Route -
to Zermatt

Bermese Oberland Tour
Gogarth Climbing June 2004
Tignes January 2004

Phil had recently moved to Jersey,with Claire and Olivia and had to drive down on his own, whilst Nigel, Lee, Dave and I, made our way down seperately. We had arranged to meet in Moutiers at 6am., for breakfast at the PMU bar.
Not surprisingly, we arrived some time before Phil, but after a croque monsieur and a big strong coffee we were fit for a good day out. The weather was excellent, blue skies and sunshine, so we set off for Courchevel and parked at Le Praz, just up the road from the apartment we had all stayed at last January.
We started easily, as usual. Who suggested going straight to Saulire? However, the Mille Allee was in good condition and went well.
In the Creux area four people had been spotted making the traverse to the entry to the Les Avals valley and that was it, we had to go too. From the top of the Chanrossa lift a traverse is made towards the Roc Merlet, over a little col and the vista opens onto a beautiful valley with a few tracks in superb powder in front of us.This would be the third time I had been in this valley and it is superb, there are numerous possibilities, but we just took it easy and followed the route taken by others. The avalanche risk was high at 4, so we needed to take care.
Dave hadn't come with us to Les Avals so we had arranged to meet him at L'Ours Blanc in Courcheval 1650 for lunch, but he was late and we had finished by the time he arrived. Dave missed out on his lunch today!
For the next four days we went for the trees. The clouds were down and it snowed every night. Wonderful, all we needed to do was wait for the sun to arrive.
Off the Matis road from Solaise in Val D'Isère, there are many ways down to Le Laisinant where you can get the bus back to Val or La Daille. At La Daille, again, under the bubble and by the funicular the trees give great powder. Be careful though. In one area, trees had been chopped down and stumps had been left, onto one of which I fell, leaving me with very painful ribs.
Midweek found us in St Foy, after taking DaveC to the hospital to have his foot x-rayed. (That was the end of his weeks boarding), the top was closed due to avalanche risk, so we stayed in the trees. At Les Arcs, taking the train up from Bourg St Maurice. The sun did actually come out, but it was very cold. However, there was plenty of powder around.

Thursday evening came and the meteo was promising sun for Friday. At last! Phil was adamant - we had to get up early and get on the lift for 9am. And we did it! We drove up to Val Claret (chains 100% necessary) and made our way up to the Col Du Palet. We wanted to check out the couloirs on the Aiguille du Chardonnet. However, there were no tracks up to them, so we just ducked out left round the back of the lift cabin at the top of the Col du Palet lift and took in the easy off piste across to the Signal piste.

Oh no! Look at that. About twenty people were heading for the couloirs But on going back up the lift we were astonished to see at least 20 people making their way up the mountainside adjacent to the top of the Grattalu lift. Ok, the decision was made. We had to go now.Phil makes his way over to Nigel and Lee

The good thing about not being first is that you can follow the tracks up and in deep powder, this is great. Also, the avalance risk is tested by somebody else, although this is no guarantee it won't happen to you - it could be they disturb the snow and it gives when you go. (No - you don't want it to go on them either) It was pleasing to see that most people were going for the first, easier, couloir and that only about six people were going up to the top shoulder, where we wanted to go. On reaching it, Phil made conversation with a woman guide watching her clients down in the couloir."What's the avalanche risk today?" (We already knew) "It's high - 4 or 5. I think we are doing dangerous things today".

The guide's clients make there way downPhil leads the wayI had been to this point a couple of years ago with Phil, but then we looked down on rocks and said "There's no way we're going down there"
This time was very different. Phil led the way and the way was quite narrow.

Lee goes down to join the others The couloir is on the left Lee went next. I asked Nigel if he minded whether I went next. He said he did. It's understandable really as I am slower on my skis than the others are on their boards. But on admitting that I was quite nervous about this, he said he was as well. Phil reckonned it was 40º. But it went well and the picture right doesn't do it justice.

The narrow couloir is in the centreMore fresh powder awaitsThis makes it look better and below there was a huge area of fresh powder to go for. (The lower, easier couloir is to the left)

A brilliant routeA view from the Grand Huit liftThe route leads out to the Grand Huit lift and from the top, going straight on and round to the left, the Centaurée run left unpisted is worthwhile. From the top of the lift again, we turned right and made a short traverse for about a 100 yards. A new bowl awaited.

Wow! 14 consecutve turns in powderWe crossed to a small rocky hump to assess the area. Below, to the right, there had been an avalanche. But the whole area was pristine - no tracks at all. Phil reckonned keeping just left of the avalanche would be safest and we agreed. So three straightline board tracks were laid down before me and I managed 14 consecutive turns in the superb powder - my personal best (and well pleased with it).
Oh no! Where's the off piste - Aig Percee and crowds

Phil and Lee get ready, click & go and ratchetJust a few yards up left from the lift, over the rise, the Vallon opens out before you, leading all the way down to Les Brevières.

Nigel and Phil on the lower Vallon

t's a straightforward descent, but watch out at the end of the plateau shown above. Don't get caught in the trees, but keep your height and go right, to head for the piste not far ahead leading down to the village. The way through the trees heads into a steep, narrow gorge. Nige made it ok though!

Er, I think this is a bad idea, NigeThe gorge is not advisedIt was the first time down in Les Brevières
when it wasn't freezing, the sun disappears early here.
We gave up on trying to get some food here and carried on back up the hill.

Through the Aig Percée, trending left and off piste all the way down to the road by the lake. The free navette took us back up to the car park. One of the best days ever.

Heading to the Pays DesertNigel jumps a corniceThere were several opportunities for some fun and the boarders took it in turn to crash into soft powder by trying different jumps. The area leads to a long run out to the Pays Desert lift.

Yet more snow

Trend left for the ridgeFrom the top of here on to the Col de L'Iseran and then down to the Leissières Express and over into Val D'Isère for the Cugnai lift and the Cugnai off piste.
At the top of the lift duck under the tape and head off into the bowl ahead. Trending left, a ridge can be crossed as a variation from the usual way straight down. By coming round right after the ridge brings us back to the route straight down. Both are great, leading to the Manchet Express. Dominating this lift is the east face of the Charvet on which Phil pointed out some ways down - projects for future trips. (The Tour du Charvet comes out under this face also). Time was getting on, so we headed for Solaise and the Matis road to descend through the trees again to Le Laisinant.

Charvet east faceThe last run downIt had been a very tiring week (as they usually are) and DaveC was very unfortunate to miss most of it after his fall early in the week. But we had done a great deal, with some new highlights and technique improving in great powder. We had to wait, now, another three weeks for our next trip, to Switzerland, when Phil's and my priority would be some puffing uphill, doing day tours around Verbier.


David Mercer2004