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.
Steep and enclosed on both sides by high cliffs, this couloir has a heavy ambiance and requires some delicate route finding to get to.
The convex entrance looks impressively steep from above as the slope disappears off into an apparent void.
Add to that the fact that it takes a great deal of traversing and hiking over various summits, ridges, faces of varying aspects and cols to get to it and you have a line that feels like a big adventure.
The ambiance only gets heavier if your guide falls on the first turn and disappears over the edge, as a visiting doctor and part time freerider known as Dr Rod and his colleague Matt discovered a few years ago.
From the summit of the Cucumelle, head down the east facing slope, keeping to the left hand side then traverse high on the south facing slope below the Tête du Grand Pré.
You’ll need to hike or sidestep up for a couple of minutes at the end of this traverse before traversing again, this time on the south east facing slope.
Go as far as the small col (col des Guibertes) then turn left (north) and head across the flat section before following the slope down, always keeping left until the entrance to the couloir.
There’s a big rock below the exit of the couloir which isn’t always obvious from above so unless you want to launch (onto a landing that isn’t that steep) then keep your eyes open.
Continue until the treeline and then bear left, cutting across a steep sided gulley to rejoin the Vallons des Corneilles itinerary and the steep, well spaced trees until traversing back to the Rochamout piste in Monêtier when you hit about 1900 metres altitude.
A word of warning to snowboarders – the traverses to get across are very tricky on your heel edge so this itinerary is best attempted only if you’re goofy or comfortable riding switch.