10-11 October 2017, Vallee Blanche Traverse

After Phil’s Bishorn ascent last month he was back on another short haul mountaineering trip to Chamonix and had brought a larger team with him this time, keen for some early autumn alpine adventures.  The weather would not disappoint and the ‘Beau Temps’ continued with superb sunny days, cool nights and mild afternoons.

The dry conditions on the glaciers and mountain faces / slopes / couloirs are well evident now however.  After a poor snow volume winter just passed and a hot & dry summer, the snow conditions are very lean indeed with extensive open crevassing and just icy / mixed faces where normally, even in summer, snow slopes prevail.

We started the 2 day tour with a Chamonix Taxi transfer through the Mont Blanc tunnel to ascend the Skyway Monte Bianco lift and of course started proceedings with coffee in the Torino Hut before heading out on to the glacier.  A team glacier trek took us round to the superbly scenic picnic spot of the Col d’Entreves from where the fine mixed scramble up to the easier W summit on the Aiguille d’Entreves begins.  This provided an enjoyable mixed scramble in crampons and we were soon taking in the views of the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa & Grand Combin to the East from the summit.

With the Val Veny 2000m below and the pistes of the Courmayeur ski area
Team ascent and great spot to admire the South Face of Monte Bianco to Matterhorn & Monte Rosa

After an enjoyable evening in the hut, and somewhat less enjoyable first night sleeping at high altitude, a dawn departure from the hut had us putting crampons on and setting sail on the glacier just as the sun was rising over the Matterhorn & Monte Rosa to the East.

A brilliant atmosphere followed us down in to the heart of the Vallee Blanche glacial sanctuary and we were glad of the tracks & good route finding of a single team infront who were heading to the Supercouloir.  They made a good job of the intricate route finding through the crevasses and narrow passages across snow bridges and so we left their tracks to continue up to the base of a dry looking direct start to the Supercouloir and we continued up the easy glacier drag towards the Col du Midi.

The team were going well and without discussion, just lots of steady plodding strung out on a rope of 6, we headed towards the lean and icy slope of the normal route on the Pt Lachenal summit.   This provided a fun couple of easy icy / mixed pitches to access the rocky scramble to the summit and a great little technical addition to our predominantly glacier trekking journey.

The fun wasn’t quite over yet as the Midi Ridge was in good but very narrow and exposed condition, and Jonno pronounced immediately on arrival that it was the scariest thing he had ever done!  We wouldn’t have know though as the team did well in concentrating on precise footwork & accurate cramponing and thus the Midi was reached.  The best kind of summit, with a descent via the lift direct to the fleshpots of Chamonix to soak up the lovely quiet but sunny & warm early autumn atmosphere.