4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
A classic steep couloir in an utterly wild corner of the French Alps, this is ski touring heaven.
Start out in the tiny hamlet of Les Fonds and skin south along a track into the valley to the west of Pic Lombard.
Where the skin track for Pic Lombard branches off left, stay on the main track and cross a river.
Carry on skinning to the south as the track begins to climb towards the north-west face of the Sommet du Grand Vallon.
Climb the face itself (there are a series of rocky buttresses on the face but it's straightforward to find a mellow way through them) which culminates with a lovely gentle slope onto the summit. The view from the top is fabulous, with mountains as far as the eye can see and a lifetime of ski touring possibilities sitting all around you. If conditions on the north don't look good, skiing back down the ascent route provides a fun descent, but the real prize is undoubtedly the North Couloir. Ski due north off the summit and negotiate your way through a small rock band that accesses the main couloir.
The exact line you take through the rock band will depend on conditions and snow cover but once in the main couloir navigation and route finding are unlikely to be an issue! The route is clear, consistent, fun and aesthetic - a pretty decent combination by any standard! Enjoy the steep turns and the wild scenery around you as you ski down towards the wide valley beneath the couloir.
Ski easily down the valley and then gradually turn further and further to the north and until you're back on the track you began the ascent on.
Ski easily back to Les Fonds and drive down to Briancon for a celebratory drink!