Dent D Arclusaz

Ski Areas > Northern Alps > Bauges > Bellevaux > Dent D Arclusaz


The climb follows the same track as the Col d'Arclusaz until the Chalet d'Arbets. The Combe d'Arclusaz is a flattish North-East facing bowl situated at around 1400 meters.

Chalet d'Arbets
Mountain RangeBauges
SummitDent d'Arclusaz
Starting Altitude800m
MapsCarte IGN TOP 25 n° 3432 OT Massif des Bauges
GPS Waypoint 
GPS RouteGoogle-Earth:
Grade[1]Danger: 1, Climb: AD, Ski: 4.3
Comments42° over 300m for the "Pan de Rideau" variant
SnowboardersThe Arclusaz valley is long and flat and the forest trail is steep and narrow
EquipmentIce-axe, crampons, ski crampons
Road AccessBellevaux valley
Guide BooksAravis, Bauges and Chartreuse published by Volopress
Authordavidof 17 Feb 2005


The conditions didn't look great for a big tour, there had been over a meter of fresh snow and the avalanche risk was high. Luc had been speaking to Bérengère, a friend in Cham. What about the Arclusaz? I'd been there seven years before, a long North-East facing valley terminated by a bowl. The slope is about 25 degrees max, not really enough to slide.

Bérengère is a serious skier. Last year she and her boyfriend Nat Schaeffer were tackling slopes in the 5.+ category. Strange that the sedate Arclusaz was of interest. We met Montmelian, ancient citadel of the Dukes of the Savoy and looked over the topo. Bérengère is typical alpine stock, thin fine features, black hair and naturally dark skin. She looked at the route... "no, no, no not the Col! We were going to tackle the Dent". This was altogether a more serious proposition. "Don't worry," she continued, "the sector is covered with routes, if the Dent has too much snow we can choose another route, like the Pecloz". So the Dent it was going to be then.

Like me, Bérengère is currently resting, in her 20s she's an environmental engineer by training. She hopes to be starting a research project looking at how water resources will be managed in the next 20 years. Water will be the big issue for the Alps. Despite the image of water falls, eternal snow and cascading streams water is a finite resource with increasing demands. Tourism during the winter, increased domestic use and the dreaded snow canon. During the peak winter months there is not enough water pressure for locals to take a shower in Mègeve and the water table is being pumped dry. Reservoirs are only a partial solution, they stock water that might have been used lower down the valley.

The climb follows the same track as the Col d'Arclusaz. A narrow wooded path. Two groups from the Isère Alpine Club were ahead of us, we caught the second group at the Chalets d'Arbets. The group leader, Lucien, a friend of Lucs discussed the conditions. "Don't worry about avalanches", he told us with a cheery smile "if you get caught I'll call the rescue services, that is if I can get a signal". After the chalets our paths diverged, we started to climb to what looked like impossibly steep slopes.

Deep snow made climbing hard work

The Combe d'Arclusaz is a flattish North-East facing bowl situated at around 1400 meters. The Bauges is still relatively wild. There is a ski resort at Seythenex?, a kind of backcountry area served by a single chair and there is a mixed alpine and cross-country area at La Féclaz. The Combe seemed like a natural spot for a ski area, within easy reach of Chambèry and Albertville. Instead the whole area is relatively unpopulated with picture postcard villages. The bustle of the Soviet style Plan Neiges has thankfully bypassed the whole area. In fact there was a plan to build a ski resort in the bowl, this got as far as building an access road from l'Ecole.

We started climbing in a series of zig-zags towards the summit but pretty soon the slope became too narrow and steep to continue on skis. The only solution was to climb on foot. The snow consisted of a layer of powder some 20cm deep with a crust of about 5cm. This probably dated from the previous weekend's rain. On the sunny east facing slope it was not that solid and I frequently broke through, at one point ending up to my chest in snow. Luc and Bérengère either had the advantage of weight or shared some genes with the Chamois that inhabit the mountains. I imagined what it must be like for climbers in the Himalayas who frequently encounter such conditions but at high altitude. The slope steepened to some 45 degrees before ending in a banana shaped couloir. This was capped by a large iron cross held in place by cables - it looked like a cable car station, maybe a reminder of what could have happened to this valley. For anyone skiing directly off the Dent the cables are a hidden danger, skis getting caught and the hapless pilot tacking a tumble. Prudently we put our skis on a few meters down the slope.

Pan de Rideau

The most likely descent seemed to be the Pan de Rideau, this large oblique face is turned slightly to the North-East and the powder would be in better condition. It is rated 4.3. We traversed across, the first hundred meters are a shade under 45 degrees, extreme skiing it is not. To our mild surprise the top section consisted of a fine dusting of powder sitting on a hard ice crust. Each turn sent sloughs of snow down the slope, this meant skiing at a slight diagonal to avoid being destabilized by this moving carpet of white. Impressively the snow carpet built up speed terminating in a full blown avalanche, albeit of modest proportions. At least this should have purged the slope. We then encountered deep powder, the plan was for each person to ski two thirds of the total pitch in one go before the next person started. We hoped that any slide wouldn't be able to catch the skier below. Keeping tight tracks we stopped close to the Arbets, out of danger. The slope changed from light powder to almost transformed spring snow by the bottom. We had probably had the best conditions before the next snowfall.

davidof - 17 February 2005

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