4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
How often do you get to link up two 40 degree north facing couloirs for just over 1,000m of ascent? If you're into bang for your buck exciting ski descents with minimum uphill slog, this traverse is a cracking option but ski mountaineers only need apply. Whilst it may be accessible in terms of distance from the road, this is a serious itinerary and very much condition dependent.
Both the ascents and descents are steep and exposed so a considerable degree of skill, judgement and experience are absolute pre-requisites.
You will need to be comfortable with both skinning and skiing steep, narrow, and exposed slopes and be able to respond and adapt to conditions and significant ski mountaineering know-how. Begin in the parking at Confins and proceed directly up the Grand Cret.
The SE face of the Paré du Joux begins at around 2,100m so make a judgement call on the best entry point and start channelling your inner kick turn beast.
200m of steep narrow skinning with sections of around 40 degrees lies ahead! The summit of the col is at 2,309m.
Whilst there is enough space to move around reasonably comfortably for the descent, take care in transition. In good conditions, the NE couloir Paré du Joux is a cracker.
Shady and steep, it holds the snow well and at around 35-40 degrees is more than a pulse raiser.
The descent takes you in a NE direction until a natural switchback forces you round to the right and out into the Combe de Paccaly at around 1,900m The exit of the couloir takes you into the Combe de Paccaly where you can adapt your mission if needs be.
Descend to return directly to the car park or ascend and cross back into the Grand Cret via the Trou de la Mouche. If you're keen for more steep couloir action, then traverse the Combe to the base of the obvious couloir on the other side.
As before you're looking at a steep, narrow and exposed skin so you might prefer to bootpack - we did. After around 100m of ascent you'll arrive at the col at 2,140m.
Again, take care in transition as you have steep slopes both in front and behind.
The north facing couloir 'Tchadar' offers another excellent, atmospheric and exciting 200m descent that leads into the Combe du Tardevant. When you emerge into Tardevant you will be immediately aware how less busy it is than the previous combes.
Take the time to look back at where you've come from and soak up that wild Aravis ambience! At this point you have the option to ascend Tardevant if you have the time/legs/stoke or simply begin to make your way back to Confins.
Both sides of the Combe du Tardevant offer excellent options for shady, powder skiing or soft sunny snow so take time to work out your best option depending on snow conditions. Head in a SW direction until you reach the Chalets de Paccaly then onwards back to the car. Take the time to stop for a drink in one of the excellent bars/restaurants on the way back towards La Clusaz where you can admire your morning's work! Allow in the region of 4 -5 hours for the circuit.