Vanoise Haute Route • April 12 - 14, 2014

After our Haute Route, we took advantage of a couple of free days and a decent weather forecast, to explore as much as we could of a "Haute Route de la Vanoise", something we've heard great reports about and have long wanted to check out.

Return to all recent trips


In order to pack essentially 5 days of touring into three, we opted to start in Val Thorens, where we left our car. A festive atmosphere in this bustling ski base.


Heading up the lifts for a good "leg up" on our first climb.


Our first climb is a 300m skin up to the Col de Gébroulaz.


We are rewarded with a long and varied descent of the Glacier de Gébroulaz. Many possible lines down this drainage! We left the crowds behind as everyone seemed to be on a different program once past the Col. So many choices!


Spring corn snow conditions prevail on the sunny aspects.


Another long climb, up over the Col d'Aussois, leads to our final descent of the day.


Reaching the col in the mid afternoon.


Pretty nice buttery skiing!


Evening light from the porch of the cozy and friendly Refuge du Fond d'Aussois.


The following day was forecast to be stormy in the morning, but to clear off "quickly". Actually it started out quite nice, but only got worse as the day progressed. So much for that forecast!


The skies cleared, though strong winds persisted, as we reached our first pass, the Col de Labby.


A key part of our plan to fit this tour in to three days, entailed crossing the upper slopes of the various "Glaciers de la Vanoise", thus bypassing a major descent to, and re-ascent from, the Arpont hut, currently closed for renovation. Mark starts out across the high plateau.


Beautiful light, and decent snow conditions for this traverse.


Though quite steep in places, we made it through to the Dome des Nants just as the clouds came and engulfed us once more.


Brief clearings allowed us to enjoy much of the descents between climbs.


But back into the clouds again, we skied much of the latter part of the traverse roped together on the glacier, and relying heavily on GPS tracks presciently prepared by Mark.


We reached our goal, the newly re-furbished Refuge du Col de la Vanoise, in plenty of time for a nap before dinner! The following morning, the sun once again shines as we leave the Col.


Looking back at the terrain we had navigated through the previous afternoon, we're especially glad we had some technological assistance. Fairly flat and featureless terrain at the pass (far left).


Kathy approaching today's much more dramatic, Col de la Grande Casse.


Mark ascends into the morning sun!


The ski down the back side is already softening up and feeling good!


The view back up to the Col de la Grande Casse.


The descent is long and lovely.


Corn snow beneath the dramatic wall of the North Face of the Grande Casse.


Descending into the tight little valley of the "Doron de Champagny".


The snow ran out a little early; conditions in the lower elevations being what they are this year, we had plenty of walking, and negotiating of avalanche debris, before we reached the driveable road and civilization.


The village of Friburge, protected, rustic, and peaceful, hidden away in the high valley.


At last we reach the road end at Champagny-le-haut. No more snow to ski here!


A taxi ride takes us back to the Trois Vallées ski resort, which we re-enter at Brides-les-Bains. A long cable car ride takes us back to the heights, and we get a magnificent view of the distant Mont Blanc. Quite nearby as the crow flies!


Happy throngs enjoying spring snow and summer warmth at the top of the Meribel complex. Looking south toward La Meije (far right in the background).


Back in Val Thorens, we enjoy the amenities. We've had quite enough of walking, thank you very much.


The place was buzzing with crowds of tired and happy skiers and tobogganing kids; live bands tuning up for après-ski parties; the smell of fried food making us hungry despite our better judgment. Underneath it all, a distinct, almost seedy atmosphere, like that of an old World's Fair-ground, or perhaps just an overly ambitious holiday hub that possibly has already seen its best days...


But the terrain! Unbelievably good back there, and so much of it! We can't wait to come back next year and explore it further. Care to join us?

Your Comments - more info
comments powered by Disqus