Skiing Mont Blanc has been on my list since I came to Chamonix for the first time 10 years ago, it’s a classic outing leaving from the Plan d’Aiguille cable car station traversing under the midi and across the glacier to the Grand Mulets hut, then up the ridge line all the way to the summit. After this winter with so much snow the crevasses were mostly filled giving an awesome ski down the north face to the end of the massive Bossons glacier, right from the summit.
We left Chamonix around 8.30 to make sure we got across the glacier before it started heating up in the afternoon, we also wanted to take our time so we weren’t tired or dehydrated for the following day. Neither of us were well acclimatized so we knew it was going to hurt going above 4000m. It had been a week since the last snowfall and some warm days meant traversing underneath the midi was a bit sketchy and scary in places going over avalanche debris and steep drops where if you lost an edge you would go quite a way. Incredible scenery though especially going over the glacier with massive seracs and crevasses either side of the track.
We saw lots of people descending from the summit passing us on the glacier who gave us some tips for the following day. We continued up to the Grand Mulets hut at around midday and organized our kit leaving the afternoon to sit in the sun drink some beer, and play some chess with beautiful views of the massif. Really friendly hut guardians with some less than friendly hut visitors, I really don’t understand why people aren’t happier in huts in the mountains, surely the point of being there is to enjoy the experience so why be so bloody miserable! Anyway we enjoyed ourselves, I unfortunately lost the chess and we all got a shock when a helicopter landed unexpectedly on the hut roof blowing people skins, socks and beer off the rails down 50m onto the glacier below.
We settled down for some sleep around 9.30 after some pretty good hut food. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep much as we were getting up at 1am but we all tried to rest a bit. Breakfast was at 1.30 and we set off from the hut about 2.30am with quite a few other folk. We were moving well and overtook the other parties, the only group out in front was a group that set off at 3 hours before. It was warm when we set off but gaining altitude and getting deeper in to the night the temperature plummeted, toward the summit it was around -10 with a fairly strong wind blowing.
The snow was icy on the track but a good track in all the way and we didn’t need to use ski crampons or normal crampons until the very top. Most other parties chose to leave their skis at the Vallot hut and ski down from there, but we were interested in what the descent down the North face would be like so we continued to the summit with skis on our back. We caught the final group just as we approached the summit at around 8.30am with incredible views and a beautiful sunrise, it’s an amazing summit and an awesome place to be.
It was my second time here having climbed via the Gouter route 2 years before. I found that ascent much easier as there is 400m less on that route. The descent on skis though is much easier on this and an infinitely better way to descend the mountain. We congratulated each other on reaching the summit, faffed with our gear and set off down the North face clipping our skis in right on the summit ridge.
Initially the snow was all icy, crusty and wind blown but this changed to powder 100m below the summit and stayed like that until around 3400m. The angle was initially 40’ and it was interesting finding a safe way over a few crevasses on the face. The angle soon lessened and we were onto a easy angled powder field before long we were whooping down the hill in between seracs and occasional holes in the snow. It’s a quality descent in an incredible area down a massive glacier right from its source at the summit right to near its end. The only down side to the hole trip was having to go back along the icy traverse at the bottom along to the Plan d’Aiguille which was warming in the midday sun making it hard work with tired bodies.