Le Taillefer Via The Lac Fourchu

Ski-Areas > Northern Alps > Isère (38) > Matheysine > l'Alpe du Grand Serre > le Taillefer via the lac Fourchu

This option is best attempted later in the season when you can park at the lac de Poursollet car park. It is possible to ski the route until the end of May when skiable snow can still be found around 30 minutes walk from the car.

taillefer north face

Taillefer North face, col du Grand Van to the right

From the car-park follow the track by the side of the lac de Poursollet and through a little village. There is a café here which is open once the road is cleared. The GR50 doesn’t seem that well marked so keep you eyes open. It crosses the Taillefer river then climbs a 35 degree sloped around the Rocher Culasson. Keep close to the cliffs but beware of the avalanche risk under these slopes. The foot of the north facing bowl below the Taillefer is guarded by a number of cliffs. Follow the bowl up the left bank by a couple of plateau and slopes, the final one leading to the col du Grand Van. At the col traverse around the back of the Taillefer as this offers easier slopes. It is possible to ski directly off the west slope. The summit is marked by a wrought iron St Nicolas.

taillefer st-nicolas

Saint Nicolas of the Taillefer


It had snowed a couple of days before, late but not unusual for a mid-May. At the car-park there was a poster of Léo Balley. This little boy had been walking with his father and friends at the lac Fourchu in July 1996. While his father pitched the tent Léo went out of sight for a moment and vanished. A massive police operation including dogs, helicopters and divers failed to find a trace of the 6 year old or any other real clues as to what may have happened. Léo’s disappearance remains an enigma and the file is still active with the Gendarmerie but the affair along with that of many other missing children in France has lead to a number of conspiracy theories surrounding pedophile rings, important personalities, clairvoyants and eastern European kidnap gangs.

taillefer lac fourchu

In 2002, Marc Silva, a policeman working in the organized crime bureau investigated Léo Balley’s disappearance at his own initiative. He claimed the affair had been marked as a “state secret” because it had connections with Ukraine. He fled to London during the summer of 2003 with his sister (a clairvoyant who had been helping him) after claiming his life had been threatened by a member of the Gendarmerie. His colleagues claim that he had simply been driven mad by the enigma. In 2003 serial imposter Frederic Bourdin moved to Grenoble and claimed to be Léo but this was disproved by DNA tests. Bourdin received a prison sentence.

The area around the lac Fourchu is covered with small lakes but it still seems inconceivable that the boy could just vanish without a trace. If you are in the area check the poster at the car-park and if you notice anything that might be connected contact the Gendarmerie.

I reflected on the mystery as I climbed out of the forest and past the lac Fourchu. It was still sleeping under the blanket of snow but in another month would be a popular destination for walkers and pic-nics. There is a refuge a little way beyond on the GR50 walking route that serves drinks and tarte aux Myrtilles.

The snow was not the best. Around 30cm had fallen midweek and it was still in the process of transforming into corn snow. The surface was frozen, the skies had been clear and the sea-level temperature around 12C overnight but underneath the snow was very humid. The woods were hard going, the trees are widely spaced which means they are skiable but the fresh snow was piled in drifts between the trees. After I left the woods I noticed another skier some distance behind. He seemed very content to leave me to make tracks to the summit and never quite caught up with me !

rocher cullason

Rocher Cullason

There is nothing particularly difficult about this route. You just need to be careful no to stray too close to the cliffs above the lac Culasson at the foot of the bowl. There are a couple of sections a shade over 35 degrees. It is possible to descend the south side of the Taillefer to ski back down the north-west slopes. I’d wondered if the snow was better (colder?) here but with the wind figured any powder would have been blown away. At the summit of the Taillefer there was a strong, southerly wind blowing. I skied off the west side, although the snow was colder here it had developed a crust and was not wonderful. At the summit a group of 4 skiers were chatting. The Taillefer was an annual outing and they had come up from Lyon. They had not chosen the best day unfortunately.

-- 12th May 2006

GPS: N 45.0393° E 05.9240°, 2857 meters
Orientation: NE
Toponeige Rating: Danger: 2, Climb: D-, Ski: 3.1
Climbing: 1190 meters (from summer parking)
33° over 175 meters (col du Grand Van and at the lac Fourchu)
google earth Google-Earth:Le-Taillefer

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