Monday, February 9, 2015

Home-based snowchasing!

Luckily for us, it has snowed quite a lot with the last system around Grenoble and conditions were looking pretty good. We still had the useless RV parked near my apartment and the owner wasn’t available to take it back leaving us to stick around home....

Babiche was still a bit sick from iis manly flu but by carefully managing half-truth and unknown promises, I manage to lurk him all the way up the Charmant Som in the Chartreuse Massif. 

It was quite a perfect day! 
With pretty much no wind, not too warm for the snow to transform but still really not cold, broken clouds getting stuck on the surrounding peaks, it was quite unreal!
Since the avalanche danger was still fairly high, we stuck to some low angle terrain and tree run all the way down. 
Amelie joined us the following day as we headed out near the Grande Chartreuse monastery. This monastery is actually the one that gave the name to the alcohol and the mountain range! 
I have been hiking around this area during the autumn and I did spotted some nice tree run. We had quite a hard time to find the one that I’ve seen but found some good trees to have some good safe tree laps. 
Before we headed out to the trees behind the Grande Chartreuse, we went to a parking lot near St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse from which there was a good run (from the information we were able to gather) to be done. 
I took off with Babiche into a fairly whiteout kind of day. We were trying to follow the written instructions about where to go but eventually took a wrong turn and ended up into a dead-end kind of couloir. Being a bit tired from opening an above the knee skintrack and not finding the motivation to go any higher with the low visibility, we ended down and follow the gully in which we went up. 
We worked pretty hard to open up the skintrack in the adjacent forest to preserve the gully untrack. We were pretty glad that we did so on the way down since we were really able to enjoy the snow!
For our next tour, we figured, we would stick to some more common touring area to avoid the brutal skin-up. We drove to the Col de Marcieu and headed toward the Couloir en Virgule. This area feature a nice couloir. 

With Babiche still not 100%, we started skinning in the little family resort. 
The skintrack gently follow a summer road all the way up. As we were almost to the top, we stop for a little lunch break hoping that the clouds would burn off. We waited for about 30minutes shelter near a big rock face.  
A group of 2 Frenchies went by and we talked for a few minutes. They keep going up and after 10minutes, they scream back at us saying that they were over the clouds!.... 

We both felt pretty stupid at this moment!
We rushed up to the top as we were barely above the clouds. We waited for a few minutes and were able to get some sneak view of the Belledonne range just in front once in a while. After the mandatory picture, we made it down straight into the clouds. We were probably able to make 1 and a half turn before we were totally submerge by clouds.
The couloir was fairly tracked out and there wasn’t much freshies to be found. It is actually quite hard to find the typical itinerary that I am used to. 
A lot of the routes that you can find are not really focusing on the skiing but on the view, the vertical that you can do (European really love long approach followed by big vertical). The focus is really not as much about the down as in North America....

Anyway, home-based snowchasing as its advantages as we discussed those differences over a cheese fondue!
Babiche being still down from his flue, I went out with Amelie for a tour this time over on the Vercors massif. Grenoble being surrounded by mountains, there is actually more than 4 different mountain range less than 30 minutes drive.

We started under the clouds without any visibility. 
After trying to find a parking spot to go towards the Crocs, we parked to a different parking lot figuring that we would find our way up nevertheless. We followed a skintrack and we were pretty sure we were straight on target and climbing towards our goal. Things got a bit clearer as we made it above the clouds. 
After looking at the guidebook, we figured that we were almost at the right place and we thought we matched features from the picture in the book. That was until we realize that the passage we were aiming for was a really steep, unpractical rock face and that figure we were go to the nearby summit. 

Once up there, we eventually figured out that we were one mountain away from the one we were aiming for... I am really use to follow a skintrack that is going to a single goal, but there is so many people touring and skintrack going all over the place in Europe, that it is almost impossible to see where you are and where you are going if you don’t have any visibility to start with and no GPS.

Anyway, after feeling quite stupid (again!!!), we enjoyed the nice bright sun and the inversion providing a nice see of clouds above which only the tallest peaks (including the Mt Blanc!!) where showing off!
The ski down was also quite spectacular! I really love skiing above an inversion and feeling that we are above the clouds. 
The party eventually ended up as we got into a fairly thick bush lower down. 
After a little while, we made it up back to the car tired, but really happy!
On the following day, the forecast wasn’t that great. I was planning to go skiing out with Amélie, and two of her friends, Ali and Pauline. Ali works as a professionnal rescuer and live in the Vercors. I didn’t really look at the skiing option and figured out that he would know better than me!!!
With some wind that were supposed to get above 80km/h, he planned a lower altitude tour. We started out not too far from his home and started to gain altitude on some open mountain fields. As we were making our way up, the wind picked up and the further we were making it up, the worst it got. 
With the wind scouring the snow and with not much skiing pleasure in sight, we skied down figuring that it won’t be a day to remember for years to come! It would have been nice to be able to complete the tour he planned since it included some nice skiing, but I guess we can't still control the weather!
After snacking at Ali’s place over the usual bread, cheese and home made cake, we went down to Grenoble.

With not much snow on the forecast, I am really looking forward to see what good we’ll be able to find in the coming week!


1 comment:

Maxime Lachance said...


I didn't watch this post at work ,
But , worst than that ,

From Canmore ( Banff ) Alberta.....

Ski season here is down the drain.
Check it out if you want to laugh

you just share with us what PARADISE looks like
Thanks and keep the dream going :)