Skitouring Grand Combin

The Grand Combin (4313m) had always been in our minds, with its imposing white mass visible from the shores of the Léman. With a particularly snowy winter, we thought conditions would be excellent for its ascent.
As the date approaches, we learn however that the approach is completely dry and full of ice. To make matters worse, the meteo forecast announces precipitations and low visibility. Initially planned for Mai 1st, we postpone our outing to Mai 29th, hoping snow conditions will also improve. On the second attempt, chance is on our side and the forecast looks much better. The first day is spent climbing to the Cabane FXB Panossière (2632m), departing from Fionnay and taking the summer trail. After a while of ski carrying, skinning could be started from 1800m, with a way marked by several old & fresh avalanches. During that evening, we discuss the conditions at the ‘Couloir du Gardien’ — the recommended way through the seracs — and learn that this weekend it requires 2 to 3 pitches of gentle ice climbing. Previous seasons had seen it full of snow, with some even going down with skis.
Saturday is taken easy with further acclimatization and the Combin de Corbassière (3715m) as goal. We are joined by Manuel & Gaëtan in the evening, with whom we plan tomorrow’s ascent.
Climbing up the Glacier de Corbassière is quite long, as the whole Grand Combin tour with ~1700m of elevation. Thus, an early start at 03:30 in the morning of Sunday is required to target optimal snow conditions. We arrive at 06:00 before the Couloir, and promptly switch from our skis & poles to our crampons & ice axes.
Once on the upper plateau, the remaining 300 meters of elevation are done slowly. We then descend using the normal route, Mur de la Côte – Corridor – Plateau du déjeuner. Once at the hut, we lose no time going down, to avoid wet avalanches. A goodbye to the hut warden, last glances at the Glacier & off we go…

(Yoann Trellu)