9-16 March 2002
Nine O clock in the morning and two groups were in the last throes of sorting gear & re-arranging sacs. One group was mostly British, the other French but one Frenchman seemed to be part of both. This was Georges Teutsch, co-leader of the Eagles Mt Thabor tour.
The idea of the tour was to approach the Refuge Drayères from the north making use of the skilifts at Valloire to gain height, spend a few days at the refuge making day trips before, hopefully fit and well acclimatised, climbing Mt Thabor and descending to the Refuge de Thabor. From here, Steve Goulden the other leader, had spotted a line of cols that would take us back to Valloire. When some of George's French friends heard the plan they decided to do something similar and the prospect of so many visitors persuaded the guardian of the Refuge Thabor to promise to be in residence (the hut is normally not guardianed at this time of year).
An hour or so later we reached the most southern point of the lift system, incidents so far seemed evenly split, one Eagle taking a tumble getting of a chairlift (confirming French doubts about the use of freeheel skis I suspect) while one Frenchman was knocked over by an out of control piste skier (English, or so he claimed). From here it was fairly easy to the Col de la Plagnette (± 2500m) and after a lunch stop we all looked forward to an easy skidown to the hut. But, as so often, the mountain had other ideas and the snow was very difficult.
For the next 3 days the weather was superb and we skied the Rocher de la Grande Tempête (3002m) and the Roche Chateau (2898m) approached by the Col de l'Aiguille Noire (highly recommended). We abandoned an attempt on the Pointe des Cerces (3097m) when we saw the dangerous state of the snow on the final slopes from the Lac des Cerces. A few tried to follow Georges up to the Col de Nevache on the way back but only Richard managed to stay with him all the way.
Then, on the morning we should have climbed Thabor, our luck with the weather ran out and we awoke to very limited visibility, high winds and falling snow. After a very leisurely breakfast there was no sign of an improvement and reluctantly we decided to retreat to Valloire rather than have difficult routefinding, possibly dangerous snow and a risk of getting stuck at the Refuge Thabor.
The forecast for the next few days was not good so Steve, Geoff & Doug left on Friday morning. The others spent a day piste skiing although on Saturday the conditions improved enough to climb the Point des Raissières (2865m) although the Thabor massif remained in cloud all day.
Although we didn't climb Thabor, or complete the circuit, this was an enjoyable trip, the mix of alpine and freeheel skiers working well and several of us are keen to go back.Thanks Steve & Georges.
Map IGN Top 25 sheet 3535OT Névache - Mont Thabor