Yesterday, Erica (on skis) and myself on my Burton Splitboard, when on a classic Courchevel ski tour, Les Breches de la Portetta, finishing down in Pralognan.
We set of from Courchevel 1850 at 9am. We took a different lift combination to reach the Col du Chanrossa. We started on Verdons, took Saulire then rode down Creux to the Chanrossa chair. We made great time down the the bottom of the Chanrossa chair even though the light was pretty flat. When we reached the chair we realised it’s not scheduled to open until 9:40am. Previously I have reached the Col du Chanrossa via Courchevel 1650 but this involves 4 lifts and the last chair, Roc Merlet, is really slow. As it turned out we reached the Col at pretty much the same time.
From the Col we traversed across underneath the Roc Merlet peak on the 1650 side then took the boot pack up the the ridge line. Here we rode down past the Refuge du Grand Plan to the Chalets de la Grand Val where we put our skins on and skinned up to the Col des Saules. The cloud cover was starting to thin as the sun started to punch through. The snow on the skin up was firm and Spring-like, the track was well established so we made good time.
Once we reached the Col des Saulces when had a ride down underneath the Rocher de Plassa and traversed around so we had a good, relatively straight climb towards the Dents de la Portetta. The climb was steady. As we got closer to the Portetta skinning on the splitboard became more of a challenge, steep pitch and firm snow. The width of the splitboard makes skinning hard on the steeps and kick-turns we interesting. With about 100m to go, and the steepest section of the climb, I took my splitboard off and booted my way up. Shortly after I started my own boot pack, I found one that was already in place which made hiking up much easier.
Once in Les Breches de la Portetta the rock formations are pretty spectacular. Big columns of vertical rock creating some steep couloirs and breath-taking views back towards Courchevel. We stopped briefly at the entrance to the couloir and had a fuel-stop. We reached the top round 1:30pm, about 3hrs 45mins after leaving the Col du Chanrossa. We were in good time as there’s a bus from Pralognan at 3pm or 3:30pm (depending what day of the week it is!). We had an hour and a half for our descent. The entrance to the couloir is around 2600m, with Pralognan sitting around 1400m. The total vertical descent is around 1200m.
The start of the first couloir is around 45-50 degrees and only 5-6 metres across. Jump turns were in order. It was tracked when we got there but the snow was still good, despite the warm temperatures. This is because the towering rock means the snow doesn’t get any direct sunlight. We descended the series of couloirs until it opened out into a large powder field, la Grande Perriere. From here we carried on our descent through the lower trees and shrubs until we reached the village of Pralognan.