This is an archive of the old forum

News | Gear | Ski Areas | Hiking | Mountain Biking
Powered by Google™
TR: pas de Montbrun via the Lances de Mallisard
Posted: 12 January 2012 11:57 PM  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

I decided on a longish tour today as I’m busy this weekend. Direction the col de Marcieu (1060m) (a small ski resort between Grenoble and Chambery) and some unfinished business with the south-west couloir of the Lances de Mallisard.

P1030153.JPG height=600 width=800

First the climb up to the l’Aulp du Seuil. This east facing bowl was really catching the sun and was baking hot. I came across the debris of a large avalanche, it had probably come down over the last weekend. Luckily no-one was in its way. It had run some 300 meters and broken a few trees. The forest commission has planted trees in the bowl to stabilize the snow, they will have to plant more. The bowl is known as an avalanche zone but I’ve not seen a slide like this in the last decade.

P1030155.JPG height=600 width=800

I crossed a team of army cadets on this first part of the climb. They were from a regiment based in nearby Varces and were lead by a very attractive lady soldier.

P1030159.JPG height=600 width=800

At the top of the bowl you traverse north to reach the top of the Aulp de Seuil couloir. This was almost a ski piste so many people had skied it. I’ve done it a couple of times in fresh untracked powder but you’d have to get up early or ski it in marginal conditions to get them nowadays.

P1030164.JPG height=600 width=800

From the Aulp you ski down gentle west facing slopes to the Cabane de l’Aulp de Seuil (closed) then climb what look like very steep slopes by the right of a cliff to the Lances de Mallisard.

P1030172.JPG height=600 width=800

The problem with skiing the couloirs of the Mallisard and Montbrun (more later) is that you first have to find your couloir. In the case of the Mallisard SW it is at the far end of the summit ridge.

P1030173.JPG height=600 width=800

The entrance is steep and narrow but short. It then opens out into a nice couloir, the snow was settled powder.

P1030174.JPG height=800 width=600

except a short narrow section that was hard snow. The couloir opens onto the SW face. This had not seen much sun and was crusty or hard snow, traversing to the south brought more springlike conditions

P1030176.JPG height=600 width=800

I came across some members of the French rescue services (Police) in the couloir and had a bit of a chat with them, they were taking advantage of the lack of accidents this season to do some on the terrain training

P1030177.JPG height=600 width=800

A couple of escaped sheep were munching on one of the rare outcrops of grass, they seem to be able to move around on the snow and don’t seem to mind the cold

P1030175.JPG height=600 width=800

back to the Cabane de Bellfont and it was time to fit skins and climb up to the Montbrun

P1030178.JPG height=600 width=800

Posted: 12 January 2012 11:58 PM   [ # 1 ]  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

I wasn’t keen to ski the Aulp de Seuil couloir so the idea of skiing the Montbrun entered my head. It would also save a final climb of a couple of hundred meters. The main issue is route finding is really hard in this couloir complex and once you are in there you are pretty much committed, it would be next to impossible to climb back out. It would also leave a long traverse back to the Col de Marcieu lower down.

P1030182.JPG height=600 width=800

I had reccied the Montbrun (for the 2nd time) just a few weeks early in France’s eternal autumn but it looks a bit different under snow. There are three couloirs which are shown as unnamed rivers on the IGN map (or as nothing at all on my GPS). Two couloirs are adjacent, the third but obvious looking couloir is found a bit to the south. The middle couloir is the one to ski but it is not so easy. Half way down there is a cliff so you have to start in the Northmost couloir, traverse onto a ridge then ski down an ueber steep slope and traverse into the middle couloir. The entrance to the top bowl is also protected by a corniche although it was not huge this time.

P1030183.JPG height=600 width=800

The couloir was well filled in, normally it is a series of steps so it is actually easier to ski than walk. Snow was settled powder on the right bank, hard on the left and sometimes in the middle

P1030185.JPG height=600 width=800

At the bottom of the couloir it was clear the left couloir had purged and taken out a decade of brushwood growth leaving a snow filled avalanche path. In fact traversing back to the Col de Marcieu on the cross country ski trail it was clear that every couloir had purged. It was clear why the cross country trail had been out of bounds for some time.

P1030193.JPG height=800 width=600

The Montbrun is rated 4.3/E3 which seems about right. It is not easy skiing in the middle section.

I only know of 3 groups who have skied the Montbrun this century. I think the route finding puts people off.

Posted: 15 January 2012 04:04 PM   [ # 2 ]  
Sr. Member
Total Posts:  270
Joined  2008-01-31

I was there scrambling and hiking with Georges in September a couple of years ago—not thinking about skiing possibilities.
Now seeing it in your photos with lots of fresh snow looks very exciting.
Great work in finding a good line in there and skiing it.

For those who do not know intimately the Chartreuse mountain group,
l’Aulp du Seuil is somewhere near latitude/longitude (N45.367 E5.902), I think.


Posted: 16 January 2012 09:33 AM   [ # 3 ]  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

Thanks for the GPS Ken. I wouldn’t particularly recommend the Montbrun for skiing. The Rocheplane is a better bet and I’m looking at a new variant on that route which will make more sense from the Aup de Seuil. I only really did it to avoid the overskied Couloir en Virgule although there again there are some alternatives (Pas de Ragris) that are more skiable and just next door.

Waiting for some more snow now.

Posted: 17 January 2012 11:35 PM   [ # 4 ]  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

Here is the profile

profile.JPG height=302 width=800

and the map

mallisard.JPG height=501 width=800

Posted: 19 January 2012 03:07 PM   [ # 5 ]  
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2008-06-10

Nice Pics - shame no picture of the lady soldier