5 - 6
FATMAP difficulty grade
It's a big day this one, but at least the refuge start makes it much more manageable, making it a likely objective for many avid ski mountaineers with the correct fitness, glacier safety and mountaineering experience. From the refuge, the ascent route starts with a short descent (that can be completed with skins on) in a northerly direction towards the Glacier de Grands Couloirs and then ascends steeply through the moraine on the looker’s left hand side of the glacier.
After a short steep pitch, you will then find yourself on the Glacier des Grands Couloirs, which needs to be ascended to reach the summit of the Grande Casse.
It is possible to skin the whole way, with some very steep kick turns, but many will find it easier (and less stress!) to remove their skis and bootpack a short, steep pitch in the middle of the glacier.
Once the steep pitch of the glacier is over then there’s just a short & mellow ski up to the ridgeline that can be bootpacked to reach the summit. Being the highest in the Tarentaise, the summit of the Grande Casse is sublime with a 360 degree panorama spanning across France, Italy and Switzerland.
Take in the views and catch a breath before the 1,355 vertical meter descent back down to the refuge! Once back at the refuge, you can take it easy and spend another night before finishing off the final half of the ‘Refuge du Col de la Vanoise Ski Tour’ route, or return back to Tignes on the same day, as long as it’s not too late or your legs can’t handle any more.