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Col de la Glière: Versant S

Great variety of terrain situations. Wonderful views at big, medium, and close ranges ... over the biggest glaciers, and close under the most dramatic rock peak of Vanoise National Park. Skiing up and down enclosed by walls, and across open flats. A pretty little building half-way. Lots of S- and W-facing slopes at a nice steepness for fun skiing.

Optional starting assistance of a lift. Only 1200 vertical meters of climbing if start from top of Genepi lift.

Pointe de la Grande Glière is the most dramatic rock peak in the Vanoise. Not skiable. So skiers go to the Col de la Glière, which is the pass under the SE side of the peak, with the Petite Glière peak to its other side -- the skier's pass between the two Glieres. The other (N) side of the Col has been skied, but it's much much steeper than the side of this tour. However the Col is not the best place to view the great peak overall. So the description below suggests another.

. (A popular way to climb to the summit of the Grande Gliere is the South Ridge route -- and it uses this pass. So when you visit there you can contemplate what it might be like to climb the rock on that route, another 230 vertical meters upward from the Col de la Gliere).

avalanche hazard: The upper sections of this ski tour are exposed to avalanches from steep sun-exposed rocks high above. So while it is desirable to do this tour on a sunny day for the great views, perhaps not the first sunny day after a big snowstorm.

route description

From the parking climb up the groomed ski trails to the Refuge des Barmettes hut (GPS latitude longitude approx N45.3897 E6.7528)(altitude 2010m).
This point can also be reached by riding up from Pralognon on the “Edelweiss” and “Genepi” chair lifts (single-ride “randonneur” ticket available). Or it could be reached by riding up the “Mt Bochor” gondola lift and “Ancolie” chair lift (no single-ride ticket available) then skiing down the “Épena” groomed ski trail.

Cross bridge to S side of the creek and make a rising traverse on the "left bank" (SE side) of the Glière creek valley (with the trail to the Col de la Vanoise / Félix Faure hut under the Grande Casse peak) for at least 1km.

. . . Variation 1
. . Shorter on the ascent, more direct downhill skiing on descent:
Do not cross the bridge. Instead stay on the “right bank” (NW side) of the Glière creek valley, at first gentle for about 1km. Then steeper up the obvious SW-facing slope between the rocks and the creek -- includes about 170 vertical meters at steepness around 25-27 degrees. If you intend to take this way on descent, check out where the snow near and between the rocks is continuous or not. Then turn Left and rejoin the main route up the steeper S-facing slopes to the Chalet des Gardes.
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Spot the Chalet des Gardes building above on N side of valley. Later trend Left across the bottom of the valley (perhaps before it reaches the Vaches lake) and climb the steeper S-facing slopes under the Chalet (120-150 vertical meters at steepness around 30 degrees)(S3), often taken diagonally NW (right-to-left). If there’s not enough snow, carrying skis and walking on the summer hiking trail is convenient. Or perhaps ...

. . . Variation 2
. . Holds snow much later in the season at lower elevations:
Instead continue ENE up the main valley to the Vaches lake. There leave the main route to Grande Casse and the hut, and make a rising traverse NE along the NW side of the valley for about 0.6km. Turn Left and climb N directly up steep slope (90 vertical meters at steepness around 25-28 degrees) to La Sechette (N45.4042 E6.7837)(2550m) and continue N across the flat to rejoin the main route).
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. . .

From the Chalet des Gardes (lat long N45.3996 E6.7694)(alt 2400m), go flat NE about 0.6km, then turn Right and climb E up a side valley (165 vertical meters at steepness not more than 25 degrees) to a small pass (N45.4038 E6.7804)(2600m). Go down about 40 vertical meters, then NE across the flat by La Sechette.

Next climb N up the steep valley of the Glière creek (360 vertical meters of uphill climbing with much at steepness 25-30 degrees, and at least one short section getting into 35-40 degrees).

Around altitude 2650m there’s a rock shelf blocking the valley. In good snow conditions, this can be climbed on skis with a rising traverse left-to-right (S4, exposed with rocks below). If snow is difficult or lacking, some parties put skis on pack and boot up the steep slope (crampons?) to the left side of the rock shelf. Around altitude 2800m is another short steep section (S4) sometimes icy. After this you’re getting onto the glacier.

Soon turn Right and climb roughly E (240 vertical meters with much at steepness 25-30 degrees, final section steeper) on the N side of the glacier underneath the rock wall of the great Pointe de la Grande Glière peak. Finally trend Left (NE) to the short steep slope under the Col de la Gliere (N45.4110 E6.7938)(3162m).

. (Or for a better view of both the Glière peak and the Vanoise glaciers, instead finish by bearing R and climb SE to the obvious rock (N45.4087 E6.7935)(3125m) at the foot of the SW ridge of the Petite Glière peak -- and have your lunch on the perch at the S side of that rock -- or if that's already taken select some other bump on the ridge below W).


Going back the same way offers a variety of skiing slopes with much vertical (especially if Variation 1 is taken) on slopes directly downhill (instead of traversing). Skiing more directly down the upper glacier (away from its N side) offers about 200 vertical meters at steepness at least 30 degrees.
Often the section re-climbing W up from the flat by La Sechette (about 40 vertical meters) can be taken without putting on skins again.

Or if the S- and SW-facing slopes under Chalet des Gardes lack enough snow ... then after skiing S down the upper Gliere valley, can instead use Variation 2 (above): Continue straight S across the flat to La Sechette (N45.4042 E6.7837).(2550m) and from there descend directly S on a steep slope (90 vertical meters at steepness around 25-28 degrees)(S3) to reach the normal route from the Grande Casse and the Col del la Vanoise / Félix Faure hut. That route in its lower section makes a long descending traverse on a N-facing slope that holds snow late and gets back to Refuge des Barmettes quickly.

  • Difficulty: S4 - Difficult (<45°)
  • Danger/Exposure: E1 - Low
  • Time: 06:00 hours
  • Total climb: 15 m
  • Total elevation drop: 1680 m
  • Length: 8.04 km
  • Highest altitude: 3139 m
  • Lowest altitude: 1468 m
  • Extra gear: None
  • Lift access: No



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