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France: Alpes inconnues 2014

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  • #16
    Sunshine indeed came, and with it great skiing. But not how I expected. Went back to that same mid-size ski station, with the lift that gives access to lots of touring.

    Got to the bottom of the main lift at opening time, and there was a crowd waiting -- longest lift line so far. I thought, this is like you'd expect for a powder day, but of course it hasn't snowed in the last 24 hours, so really this early crowd is due to pent-up demand for sunshine. After the wait, riding up to the top, didn't look like much of the off-piste had been skied since I stopped yesterday. Saw a couple of skiers sampling the off-trail snow, and it looked like it might be good, so I followed.

    It was great snow pretty much like yesterday, and still like 80% untracked, and now I could actually see where I was skiing. So I did multiple lift rides. Waits for riding the main lift continued, like getting to ten minutes. With a detachable 6-seater, that's a lot of people getting up there in between my downhill runs. But the good lines weren't getting tracked out.

    Because like only 1 out of 50 skiers was going more than 40 feet off the groomed trails. Mostly parents with their children from non-mountain regions of France or Belgium. Even the few who were serious about skiing powder didn't know how to find the most interesting lines (as in steeper and/or near rocks).
    . . (How often would this happen at La Grave or Chamonix?) . .

    Even with the lift lines, I think I skied over 15000 vertical feet of powder before Noon. Didn't get the climbing skins out of my pack.

    I did see three different touring parties going out and skinning up in three different directions. So that could be two or three days more of untracked turns, climbing up without needing to break trail.

    Ken

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    • #17
      Today I skied the Glacier du Tabuchet up to the Refuge de l'Aigle in the Ecrins mountain group, starting from Villar d'Arene (the next village east up the valley from La Grave). Rather fun descent, mostly at 30-35 degrees for about 1670 vertical meters / 5500 feet (followed by an easy trail walk back to the village). But as an ascent it was uninteresting and kind of strenuous. So I'm not doing it again as an ascent. There's two other ways to reach the Refuge, so next time I'll try going up one of those.

      In addition to being fun skiing, the descent seemed straightforward (especially now that I have a tested good GPS track), and roughly following the recommended route was free from visible crevasses (this time). I don't think I got within a quarter mile of anything that looked like crevasse or serac (this year, this month, this week).

      The ascent was strenuous first because it was 1800 vertical meters / 6000 vertical feet of climbing with very little at less than 30 degrees; and second because surface in the upper half was not well consolidated so my skis were slipping sideways and I had to make lots of recovery moves.

      The ascent was uninteresting because most of the time the scenery was unspectacular and didn't change much - (until almost at the top). But aren't the Ecrins some of the most dramatic peaks in the Alps?
      Yes but the route is on the edge of the Ecrins mountain group, and it faces outward away from those dramatic peaks. And it's sufficiently steep so you can't see the peaks until most of the ascent is over. The Aigle hut is one of the most dramatic in France, but you can't see that until most of the ascent is over - (and right now there's the additional problem that the hut does not exist -- since the old "mythique" structure has been torn down to make way for construction a new hut). And the view north across the Romanche river valley is to some unspectacular summits of the Grandes Rousses and lower Maurienne group - (until you finally get up high enough to see the dramatic Aiguilles d'Arves peaks).

      About the most interesting sight to the north is the village of La Grave, obvious through most of the ascent. Which made me think that my ski tracks might in turn be visible looking up from La Grave. But when I stopped to look while driving out, the glacier was mostly shaded my clouds.

      Other than this descent of the Tabuchet glacier, another reason for (alpine-climbing-oriented) skiers to get to the Refuge d'Aigle is to use it as base for climbing the Meije Oriental (a little under 4000 meters, not skiable from the summit).

      Looking forward to doing this again as a descent -- but maybe not until after the hut is rebuilt.

      Ken
      Last edited by KenR; 12 April 2014, 03:06 PM.

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      • #18
        Tabuchet more ...

        * the guidebooks seem to say that staying toward the E side of the glacier is safer.

        * mid-section - the less steep way is to trend NW in the Cote Longue (shown on the IGN TOP25 Meije-Pelvoux map, which is rather nice for the skiing and climbing in the Ecrins). But lower down the Cote Longue goes into a gully, so think about where to leave it toward the E side. I found that a good spot for me was at lat/long approx (N45.0318 E6.3185), around 2150m, traversed NE, then down N to hit the national GR hiking trail around lat/long (N45.0406 E6.3260) and follow that E to the village of Villar d'Arene.

        . . . but (especially if finishing at Villar d'Arene, I could see that other skiers had gotten a longer contininous steeper ride by exiting the Cote Longue muh higher.

        . . . As a descent I think you get a little more skiing by finishing in Villar d'Arene rather than La Grave -- because then the lower slopes are more North-facing.

        Why ...
        * One use of this route is to climb the Meije Orientale, I guess because that's the easiest summit of the famous Meije mountain (just under 4000 meters, forbidding + recognizable) to reach and climb (though this summit is not skiable by mortals). The Tabuchet glacier is the obvious way to do it in a single day up and back the same way with skis. And I guess it's just the obvious way to climb the Meije if you're based in La Grave, since you can see almost the whole route.

        * Glacier de l'Homme from the East is more spectacular + interesting way to reach Meije Orientale on skis. Its big problems are that it is E-facing and mostly unshaded from the S -- and it has a tricky river-crossing at the bottom -- so
        it needs to be descended early in the day -- usually after spending the night at the (hopefully existing again in winter 2015) Refuge de l'Aigle hut. Therefore not suitable for an up-and-back-the-same way day trip.
        So not surprising that I saw three other skinning up-tracks on the Tabuchet glacier (even though it's monotone + unspectacular as an ascent).

        Why 2 -- The other big reason for Tabuchet is that descending it is a great N-facing final descent to these great traverses:

        A) single-day traverse: park about 4km SE from Villar d'Arene, climb up the Glacier de l'Homme (optionally bag the Meije Orientale summit) and descend the Tabuchet N to Villar d'Arene.

        B) multi-day loop around the Meije including crossing of the Ecrins main N-S "spine": (1) park about 4km SE from Villar d'Arene, (note the condition of the river-crossing at the bottom of Glacier de l'Homme), climb to Refuge Adele Planchard; (2) After optionally climbing the Grand Ruine (its Pic Maitre had a great view and is less difficult to ski then Pic Brevoort), then cross the "spine" E->W at Col de la Casse Deserte (some 45 degree near the top), the least difficult crossing of the Ecrins main spine. Descend W to Refuge Chatelleret but normally continue N up to Refuge Promontoire. (3) N across Breche de la Meije, traverse E (serious glaciers) under N face of the Meije, cross Passage du Serret du Savon and E to Refuge de l'Aigle. (4) descend Tabuchet to Villar d'Arene (or perhaps wait for early morning to descent Glacier de l'Homme).

        . (or could also do the first night at Refuge de l'Alpe de Villar d'Arene, a hut with several excellent ski-mountaineering possibilities)

        . (Refuge Chatelleret is yet another hut in the Ecrins with several excellent ski mountaineering possibilities. Straightforward to reach from the La Berarde trailhead (with it's own ski options), and the remarkable paved road to La Berarde is normally plowed and open before the end of March. Sort of like they built a road into the middle of the Pickett range of the North Cascades and plowed it for spring skiing).

        C) lift-aided traverse multi-day from the W: (1) Ride up lifts from La Grave, cross Col de la Lauze and ski down to Refuge Selle; (2) climb W->E over Breche de Rateau descend its E side (upper section steep and often icy) - (Easier climbing and skiing but significantly more vertical to cross Col du Replat) - then N up to Refuge Promontoire. (3) + (4) like B, but finish descent of Tabuchet more NNW to La Grave (instead of N to Villar d'Arene).

        . It is dangerous to combine steps 1 + 2 in a single day, because do a non-early climb under big steep S facing slopes. Those slopes could be skipped by taking Col de la Girose instead of Col de la Lauze, but that is more difficult technically.

        . direct descent from Breche Meije N down to La Grave by the Glacier de la Meije is said to be very serious with tricky navigation (just look up at it) and seldom in condition.

        B or C is usually said by experienced French skiers to be the most classic "must do" traverse of the Ecrins, with C providing the max ski-mountaineering payoff for least work. I've now done most of both except step 3 the traverse of Breche Meije to Refuge de l'Aigle (and I did not stay at Refg Adele Planchard, used Refuge de l'Alpe instead).
        Last edited by KenR; 15 April 2014, 03:05 AM. Reason: add more details

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        • #19
          Col de la Casse Dserte (Ecrins)

          Yesterday I parked at La Berarde (alt 1720m) and skied the West side of the Col de la Casse Deserte (3482m) -- notably mainly as the easiest E-W crossing of the main spine of the Ecrins mountain group -- but also a classic ski-mountaineering tour in itself. Several parties did it as a traverse (in both directions) and at least three did it as an up-and-back trip.

          I found that it was close under some striking peaks + spires, with some dramatic (skiable) slopes and peaks and ridges out across the valley visible any time during the ascent. Interesting variety and transitions on the ascent -- first gentle valley, steep exit from valley, then wide undulating slopes with some traverses. Then steep through a short crevassed section, and a gentle bowl before the final 40-45 degree boot up to the top (not often skied, sometimes side-slipped). The other E side is also in the 40+ degree range, but more skiable.

          I started suitably late (last one to the top), so most of the W-facing (and shadowed from the S by a high ridge) route was perfect shallow mush for my descent.

          * total Vertical climbing about +1800 meters / +5900 feet. Started with booting the lower S-facing slopes -- since I was carrying the weight of skis, I chose the gentler "rive gauche" (E side of the valley) hiking trail with long switchbacks. Seemed like other day-trippers did that. This trail is also the normal mellow approach to the Refuge Chatelleret hut, with several ski-mountaineering tours (including Col Casse Deserte).

          * parking at La Berarde is remarkable ... Remarkable that they built a paved road into the heart of such dramatic intimidating peaks ... Remarkable that they normally plow it open before the end of March. Also has at least one sleeping facility open during spring ski season.

          * Surprisingly I was able ski the long south-facing approach valley down to the foot-bridge for the "rive droite" (W side of the valley) hiking trail -- so carried my skis less than a mile down to the parking.

          * unusually, I was glad I'd brought both crampons and cutters/couteaux/harscheisen.

          * sunshine? Despite having perfect blue skies the entire day, I was climbing in shade the whole time until I actually reached the top. Sometimes I could see sun on the snow just 50 meters away, but not on me. There is a high ridge along the S side of the route. For my descent I traversed as soon as I could over to the N side of the giant slope. Also ...
          Wind is not unusual near the top by the W-facing col. Be ready to dress warm.

          * the route now is different (less traversing) than in the guidebooks -- because the glacier has gotten much smaller.

          So now . . .

          * I feel confident to cross the Col de la Casse Deserte as a component of a longer traverse in the Ecrins.

          * Wish I could stay multiple nights at Refuge Chatelleret to do more ski tours (or summer climbing with Sharon)

          * Could do this one again soon -- except there are several other tours from the La Berarde parking of comparable quality and difficulty which I haven't down yet.

          Why I keep coming back to ski in France: There's so much to explore on skis (multiple lifetimes); So many big tours in big places; wide range of difficulty options (but not so much easy/gentle) -- and so much is accessible by paved (non-4WD non-HCL) roads to trailheads plowed open, by lifts, and with huts.

          Ken
          Last edited by KenR; 15 April 2014, 04:20 AM.

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          • #20
            Photos! Photos! Photos?

            ain't no turn like tele!

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            • #21
              mere Photos ?
              Old school stuff. How come you're not demanding
              Videos?
              and of course not mere head-cam stiff. Rather ...
              action captured from an impossibly amazing angle by a remote-control Drone camera.

              What kind of photos do you want? and Why?
              * people?
              * big scenery?
              * action?
              * intimate scenery details?
              * animals?
              * interesting plants? insects on the snow?

              There was a time say twenty years ago when good photos of ski tours were difficult to find. But nowadays . . .
              Since these tours in the Ecrins are popular classics, I'm confident I (or you) with a web search could find lots of immediately relevant photos, at least a few of rather good quality. And I suppose I could do that searching and post a list of links to the best of them for each tour ...
              but I'm guessing that's not what you really want.

              If the purpose of photos is so EarnYourTurns can say they've got photos displayed directly on the EYT website,
              I'd be glad to help -- but it takes time to post them to EarnYourTurns, and generally I'm pretty busy skiing + living.
              How about this:
              I'll point you at some Web location which has some of my photos relevant to a tour report on EYT, and
              I'll give EarnYourTurns explicit permission to copy them directly onto EYT.
              Then some wise experienced EYT editor (or just any somebody with more time left over after skiing + living) can select the kind of photos and re-edit and format them and position them on EYT in just the way that will enhance and promote the EYT brand.

              Could that be made to work for you?

              Ken

              P.S. What I think is the truly useful adjunct to a specifit tour report nowadays is a GPS track with selected waypoiints

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              • #22
                Originally posted by KenR View Post
                How about this:
                I'll point you at some Web location which has some of my photos relevant to a tour report on EYT, and I'll give EarnYourTurns explicit permission to copy them directly onto EYT. Then some wise experienced EYT editor (or just any somebody with more time left over after skiing + living) can select the kind of photos and re-edit and format them and position them on EYT in just the way that will enhance and promote the EYT brand.

                Could that be made to work for you?
                Nope. The key is some EYT editor with time left over after skiing/living. That'd be me, and I don't have it.

                It's also part of the allure of the BCTalk forum to have photos to accompany the description of the tour. Most others are doing it, and no, I don't think videos are the way to go. I like a simple still shot that distills the location, experience, etcetera and increases my/others desire to read the TR you're posting. Videos take more of my time and bandwidth. Not usually interested. That's my take.

                It's just a request. No requirements here, but I'd love to see where you tour, not just read about it.

                PS: It doesn't take that much time to post a photo here. Not compared to how long it must've taken you to write your response above.

                ain't no turn like tele!

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Dostie View Post
                  Photos?
                  Let me help you get started ...

                  * skitour.fr list with links to 11 ski-rando reports with a total of 77 photos for that specific West side Col Casse Dessert tour.

                  * trip report by French skiers there on the same day as me -- but it finishes with "Les photos plus tard peut ĂȘtre ... "
                  . . . so guess you'll have to try it again in a week or so.

                  * skitour.fr list with links to yet more ski-rando reports of the classic multi-day traverse (labeled B in my previous report) with hundreds of photos.

                  * CampToCamp pages of 30 photos | 39 photos | 4 photos of skiing Col de la Casse Deserte.

                  * VoloPress 9 photos

                  * photos of skiing in the Ecrins mountain group which maybe EYT could get permission to use copies:
                  . . . 18 photos | 15 photos | 9 photos | 6 photos | 6 photos

                  Hope that helps,

                  Ken

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Dostie View Post
                    It's part of the allure of the BCTalk forum to have photos to accompany the description of the tour. Most others are doing it, and no, I don't think videos are the way to go. I like a simple still shot that distills the location, experience, etcetera and increases my/others desire to read the TR you're posting. Videos take more of my time and bandwidth. Not usually interested. That's my take.
                    So this is not a planned EYT branding strategy, just your personal consumer preference.

                    OK, so in my most recent previous post (which crossed yours), I put lots + lots for your preference just a click or two away. Here's the test:
                    Is your avowed consumer preference worth the time + effort for a click?

                    Now I'll give you my preferences ...
                    I often take photos when I'm out skiing with people I know and like. And often I share them.

                    Scenery -- photos of scenery generally do not interest me any more, because I ski so often in very spectacular places (and I've already taken photos, and already shared photos of many of the skiing places I find most scenic. I don't need to get more ideas of scenic places to ski -- my list of untried places is plenty long enough already.
                    Generally the only actionable result of a scenery photo is to help me conclude, "Huh that place actually is much less scenic than most places I normally ski".

                    Action -- seen so many great action photos in mags + websites already. Nowadays a well-edited video is surely better. But I'm not going to be the one to produce either that or some new better kind of action Photo. Anyway generally I'd rather do the action than watch it.

                    Other skiers -- They either wear bright colorful outfits or old faded clothes. Some of them look better with more clothing, some with a lot less. I do think that including other skiers does add interest to most photo scenes, so I try hard to shoot scenery photos with other skiers in them.

                    So for me what's interesting is:
                    * a really good video that's well-edited.
                    * a good GPS track for a great ski tour.
                    * photos of people I know and like.
                    * really good photos of skiers I don't know.

                    Personally I have a great interest in good GPS tracks and for key navigational and planning tips for great ski tours I want to do -- and good GPS tracks for skiing are still not so easy to find. So I work seriously to produce them. But you have not asked me to share.

                    CampToCamp.org and SkiTour.fr are pretty helpful on GPS and key planning details for France and west Switzerland. MountainProject is often helpful that way for USA climbing. And I've made a significant contributions for climbing on both c2c and MP (sometimes with photos).
                    c2c is especially interesting because it is (a) genuinely colloborative; (b) genuinely multi-lingual.
                    On both C2C and MP, other participants are free to add photos, so the "burden" does not fall only on a single original contributor.

                    Why shouldn't there be a website like SkiTour or c2c for USA skiing?

                    Ken
                    Last edited by KenR; 15 April 2014, 12:46 PM.

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                    • #25
                      No some actual pictures, "magnifique dans une ambiance haute montagne", posted here on EYT would be best. Yes, some pictures can be linked through, random pictures here
                      http://www.skitour.fr/photos/

                      But there is no context..
                      I am sitting here in Northern Vermont in pouring rain..
                      We are not "consumers"; just skiers who like pictures from awesome tours. You are doing the tours, for sure, we just want the pictures..
                      Last edited by chamonix; 15 April 2014, 01:55 PM.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by KenR View Post

                        Why shouldn't there be a website like SkiTour or c2c for USA skiing?

                        Ken
                        Perhaps you could start one, if that's what you're looking for... around here, people seem to like looking at pictures of where other people have skied.

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                        • #27
                          No need for me to start a website like CampToCamp.org -- since I'm already a happy reader and viewer of c2c. Also I'm a contributor to it: of route descriptions, reports, and Yes even my photos to c2c.
                          Recently in the last few months, I've contributed even some USA routes + areas -- for rock climbing, not skiing (yet).

                          I just posted my report of today's ski tour to CampToCamp, linked under farther down on the "Linked outings" list on the Les Rouies normal route description page.

                          Notice that the Outings list has a column 2nd from right end which can hold a symbol to indicate whether the Outing report has Photos in it -- so like the 3rd and 4th reports have the Photos symbol, but the 1st and 2nd do not. So there's no danger that a user of c2c who is desperate for photos of ski-touring to waste a previous click and page-view time on my Outing report.
                          (Seems to me that the photos in the 10th Outing on the list gives a good sample of how I remember the Les Rouies ski tour looked today - except that I had perfect clear sky)

                          I actually have posted some photos to EarnYourTurns -- in the New York 2014 thread.

                          Ken
                          Last edited by KenR; 16 April 2014, 02:30 PM.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by KenR View Post
                            I just posted my report of today's ski tour to CampToCamp, linked under farther down on the "Linked outings" list on the Les Rouies normal route description page.
                            There's already been one Comment to my Outing report on c2c. You guys are going to love it:
                            see Comment on c2c

                            Ken

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