FATMAP difficulty grade
Aiguille de la Grande Sassière is a mountain in the Graian Alps, on the boundary between the Aosta Valley (northern Italy) and the French department of Savoie in the Tarentaise Valley.
This route to aiguille de la Grande Sassière summit (3,747m) is a high alpine challenge, with the final third being along a ridgeline beside Sassière glacier.
You'll enjoy stunning views the entire route! It is the highest and longest trail that is rideable in the French Alps that isn't protected by a National Park. Highlights include views of the nearby Grande Sassière, multiple lakes, Sassière glacier, and down the Aosta Valley from the summit.
There’s only about a 6-week window every summer where the snow on the glacier has melted from the West Ridge trail and it’s actually possible to ride all the way down without needing to walk.
Start from the parking at Lac du Saut and be prepared for a strenuous 5+ hour climb to the summit, with a combination of carrying and pushing your bike most of the way.
Take the time to enjoy the stunning views—particularly as the path comes around the back of the Grande Sassière, looking down on Sainte Foy and Tignes.
The final third of the ascent is straight up a 45° rocky shale slope on the west ridge. The shale is difficult to get a good grip on as it moves below your feet, and black ice is highly possible, so extreme caution is required here.
There will be an overwhelming sense of triumph once the summit is reached—take in the amazing views over the Western Alps. Avoiding stopping too long at the summit, as the altitude dictates very chilly temperatures.
Drop down from the summit the way you came.
The descent is extremely technical and exposed—use caution! The route mapped here offers an alternative extension to the descent from the Aiguille de la Grande Sassière route.
However, note that you will need to get a shuttle back to the beginning of your route. The trail continues to be challenging with exposure over rocky, barren terrain until you reach the treeline where you'll find a fabulous, techy, and fun descent through the forest above Le Chevril. Take the time to enjoy the stunning views during this descent in a high alpine location...
although negotiation of the trail does make that particularly difficult.
This is an incredible, epic ride and should be undertaken seriously and responsibly.
But it's well-worth the arduous effort!