Pain de Sucre North Face

A steep and exciting descent which can easily be bailed from if conditions are poor.

Ski Touring Severe

Distance
6.8 km
Ascent
681 m
Descent
681 m
Duration
3-4 hrs
Low Point
2.4 km
High Point
2.9 km
Gradient
39˚
Pain de Sucre North Face Map

This route starts at the Grand St Bernard Monastery; in winter you'll have to skin up to this but in early summer, you can drive up to the Monastery and then (if there's still enough snow) do this tour.

Description

From the Monastery ski west to reach the Italian side of the Col Grand St Bernard and continue following the road as it drops down and goes through a tunnel. You can't ski through the tunnel but there's a pavement on the outside of it and you can generally ski along this. If, for whatever reason you can't, then drop into the valley to the south and start touring from there.

From the far side of the tunnel keep following the road until you're beneath the bowl east of Mont Fourchon. Skin up this bowl, which is easy but can feel something of a slog, to pass under the Tête de Fênetre.

Once beneath this peak, swing south-west and then south and climb a couple of steep-ish runnels, aiming for the foot of the Pain de Sucre's north-west ridge. The skinning gets quite steep at times and you'll need to have solid kick turning technique to make efficient progress.

Once at the foot of the ridge swap skis for crampons and scramble up easily in an exposed position to the Pain de Sucre's dramatic summit. There are literally a lifetime's worth of ski lines visible from the summit and it's worth picking out a few highlights for your to-do list.

Suitably inspired, descend back down the ridge slightly then drop off it northwards to reach a short, narrow and steep-ish (40 - 45 degree) couloir. If conditions are poor in the couloir then simply reverse your ascent route but if things are looking good then put your skis on at the top of the couloir, blast down it and then rip down a series of epically fun bowls and gullies which lead you back to the ascent route. Follow this back to the Grand St Bernard Monastery.

Difficulty

Severe

Steep skiing at 38-45 degrees. This requires very good technique and the risk of falling has serious consequences.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, December

Features

  • Bowl
  • Face
  • Alpine
  • Couloir
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area