we finally got married on February 25th, and to celebrate, we headed to France to ski and drink wine.
It was a long trip over with PDX -> Denver -> DC -> Paris and then a couple of trains to Chamonix. The wait was worth it. I’ve never seen such a place. It’s a verdant valley, somewhat quaint, with intimidating and tremendous mountains rising thousands of meters to both sides. Unlike other mountain towns in France, Chamonix retains some dirtbag character, and there’s a funny mix of tourists, townspeople, and outdoors folk milling around town. Every third person on the main street is an IFMGA guide, seems like.
The size of the mountains is a bit intimidating for a couple humble Northwesterners, and we needed to gather some supplies and pack before heading out on the main event, the Haute Route (more to come on that). So, our first day in town we grabbed a reasonably good coffee and shelled out the big bucks to ride up the Aiguille du Midi, where a cable car takes you up 2800 meters in about 20 minutes; green valley floor to 12,000-foot alpine crags in the blink of an eye.
From there, we skied out the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s most celebrated ski descents on account of it’s sheer length (20 km) and incredible scenery. Many variations are possible, and because the valley is heavily glaciated, most go with a guide. Still, with good visibility, it’s a straightforward ski that sees a lot of traffic.
I’ll let the photos tell the story.
That’s all for now.
Coming soon I’ll have a two-parter about our six days on the Haute Route, and after that I plan to put together a short guide post on doing a self-guided haute route trip, because that information is too damn hard to find right now.
For lightweight ski mountaineering, or just about any skiing off-piste in the alps, you’re going to need a lightweight harness. The BD Couloir harness is my choice for the mix of stupid-light and stupid-tough. Grab yourself one and support Mountain Lessons!