After last weekend’s winter blowout (see film) we are firmly into the start of the spring touring season. The skiable snowline is around 1100-1300 meters in the Northern Alps - 1100 only if you find a nice track with a good base. Spring touring also means spring timing. On any slopes threatened by avalanches that means 7am at the end of March, earlier if you intend skiing east sector slopes which see the sun very early at this time of year. We heard of some guys who had a fright in the Belledonne today as a slope purged - they had started climbing at 10am.
We headed to the Breche de Replomb, this couloir is very visible from the motorway north of Grenoble. Wide and never too steep - somewhere between 35 to 40 degrees it is what the French call a “couloir ecole” - a learner couloir. We passed across the summit of our favourite mountain l’Orionde before zig-zagging up the slope. 41 hairpins from the base of the couloir according to the group that followed and over a 1000 meters of making tracks for us. It is rare to be the first into this bowl and at the breche we waited half an hour for the following group to make use of our tracks (and not be buried by sliding snow) before heading down.
We found mixed conditions. On the north slopes between 1300-1800 meters the overnight rain had left a sun crust. Moving onto the west slopes of l’Orionde there was worked powder, very good to ski and looking around at other west facing slopes this good snow seemed to be generalized. On the west slopes of the Replomb there was heavy powder which became slabby in the couloir. Nothing too suspect, just 10cm of cohesive snow on old powder. Skiing back down some of the best conditions were on the North-West bowl of the Orionde from 2000 to 1600 meters (a sure bet as Anny says). Further down the crust had pretty much melted by midday and all was skiiable although difficult in some places with very heavy snow. Below 1400 meters the snow was melting fast.