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Jas des Lièvres, couloir NW, Belledonne, FR (9 Apr 2012)
Posted: 09 April 2012 05:40 PM  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

Sunday was a day of rain and snow above 1600m but also a lot of high wind from the NE. One could imagine some weak layers on north facing slopes at altitude and W to S slopes would be wind loaded. So I decided to head up to one of the 7 Laux back bowls with my touring skis. West to N facing they maybe didn’t present the best slope aspects but the summit ridge are around 2300m and it had only snowed about 15cm at this altitude so it seemed manageable. It had been consistently above zero at this altitude so weak layers didn’t seem a major prospect either… but with clear skies or just different snow types falling during an episode of bad weather they can form anyway.

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I climbed up the Bedina bowl to just under the NW couloir of the Jas des Lievres then took a very short couloir on crampons. I climbed up through the avalanche debris with the idea that the purges that happened on Thursday would have cleaned out any instabilities. There was clear evidence of snow transport onto SW slopes, as you skinned up valleys you could feel the snow go from thin to deep and slabby as you traversed from NW to SW. Snowpack was 10-15cm of fresh on a refrozen layer of about 10cm then rotten snow lower down. You could punch through the 10cm “crust” when front pointing. Avalanche risk was 2 below 2500m, 3 higher up. As I climbed I looked out for snow that had no visible debris to ski back down. As I exited onto the W ridge the wind loading, about 30cm, was visible on the south slope.

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My original plan had been to ski these south facing slopes down to the cross (see photo above) then take the turning north facing Cross couloir which is the only one I’ve not skied previously. But I didn’t like the snow in the funnel at the top and indeed when I skied down I noticed a fresh point avalanche under the cross, this seems to have been triggered when the sun hit the top of the slope.

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The Venetier valley was looking a bit fresher than the other day. A couple of skiers were heading for the Dent du Pra.

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The entrance to the NW couloir doesn’t look that impressive, the slopes are around 45 degrees at the top, maybe a bit more if you ski directly off the summit, but this steeper slope also had the best snow, about 10cm of fresh on hardpack. You pays your money and takes your choices.

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I didnt’ ski down the couloir I’d climbed because the wind had removed the snow from the upper half of the slope leaving a rough, icy bed. Something that is pretty typical on these kind of slopes this season.

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The top of the couloir had snow on the left bank, hardpack on the right, the right bank then turned to very dense powder to I continued down the main axis to just after a narrow section with some hidden rocks before pulling out onto a nice open slope. Until mid slope you couldn’t really ski fast as there were some hidden boulders of ice here and there.

What followed was 700m of powder skiing.

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down through the combe de Bedina

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it was only when I rejoined the final run on the resort slopes (closed) that the snow became a bit poor. Some stones and bare patches. The idea would have been to skin back up 150 meters and take the groomed trails in the Jasse bowl but time and motivation was limited when the car was just some 200m lower down.