/ La Grave Routes

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Dribble223 - on 08 Dec 2012
Could anyone please point me in the direction of some route descriptions/guidance for descents down into La Grave? I'm after an interesting descent, without the need for abseils, and I was wondering if any online guidance exists, or where I may acquire a guide book of some description from? If this is going to be simply too crazy of an idea we intend to hire a guide in country, however would prefer to be self reliant if possible.

Cheers
maxsmith - on 08 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223: im going to les 2 alpes in January and was just planning on hiring a guide, I've had a good look online and can't really see any detailed topos etc...
Dribble223 - on 08 Dec 2012
In reply to louiesmith:

I was told on another thread that it may be possible to get a guide book, and that there are a few possible descents that avoid the more extreme technicalities. So far I've amassed map sheets, but being glaciated I would expect some difference on the ground. Looks like I might have to wait until I'm over there...
kenr - on 09 Dec 2012
I have no personal knowledge about this, but I've heard that in recent hot summers, some of the gullies have melted out more completely than was normal in the previous decades ... and without an underlying layer of summer ice to cover over some of the "gaps" in the gully, the new snow in winter doesn't "stick" well near the gaps, or cover over those caps, or something like that.
Then some unsuspecting visiting parties following traditional guidance, have run into unexpected difficulty on their descents, and needed to be rescued.

Just a rumer.
But might be worth confirming any routes you intend to follow with local skiers there with recent knowledge of conditions for the upcoming season. (? Like maybe call the Guides office before setting out ?)

Ken
Pinch'a'salt on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223:

Vamos do a guidebook covering La grave, Alpe D'Huez & Deux Alpes which has the main itineraries in it...

http://www.editionsvamos.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=shop.flypage&produc...

Usual warnings apply, particularly to the routes dropping right to the valley floor...
Pinch'a'salt on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Pinch'a'salt:

...and even on these it can be a good idea to have some 'useful kit' - things like the Chirouze have one or two sections where they can get very scraped off after a few skier passages and a rope definitely make slife more secure.
Dribble223 - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Pinch'a'salt:

Cheers guys, some sage advice. By the sounds of it, getting local advice is a definite, so I'll do that. Gear wise, what do folk carry? Would a 60m rope, harness, few screws and ab gear be advisable? Don't want to forget owt!
Ian Black - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223: I know you say you don't want to rap off, but I'd still take 2x60m half ropes.
Dribble223 - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Ian Black:

Would you take that, or a 60 and a tag line? (For weight saving) I'm not looking to rap, but will need to be prepared to by the sounds of it. Best to be prepped :-)
Swirly - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223:
>
> Cheers guys, some sage advice. By the sounds of it, getting local advice is a definite, so I'll do that. Gear wise, what do folk carry? Would a 60m rope, harness, few screws and ab gear be advisable?

Depends what you're planning on skiing. If it's just the traditional "easy" routes then standard off piste kit is fine. If you're going from the top i.e. on the glacier then you'd want to add harnesses and crevasse rescue kit including 2 x 30 m ropes for the group. This would be advisable if you're planning any of the lines to the valley, you don't need to ab on all of them but conditions can be variable (as on anything with a 2000+ m descent) and you might find a small ice or rock step to get over. If you have a rope it gives you an extra option to "up or huck".

The above guidebook is a pretty good guide to the area, it misses a lot but most of these require long ropes, are more exposed and/or are properly out the way. There is a nice flash guide on the skierslodge website although some of the lines are drawn in the wrong place.

Something very useful at La Grave is the full time presence of a guide at the base station, he'll be the best source of current advice on conditions and which lines are in good nick on a given day. They are very helpful and always worth a chat with first thing.

Bruce Hooker - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223:

Assuming you mean skiing in winter there are no easy ways down but there ways, ending through the woods, so quite narrow and tricky. Again assuming you mean from the skiing zone above and to the South, from the North it is easy.

There are ski mountaineering guides of the area, the one for the descent from the Meije side to La Grave is "Ski de Randonnée - Hautes Alpes, Editions Olizane".

http://www.amazon.fr/Ski-randonn%C3%A9e-Hautes-Alpes-Emmanuel-Cabau/dp/2880863740/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

There's an older edition which I have - describes a traverse down from the top f the La Grave telepherique, over three days, route N°140. Level D and described as "engagé", sounds interesting alright :-)
Dribble223 - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

Thanks, yeah I'm looking at a winter descent if the conditions suit. We're looking for something coming over from les deux side and down, so we can get back home on the 'phrique. I've heard that the woods are a chew, but it's worth the hassle as the skiing before hand is first rate?

Some ace pointer with guide books and advice- very thankful! :-)
Haggis Trap on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223:

> We're looking for something coming over from les deux side and down,
> so we can get back home on the 'phrique. I've heard that the woods are
> a chew, but it's worth the hassle as the skiing before hand is first
> rate?

Get the Vamos book, and a map. Stick to the Vallon De Meije or Chancel routes until you have a good idea of the topography and some local knowledge. There is still plenty fun to be had on the main lines.

There are loads of other more remote routes - but the terrain is exceptionally complex and not to be underestimated. Would be irresposnible to recommend them on a web forum to strangers... especially if your dropping in blind at the top from L2A. One of my best mates has spent the last 3 years in LG as a ski bum and has a good story about rescuing some Spaniards that spent a night stuck in a couloir - they couldnt find the rappel and very nearly died of hypothermia.

Enjoy - its a great mountain with a unique vibe!
Dribble223 - on 09 Dec 2012
In reply to Haggis Trap:

Cheers for that- thanks for the honesty also, everyone seems to have a great respect for the place, so we will definitely not be underestimating the mountain. I've managed to get 1:25k map sheets of the area, so now just to get a guide book and to check out local conditions etc. I shall definitely be getting as much local beta as I can before attempting anything :-)
Bruce Hooker - on 10 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223:

I just had a look at the La Grave web site, they give a fair bit of info. Here's a map of a couple of descents to La Grave, more direct that in the guide book I mentioned. All off piste though, but you've gathered that by now:

http://la-grave.com/images/visuelles/1900ko.pdf

The site is here:

http://www.lagrave-lameije.com/index.jsp?c=67223&exp=67223

The topo shows the connection with the Deux Alpes ski domain.

PS. There's loads of snow in the Alps at present, the French telly has been full of reports of blocked roads and avalanche danger.

Haggis Trap on 10 Dec 2012
In reply to Dribble223:

Yip - that will be the La Grave "piste map" ;-)

Get the Vamos book and you will be all prepped to start exploring the 2 main lines. Our first trip to La Grave we had loads of fun exploring the main lines (took us an enitre week just to ski the options in the 2 main valleys - this place is huge!).

If you really want to start finding out what LG is all about then its best to stay on that side of the mountain - much nicer town if you are there for the off piste. Travelling over from L2A limits your options.
Dribble223 - on 11 Dec 2012
In reply to Haggis Trap/Bruce:

Thanks once more for the help and advice. I'm really stoked to be getting out there! Cheers for the weather update Bruce- hopefully there will be a good bit of freeze thaw over the coming weeks!

Cheers
Kanobi - on 01 Jan 2013
In reply to Dribble223: If you've got the vamos guidebook then you'll see in it couloir banane and patou (though I think it might have another name in the guidebook). You drop into them from Chancel, both good fun and engaging enough but not too hard or dangerous. Once you've got the hang of the place then if you head left a bit (!) from the below the Chancel hut then there's the Freaux couloir which, in my opinion, is the best introduction to the really exciting stuff that LG has to offer. It's a narrow couloir that drops all the way down to Les Freaux below on the main road. Steep'ish at the top though - 45deg and sustained all the way down. And it's not always that easy to find - from memory you need to take the lefter of the two couloirs - the right is apparently skiable but I don't know anyone that's done it and think there's an ab.
For all of those you don't need ropes etc and there's no glacier.
After that you're onto the 'road runs'... Chirouze, La Voute etc. All amazing and very committing but not in any way advised without a guide!! Even for a very good skier it's the route finding that is a real issue... take the wrong fork in a couloir and you really will drop off a 150ft cliff!
There's some good warm up stuff in Deux Alpes if you find yourself there, the 'Nuns' (tight at the top!) being my favourite which you drop into from the Bellecombe lift but you'd need to ask someone to show you where exactly.
LG is an amazing place, I spent last season there. There's probably a bit of helpful stuff on my blog but anymore specific questions, ask me and I'll do my best to answer.
http://onefootinlagrave.wordpress.com/

maxsmith - on 02 Jan 2013
In reply to Kanobi: Hi Kanobi, I'm heading out to L2A on jan 19th for a week's holidays. I'm going to book a guide for at least one day at La Grave, but was just wondering if you could recommend some easy-ish to find/describe off piste which is accessible from L2A chairlifts. I have been to this resort before but it was many years ago so my memory is kind of hazy!
Thanks, Louie
Kanobi - on 02 Jan 2013
Sure... my favourite in DA is La Deversoir (or something like that!)... or 'the Nuns' to Brits 'cos the entrance can be a little tight! You can see it from the bottom of the two Thuit chairs, it's a prominent couloir as you look back up towards the top of DA, probably about 300m long. To get into it you access from the bottom of the Bellecombe lift. It;s quite hard to explain but basically on the other side of the piste from the lift, there's a slight uphill (like 30 metres worth) and then it's about a 200 m ski to get to the top of the couloir. I can't really explain it much better than that as you kind of just have to work it out, but there's nearly always tracks into it (though it doesnt get skied out too much) so whilst Im not an advocate of saying 'follow the tracks' for this type of in resort off piste you should be ok!! Holds the snow well and good even if the lights bad as its a couloir. Good LG practice run - get those jump turns nailed!
The other good one is the Rachas which you will see as you sit on the Bellecombe lift. You access by going skiers left from the top of the lift - that gets tracked into very quickly after new snow fall and it's usually pretty safe because they bomb the wotsit out of all round there as there's pistes below. Rachas is pretty easy though there's a harder bit you can drop into skiers right.
Chalance is the main and biggest off piste route in DA (plus a couple of others that go further round and down to the village of Cuculet, but not done that yet). Chalance is the most backcountry feeling route in DA. Again they bomb some of it as there's piste below but you still need to be careful in there. There was an avalanche in it a couple of weeks ago and the chap ended up with just one of his ski poles! You access it from up by the Signal chair. I've also done Electric Couloir but it was a white out and there wasn't enough snow in it... bit of an epic!
For all of these, best to buy the vamos guidebook as they're all in there with proper definitions. There my favourites though.
Enjoy! Rich
Swirly - on 07 Jan 2013
In reply to Kanobi: The Electrique is a bit weird; it skis a lot narrower than it looks.

For more on L2A off piste check out: http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=45488&highlight=deux

It really gets going about page 4, my top 3 runs in L2A are Mines (don't try this unless you know exactly where you are going), St Christophe via Toura (in the Vamos guide but again you might want someone to show you the way) and (in good snow it's quite often sastrugied to f**k) the Echine de Chevres (linking this into Mines would be a mammoth 2400 m of descent).
Mat - on 08 Jan 2013
In reply to Dribble223:

If you've not already looked then the skiers lodge based in La Grave do an excellent all in one package for accomodation, half board and full days guiding. They do weeks, 3 day midweek or long weekend.

Might seem expensive but you'll do more of La Grave in 3 days with them than you would a week on your own easily.

http://www.skierslodge.com/what-we-offer/
kevin stephens - on 08 Jan 2013
In reply to Dribble223:
Worth reading this
http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=92972
I'm normally averse to hiring guides but from what I've read I'd join a guided group for my first trip to LG (hopefully March) if only to get the most out quite complicated routes and terrain - unlke say GM where route finding on many of the backcountry/day tour routes seems more straightforward.
Kanobi - on 09 Jan 2013
In reply to Swirly: Electric was full of rocks when I did - knackered my skis big time. Too scared to ever go back!
Swirly - which run in Mines? The one down to Cuculet? And Echine de Chevres..?
Cheers
maxsmith - on 09 Jan 2013
In reply to Kanobi: thanks for the detailed reply :)
Swirly - on 09 Jan 2013
In reply to Kanobi: Echine de Chevres is the glacier in L2A skiers right of the pistes (almost made a monumental cock up on that in low viz which would have been pretty embarrassing). Mines is skiers left below the signal chair all the way to the main road. The main problem is there are three exits from the final bowl of which two are 100m ice falls, not a place to be unsure of your directions. Check the snowheads link I posted above plenty of pictures on there.
Kanobi - on 09 Jan 2013
In reply to Swirly: ah 'the sheen' as I know it, now I know why - excpetionally good on a powder day! Didnt know there were routes down from the signal... will have to look into that!! Cheers Rich
Kanobi - on 10 Jan 2013
In reply to louiesmith: No worries. Swirly mentions St Christophe which is a beautiful run, but I've only accessed it from LG - which I think is easier as there's no schlepping - you just drop in from the top of the drag right at the top. It's safe (relative!) as it's south facing but just take note of where the winds been coming from - if from the north then the top can be loaded as it loads. Amazing descent (half an hour of pure skiing) but a bit of a trek out, especially for snowboarders (can be a half hour walk + depending on snow lower down). You need a car left there or you can sort a taxi from the cafe in St C but expect 80 E + back to DA/LG.
Rich
Frank4short - on 10 Jan 2013
In reply to Kanobi:
> Swirly mentions St Christophe which is a beautiful run, but I've only accessed it from LG - which I think is easier as there's no schlepping - you just drop in from the top of the drag right at the top. It's safe (relative!) as it's south facing but just take note of where the winds been coming from - if from the north then the top can be loaded as it loads. Amazing descent (half an hour of pure skiing) but a bit of a trek out, especially for snowboarders (can be a half hour walk + depending on snow lower down). You need a car left there or you can sort a taxi from the cafe in St C but expect 80 E + back to DA/LG.
> Rich

When I did it (and to be fair that's the best part of 10 years ago now) the deal was you skied the run as early as you could in the morning. Which was probably around 10ish considering it takes about that to get to the very top in LG from first lift. Basically after that you went non stop. In st Christophe you'd buy a full set menu lunch in the cafe, wasn't great but wine was included, and then the woman who owned the cafe put on a bus back to the lift up L2A. Which gave, just barely, enough time to get to the top of the L2A lift system and get the link across to LG. After which followed a gentle ski back to town stopping for beers at all available locations. :)
Kanobi - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to louiesmith: Have just finally got round to updating my blog and have tried to name the pictures so might be a helpful guide:
http://onefootinlagrave.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/beginning-the-season-in-style/
ads.ukclimbing.com
Swirly - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to Kanobi:
> (In reply to louiesmith) No worries. Swirly mentions St Christophe which is a beautiful run, but I've only accessed it from LG - which I think is easier as there's no schlepping - you just drop in from the top of the drag right at the top.

None in but (as a snowboarder) quite a bit out. From Toura you drop straight down to the mouth of the Vallon de la Selle. It's worth doing both ways though the traverse through the valley is absolutely stunning even if you have to do it on snowshoes, just watch out for stuff coming down from above: there are a lot of south facing hanging glaciers.

Frank4short has the right idea, the cafe is very good and they can sort out a taxi. There are buses too but the guides book up the early one. We has two cars with us so left them in the valley for a while to shuttle to and from the lift.


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