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  1. #1
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    Les Hautes-Alpes - Cherchez Les Pentes Raides, Vol. II

    Volume I: Argentière

    I was sad to leave Argentière after six wonderful days. I was hopelessly in love with La Verte, but she just wasn't ready. So I hopped a train for Grenoble, where I met my friend Christophe.

    The next day, we did a tour in the Belledonne massif. We skied Rocher de l'Homme: the Man's Rock.

    Christophe skis from Col de la Mine de Fer.


    I took a rest day to wander Grenoble, which is a wonderful city surrounded by beautiful mountains. Then we drove the 80 km up the road to La Grave.

    Christophe isn't a big fan of "Le Ski Extrême," so we planned a nice tour: something new for him, which would also let me see a lot of what the Ecrins offer. Like so many other great tours in the Alps, we began by taking the deux tronçons of the telepherique plus two rope tows, rising more than 7k vertical feet to the Col de la Lauze.

    On the rope tow up the Glacier de la Girose.


    From there, we had a nice descent on south-facing slopes. Christophe enjoys his backyard.


    Then we slapped skins on the skis and skinned to a col where Christophe waited while Pinegar and I continued to Tête Sud du Replat. We skinned by some beautiful steep shots en route and my eggs were aching, but somehow I survived.

    Pinegar approaches the summit.


    From the col, we skied 1000 m of perfect corn to the Refuge du Chatelleret. J'adore la moquette.

    Christophe on corn


    After a nice break in the sun, during which Christophe and I finally convinced Pinegar not to attempt a third-degree sunburn, it was time to climb to Refuge du Promontoire, which is situated above 3000 m on the backside of La Meije. Dave and I had a great time trying to embarrass Christophe, being drunk, loud Americans without the good taste to take our repas at the hut, while guzzling a liter of schnapps followed by some vins chauds.

    Despite being ugly Americans, we had the great fortune to meet a lovely Parisienne and her brother. Hi C'! He seemed enthusiastic about "Le Ski Extrême" - maybe some day we'll ski some steeps together, who knows.

    Sidenote: I think I accidentally deleted all my photos from this part of the trip. Fawk.

    The next morning, the weather was shitty. As we skinned toward the Col du Pavé in a jour blanc, I cursed the traverse. The weather finally broke at the col and my attitude improved accordingly. I would post an awesome picture of it, but I think the picture no longer exists. So much for the end of our tour. We skied a sizable descent from Col du Pavé and finished at Villar d'Arêne.

    Checking the forecast upon our return to La Grave, the next day looked like the last day of good weather. Christophe and Pinegar both had to return to work, so the solo slay sesh was on. I had some retarded plans for a big day without using the telepheriques, but I came to my senses at the last minute (or did I?).

    Here is an example of how stupid I am. I didn't have a watch or phone or any other chronometer with me, so I was using my camera. I woke, wondering whether it was time to begin my big day sans telepheriques, and took a picture. But I forgot about the nine hour time difference, so I thought it was too late for that plan, and adjusted my plans to use the lifts. I brewed a huge pot of coffee. When I was almost finished with it, I realized that it was actually one in the morning. Big crisis, what to do? I switched to wine and Génépi. Génépi is so good.

    Midnight madness


    Eventually a beautiful morning dawned. There was a little fresh snow and clear skies. But I can't drop one of the opening lines from Exupery's Vol de Nuit - Ciel pur, vent nul - because the wind was ripping.

    I was at the station for the first bin, but they announced that only the first piece of the telepherique would be open because of the high winds. Now this place is really starting to remind me of a bigger, gnarlier Alpental....

    I had to walk across the street for a grand cafe crème to regain my morale. Then I bought a ticket to get my boost.
    *Seulement une montée, SVP
    *Tu sais que le deuxième tronçon est fermé?
    Yeah, at least that made the ticket cheaper.

    Wind ripping on La Meije


    Saw three other guys looking to skin. A nice getleman asked me
    *Tu vas où?
    *Je vais monter au Col de la Girose, j'espère, ou Col de la Lauze - cependant le vent.
    Time to skin.

    Skinning


    The wind was just ripping at the second tram station. I took an hour-long break, hoping that the wind would break. There was a lonely dog and an employee. He approached me to ask how I'd gotten there. As he was leaving, out of hope, I inquired
    *As-tu la météo?
    *Quoi?
    *Il n'y a pas de chance que le vent...
    *S'arrête?
    *Oui
    *Non
    Damn it.

    After much observation and hand-warming, I noticed that the wind appeared to be milder above the tram station. When the other three tourers finally arrived, I shared my observation.
    *Je pense que le vent est plus fort ici.
    *Bien sur, c'est le col!
    Cool, that's it, I'm going.

    So I skinned to the Col de la Girose without any problems. Then I got to ski one of the lines that had made me drool on my tour with Christophe and Pinegar. Here it is. You can see several skiers in there. They stood there forever; I think they had nasty, firm conditions. It was sweet packed pow for me.


    The view from above. Yeah, bro.


    Now that was fun. What's more, le vent s'arrête! And would you like a second helping of good stuff? Southwest face of Le Râteau.


    The view of La Grave from the summit of Râteau. Looking down from 3809 m to 1400 m, Mont Blanc in the distance.


    More yummy ski terrain, looking down from atop Râteau


    Here's a view of Barre des Ecrins, the southernmost 4000+ m peak in the Alps.


    That face on the Barre is actually skiable, but not while I was there. Like so many other great lines, not in condition yet. Warm spring storms should do the trick. I must return.

    Got home to Washington, where the steeps are always in condition but the weather and access suck, and skied one of my favorites the next day. Check it.

    France: Je t'aime! Here's a parting view of La Meije, taken from the kitchen window chez Christophe. Thanks for the hookup, mon ami.
    Last edited by Lani; 04-25-2008 at 01:02 PM.

  2. #2
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    OK, so the Pan de Rideau is for pussies like me. C'est bon.
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

  3. #3
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    How is old Jeebus these days? This is in heaven right?

  4. #4
    Hugh Conway Guest
    merci beaucoup.

  5. #5
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    Haven't been there for ages now. Thx for sharing and bringing back fond memories.

  6. #6
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    Vol II does not disappoint.
    Move upside and let the man go through...

  7. #7
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    Amazing TR.

  8. #8
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    Sickness

  9. #9
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    Jesus, I'm about to volunteer as a Sherpa for your next trip


  10. #10
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    Gnasty!

    Your level of get-after-itness never ceases to amaze.
    Putting the "core" in corporate, one turn at a time.

    Metalmücil 2010 - 2013 "Go Home" album is now a free download

    The Bonin Petrels

  11. #11
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    Your second volume of the panty raider is nice.

    What next for our hero? Will he succumb to his insatiable ball-fattening desire to defy the worlds most efficient and extensive lift systems? Or will logic prevail? STAY TUNED

  12. #12
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    j'aime beaucoup de temps que tu as parle les francais ici! c'est bon pour moi parce que je veux progressar dans mon francais pour le prochaine fois que je vais etre la (en Suisse)---


    merci!

  13. #13
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    Way to schralp!

    Tons of stuff to do in Les Ecrins ... got to skin faster!
    Last edited by jumpturn; 04-22-2008 at 09:38 PM.

  14. #14
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    c'est cool &#231;a.

    vive le roi!
    Ich bitte dich nur, weck mich nicht.

  15. #15
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    I approve of this message.
    "Nothing is funnier than Hitler." - Smokey McPole

  16. #16
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    Enjoyable report and photos -- Thanks.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    Here's a view of Barre des Ecrins, the southernmost 4000+ m peak in the Alps.


    That face on the Barre is actually skiable, but not while I was there.
    You mean skiable directly from the highest summit of the Barre?
    I thought the highest point on it that had been skied was the Dome de Neige des Ecrins (4015m) - (that fleck of bright white on the right shoulder of the Barre). But I'd be glad to be educated.
    The Cabau + Galley guidebook for department Haute-Alpes describes a number of "extreme" descents in the Ecrins / Pelvoux mountains. Including one pretty close to the Barre: the northwest couloir of the Breche des Ecrins (3661m) a.k.a. "couloir de Barre Noire". But not the Barre itself.

    About the Dome de Neige, that guidebook describes it as one of its main tours, rates it "Avec Difficile". No mention of anything very steep on the tour (I don't think there's anything steeper than 40 degrees in a normal year). They include this comment: Classique des classiques, le "fauteuil" neigeux des Ecrins merite sa reputation.
    Ken

  17. #17
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    The Dome is not a problem skiingwise but you got to watch for collapsing seracs further down and crevasses further up.

    The top face of the Barre is about 60&#176; and usually not in skiable condition (ice). But I haven't been there for 11 years now so not sure how the meltout on that progressed up to today.

  18. #18
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    How do you say "cool" in english ?

    Beau travail !
    "Typically euro, french in particular, in my opinion. It's the same skiing or climbing there. They are completely unfazed by their own assholeness. Like it's normal." - srsosbso

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenR View Post
    Enjoyable report and photos -- Thanks.

    You mean skiable directly from the highest summit of the Barre?
    I thought the highest point on it that had been skied was the Dome de Neige des Ecrins (4015m)
    Unless my memory fails me, the Shahshahani Ecrins Nord guidebook includes the summit descent of the Barre. I've seen pictures of conditions on it in which I would ski it, guaranteed. Now I just need to get that job in Grenoble....

    Lots of gnarly lines have been skied in the Oisans. I also need to return when the n&#233;v&#233; has better coverage to attempt a pinky-swear oath with the Doigt de Dieu off La Meije.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
    The top face of the Barre is about 60&#176; and usually not in skiable condition (ice). But I haven't been there for 11 years now so not sure how the meltout on that progressed up to today.
    Speaking of things being sadly out of condition, we had a first-hand view of the gorgeous line from Col du Diable on our descent from Col du Pav&#233; and all the glacier ice is just gone; it reportedly hasn't been in condition for years after a hot summer several years ago. But I saw more than enough good stuff regardless... OOOH Les Agneaux!
    Last edited by Lani; 04-23-2008 at 10:38 AM.

  20. #20
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    Good shit man. Surprised you actually didn't just stay in France and take up permanent residence!


    HA! Now the Pickets and other stuff we got is going to seem so boring to you!

  21. #21
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    Nothing here seems boring; it just seems like a lot of work.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    Unless my memory fails me, the Shahshahani Ecrins Nord guidebook includes the summit descent of the Barre. I've seen pictures of conditions on it in which I would ski it, guaranteed.
    Thanks, I don't have the Shahshahani guidebook, but I've heard that it lists more of the extreme lines than the Cabau guidebooks, so it makes sense that it could be in there.

    Anyway there's no danger that I'll ever ski the Barre summit -- but good luck to skiers way better than me who want to try. I will be very very impressed.

    Ken

  23. #23
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    great TR from one of my favourite places!

    and yes the volopress guide does show a line from the summit of the Barre. the first pitch of that then a traverse to the couloir barre noire would be quite a descent!
    fur bearing, drunk, prancing eurosnob

  24. #24
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    Just read this again and liked it even more the second time around!

  25. #25
    youkneebonger Guest
    stoke bump

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