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TouringTip | Glacier Rond, Traverse Glacier du GĂ©ant

Spectacular tour from Italy to France

by Jan Imberi • 03/01/2021
It's a strange winter. The fear of Covid 19 seems to have the whole of Europe in its grip. France is no exception. Apart from the training slopes for young skiers, all lifts are at a standstill. The otherwise lively and bustling centre of Chamonix, where alpinists, ski bums and high society from all over the world gather, seems strangely quiet and completely atypical for this time of the year.

As in many countries, bars and cafés are closed, going out is limited to 6 pm and cross-country skiing is in vogue instead of alpine skiing. Things are very different in Italy. The lifts have been open again since 11the of February. A bizarre situation. While Italians on the south side of the Mount Blanc massif can take the Skyway gondola to Punta Helbronner, the French on the north side are denied access via the Aiguille du Midi. Europe, where is this taking us? - A reason to take a closer look at cross-border skiing and touring!

So we take a shared taxi through the Mont Blanc tunnel from Chamonix into the Aosta Valley to Entrèves. There we want to take the Skyway gondola to Punta Helbronner, then cross the Glacier du Géant and descend to Chamonix via the Glacier Rond. We are slightly nervous when we leave by taxi, but this proves to be unfounded. The French border station at the entrance to the tunnel is unmanned. The picture is the same on the Italian side. We pay for the taxi and go to the gondola, for which we have booked a passage online.

Instead of the expected hustle and bustle, we share the gondola with five other passengers, a mountain guide with clients and two Sunday excursionists for whom we are supposed to take a souvenir photo. It's quite bizarre. At the Helbronner, we meet more skiers. Most of them are speed riders and paragliders hurtling down the Southface. There are only a few of them out and about on this Sunday, we had expected a bigger rush.

The snow is quite hard-packed after the last 2 weeks without precipitation. We had expected this. In many places, the yellow Sahara sand that the powerful foehn storm brought with it is still visible. After an espresso in the Skyview Restaurant, we set off in the direction of the Aiguille du Midi. La dolce vita - how we have missed it.

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After crossing the Glacier du Géant for 1.5 hours and passing the mighty granite towers of the Cirque du Mont Maudit and the Mont Blanc du Tacul, we reach the plateau not far from the Refuge du Cosmique. A strong southerly foehn is blowing, which encourages us to descent quickly to the Glacier du Rond. A short but very exposed descent takes us to the upper edge of the glacier. Blank ice can be seen on the right. On the left, however, the snow is soft, a little windblown, but easy to ski. The slope is quite steep and after the first few turns, the familiar feeling of weightlessness sets in - with every turn as the snow shoots past you into the depths - simply fantastic.

After about 300 metres, we cross to the left onto the ridge that leads us to the exit couloir. It is afternoon and the sun has already thawed the parts of the couloir. Nevertheless, the snow is rather hard and less exhilarating compared to the Pente Raide of the Glacier du Rond. However, the view of the Glacier du Bossons is all the more impressive. The bergschrund is also impressive and we quickly pass it in the centre. We ski along the glacier on its right-hand side and then decide not to traverse to the Plan des l'Aiguilles as usual, but to ski in a direct line to Chamonix. The snow is heavy, partly icy or covered with a layer of crushed harsh snow. No real fun, but what else can we do when the lifts aren't running? The afternoon sun is shining in the valley. It is unusually mild. We buy café au lait and a framboise syrup at the nearest boulangerie and stretch our bare feet against the windscreen of our car parked in the valley.

Europe needs more of these days.

Information

Starting point: Entrèves, Italy - Chamonix, France

Elevation start | end: 3462m | 1060m

Altitude metres ascent | descent: 448m | 2510m (1268m to Plan de l'Aiguilles)

Difficulty level: Alpine: AD; Ski: 5.1

Slope: 50/40 degrees

Exposure: E3

Exposure: Predominantly north-west

Best time of year: February to May

Map material: ING 3630 OT (1:25,000), ISBN: 9 782758 540083

Route description

From Entrèves, Italy (1300m) via Monte Bianco Skyway-Cable Car to Punta Helbronner (3462m). Traverse the Glacier du Géant via Col des Flambeux, Col du Gros Rognon towards Refuge du Cosmique and then towards Bivouac Abri Simond (3570m). Approach east of the start of the Couloir Cosmique.

Traverse below the Bivouac Abri Simond over a small rock band to the east. Then via a short, exposed and often rocky descent to the upper end of the Glacier Rond. The slope (approx. 50 degrees) should be judged with caution as it is often icy. Skiers left along the ridge up to about 3280m, as soon as the glacier face ends about 100m below in a serac drop-off.

At the mouth of the Passerelle Couloir (right), you will find the entrance to the exit couloir on the left, which opens up to the west and leads down to the Glacier des Bossons. The left side of the couloir, which is steep in the upper part (approx. 40-45 degrees), often has better snow conditions. At the end of the couloir, descent via the bergschrund to the Glacier les Bossons and from there along the glacier to the fork in the trail to the Refuge des Grands Mulets at approx. 2600 metres.

Depending on the snow conditions, you can decide here to either traverse to Plan de l'Aiguilles or ski over the glacier towards Plateau des Pyramides and then down to the car park at the Tunnel du Mont Blanc.

The PowderGuide touring tips are general descriptions of tours that we like subjectively. They do NOT refer to the current conditions. Read the weather and avalanche report and plan your tour accordingly.

 

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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