Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mont Blanc Du Tacul (nearly)

The last trip in Chamonix was planned to be an ascent of Mont Blanc du Tacul - a subsidiary peak of Mont Blanc and a 4000m mountain in its own right. Unfortunately we left it too late booking the cable car and had to get the 9am rather than the 8am lift. Next there was a slow moving queue of people doing the Valleé Blanche on the knife edge ridge out of the top station, so it was after 10 o'clock by the time we actually started the climb up.

We knew that we had to be on the way down by 1pm, as the snow bridges on glaciers lower down would be weakening in the warm weather. In particular an area known as the Salle a Manger* was reported to have several weak snow bridges. We would have to cross these on our descent of the Valleé Blanche after the climb. Unfortunately we were still several hundred vertical metres short of the summit by one, so reluctantly switched crampons for skis and headed down. Near the end of the descent we came across a lake which had formed on the glacier from melting ice. It was a remarkable shade of blue, with black caves visible in the depths below a few floating icebergs. Photos from the day are posted below.

*Salle a Manger is French for Dining room, as this is an area where many people stop to eat their packed lunches, often in unwise places, on the descent. A lot of people seem oblivious to the dangers of glaciers and the high mountain environment, perhaps because the skiing is not too demanding and there are plenty of other people about. However a number of people have been killed on the Valleé Blanche descent this year, often through ignoring their guide's advice. It is quite frightening to see people sitting beneath creaking seracs and loaded avalanche prone slopes, or taking their skis off while wandering about crevasse zones.

The queue on the ridge

Ian on the climb

A lake formed in the glacier on the way down

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