La Grave, 3/6/08

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La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Mar 06, 2008 2:13 pm

A listless crew headed up La Grave into weather predicted to be similar to the previous day at Serre Chevalier. But it was -10C at 10,500 feet, and more importantly clear blue sky with no wind.

So after a 2,600 vertical warmup(?) run through some dust over chalk/crust to the P2, Extremely Canadian had another adventure in store for us.

La Grave has a glacier poma going up to 11,600. From the top of that poma a 5 minute hike leads to a plateau where Les Deux Alpes' top surface lift is visible just west. On the backside facing south is a steep drop into a valley that drains 18km due west to the town of St. Christophe.

This direct line was burned off, so we skated and traversed west just past the Deux Alpes lift and then into a southwest facing bowl. The bowl had soft chalk up high, then a thin layer of powder over a frozen subsurface.

But as the pitch steepened the surface softened and eventually we regrouped at 9,100 feet at the top of the Rama Couloir. It was now a bit after noon and the Extremely Canadian guides had timed the run so the couloir was facing direct sun. So we had a perfectly softened surface, which was fortunate because the Rama Couloir is 1,700 vertical, average maybe 30 degrees and 15 feet wide with a couple of sections barely a ski length wide that had to be sideslipped.

After a short break at 7,400 we had a long icy traverse on the shady and icy side of the valley for about 10km and 1000 vertical. Then a cross to the sunny side, a few sketchy sections, cross the stream at a dam, and finally a 500 vertical hike down to St. Christophe, arriving 3:15PM.

Now of course another 4 course gourmet lunch and eventually a 45 minute bus back to La Grave.
Last edited by Tony Crocker on Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby ChrisC » Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:33 pm

Wow! That's another great line.

I did not want to post a pic/description, but I thought this one was pretty exceptional.

Coloir Rama
Vertical drop: 1 400 m
Facing: South
Technical difficulty: Very serious. Risk of slippping on hardpacked snow.Attention for windslabs on the traverse just before the couloir.

Technical difficulty: Ver serious. The deep connection that lures one to a place like Vallon de la Selle goes beyond anything that modern society has an explanation for. Pointing out Le Rama couloir is what a skier would witness is a run that will romance its visitors into letting go their common ideas and giving into what she (the mountain) offered.

Her steeps intimidate you, but then she softens the blow with a bowl of open velvet corn snow that pulls you back to Earth. Her alpine is pristine so desolate,,,, so vast; you find yourself gawking at her glaciated slopes as they sparkle in the sun. The top part is a wide open bowls that flow on to the valley below into the steep Rama couloir that could require a rappel and good route finding skills. A must.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Admin » Thu Mar 06, 2008 9:29 pm

Stuff like this is why I must get to La Grave someday before I'm too old to enjoy it.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby jasoncapecod » Fri Mar 07, 2008 5:39 am

I have to admit I’m very impressed with anyone who can ski that sort of stuff. My question is, is it fun. I don’t mind skiing a run with a high pucker factor once and while. To spend an entire vacation skiing runs that if you fall you die must wear you down. Kinda like being a cop in the South Bronx at first it is exciting but you become a basket case if you do it to long.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:40 pm

Did anyone at EC take video of Tony? The only visuals I've seen of him are in the hot tub at the Blow Sam and eating lunch at Sundance.

And I'm in Jason's camp on this one. I almost wet my pants at Lech when I ended up in a sidecountry line like that.
Last edited by jamesdeluxe on Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Patrick » Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:43 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Did anyone at EC take video of Tony? The only visuals I've seen of him are in the hot tub at the Blow Sam and eating lunch at Sundance.

I believe there is one of him taking a two hours lunch with wine on a terrace on a uphill chalet somewhere at Serre-Chevalier.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 09, 2008 12:14 pm

The pictures make Rama look scarier than La Voute. It was not because:
1) It was not as steep, probably a consistent 30 degrees.
2) The timing for sun-softening was perfect. That was the best snow surface I saw all week.

Rama is narrower, but the other factors were more important. The tougher parts of that day were the 10km icy traverse, and the 500 vert walk down to the village in ski boots when I was already tired.

My question is, is it fun. I don’t mind skiing a run with a high pucker factor once and while. To spend an entire vacation skiing runs that if you fall you die must wear you down.
Very valid questions.

1) There is a mental aspect to this stuff (I think we had a thread somewhere) and the 100% concentration and full commitment demanded can be part of the attraction. For those of you who have seen Steep it's the entire attraction for those guys. Our guide Joe expressed his enthusiasm for La Grave similarly. "It's all about the terrain. More important than the powder. I'd rather be skiing here than anywhere in the world."

2) The rest of us lesser mortals must answer these questions differently. On skis, the positives outweight the negatives for me. I'm somewhat acrophobic without skis on. The last day cabled rock climb up Via Ferrata outside Briancon made me more uncomfortable than any of the skiing. The concentration part gets you to overcome the fear and I did OK, but I'm not looking to pursue rock climbing further.

3) That's the way Tina was in the 2 couloirs. She got down, but she was very scared and said she would definitely not do this trip again. Extremely Canadian deserves some kudos here. First that Joe took over and did both of them one-on-one with her, taking over psychologically as well as being close enough to save her when she fell. As on my other 3 EC experiences, I've been below average in ski ability, and they will tailor both the difficulty of the skiing and how closely you will be supervised by how they evaluate your capabilities. If you are unsure of those capabilities, Extremely Canadian will help you find and expand them.

4) Does it wear you down? The La Voute day was 8,800 vertical and the Rama day was 9,400. Obviously it's intense skiing, and the muscles that ache at the end of the day are not necessarily those you would expect. Physically is it any harder than chasing admin and Bob Dangerous around Alta for twice as much vertical? Probably not. Mentally, see the other 3 points above.

Stuff like this is why I must get to La Grave someday before I'm too old to enjoy it.
Since admin is 12 years younger than I, he's probably capable for at least 20 more years. Same goes for Patrick.

I would probably not repeat a whole week at La Grave, as I've barely scratched the surface of European skiing. If I were in the area with flexibility and knew the snow was good, I'd try to see if Joe was available for a guided day. La Voute in powder would be a mind-blowing experience. I would try to incorporate a day or two guided backcountry skiing on any future European ski vacation.

Did anyone at EC take video of Tony?
Only on the glacier. Picture taking was discouraged during the more intense part of the skiing. I have a few stills from Rama. I forgot the camera the day of La Voute, but they would not have wanted me using it much. One of the Brits took a few pics with his cell/camera. I'll make the Patrick apology now for any delay on pics.
Last edited by Tony Crocker on Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby rfarren » Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:06 pm

I would love someday to try some terrain like this, but it does seem a bit hairy! I suppose a prospective skier should try a steep camp somewhere in North America for a few days to figure out if this would really be for him.

Personally, I like the idea of european ski vacation in Italy. I'm fluent in italian so that would make it easier to get around unhampered. I suppose the food, wine, and culture would be unique for the alps. Although, in europe, towns that are 25km apart have uniquely different cultures and often speak different dialects( at least in Italy). The terrain and snow quality might be lacking compared to some of the ski regions in the more northerly alps, but I feel that wouldn't be too much of a detriment to the entire experience. It would be a european trip with some skiing as opposed to a ski trip in europe.
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Re: re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Patrick » Mon Mar 10, 2008 5:43 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I'll make the Patrick apology now for any delay on pics.

:D
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Re: re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Mar 10, 2008 7:21 am

rfarren wrote:I'm fluent in italian so that would make it easier to get around unhampered.


I've gone on record that a Euro trip (if you can manage to avoid peak-season crowds) is the coolest winter experience... period. And if you speak the target language fluently -- mine are French and German -- you're double-$$$.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 10, 2008 5:11 pm

I suppose a prospective skier should try a steep camp somewhere in North America for a few days to figure out if this would really be for him.
This is the mainstay of Extremely Canadian's business at Whistler/Blackcomb. They offer 3 two-day clinics per week from mid-December to late April. In many cases the clinic instructors may have also gone on the World Tours and would probably give you an opinion on how you would like them. Cara Dolan, with whom I skied like crap in Las Lenas, still thought I would like La Grave.

And if you speak the target language fluently -- mine are French and German -- you're double-$$$.
Yes. I'm wondering if I should try to resuscitate my high school French in retirement. I can still read about half of what I see, but can understand very little that is spoken.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby rfarren » Mon Mar 10, 2008 6:31 pm

My fiancee' speaks french fairly fluently, but not fully. However, she doesn't ski to a level at which I would feel comfortable taking her to a place like chamonix. However, she is very enthusiastic about skiing, so maybe I could get her private lessons for the week.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Mar 11, 2008 10:55 am

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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:29 am

Espace Killy is on my short list. Those pics are quite inspiring, though those guys did more hiking that I could.

Finally pics from Vallon de la Selle and Le Rama Couloir
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Hiking up from the LA Grave poma. High bump in far background mountain range is Mont Blanc.
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030608_topvalley.JPG
looking down the very top of Vallon de la Selle, behind La Grave.
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Group at the top of Les Deux Alpes, about to drop into Vallon de la Selle drainage.
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030608_uprama.JPG
Looking up Le Rama.
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030608_downrama.jpg
In Le Rama, looking down.
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View down Vallon de la Selle as we take a rest stop at the bottom of Le Rama.
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Tina emerges from the bottom of Le Rama as Joe coaches.
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re: La Grave, 3/6/08

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:40 am

More pics.
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View of the lower section of Le Rama.
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030608_traverse1.JPG
Some of the icy 10km traverse.
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030608_traverse2.JPG
Regrouping on the marathon traverse.
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030608_lowervalley.JPG
Lower part of Vallon de la Selle is finally in the sun.
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030608_damcross.JPG
Guide Fred helps us with skis as we cross the stream at a small dam.
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Russ from Seattle at our St. Christophe restaurant stop.
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030608_brits.JPG
Our British friends Andy, Robert, Tina and Nick apres ski in St. Christophe
030608_brits.JPG (92.74 KiB) Viewed 7939 times
http://bestsnow.net
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Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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