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Vallee Blanche Difficulty?

 Poster: A snowHead
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That video is scary. I want to do it! Very Happy

That's it, lots of practice and application until I can drive to work with skis on!
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nbt wrote:
This is what the ridge is like before they rope it up for you to walk down


Skiing out the Door from Tom Greenall
http://vimeo.com/34555644

Very Happy


WTF Shocked the bit at 1.23 where he goes round that pole and half the ski is hanging over a several thousand foot drop!!!! Can i just ask, is that the worst bit of the Vallee Blanche in terms of frights? Ok you have the added worry of a crevasse etc but that wouldnt be as bad as that first bit. Can you walk down the first part?
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wanted to do this 4 or 5 years ago in Cham, but couldnt get the 5 guys with me to go for it - it was great weather too

So have to do this before me knees and legs give out
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Ricklovesthepowder, the arrete normally has a guide rope for at least part of it. Most people walk down it (indeed are encouraged to do so), often roped together sometimes with crampons. The drop is actually far steeper on the left hand side rather than the right hand side. By and large that tends to be the most intimidating part of the Vallee Blanche. There are though a number of challenges which can be more significant (including deep crevasses, avalanche risk, potentially needing to abseil down) or less depending on the route you take. Your guide will pick a route you will be comfortable with.
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Ricklovesthepowder wrote:


WTF Shocked the bit at 1.23 where he goes round that pole and half the ski is hanging over a several thousand foot drop!!!! Can i just ask, is that the worst bit of the Vallee Blanche in terms of frights? Ok you have the added worry of a crevasse etc but that wouldnt be as bad as that first bit. Can you walk down the first part?


The majority walk - it looks like this when the ropes are up - still an interesting walk tho




Best done in good weather as the views can be spectacular



To get an idea of the scale of the glacier the group of dots on the bottom right are people






Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Fri 20-01-12 21:02; edited 1 time in total
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Just shown my 4 year old daughter, and told her after her first successful green run last holiday, this was next step up, " is that a blue run daddy" she said," more a brown run darling "
In the bath now and mummy has just come down, " god knows what you've shown our daughter as she wants to Disneyland instead of skiing! ....
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JDC, Then how firm does that crest of snow become, is there any risk of the edge of path breaking away kind of avalanche like esp, with lots of peeps compressing it in the middle as they walk it?

Love the shot of the glacier with the people on it though - imagine that............ a real life glacier Cool
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One more gulp for the video Shocked
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Megamum wrote:
JDC, Then how firm does that crest of snow become, is there any risk of the edge of path breaking away kind of avalanche like esp, with lots of peeps compressing it in the middle as they walk it?

Love the shot of the glacier with the people on it though - imagine that............ a real life glacier Cool


The path was firm when I did it. Theres no issues with avalanche on the path as far as Im aware. The height makes it feel alot narrower than it actually is. Notice on the picture above alot of the folk are side stepping down (very slowly) whereas without the drop theyd probably just straight line it. Crampons made the whole experience alot nicer. But its really not too bad if you just walk straight out and keep going without thinking about it too much....Id draw the line at skiing down though Shocked
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It looks much easier with the ropes there, in the video of them skiing it, it's because it's untouched and more or a ridge than a path. I could do the path but inwouldnt be comfortable, I couldn't possibly ski it, not good enough.
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Aye, it's whipping up a gale, you're wearing your boots, carrying your skis, roped to the one in front and the one behind and there's a train of 30+ people Twisted Evil. The Arrette is very scary and I'm pretty sure that when I did it it was a lot narrower than in the pics above. Mind you once you're off the track of doom the ski experience is amazing Very Happy
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Megamum, when i have done it, you are walking down a trench in the snow so there really isn't much chance of falling off the side

Ricklovesthepowder, either side of the arrete get skied so they aren't as steep as they look... but they are very steep
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if you are asking is my skiing good enough to be guided down it, then if you have a solid side slip and can ski reds then the answer is yes.

However, if you are asking if you can ski it alone then several additional questions need answering, do you have a rope and know how to get someone out of a crevasse? being the obvious one, there are several others but if you don't know what they are then get a guide.
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Arno, people do however manage to fall over the edge every now and then!
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nozawaonsen, i can see that when they have the zig zag in rather than just going down the ridge. just like you can slip on a snowy pavement, you can slip on the the arrete

has anyone been injured on the ridge recently though?
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Not sure about the veracity of this, but Jan 2010.

"In other news, a woman had a miraculous escape on the arete of the Aiguille du Midi yesterday after slipping over the north edge of the steep arete down to the start of the Vallee Blanche. Amazingly, the woman came to a halt after sliding 50m, thanks to a build up of snow on a small crevasse.

The woman was quickly picked up by the PGHM rescue team with just a dislocated hip. Had the snow not stopped her fall, she would have tumbled over a 1000 metres!" [Chamonet]

Most fatalities are caused by people falling into crevasses on the glacier.
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Having walked down it roped up to a guide and a third person I think anyone who skiis it must have outrageously large Kahunnas. Fall right and you'd prob survive, fall left and I think you're dead.

You could of course cut the crap out and just ski left altogether, 4000 extra GNAR poionts for doing it in a sleeveless top (this shot doesn't really do justice to the slope, but the start of the pitch here is insane):


http://youtube.com/v/aPcOXwGqvNk

FWIW do not do VB without a guide and the guide will not take you down the arete bit unless he thinks you're up to it. It is scary but not really dangerous once you're roped up and it is by far the toughest bit of the descent.
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O yeah, any red run skier can do it provided they are 100% confident of their pivot turns and have a very good head for heights. rolling eyes

I've only seen people walking down the arete, with skis on shoulders (and one guy I spoke to said their guide - a skinny French woman - carried skis for the 5 of them). It didn't look too bad, with the ropes, and quite a deep gulley to walk down BUT in that video above, of skiing down, was that the only way down (ie was the walking path not there?)

Any time I am wondering about giving it a go, I shall watch that video and come to my senses. wink
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I can't find it now but I remember seeing a photograph of the last known evidence of Louis Lachenel (phenominal alpinist and, IIRC, first 8000m summiteer along with Maurice Herzog). The photo showed a pair of ski tracks running over the edge of a crevasse in the Vallee Blanche.

Okay on a fine day with lots of tracks and people to follow but could be deathly in poor viz if you don't know where you're going.
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[quote="pam w"BUT in that video above, of skiing down, was that the only way down (ie was the walking path not there?)

[/quote]

The one I posted he's choosing to ski to the left and down, in the one posted above they're skiing along the bit that's usually roped it just isn't roped at that time (maybe too early / too much snow / rendered unstable by wind).
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Quote:

in the one posted above they're skiing along the bit that's usually roped it just isn't roped at that time (maybe too early / too much snow / rendered unstable by wind).

I thought that might be the case. Would be a bit alarming to get up there expecting a nice rope and a bit of a gulley, and then find you had to ski down there. Skullie
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I think we all need to step back here.

I've been down the Vallee Blanche with an 12 year old. I hate heights. The arret is more than 10m wide and you have more chance slipping on ice or suffering from altitude issues than you are from "issues" getting across the arret.

I repeat. The arrest is surprisingly wide.

The guides (high mountain, not "girl guides") usually cut two paths and put handrails up. If you hate the thought of the 1000m drop to your left then walk of the right hand path(!). The drop to the right is steep and I wouldn't want to fall down it. But it's not so steep as to make me feel like vomiting. And I really don't like steep slopes.

There are different routes down the Vallee Blanche, some of which local guides "add extra spice to" to give you a better trip. But the classic VB route is no more than a stiff blue.

In short. Calm down people rolling eyes
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Agreed StAntoni, but there's no way its 10m wide. Its width must be seasonal and snow / wind dependent. It was definitely 1 - 3m wide when I went down it and a similar distance in those videos.

And I think the second path is just lower down the face with the 1000m drop Laughing

But anyway, I agree, its not really that big a deal, just a bit of a heart rate raiser.
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Skied in a group with a guide a number of years ago. Was having a bad day in powder snow and kept falling over and was very tired. Guide got me to ski exactly in his tracks. Fell yet again but in fact a bridge over a crevasse had given way and left ski came off and went down it. Guide lassoed it out -don't ask me how he managed as he had to use about 25m of rope. Not a trip to do without a guide.
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[quote="geoffers"]adge cutler,
Quote:

Do it through your tour rep, or book it with a reputable trip organiser

Or organise a guide for a more interesting variant than the normal tourist route - you can find details of the various VB routes

A very helpful discussion. Thanks to all who have posted. On the subject of hiring a guide, if I am going out to Chamonix by myself, is it a case of visiting the guide centre in town and booking it for the following day (weather permitting) or is there anything I should take into account? Can it be organised before leving England?
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Ridge is no way 10 metres wide, not when I've been on it. Mind you I had crampons, axes and full climbing kit as I wasn't there to ski. People die on that ridge every year. mainly due to lack of respect (or wearing sandals on ice), it's deadly even in summer. As to guides, if you've ever seen your mate vanish into a crevasse in front of your eyes and think he's dead you'll understand that it's worth getting one.
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Quote:

Was having a bad day in powder snow and kept falling over and was very tired. Guide got me to ski exactly in his tracks. Fell yet again but in fact a bridge over a crevasse had given way and left ski came off and went down it. Guide lassoed it out -don't ask me how he managed as he had to use about 25m of rope. Not a trip to do without a guide.

Shocked sounds horrendous.

When some people insist anyone who can do a red run can do the VB, surely it all depends on the conditions? On an ordinary red piste I could be reasonably confident of being able to follow in a guide's tracks. But not in powder; then my attempt could easily be far too approximate, particularly after a couple of tiring falls.
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pam w, I've skied the VB many times, by day, and by the light of the full moon. The first trip was my earliest experience off piste, and the VB inspired me, so that now I use the pistes only to get to the powder. Yes, in good conditions, the VB can be skied by a competent red run skier, as long as they can side slip and stop suddenly without error. On the first day of your holiday in Cham, go into the guide's office, tell them you want to do it, and be honest about your experience. They won't take you if the arete is unsafe, if the snow bridges across the creavasses aren't firm, or if the powder is too deep for you to manage. If the conditions are right, they take you, and you follow their instructions, you are unlikely to come to harm, and you'll have a day to remember. It might just change your skiing for life. Very Happy
And as has been said above, if you have even the slightest concern about your ability/knowledge, do not attempt it without a guide. People die there every year, on the arete, in crevasses, or simply from the cold. Sad
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Quote:
The Arête Before you put your skis on their is the famous arête from the cable car station which needs to be negotiated. Judging by the number of deaths this is probably the most dangerous section of the route, especially for those who will follow the voie normale. People fall off this ridge and die each and every year. On one side you basically end up somewhere near Chamonix 2000 meters below. Although both faces have been skied it is around 40 degrees pitch so once you slide it is goodnight Vienna.


http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Haute-Savoie/Skiing-The-Vallee-Blanche

Sounds lovely!
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James the Last, I wish I could sort of pull davidof out of my pocket on demand, whenever I fancy an off-piste excursion. That would be very, very cool.
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Must admit 10m wide doesn't sound familiar to me.
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30-40cm more like!! 10m??
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The first time I did it the arete was horrendous. I was jelly. The second time was a lot easier. I hadn't just grown a pair of balls. Somehow the path they'd created was far smoother and less potholed. I thought it was a breeze in comparison though still not to be taken lightly. Not sure whether it's better these days than 10-15 years ago or if it's just luck of the draw.

I'd second the suggestion to have your guide take you on a variant. Second time we did and it was fantastic.
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Agreed, done it at least 6 times and the arete has never been more than 1m wide!
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Not a chance in a million years, this ticks all my fear of falling off a mountain boxes. I'll leave it to the less scared
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Nice utube of the VB,


http://youtube.com/v/mSimTEmPlDs
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1m wide and hand rails!

Try single boot width and no rails in La Plagne:

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fizz wrote:
Not a chance in a million years, this ticks all my fear of falling off a mountain boxes. I'll leave it to the less scared
I feel the same, unfortunately. But maybe one day from the other side, to avoid the dreaded walk.
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It should be pointed out that the last of the group of photos near the top of this page is a steep variant. There is nothing anywhere near as steep on the normal route. Any experienced off-piste skier will want to do a variant, not the normal run. The Vallee Blanche has to be done, though - it is a fantastic way to get into skiing far from the pistes in a spectacular setting (but with only moderate demands on your skiing if that is what you want).

Nobody has mentioned that the second half of the main run is an almost flat glacier where the problem if there is sticky snow is keeping going!
After that you either climb a staircase to a lift (the bottom end of it is where the glacier was before it melted) and then catch a train down to the town. Alternatively, if there is enough snow, you carry on to nearly the end of the glacier and then walk up a track to the top of the glacier-trough and ski down what soon becomes a long zig-zag road to the nursery slopes in the village.

Skiing experience doesn't help with the arete (ridge) - it is the same for everyone (except mountaineers), I always feel insecure walking in ski boots - I'm fine as soon as I put on skis. Perhaps I should get some crampons.
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altis, I've only done a couple of days in La Plagne. Where is that? Why do you want to climb up that ridge, is it to get to off piste?
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