We woke in La Grave to the impressive Meije towering above us, it was great to see it from our hotel bed.
But alas the word was that La Grave was skied out and bumps everywhere – we had overheard in the bar the night before that the guided groups were going to Montgenevre, and Jerome had been hearing the same thing. The powder was behind us in the south, but we were back on our way north. So we decided to embrace the sunshine and seek out something south facing, really steep end enjoy the corn snow.
Jerome’s friend Baptiste is a patroller at Les Deux Alpes, which is the mega-resort over the back of La Grave and suggested a couloir that catches the sun that we could go and ski. As we needed to wait for the sun to hit it and warm the snow up it was a pretty leisurely start and 30 minute drive across to Les Deux Alpes. We met up with Baptiste and a crew of his friends at the bottom of the gondola, and waited for about 30 minutes in line before we finally began to make our way up to the top.
The top of Les Deux Alpes is a glacier with summer skiing, and also a snowcat link to La Grave:
We headed over the back and spied the top of the couloir – we would be heading into a steep sided valley with some pretty imposing walls on the other side.
The couloir started pretty wide and mellow, but progressively got narrower and steeper. The pitch was about 40 degrees but snow was nice and soft.
The lower reaches of the couloir got quite tricky as it narrowed down to about a ski length in width, as well as a section having been scraped down to the blue ice below:
The couloir is on the LHS of the photo. I don’t actually know its name, but these photos have the GPS co-ordinates in the EXIF data (most of the photos in this blog do as well) so if anyone can help out with a name that would be great!
We reached the bottom after a sustained 1200m vertical pitch of approx 40 degrees steepnes – it was absolutely fantastic. We were deposited at the base of a vast valley above the town of St Christophe en Oisans, but unfortunately due to it being a low snow year we had to do some entertaining creek crossings on stepping stones and hike about 1km down to another trail, where we had a taxi waiting for us to take us back to a lift:
But that wasn’t the end of the day. As well as being a superb mountain guide and alpinist, Jerome is also an avid paraglider and last summer started skydiving. Little did we know that he had his wing packed in the back of the van and Les Deux Alpes had a perfect place for takeoff and landing. So with a little fear and trepidation we took turns to strap in, run off the edge of the mountain, and soar & spiral our way down to the bottom of the valley:
Unfortunately we were quite late in the day so there was not much thermal activity in the air to keep us afloat for long, it would have been great to stay in the air for longer, but the shadows were lengthening and we had a pretty swift ride down.
Once the adrenalin subsided it was time to jump in the van and head back to Chamonix after an amazing road trip
UPDATE: Thanks to ‘Arno’ it has been pointed out that this is called Couloir Rama, some details in this link.