Sunday 25 January 2015

Vallée Blanche and Berard Valley Conditions

The sun was forecast to shine on Friday morning so it seemed like the perfect time to head up the Midi and check out conditions on the Vallée Blanche. I teamed up with photographer David Thexton (check out his website here - David Thexton Photography) to go for a look. He's going to be accompanying groups who book to ski the Vallée Blanche via, so if you like the shots, get in touch!

Conditions above 3000m were surprisingly good and we got perfect fresh tracks for pitch after pitch on the Classique route. Once you get to within sight of the Requin Hut, things get a bit thinner and the very last section back to the Montenvers is pretty rocky right now. Overall, the top is great, the middle is OK but quite open and the lower section is poor. The Aiguille du Midi arete is not equipped yet and basically the VB is still in early season condition and feels like a mountaineering day out more than "just" a ski descent. (Does it ever just feel like a ski descent?)

The (very!) good news is that there is something resembling a biblical snowfall forecast at the end of the week, which is due to bring a huge amount of snow between Wednesday evening and Monday morning. Once that has had a couple of days to settle, things should be pretty spectacular up the Midi. However, there have unfortunately been more avalanche fatalities in Chamonix over the past week so stay safe up there.

Anyway, enough chat, here are the photos. All photos David Thexton.

It gets a bit pokey near the bottom!

The weekend was supposed to be all about work and I made it to midday at the desk but then saw on the webcams that there was a cloud inversion. Displaying zero willpower, I instantly dropped everything and went for a tour! With time limited, Sharon and I shot over to the Flegere, met up with Trey and headed for the ever-enjoyable Crochues-Berard. 

The vast majority of the tour was awesome and the snow on the ski down the Berard Valley was exceptional. There is still a lot of untouched, cold powder out there but there is also a lot of faceting going on, which doesn't bode well for when this massive dump of snow arrives. Of the stuff I found, the faceting was most pronounced on NE aspects, but that's only a very localised observation and I'm sure there are people who've been out more than me recently and will have a better idea of what's going on. Still, a good reminder to read the avalanche bulletin carefully every day.

All photos Sharon Wray.

Moody views from the Col Crochues.

Me and Trey skiing the powder in sync.

Me enjoying skiing the facets but trying not to think about what they'll do to the snowpack next week.

Once we got lower down the Berard Valley things got thinner and thinner and there was some varied and high quality "sanglier" skiing, which provided plenty of amusement! Much of the track out was actually OK but it is time consuming and pretty bad for your ski edges right now! The metre or so of snow that is due should sort it out nicely.

One final thing, here is an infographic I commissioned from the clever person who owns Doodle Brighton ( I've printed mine and checking off everything on the list before going out skiing has become part of the daily routine!

 I had to pay for it but I'm now giving it away so feel free to buy me a beer if you see me in town :)