Ski-Touring: Chamchaude Hold-Up!

2014-01-14 by davidof

Snow and Avalanche

Time Location Altitude Aspect Fresh/Total Type Skiability Stability
11:30:00 West face 2060 West 30/100 Powder 4 Slabby but no weak layer
11:40:00 Folatiere 1750 West 25/70 Powder 4
11:50:00 Teleski 1250 South-West 20/40 Powder 4

Avalanche Observations

Altitude Aspect Size Type
2050 South-West Sluff Purge

Snowline Up/Down: 1240 meters (4068 feet)
Avalanche Risk: 2


Route Taken: From the teleski carpark
Road Access Snow from the Col de Vence both up and down

Vertical Climbed: 850 meters (2789 feet)
Distance: 6.5 km
Weather Clear, clouding over at midday.


I've not had much time for storm chasing this year and missed all the previous powder days. So when I saw a chink of blue sky through the clouds enveloping the Chartreuse at 9am I got my gear together double quick and headed up to Chamchaude, the highest peak in the range. West facing, it had kept a base of snow through the recent spring weather and its open treeless slopes would be a good bet for any fresh.

I arrived at the carpark at 10am. Already nearly full with a dozen cars and I followed and caught a couple of older skiers who were making an unusual but steep track under the drag lift on the lower slopes. Coming out of the short wooded section I saw fresh avalanche debris covering the ski trail. A skier explained that the first person to climb had broken the cornice that bars access to the upper plateau and this had caused an avalanche on the west face that had run 250 meters. Just the surface snow but the kind of slide that could have enough force to trigger deeper weak layers. Fortunately the low lying Sun exposed slopes in the Chartreuse have seen both rain and a lot of freeze-thaw, in fact more thaw-thaw.

At the summit I saw a herd of Chamois following one of the ski trails down in an impressive group slalom. I guess it saves energy. I skied with two other people directly by the avalanche protection despite the small slide to our left. My conviction was that was no weak layer to trigger a larger slide. I had seen some glide cracks lower down but it was cold enough and the lower layers refrozen enough that a full depth slide didn't seem to be a danger.

Snow was the best I've skied this season. Light power higher up that flowed up over your body in a huge bow wave. A bit heavier lower down on the Col de Porte ski pistes but this was no bad thing as the overall depth was less. Rocks were not far from the surface at the summit ridge.

Still on my rock skis and I took a few wacks on the way down, both from rock outcrops and ice debris. The secret passage through the woods from Bachassons to the ski pistes is skiable.



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