Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade does not take into account objective hazards (stone fall, seracs, etc) but only the consequences of the skier falling.
Low Exposure (E1): Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.
Medium Exposure (E2): As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.
High Exposure (E3): In case of a fall, death is highly likely.
Extreme Exposure (E4): In case of a fall, the skier faces certain death.
‘Coude’ means ‘Elbow’ in French and you can see why this couloir has been given this name when you look at it from the top of the Bachas chairlift (look up and left).
Steep and narrow, this couloir should be approached with respect and is not somewhere you want to fall, especially if the snow is firm.
The entrance can be tricky, sometimes beyond vertical because of a cornice, so check it out from below first and know when to say ‘no’.
Getting to it can be a bit of an expedition in itself.
From the summit of the Cucumelle (a 20-30 minute hike), follow the ridge to the NW.
The ridge is not always easy to follow and you’ll sometimes need to pick your way through rocks and drop below the ridge to the right (east) from time to time.
Take care not to get too close to the left edge as there can be hidden cornices hovering over huge cliffs.
The entrance to the couloir is about 700 metres along the ridge from the summit of the Cucumelle.
Once in the couloir the line down is obvious.
After the bend to the left there can sometimes be exposed rocks and ice so make sure you take the line you’ve scoped out from below.
Once out of the couloir, you can let the skis run a bit more on the wide open face that leads back to the Eychauda or Combe Rateau piste.