Le Col Du Passon


This is a tour that takes you from the Argentière ski area of Les Grands Montets to the Le Tour ski area of Domaine du Balme and has a lot of skiing. From the top station of the Grands Montets (3283m) descend to the glacier des Rognons towards the Argentière glacier, and cross the Argentière glacier taking tracks that go to skiers left to cross the Argentière galcier. This tour is to the left of the large Aiguille du Chardonnet and to the left of the Aiguille du Passon. Note that the route can be accessed from midstation if the top station is not running but this will add 550m climbing to your day, and you should ascend above the Refuge de Lognan and find the main access to the glacier from around 2328m following a well established down track (not piste bashed in the last part but following a marked piste for most of the way).

After crossing the Argentière glacier, you will likely join many other people heading up the Col du Passon as it is a popular route. Despite the fact that the climb up is relatively short if you are in shape, do not do this tour late in the day especially when warmer in Spring due to increased avalanche risk on both the uppath (south slope) and ski out (west slope). Depending upon the time of year and snow coverage you will either start to skin from the glacier, or boot pack up a section of morraine off the glacier and on to the uptrack. The uptrack is generally well-established and often has some 'variants' allowing you to easily pass slower parties.

Towards the top there will become several obvious stopping points where you will need to take off skins and put your skis onto your backpack to climb the couloir to the col. It is best to stop under a large rock face, clear of avalanche danger. In any case, take care where you stop so that you are not in danger of falling debris. Switch to climbing mode. Some people boot pack this couloir if the snow is good, however normally I find I pass those people and feel much more secure if I wear crampons. A touring ice axe is also helpful. The couloir is not horribly long, steep or difficult but does require concentration. It is a good introductory couloir for the uninitiated, hence its popularity.

From the top of the couloir, many parties break for a snack. Several tracks will head off to the right, for the Refuge Albert Premiere or other routes. From the top of the col you want to take the left most tracks. From there, there are many ways down towards Le Tour depending on how/where you want to ski. The ski down is best done with someone who already knows the route or is good at map and terrain reading because this is the trickiest part of the whole tour. You will have the village of Le Tour in your sights before you exit the glacier if you are heading the right way. Then the most tricky part is exiting the glacier into Le Tour. You can go more to the skier's right, but be careful not to head too far right or you end up in serac drop offs ... normally there are 2-3 couloirs fairly wide but also fairly steep that exit the glacier on the normal route, and then you pick your way through rolling wooded glacial morraine. Take a good look before you commit to one (or follow a guided group if one passes you). You can also go skiers left towards the Peclerey which can bring you to some steep wooded couloirs overlooking the Vormaines ski piste. This area avalanches easily after large snows and in warm weather, so be cautious as avalanches can carry you over cliffs here. In general if you exit correctly you will find yourself in an area called le Gratapia, a woody rolling area at the end of the glacier which leads onto the Vormain beginner's ski area, and to an easy blue run to ski back to the parking. Note that the Gratapia can be quite tricky at the end of the season or in poor snow years, as there are plenty of streams, small deep rocky gullies etc. to watch out for before you reach the woods even after you are off the glacier. Heat release avalanches from the Peclerey are frequent here in late season on this west facing slope that gets plenty of afternoon sun. From here you can catch buses back to the Grand Montets car park.

Mountain RangeMont Blanc
SummitLe Col du Passon
OrientationSouth to South-West
Starting Altitudeaprox 2450m (depending on exact low point of the glacier you start from)
Verticalaprox 600 meters
MapsIGN TOP 25 3630 OT chamonix
GPS Waypoint 
GPS RouteGoogle-Earth:
Grade[1]Danger: , Climb: , Ski:
CommentsGlaciated route
Equipmentcrevasse rescue equipment and ice axe, crampons recommended for couloir
Road AccessFollow signs to Argentière and the Grands Montets ski area and take 2 cable cars to the top of the Grands Montets at 3283m