6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
Formerly a neglected gem, the Bel Oiseau seems to be getting more and more attention from ski tourers, and with good reason.
The peak enjoys perfect views across to Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, and the terrain is exactly the sort that most adventurous ski mountaineers enjoy.
Depending on the time of year and the snow levels, there are various places from which to start the ascent.
The line we have drawn starts from the village of Finhaut and follows a jeep track initially, but you may well be able to drive higher and find a more interesting route up later in the season. Regardless of which exact route you take, you need to get to the Fenestral chalets, in the huge bowl east of the Bel Oiseau.
From the chalets, skin west-northwest into the bowl proper and follow it up and right, heading for the wide col north of the Bel Oiseau. The final ascent to the col is steep and you'll need to be conscious of avalanche conditions here.
Once at the Col, turn left and skin up just to the right of the crest of the Bel Oiseau North ridge.
This final ascent up the ridge is wonderful, with enough exposure to make things feel exciting but not scary, and huge views in all directions. The ENE Couloir starts just shy of the summit, so whether you choose to tag the summit or not, drop left off the summit ridge into the line and then enjoy the ride! The couloir starts out quite narrow and steep but quickly eases and widens and leads you down into the big bowl you skinned up.
Descending the bowl is brilliant because it is pure "pedal to the metal" terrain, with minimal obstacles and plenty of space to play with. From the bottom of the bowl there are once again various ways down back to your car, or Finhaut train station.