The mountain passes made famous by cyclists are just as well known by springtime skiers and the high departure point, which is easy to access, leads to some fabulous routes. This area is a must for the wide-ranging views.
To reach Rieu Claret and the mountain passes after the Lac de Grand Maison, you need to wait until the road officially reopens because even if there is natural thawing, the road remains closed until May (www.savoie-route.fr).
The Refuge de l’Etendard, which is often open, provides a gateway to the St-Sorlin glacier from where you can reach, among others, the top of the Etendard, the “boss” of the Grandes Rousses (or boss no 2... after the Pic Bayle).
SUGGESTIONS FOR SKI-TOURING
> Discovery day route :
Col de la Combe Madame (2641 m) + 710 m
A special springtime discovery route when the road up to the Col du Glandon has just reopened. You’ll be alone, or almost alone, to enjoy the last of the snow and the breakthrough of spring, with a fabulous viewpoint over the Belledonne and Rousses mountains from the lovely Col de Combe Madame.
- Pic de l'Agnelin (2740 m) +1050 m
- Aiguille d'Olle (2885 m) + 1160 m
- Aiguille de Laisse (2879 m) + 1100 m
WITH A NIGHT IN A HUT
- Refuge de l'Etendard (2430 m) + 400 m
- Pic de l'Etendard (3468 m) + 1030 m
> Getting supplies: Allemont: bakery, mini-market, restaurants.
- Rivier d'Allemont: Auberge du Rivier, 04 76 80 71 52, La Ferme du Rivier (cheese) 06 27 34 18 19.
Saint Sorlin d'Arves: bakery, mini-market, restaurants.
> Accommodation: Allemont: hotel, B&Bs, gîtes.
EAU D'OLLE / BELLEDONNE SECTOR
As soon as your enter Oisans from Grenoble, the Eau d'Olle valley catches your eye... and lures you back again and again… it’s so varied and so beautiful! The routes extend from the village of Allemont up to the Col de la Croix de Fer, from the foothills of the Belledone to those of the Grandes Rousses.
The pointed peaks on the horizon tease city-dwellers during the week and each weekend, the summits cause a mini-exodus from the city to the mountains. Yet approaching from the Oisans side, on skis from the Eau d'Olle valley, you’re sure to be well away from the crowds.
There are different versions of the origin of the name “Belledonne”. Some say it comes from “bella donna”, as Italian workers thought the shape of the Grand Pic looked like the Virgin carrying her child. The Gauls, on the other hand, used the word “belo” to mean strong or powerful, which accurately describes this solid crystalline mountain range, 60 km long, with wide shoulders but narrow 10 km hips.
The highest point, the Grand Pic de Belledonne, verges on 3000 m. It sometimes looks arrogant like the Fitzroy in Patagonia or a black virgin, depending on your point of view. In any case, the Belledonne is a real natural barrier, a citadel of schist and gneiss (and a little granite, of course) and is one of the most untamed mountain ranges in France.
May, when the road has reopened (www.savoie-route.fr)
Free of charge.
Drive to Allemont and on the Verney dam follow signs for “Col du Glandon”. Go through Le Rivier d'Allemont and carry on to the Lac de Grand Maison. Rieu Claret is on the left at the end of the lake (park along the side of the road). To reach the passes, continue along the road and at the fork, take the right for the Col de la Croix de Fer and the left for the Col du Glandon. You can park at the passes.
Office de tourisme d'Allemont