Ski Touring: Pea-souper in the Venetiers

Fri, 23 January 2015


Slope Aspect: West

Trip Reports

Vertical Climbed: 1,400 meters (4,593 feet)

Vertical Descended: 1,400 meters

Avalanche Risk: 3

Snowline: 1,080


Low cloud was clagging up the valley but a quick check of the les 7 Laux webcams revealed sun from somewhere around 1800 meters. I spoke to Mike who'd wanted to go to the Belle Etoile. I looked at the Avy bulletin. Risk 3 above 2300 meters (it rained below and this washed out any instabilities) especially on N to E faces. I suggest the Jasse and promised sunshine. I just didn't say where.

We parked a bit below the gate on the road at 1080 meters. There were maybe 50 cars at the carpark. The road started with around 5cm of hardpack and we quickly passed the familiar landmarks, Betta, Muret, Aiguebelle. At the exit of the forest the fog had got really thick. I couldn't see the ski track at my feet and really just climbed on feel. I could have shut my eyes for all the good they were doing me. At 1850 meters Mike shouted "sun" and lo, a yellow orb was glowing somewhere overhead. A few meters more, at the bottom of the slope below the lac de Venetier we exited into brilliant sunshine like a couple of moles discovering day for the first time. We stopped before the final slope to eat and drink. It was hot. Then the final 300 meters to the summit and the glory of a northerly blowing full hooligan was revealed. Another reason to avoid the Belle Etoile: 1500m, in the shade, on dodgy snow with a hurrican on your tail, no thanks.

We didn't hang around, a traverse to the Dent Blanche then down the east facing slopes looking for the "frizzy" snow surface which is a sign of nice soft powder. There was still a bit of crust. As we reentered the fog I traversed the valley to the edge of cliffs, this gave some perspective and the snow had been sheltered from the sun and was still powder. Below the refuge d'Aiguebelle at 1750 it was the usual boarder cross but with a few nasty rocks - still no damage to the skis. Result.

Weather: Low cloud to 1900 meters. Sun afterwards. Warm.

Access: Snow on road after Prabert

Country: France Area: Belledonne Trailhead: Prabert