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Chamonix #4 Vallee Blanche with Glen Plake

post #1 of 2
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Now that I’ve got your attention let me tell you about my day on the Vallee Blanche with (?) Glen Plake. The Vallee is the longest lift served ski run anywhere. You start at the Aiguille Du Midi tram in Chamonix with an elevation of 1,035 meters. You ride up to 2,317 m and change to another tram that goes to 3,842 meters. That’s roughly from 3,500 feet to 12,000 feet. From the top of Aiguille Du Midi you can catch another gondola that takes you across the Vallee to Courmayeur Italy but that gondola does not run in the winter. Near the top of the gondola is a restaurant and a few hundred meters away is a lodge or hotel for mountain climbers going to the top of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, at 4,810 meters. That’s about 15,000 feet. From the top of the Du Midi tram you can ski all the way into Chamonix if the snow is really good. For most of the year you ski down the Mer De Glace glacier to Montenvers and take a cog railway back to Chamonix. This shorter version of the trip only drops to 1,913 meters. That’s a trip across a glacier and a drop about twice the distance from top to bottom of Vail. My guess is the area that you can see in the Vallee is at least 5,000 acres and it may be twice that. To ski the Vallee you must wear an avalanche beacon and a climbing harness. You start the trip with a walk through an ice cave and roping up to work your way across a knife edge ridge to the start of the run. There are several ways down and the easier paths are not difficult for a well conditioned intermediate skier. About half way down a Mountain House serves traditional regional food on a cliff overlooking the glacier.
Glaciers are mostly ice. They may look like they’re made of snow but the fresh snow is on top of the deep, clear, ancient green/blue ice. We were fortunate to have a middle aged French guide take us through the glacier. It was such a beautiful day his wife joined us. I do not have the communication skills to describe the wonder of skiing the Vallee. Just Google Vallee Blanche and you’ll learn what it’s all about.
Now what does all of this have to do with skiing with Glen Plake? It is true that last Tuesday Glen Plake and I both skied the Vallee Blanche at approximately the same time. He probably jumped a dozen cliffs and I took the tourist route but technically we were on the same run.
At the end of the Glacier you climb a stairway about five stories high to catch a chair that takes you to the cog railway in Montevers. As I struggled to climb the narrow old concrete stairs a blond and green haired guy came by me taking two steps at a time. It was Glen Plake. An interesting end to a fantastic day. If you get the chance, “Just Do It”.
post #2 of 2

thank you for a great report.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Chamonix #4 Vallee Blanche with Glen Plake