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.
If you feel like the hike up La Balme isn’t enough or a workout, you can add 10 minutes by continuing the climb up to the next ridge, Roche Gauthier.
The east facing slopes from this ridge used to be skied out pretty quickly but nowadays stay untracked for longer as the climb to ski ratio isn’t all that great.
Negotiating the ridge itself is almost more exciting and treacherous than the descent.
That’s if you stick to the main open face.
There are also a couple of chutes and cliff jumps to the left before you reach the open face that are worth exploring if you’re that way inclined and the snow conditions are right.
To get here, start at the top of the Vallons or Cucumelle chairlifts, walking south along the ridge for a few minutes at which point you’ll be able to put your skis back on and take as much speed as possible along the same ridge.
Once you can’t get any further on your skis, hike the rest on foot as far as the small cabin at the top.
Helpfully the ridge nearly always has a nicely groomed cat track in it as it is used by the ski patrol to get from one valley to the next quickly and for avalanche control.
This makes the going easier.
From the cabin, hike up the steep slope directly above it and then get onto the narrow ridge that leads south.
You’ll sometimes need to drop right or left of the ridgeline when it becomes too rocky.
Once at the top of the open face the choice of line is all yours.
Just watch out for the big step onto the ski patrollers’ track at the bottom of the first pitch.
Continue on and join up with the pistes lower down.