Playing the Waiting Game – Steep Lines in Chamonix
Yannick Boissenot lives in Chamonix at the foot of the Mont Blanc massif (4,807 m). His favourite time of year is winter. Chamonix is the place of mountain dreams. The unique French area has a high concentration of accessible alpine objectives and enjoys an extended ski mountaineering season that continues into spring. And after a short break in summer, the first fresh snow falls in autumn.
Yannick, a father, photographer and cameraman, is also one of the most versatile ski mountaineers in the Alps. Growing up in Chamonix, as young man, he skied the descents of the famous massif in the Western Alps.
In search of new lines, the freeride expert is planning to ski a new route in terrain that is rarely explored. Yannick plans to combine it with a paraglider flight. As he only took up paragliding two years ago, this is without doubt, the hardest part of the operation. “Combining paragliding with skiing is a new challenge, which gives me just as much joy and satisfaction as extreme skiing.”
Loic Chamel is a young Chamonix local. He grew up in the valley, surrounded by these mountains his whole life. Yannick recognised immediately that he was the ideal partner for this project. “The plan is to set out from the Aiguille du Midi, land at the base of the wall, ascend and then make the descent. Ideally, we end the day by flying back down to the valley and land at home.”
As a practice mission, the team decided to set off in the direction of Périades. The west wind was blowing there at speeds of up to 40 km/h at 3,600 m, which made a take-off impossible. They found an alternative take-off area at 3,400 m. This allowed them to cross the Vallée Blanche and land a few hundred metres below their starting point. Finding an untracked couloir with supreme snow conditions, they we were able to complete the test outing successfully.
“We waited a long time for a weather window and the right conditions to emerge, so that we could start from the Aiguille du Midi and then ski down the north face of the Dôme du Goûter at 4,304 m. However, the driest winter I’ve ever experienced and wind speeds that would have been very challenging for my level of paragliding, simply made it impossible to link that particular combo. The mountains will still be there next year – we put our safety first. We just have to be patient and wait until the conditions are right.”