Cime De Sambuis North Face

Ski-Areas > Northern Alps > Savoie (73) > Maurienne > Saint-Colomban des Villards > Cime de Sambuis North Face

cime de sambuis

Cime de Sambuis top left

The south side of the Cime de Sambuis is a classic for local ski tourers. Its easy slopes can be reached from the road between Saint-Colomban des Villards and the Col du Glandon. We decided to tackle the altogether more serious north face. From the quaint village of Valmaure a wide track winds up to the summer grazing Come du Tépey and the hamlet of le Tépey. Anny had been here a week earlier and promised that we wouldn't have to climb for long but the weather and its unseasonally warm temperatures thought otherwise (22/Apr/2006). Climbing through fields of crocus we finally found snow at 1550 meters.

climbing gleyzin valley

Climbing in the Gleyzin valley

The track is crossed by the avalanches of the Tépey, Brandes and Grand Redon. Snow still remained in these tracks and was a reminder that although the valley looks wide and fairly benign a ski tourer was killed at New Year where the valley forks to join the Puy Gris. The group, from the Lyon CAF, were descending after climbing to the Col du Tepey when were hit by the slide.

anny climbing the north couloir of the sambuis

Anny climbing on foot with crampons

The route follows the left bank of the valley to la Pierre at 1765 meters with the Montagne du Sambuis to the left. There are a couple of interesting couloirs in the mountain and we wondered if they had ever been skied or if people hurried by concentrating on the popular itineraries. The couloirs could be skied “on spec” or “a vu” as the French say by climbing the gentler slopes of the Mont Rond bowl behind.

Sylvie conversion turns

Sylvie making conversion turns

From la Pierre the route turns southwards climbing into a bowl before passing a bottleneck. Although no more than 35 degrees the slope was icy and some of the group removed skis and climbed over this problem. The backmarkers, Sylv, Luc and I had already fitted ski crampons and by keeping to the flatter parts of the slope and making a number of conversion turns we were able to keep skis on our feet.

david north face sambuis

David following ski tracks

The slope opens into a second bowl. The summit couloir is guarded by a second bottleneck slightly to the left looking up the mountain. Here the going gets really steep, around 41° average over some 200 vertical meters with some sections closer to 45°. Normally too steep to climb on skis but by traversing across to the edge of the couloir where there was a ridge it was possible to turn.

cime de sambuis summit

The summit

Two skiers had climbed from the south side and skied past us down the couloir sending blocks of ice whizzing past us. It is worth wearing a climbing helmet in these steep couloirs. Ice and stone fall can be a problem, especially when the rocks higher up catch the sun.

cime de sambuis


There was already a good crowd at the summit when we arrived. They had climbed with a large dog who seemed to find both the climbing and descending very easy on four legs. The summit is marked by a cairn and is flat and large. The Sambuis is pretty much independent of the surrounding mountains. A ridge runs across to the col de la Croix but there is a feeling of space and openness about the place. This is probably why it is such a popular destination.

cime de sambuis

Francky Freeride

The lifts far below at Saint Sorlin d’Arves were still turning. A last weekend before closing up. This year the Easter holidays have been very late which have caused a lot of problems for the ski resorts. Many closing halfway through the main French school vacation period. To the north and there was still plenty of snow on the slopes of the Grandes Rousses. The off-piste routes of the Col du Couard, the Couloirs de Fare and Perrins clearly visible from our loft vantage point.

Anny Sambuis

Anny on a steep section

So with the hard work over 1529 meters since leaving Valmaure all that remained was to have a snack and prepare for the descent. For some reason Anny seemed very concerned about my climbing skins. They are Colltex and I cut them to fit the skis myself. It is true that the edges seemed to be a bit waterlogged but that probably had something to do with stream I had crossed as we started out. I was lucky not to have a foot of snow stuck to the bottom of my skins.


Sylv and Anny had never tackled a slope rates 4.3. In short this means couloir skiing with extended sections of over 40°. The route was also exposed. None of the couloirs were dead straight and a fall, if not quickly stopped, would take the skier over small cliffs. You would probably survive but could be seriously injured. Or not. Last May a young Grenoble man had fallen 300 meters on this slope, injuring him fatally despite desperate efforts by the rescue services to save his life. Something Luc reminded us of as we set off down the hill. Frank had brought his helmet, something that is a good idea both when climbing and descending these steep slopes.

David Sambuis

David ripping it up

With the sun still not that high in the sky the slope we had climbed had not softened that much. Instead we tracked over to the left to ski down a series of couloirs, first in powder then in corn snow. Airy but not too challenging.

cime de sambuis


As we came out of the final bowl the snow turned from corn to mush, luckily it was a flat traverse to the top of the valley where we took off our skis and climbed down. Back at the village we relaxed in the trough, excellent for cleaning ski boots and cooling off tired feet. Someone had even remembered to pack the beers!

cime de sambuis

Jacuzzi Paradiso

Mountain RangeBelledonne
SummitCime du Sambuis
Altitude2734 meters
Starting Altitude1210m
Vertical1529 meters, 5015 ft
MapsIGN TOP 25 3433 OT Allevard
GPS WaypointN 45.2635° E 06.1616°
GPS RouteGoogle-Earth:Saint-Colomban
Grade[1]Danger: 3, Climb: D+, Ski: 4.2
SnowboardersFlat above Valmaure
Equipmentski crampons, crampons, ice-axe
Road AccessA43 -> St Etienne de Cuines -> D927 (col du Glandon) -> St Colomban -> Valmaure


You will need ski crampons to climb the whole route on skis. If you decide to climb on foot lightweight crampons are a good idea. The descent is exposed to rock bars and a fall in the steep section could be fairly dramatic.

Sambuis route

Category: Trip Reports

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