Ken had just landed from the Newark Geneva Redeye but wanted to get straight into skiing. Not a moment to waste. I suggested the Chartreuse.
Chartreuse? It’s as dry as a dog bones, surely there cannot be any skiing there? Not this year anyway.
Well I had it on good authority, or at least a friend of a friend that the Petit Som was still feasible with no portage. Ski straight from the parking lot.
This got us on to talking about how you say Chartroose in American, the answer is in the old CW McCall song, Convoy:
It is a long trip to la Ruchere, unless you are a bird. A veritable tour of the passes and steep sided valleys of the Chartreuse. Finally at around 3pm we set out. It had remained relatively cold and the snow on the north facing slopes, had only just started to transform.
The start of the tour is on an old ski piste. Like the Col du Coq and Col du Porte this is one of the areas that is snow sure, from December to April and like the Col du Coq the lifts no longer operated. There are quite a number of these ex ski areas in the Chartreuse, most only remembered by the elderly in the village. It must have been quite a spot on sunny winter’s days back in the 1970s though before expressions such as “global warming” and “climate change” had entered the vernacular.
We climbed quickly through the woods and along a narrow track which led to the glades below the summit. Sticking to the right bank to keep the warmth of the low sun. Instead of heading straight to the summit we climbed up to a small passage opposite to look at the Grand Som, a summit too far today as there is a lot of up and down and traversing. Instead we descended a tiny couloir to ski the corn snow on the south-west facing slopes down to the Pas du Loup. Wolves have returned to the area although are extremely rare. Not a word to mention in the local villages unless you want to see a posse of heavily armed locals heading into the woods firing at everything that moves and crying “au loup, au loup”.
We finally ran out of snow at 1550 meters and reskinned to climb the 200m back to the summit. Here it was a choice between the frozen north-east face and skiing back down on the right bank of the valley. This seemed the better bet for although the sun was low on the horizon the slopes were still warm and the snow soft.
It was only back on the piste that the sun had disappeared for long enough for the snow to have refrozen and the ski and snowshoe tracks made themselves felt. Skiing down to 1100 meters is pretty rare this season but still possible in certain spots but not for long.