A ski mountaineering tour in the Haute Maurienne
Sainte Foy is a small quiet village on the road
between Bourg St. Maurice and Val d'Isère. It has its own
pisted ski area and also gives access to several well-known ski-touring
areas, including the Vanoise National Park and the Maurienne valley.
Both areas have numerous mountain huts and fine peaks to ascend
and descend on ski. Whilst the main ski area of Tignes and Val d'Isère
L'espace Killy is huge, it doesn't take long to get
off the beaten track and find quieter areas, many of which are blessed
with virgin un-skied snow long after the off-piste routes of the
main ski area are skied out. This short article describes a ski
tour in the Haute Maurienne area.
Foy is an excellent launch pad for a ski tour in the Haute Maurienne
and the Hotel le Monal provides a comfortable billet. This is just
as well as the intrepid members of this tour were forced to seek
a second night's accommodation following an aborted first day's
ascent due to general atmospheric clag and poor visibility. Low
spirits were revived by improving conditions on day 2; temporary
suspension of ESC touring ethics allowing a rapid gain of height
on the Val d'Isère lift system culminating at the top of
the Borsat Express. (Be warned: whilst this will save you a few
hours, without a guide you will have to buy a day's lift pass).
A long traverse south beneath Pointe de Grande Pré to the
foot of the Glacier des Barmes de L'Ours was followed by an ascent
to the eponymous col (3077m) and led to an excellent descent to
the hut, on good snow and under blue skies. The Refuge de la Femma
is a well-appointed hut with few visitors, and, on our visit, an
afternoon cabaret provided by a family of marmots waking up to the
possibilities of spring.
Day 3 and the gods smiled again allowing us a pleasant skin up
to the Col beneath Pointe de MŽan Martin (3330m); the summit attempt
being aborted due to incoming cloud. This false alarm was mitigated
by a fine ski down a glorious field of powder on the Glacier Des
Fours which resulted in the first of several cries along the lines
of "the best snow I've ever skied" from members of the
Overnight at the Refuge de Fond Des Fours was followed by a brisk
ascent to the Col Des Fours (2976m), yielding another ski down excellent
powder to the Pont de la Neige. The following 750m of assisted ascent
from the Col de l'Iseran recovered the value of earlier lift pass
expenditure. We reached the Glacier du Montet via the Col de l'Ouille
Noir (3229m) and enjoyed another fine ski descent. The route unveiled
a wonderful vista of Alpine peaks and, with the exception of a brief
pause for some tricky route finding through the rock bands of les
Pareis Longues, the Refuge de Carro (2759m) was reached without
The mission of day 5 was an excursion to climb the Levanna Occidentale
(3593m) a magnificent and worthy peak to crown the tour.
We began the final day by retracing our steps and a steep climb
to the Col du Montet, fortunately making our descent down a fabulous
field of powder before a horde of day tourers from Val d'Isère.
We finished the tour with an enjoyable long westerly traverse to
le Fornet across the numerous gullies issuing from l'Aiguille Pers
and its westward ridge.
This is a great tour with good huts, excellent skiing and not
too remote in the case of emergencies.
Map: 3633, 1:25000 Tignes. Val d'Isère, Haute Maurienne.
© Text and photos Dan Carron
Related travel-quest sections: winter
sports and ski
mountaineering/ski touring search our ski mountaineering
section for companies and individual guides who are leading
ski mountaineering tours to the Haute Maurienne or similar
areas in the Alps and worldwide.
Ski Club the UK's largest and most active
ski touring and ski mountaineering club, many ski tours are
organised throughout the ski season, some as private tours
others with professional guides. The Haute Maurienne tour
described above was a privately led Eagle Ski Club tour.
Want to find out more about ski mountaineering?
This article, by mountain
guide Rob Collister, gives an introduction to the sport.