Text and pictures © 2007-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2013/08/06
"Skiing is the only sport where you spend an arm and a leg to break an arm and a leg." — Anonymous.
The Taillefer is a minor mountain range east of Grenoble. Although it is geologically part of the Belledonne range, it is separated from it by the deep valley of the Romanche where a road leads from Grenoble to Briançon.
Left: Going through the forest from 'La Morte' (The Dead).
Right: Agostino reaching the summit of Brouffier as the sun drops behind the horizon.
So not very wide but still seen as a massive mountain from Grenoble, the Taillefer offers interesting backcountry skiing, summer hikes as well as limited ice climbing but almost no rock climbing worth mentioning.
Left: Using the last sunlight to ski down the trail from Brouffier back to La Morte.
Right: This video shows the descent towards Baisse pass (1872m), with the first summit of the much bigger Oisans behind, part of the Ecrins National Park. Then it shows Agostino skiing down the Emay valley in subpar crusty snow. Yeah, the style is a bit on the heavy side, and the snow has little to do with it...
Left: Garbage at the summit of the Taillefer (2857m). Is that supposed to be something humorous ?
Right: Steepest section of the approach to the Grand Galbert (2561m).
Right: Going up a snow slope above the Baisse pass with the Grand Armet in the back, our original objective, given up because of avalanche risk.
Right: The large North couloir of the Taillefer, with the large plateau leading to the Grand Galbert. In the far distance are Belledonne (left) and the Grandes Rousses (right).
Right: The Taillefer pyramid (left), the Taillefer (center) and the Culasson. The north couloir (aka known as the Poursolet couloir) starts from below the right summit, goes underneath to the left and then to the pass until the summit. An alternative way down is from the left pass into the very narrow couloir visible on the lower left.
Right: The long climb up the Grand Galbert. Excellent transformed snow. The Taillefer dominates the horizon.
Above: Summit of the Grand Galbert. The famous Infernet couloir starts from right here for 1700m of extreme skiing culminating with 15m at 70° !
Above: Late spring approach from the Grenoniere, passing below the Pyramid of the Taillefer.
Right: The Taillefer hut and its namesake mountain.
Right: A curiosity on the west face of the Grand Serre: two eagles carved out of the forest itsef. One is still clearly visible while the other has lost its head and some of its features. The trees were chopped down during a visit of Napoleon over two centuries ago, and still visible from Grenoble !
Above: The Ecrins range as seen from the Taillefer in autumn. The Meije is the leftmost summit. The small but characteristically shaped gash 2/3 into the image is recognizable as the Coup de Sabre, a classic couloir between Pic Sans Nom and Ailefroide. The large summit in the middle should be the Ecrins, but I can't really recognize it (maybe it's partially hidden by another minor peak, which is the reason why this peak was unknown until very late into the 19th century).
Right: The 'lac Fourchu' (forked lake), under the north face of Taillefer, is accessible with a 20min walk from the tiny village of the Poursolet, if the road is open.
Left: Frozen grass off the marshes around the Lac Fourchu.
Right: Frozen lake under the north face of the Taillefer. Soon there will be snow and a classic but not extreme descent right there.
Left: A view on Grenoble from the Lac Fourchu. City of clouds ? Well, Jenny often complains that the weather is not up her standard of Rome.
Left: HDR view of the Chalets de la Barriere, near the Poursolet. The Vercors is visible on the other side of the valley.
Right: Interesting geological curiosity: the 'head of Louis XVI' rock along the road in the village of Riouperroux.
Left: The Infernet couloir, one of the most sought after extreme skiing in the area: 2000m above 45°, unfortunately in poor conditions the day I tried it: very hard packed snow and I stopped below the steepest section, 3/4 of the way up.
Right: Going up the Infernet couloir, a long way above the road.
Left: Agostino getting near the 'Pas de la mine' on the way to the Petit Taillefer.
Right: Still on the Petit Taillefer.
Right: Traversing the ridge of the petit Taillefer, in the direction of the main Taillefer.
Left: Agostino showing off on the summit of the Taillefer, in from of some ugly metal garbage.
Left: Agostino trying to extricate himself from the crusty snow.
Right: Lower part of the Emay valley: insufficient snow, and excess shrubbery.
Left: Another possible way to ski down the Taillefer, the Ramay valley, a wee bit complex to figure out the proper way down, particularly in low snow conditions.
Right: Lower part of the Pinelli Cross couloir, where I triggered a small but still relevant avalanche (visible under the shadow on the top left of the image). Stupendous conditions on that day, before heading to work.
Above: A view of the Grand Galbert (right) and the Belledonne range while going up the Pinelli Cross.
Above: The Grand Armet (right) and the Chantelouve tour seen from the Combe Oursiere pass.
Right: The Rosiere crest towards the south, seen from the summit of the Grand Armet.
Above: The Chantelouve tour: Petit Renaud, Grand Renaud, Ornon peak, Rochail, Malhaubert, Confolens, Neyrard, Clottous.
Above: Panoramic view of the Taillefer range: The Meije in the background on the left, the Taillefer itself, the Grand Armet (with some Ecrins peaks visible in the background).
Right: The zeroth pitch, not quite formed up. Let's just walk around it.
Left: Thin exit after fragile columns on the 1st pitch.
Left: The not so recent belay of the 1st pitch.
With the wave of cold that hit our area during the winter of 2012, we managed to climb rarely frozen structures, such as this waterfall which is #1 in the guidebook and the lowest altitude of all. Some managed to do first ascents even lower that year, including one in downtown Grenoble.
Right: The narrow gully in the middle of the route, another 60m long thin and fun pitch.
Left: Agostino finishing that exit
Right: Nearing the upper section of the route, a 100m high vertical and then sloping gully.
Left: End of the vertical section. Why is it getting dark ?!?
Right: The steep section finishes in a vertical magma of broken trees stuck in the ice. This chaos continues for a while even when the ground gets more horizontal. I have no idea what kind of catastrophe brought down so many trees.
Left: We reach the descent trail towards 'La Morte' and it's now completely dark. I only have the tiny light of my swiss army knife.
There's only about 15 minutes of approach and the guibebook said 400m of height. It was actually 400m of difficulty mixed with junctions of deep snow, all in all 1000m and we didn't make it in time to get back to work for the afternoon. Actually we barely managed to top before complete darkness hit. And we didn't have any headlamp with us. I was confident that we would be able to find the trail to get back the the road, which we did, but then after one hour of hitch-hiking without a single car passing, we were getting coldly desperate. Or desperately cold. I knocked on a house to ask for some water and the people there were kind enough to drive us back to our car, a good 15km below.
Right: The Rochere at dawn.
Left: Early sunlight on the Rochere pyramid, this is the face I'm going to ski today, conditions permitting.
Right: View on the Grand Galbert plateau.
Left: I think this is called the Taillefer Pyramid, as seen from the summit of Rochere. The slope is inviting but leads nowhere.
Right: Ok, take a deep breath and push on your poles, this is only the steepest thing I've skied all year.
Left: Taking a look up at the slope after the steepest section.