Text and pictures © 2007-2023 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2021/11/05
"I like people who are good because they've tried hard. People like Dave Graham are annoying because they're so good and haven't even had to try. Dave did 8b+ in his first year of climbing !" — Danny Cattell.
Invisible from Grenoble, the Grandes Rousses range is approached by driving first between the Belledonne and Taillefer ranges. It is known mostly for the ski station of l'Alpe d'Huez going most of the way up its highest peak, l'Etendard (3464m). Backcountry skiing is not as good as it would seem as you have to avoid the ski stations of the whole south part of the range as well as the road to the north part which unfortunately closes down in winter. The tiny village of Rivier d'Allemond, deep in the valley leading to the Glandon pass has the strange distinction of never having been entered by german soldiers during WWII... Not to say that they lacked interest but that place is remote.
Left: The Etendard peak (3464) as seen from the summit of Cochette (3240m).
Right: Going down the steep Cochette couloir.
Left: Going down the Cochette couloir. The pass below is the Couard with the small summit above it the Aiguillettes. Belledonne fills the background.
Right: Skiers visible as tiny dots as they go down the north couloir of Cochette.
Right: The summit of Aiguilettes with Cochette and Etendard in the back. The ski resort of l'Alpe d'Huez is on the right of the range and in the back is the beginning of the Ecrins NP.
Above: From the summit of Aiguillettes: the northern half of Belledonne (left), the Glandon pass, Cochette, Etendard, Oisans, the valley of the Romanche leading towards Grenoble, and Taillefer range
Above: The Belledonne range (left) with the Grand Pic quite visible, the Etendard Peak (center) and the 3 Aiguilles d'Arves (right) as seen from the Grand Renaud in the northern Ecrins range.
Right: The Etendard peak (right) seen from the St Sorlin glacier, with the remote Grand Sauvage on the left.
Right: The St Sorlin glacier, seen from the summit of the Etendard. It stays in conditions well into june, but the lower part is a long flat drag. Cochette is into the rock range on the ridge.
Right: Belledonne seen from the Croix de Fer pass.
Left: Plenty of snow left on the 1st day of summer on the St Sorlin glacier.
Right: The Etendard peak is finally visible, with two skiers at the bottom of the slope.
Left: Higher up I catch up with them while getting closer to the summit.
Right: They take a pause while admiring Mt Blanc.
Left: The Meije is just south-west from here.
Right: Back to the lakes where fishermen are exploiting the first thawed spots.
Right: A view of the Meije from the Grand Cros ridge. I linked two routes up Grand Clos and Piefroid, solo, and walked back down using the (dry) ski slopes returning towards the Sarenne pass. The view was great but the climbs were too easy and uninspiring.
Right: Rocher Perron, a tiny outpost on the way down from l'Alpe d'Huez and the Sarenne pass. Unfortunately there isn't much rock climbing in this mountain range.
Left: Summit of the Grand Perron, two parties finishing a route.
Right: Slab climbing at the Grand Perron, above the Croix de Fer pass, infamous among bikers.