After Thursday’s pleasant afternoon sun things were very different on Friday. An inversion layer was trapping pollution in the valley and a second layer of clouds meant that the sun had trouble warming the mountain air.
Some ski tourers have fairly basic transport, can’t imagine any of the BMW X5 Brit drivers using such transport. I climbed the Casserouse piste at Chamrousse. The bottom section of this slope is closed but it is in better condition than late December. Using ski pistes for the initial part of any tour is a good plan at the moment as they have conserved snow either due to the use of snow canons or because they have been bashed.
The few steep sections were a bit slippery. I then took the forest track to the lac de Pourettes and Breche Robert Nord. Despite being relatively flat this track was really frozen and I had trouble getting any grip. In fact it was so frozen that I decided against using ski crampons as I was worried about the force the ice would exert on the bindings. Instead I climbed on foot over the short uphill sections.
The traverse above the Roberts lakes was a bit dicy. Very hard snow and some broken ice on top of the lakes. It would have been better to put on crampons and walk to be honest. Finally a short descent (on skins) to the north end of the Eulier before climbing up the rolling Vaudaine valley. Normally I would climb the Eulier and ski down the n/e face but with the frozen snow and exposure I didn’t fancy this a bit. This had softer snow and was easier going. I reached the col about 2h30 after setting out from the car park. The north east couloir had been skied and didn’t look too bad. There was a small cornice to deal with. The previous skier seemed to have jumped this as I didn’t see where he had broken the edge.
The snow below looked soft but it was hard to tell without actually going for it. In fact it was quite hard and I skied across the top of the slope before turning in some softer snow. Further down the slope was a mixture of old powder and hard crust. This supported my 80mm skis but not my boots when I climbed back up. Normally you would ski down to 1900 meters and climb back up by the col de la Passure or a steep couloir betwen the pointe de Vaudaine and Sorbier which we’d taken the previous year. These slopes are often under the influence of the prevailing winds and known to be avalanche prone. I took a photo of the couloir d’Infernet, it doesn’t look to be in good condition this year.
I returned via the col des Lessines and the Chamrousse Olympic black. I would have done better climbing by the side of the pistes as the Lessines/Botte section was very icy and hard work.
I estimate the couloir as 4.2/E2 with a short section of 50 degrees.