07.10.2021 | Stories - Athletes

Between snow and ice by Pierre-Louis Cret

March 29, 2021, 6:30 a.m., somewhere in the mountains not far from La Grave, a snowboarder and a skier leave their house for a project that has been close to their hearts for a long time.
This is one of the many advantages of living so close to the mountains, no need to take your car to go skiing!

So here we go, for a little more than 1700m of difference in altitude, sometimes on skis, sometimes with crampons, with Jean-Louis (snowboarder from La Grave) and myself.

7:05 am, the first rays of the sun on the summits of the Ecrins always offer us a spectacle which alone is worth getting up so early. The pace of the climb is getting better, the first conversions are taking place and we are already on the edge of the first glacier of the day. It is there that we see this superb ice cave formed by a torrent inside the glacier. It extends on nearly 100 meters long and on more than 10 meters high by places.

 The frozen torrent in the longest tunnel of the cave Underwater atmosphere in the cave
 The frozen torrent in the longest tunnel of the cave Underwater atmosphere in the cave

Big blocks of ice fallen from the ceiling at the entrance make us hesitant to spend too much time down there.

But we have the time to explore this magnificent cave of the glacier and the spectacle is really worth it! Some photos and here we are anyway left for our initial objective which is still in several hours of ascent.



Always in skins of seal, we thus leave the residues of ice of the bottom of the valley to go up on one of the glaciers of this north face.

We throw a last glance on the route of descent which it is necessary to locate well because we go up by another way. It will be necessary to slalom between the bars and the seracs to manage to go down.

A little later, we reach a snow corridor that we have to go up on foot to reach the upper part of the ascent. We leave the skins for the crampons and we prepare ourselves for this climbing with a view plunging on the other glaciers and ice cathedrals which compose the valley. With a view like this, it's easy to forget the fatigue of the climb!

 Ascent with skis on the bag and crampons on the foot The final slope
 Ascent with skis on the bag and crampons on the foot The final slope

It's midday when we reach a gap where we have to abseil down to the final slope.

The previous skiers have left cords allowing the abseiling, but these have been there for too long and we have to add a new one to be sure of the solidity of the relay.

Still wearing crampons, we descend, then climb back up the glacier that leads below the pass we have been aiming for since the morning. The rimaye (crevasse at the edge of the glacier) is difficult to cross and we lose a little time before finishing this climb on the steepest slope of the day.

2pm and we are at the top! From there we can contemplate a superb view on the massif and on the Écrins bar.






We take the time to equip ourselves and to enjoy the landscape, before starting the descent by the suspended slope above the glacier.

It's the steepest place but the snow conditions are superb and you can really enjoy yourself without being scared.

With Jean-Louis, we alternate the lead of the descent, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left of the seracs by passing by the best way spotted at the rise. But seen from above, it's difficult to find the reference points observed from below and we have to remain concentrated so as not to put ourselves in danger.


When we reach the second serac bar to cross, we have to rappel again on the ice on the edge of the glacier to continue the descent.

It is in an environment of ice and snow that we progress and the high mountain atmosphere is guaranteed!

Another small de-escalation with skis on feet and we can send big curves in the superb powder which remained quite cold!

Still a small detour in a part of the cave of ice crossed in the ascent and we have more than to let slide until the house.

It is thus a superb day in mountain which will have kept its promises.

Snow and ice on skis.