Thursday, February 11, 2010
The girls and I decided to head to La Grave for a couple days after Chamonix. We had a hook-up from a friend with a couple of the guides there Keith and Joe. These guys soon became our new favorite people, because they took us to ski some of the coolest terrain and couloirs I have ever skied. I knew little of La Grave except it was a mecca for ski mountaineering and steep long couloirs. Also I knew that Doug Coombs had called this place home, so I knew it had to be pretty amazing! Driving to La Grave in a snow storm was pretty crazy, we knew we were in the mountains, but we could barely see two feet in front of us! As we arrived in La Grave all we could see was the town and I already wanted to move there. It is a very quaint little village in the middle of the mountains with cute little bakeries, restaurants and bars. Keith lended us is home, which turned into 4 nights which was very nice of him. Since it had been dumping we knew that the next day was going to be a good ski day! We got up early so we could make first gondola car. La grave has one lift to the top that has a mid station, but climbs 7,000 vertical feet to the top. This makes for an amazingly long run, the main run has awesome views of Le Meije and huge glaciers. There is five gondola cars that are connected and trek up the mountain. In the morning we were in line with the hard core locals, it was like a powder frenzy in Jackson, but with a bunch of hard core frenchmen. (not a lot of women in La grave.) We were three American women getting into line and we sure got some looks, it was pretty funny. People were in harnesses and had their climbing gear ready to go, this made for an intimidating ski line. It was then a race to make the first five gondola cars, which we did. It was still a little socked in so it was hard to see where we were going, all I knew is we were surrounded by some big mountains. Keith and Joe took us to our first couloir of La grave called Le Banan. We were able to get first tracks, which brought huge smiles to all of our faces. I have always been obsessed with couloirs so today my dreams were coming true. It started to clear a bit and you could see the massiveness of the mountains around us. The rest of the day were were greeted by powder and endless coloirs one that had an awesome rappel in the middle. We skied five pretty aesthetic couloirs that day! Our guides who became our friends were amazing and we had a great time and even got some pretty good photos.
Joe let Jess and I tag along the last day we were there, which was a beautiful bluebird day and we were able to see the mountains. We skied two long about 4,000 vertical foot couloirs to the road, got to rappel switch (backwards) with our skis on, and got some pretty amazing faceshots skiing to the couloirs. Thanks Joe and Keith for making are trip to La grave one we will never forget. I definitely can not wait to go back. I really want to improve my ski mountaineering skills and learn more about glacial travel. What a beautiful place!