Arturo had the great idea of doing Vallée Blanche while we were in France. This is a treacherous run (as in many ways to get seriously injured, or to die at the bottom of a crevice or killed by an avalanche or serac slide (big piece of ice/snow breaking off and falling on you), so we booked a guide, Frederic Drouet
Here is a description of the Vallée Blanche descent from his site.
We did 2 runs
#1 Petit Envers was 17km of skiing, 9500ft down (2900m) until we got back to the road in town (17km run, just over 10 miles). It took us 3h44 including hiking back up to a road where we could finally go back down again. It was pretty trivial snowboarding-wise but of course went around plenty of dicey terrain. The end was less fun (from the hike up) as the path down from the little rest stop after the hike up, got worse and worse as we got lower in altitude and warmer temps.
#2 Grand Envers is supposed to be more challenging, but honestly it was still easy on a snowboard, outside of a part where we had to cross an serac avalanche field filled with ice in different size blocks. On that 2nd run, we finished it in just over 1h, and stopped at the glacier ice tunnel for a quick visit, before walking up the stairs to the cable car to the cog train back to town.
Frederic was right that taking the train was not actually faster, from fork off point between the 2 points, both took just around 1h25, including waiting for the train 20mn, but honestly the train route was more fun that given day since boarding all the way back to the road on crappy icy snow at the bottom, was not fun enough to do twice (or even once that day). For comparison the 2nd time it took just 1h to get from the to of aiguille du midi to that forkoff point, close to the glacier, stairs and train.
We met around 08:10, rented some crampons for the first walk out of top visitor center since it's a slippery and steep-ish ridge before you can bind in and ride down:
We then went to Aiguille du midi's cable car and took it to the top. Thankfully there was no line:
Time to put the crampons on and head down:
Then, time to go down, we were not the only ones:
lots of ice blocks and seracs that could detach and fall on us, our uide had to keep track of them
pretty, but more stuff that could fall on us :)
sadly a bigger group had one person who strayed a bit, feel into a crevice and had to be pulled out and rescued
Eventually we got to the bottom on top of the glacier. Easy, but more boring snowboarding :) (and some pushing with poles)
some people walked up the glacier in snow shoes
Eventually the fun was over and we had to unbind and hike up for 15mn or so, up to a resting/lunch cabin
It was then time to continue riding down all the way to town. Sadly it was less fun snow, even narrow and icy at the bottom:
then we crossed the cog train
eventually we got to the end of a small ski resort, back to the road
Short video of the first time down:
Here are some pictures from Fred:
Arturo was ok enough after one run, especially given that the bottom kind of sucked, but I was up for a 2nd run (Grand Envers):
by then, it started getting tracked
Grand Enver was more pristine though since it's harder for skiiers
a piece of that fell earlier that day, and gave us an ice field to cross (kind of hard)
we finally got to the bottom, another track from the one earlier that day
Before too long, we got to the ice cave, small cabins at the top of the stairs, and cig train:
then time to climb up the stairs back to the train
nice to have ridden down this
Now, the *very sad part* is that the glacier used to be as high as the top of those cabins, and now the bottom of those cabins is nowhere close and still requires a lot of stairs to get down to it, and it's getting worse every year with global warming :(
Longer video of the second time down:
And that was it, great 2nd run. We spent a bit of time in town to enjoy the sunset lights and dinner:
A huge thanks to Frederic Drouet for keeping us safe and guiding us that day.