I’d surveyed the Charassons in the summer, and even very early winter, and felt the couloir “direttissima” could be skiable with enough snow. When I’d descended with Benoit one summer we’d had some trouble passing a narrow section which we took on the left hand side using shrubs to help us. A short rope would have made this child’s play. The rest of the decent didn’t seem overly difficult except the exit, this has a 3 meter step that on foot you avoid via a loop to the left (north), at least in the summer.
I’d wanted to go last week when the snow was better. The recent heatwave has caused quite a thaw. At the same time spring snow seemed like a safer option. In the end the spate of avalanche incidents last week dissuaded me from such an unknown route (I’d spoke with a local guy and he’d never heard of anyone descending the couloir on foot, let alone on skis).
First problem, where to park, with snow piled high on both sides of the col de Marcieu road I found a spot at pt 992 meters just before a right hand bend after les Guillots. However starting from les Guillots and following the walking/snow shoe trail or even one of the tracks at la Batie would be more logical. Certainly the descent to la Batie via the track just to the north of pt 1004 m is fairly skiable.
The ideal is to ski the couloir “a vue”, climbing first via the Aulp de Seuil trail then once the plateau is reached at 1860 meters turning south keeping a small hill/rock outcrop on your left. The entrance to the Charassons is immediately after this outcrop on your left, there is a yellow mark on a flat vertical rock. The first section was skiable but the second step didn’t have enough snow but there is a cable to help. It looked like this could be skiable and that is what I’d seen with my binoculars the week before.
At the bottom of the step you exit onto a terrace. Head left (north) into a large funnel. I’ve climbed the snow slopes opposite to the col and descended the other side, but this was at the start of winter and I could not explore further due to ice. The couloir is on the right, the entrance is over 50 degrees. This is followed by a narrow section, this is where we’d got stuck in the summer with Benoit. I’d brought a rope to install a “main courrante” (running line?) around a small tree as there was ice just under the snow. In fact the left hand side of the couloir is less steep but sun exposed so had very little snow.
The narrow section passed and you are in a snow filled couloir. Conditions were spring like and it was possible to make some turns. At the end I skied to the right and rejoined the summer trail down to the “step”.
I’d kind of hoped the step would be filled in with snow. It nearly was but again there was ice just below the snow, probably from the recent thaw. I thought about fixing another line but would probably have needed crampons to be safe on the ice covered step. So instead I followed the summer trail, a snowy ledge, to the north and skied down to rejoin the couloir below the step.
After the step things are less steep, 30-35 degrees and the snow was spring like and good to ski. The forest is open enough to ski but only the open “avalanche couloirs” had good snow.
It was possible to ski down pretty much through the forest via clearings and small valleys to arrive at the cross country ski trails at 1300m at the head of the Rau de Combet and from here to ski back down towards la Batie. The snow was heavy powder in the woods, about 15cm, which was not bonded with the icy base. It was best to take the shallower slopes. Exiting on the sunny slopes above la Batie and the snow turned spring like again and was easy to ski.
I’d estimate the route is 5.1/E3. 900m D+.
Here is a video of a descent of the Charassons by the “couloir des cordes” in January 2010 in deep powder
I’d met some snow shoers who had climbed by this route in 2005 !