Having just got back from Christmas in the UK, I was half expecting my house to have been avalanched, such were the dire warnings on the internet of how unstable the snowpack is. Luckily it was still standing but it's clear that things are pretty dodgy right now, with fresh snow having landed on a pretty weak layer. With this in mind I wanted to ease into it and go touring somewhere relatively safe which would allow me to have a look around and start trying to figure out what's going on right now.
Les Contamines fit the bill, in particular the ever enjoyable Col du Bonhomme. The tour is about as mellow as it gets and save for the final section up to the Col, the terrain is low angled enough to be fairly safe. Best of all, the views are great the tour takes you past some bigger terrain without ever putting you in too much danger.
It's always a bit longer than you think from the end of the road up to the Balme refuge but from there the scenery is amazing and you get to have a good look around at various slope aspects and altitudes. Generally things look pretty sketchy and there was evidence of numerous spontaneously released avalanches in places you wouldn't normally think of as dodgy. It also said a lot that the Col des Chassuers, a tour so popular that it can become a mogul field, was completely untouched. Ditto several other nice looking slopes on Mont Jovets and the surrounding area.
Heading up Lacs du Jovet.
Beautiful snowy views.
Trying to work it out.
The final skin up to the Col is about the only bit that I thought might cause us problems but it felt stable and had had plenty of traffic so we shot up and were soon soaking up the sun and views.
Final section to the top
After a leisurely lunch at the Col we headed down and got some superb powder, the odd bit of crust and then the final icy run down to the car. All in all, an excellent day.
Despite the numerous people who'd gone before and the avalanche danger, we managed to find a short little untracked couloir which felt nice and solid - always a good thing.
Sharon just below Lacs du Jovet.
Looking up towards the Tete des Fours.
One final look up the Valley before the icy path begins...!
Overall things feel scary right now in the Alps. I certainly don't feel like pushing the boat out and I'm sticking to low angled terrain for the foreseeable future. The weather forecast is calling for some very unsettled weather over the next few days so things are about to change again. My advice is - if in doubt, go for the mellow option and stay safe - there's plenty of good skiing to be had without doing anything too "out there."