Our first couple days Bernie, our guide, wanted to feel out the group and get us used to riding in glacier conditions. So, we headed up the lift at Les Grand Montets, the largest of the traditional ski resorts at Chamonix. Although there are a lot of ways down the mountain, we mostly came down the route to the far skiers' right over Argentiere Glacier.
This was beautiful riding over all kinds of terrain. As you can see, it was mostly a beautiful week -- lucky for us! Below is some of the incredible scenery around the Grands Montets resort.
Glacier = "river of ice"
Oren hooked up with Bernie through some snowboarding lists he's active on. Bernie is German originally, and has been living in Chamonix and guiding for thirteen years. He rode with us all week, and provided endless information about the valley, the people, the glaciers... and peppered with a teutonic sense of humor as well.
I really can't recommend hiring a guide in Chamonix to explore the Vallée Blanche highly enough. Even when riding the lift-served terrain here on the Argentiere Glacier it's better to have a local with the group at all times. Unless your group is very small the extra expense for a guide will be more than paid back in a better time!
The licensed guides in the Chamonix valley are known as "Guides de Montagne". For more information on guides, check out the official Chamonix website at www.chamonix.com. Bernie can be reached at <where was it>.
The Lenticular Cloud
Another great Chamonix phenomenon was this perfect lenticular (lens-shaped) cloud just to the skier's right as we came down the Argentiere glacier.
It was there for days, the result of a standing pressure wave coming up off the Alps below. It almost always had this perfect shape, even though it was thousands of feet above the mountain that caused it's formation. It was visible from all over the Chamonix valley the week we were there -- see some of our Vallée Blanche pictures.
The Crack of Doom
In navigating down the glacier, we found ourselves threading through icefalls like the one at left. One place we went through quite a few times during the week because of the beautiful snowfields below it was a traverse above a crevasse between two giant ice blocks. We nicknamed it the "Crack of Doom" because, really, it was best not to fall while right in the middle.
|Above: believe it or not, there are perfectly safe routes crossing through that.||Above: Oren turning uphill after the crack|
|Below: Jason slides on through while Justine waits in the on-deck spot. Needless to say, we transited the crack one at a time.||Below: Jason sez, "No prob."|
|The payoff for the Crack of Doom was that we got to great, almost unskied open snowfields below.|
|OK, Oren's setting up for the big carve...||Oh, well.|
|Another way down was this steep well-covered chute, which we did several times. Getting out at the bottom required a tricky traverse around a crevasse, but the chute itself was great riding. There are any number of great routes like this through the glacier -- one of the biggest benefits of having a guide was immediate access to them!|
|At right: the group comes down as the camera points up.|
|Above: Justine follows the track along the near side of the valley.|
|The Argentiere glacier run slides down the glacier-carved valley back towards the main Chamonix valley, scooting back and forth to find a way through.|
|At left: eventually you can see the way back out to the Chamonix valley. Shortly after this, you get to the run down to Octavio's.|
|At left: Jason poses with the symbol of Chamonix, Crevasse Man. At right: riding on Argentiere Glacier makes me happy. Below: actually, riding on Argentiere Glacier makes everybody happy; from left Oren, me, Jason, and Kim.|
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|© 2002 Leo
except where noted