Col des Rachasses

Col des Rachasses

As a ski instructor, I don’t want to add too many glacier ski tours to the site. We aren’t high mountain guides at White Marmotte, so we don’t take customers onto glaciers. (This article is purely my personal view, for information only). The Col des Rachasses does deserve a mention within our list of more accessible ski tours though, for a few reasons. It’s easily reachable from the Grands Montets ski lifts. A short ascent gives a bigger descent. It’s become very popular as a short ski touring playground as well as giving access to the big routes on the Argentiere Glacier. And as we’ll discuss below, it won’t be there for much longer in it’s current form, so it’s worth exploring while you can.

Aig. du Chardonnet from Col des Rachasses
The Aiguille du Chardonnet, seen from the Col des Rachasses

A new ski touring area, by accident

First, a little history. The Grand Montets ski area first opened in 1964 with the inauguration of the Grand Montets cable car. At the time, the Pylones black piste crossed the Col des Rachasses to bring skiers onto the main face of the ski area. Other lifts were added over the years, but the Col des Rachasses remained a piste for over fifty years until 2018. That summer, a fire destroyed the mid-station of the cable car. In one sense this decimated the ski area, dropping the highest point from 3200m to 2700m. The spectacular black runs on the Glacier des Rognons were lost as well. On the other hand, the lift was slow compared to the surviving Bochard and Herse lifts which transport many more skiers to the black and red pistes on the front face.

The loss of the lift made access to the ski touring and mountaineering routes of the Argentiere Glacier basin significantly longer. The easiest way to reach this area was now to make a diagonal climb from the Bochard gondola. As a result, the line from Bochard to the Col des Rachasses quickly became a well tracked ski tour. You can see lines of skiers ascending it almost every day of the winter.

Once at the col, some skiers continue to the Col des Grands Montets and the old lift station. Others traverse right and descend between crevasses and seracs to reach the glacier basin. The safer options are to return the way you came and ski down to the Herse chairlift. Or you can follow the old Pointe de Vue piste, crossing the col and trending left in descent.

Skier descending off-piste
Skiing the line of the old Pointe de Vue piste

Reaching the Col des Rachasses

The shortest route to the Col des Rachasses is to take the Bochard gondola. When descending the piste, cut right as soon as you can and traverse below rocks to a flat area. Put your skins on here and head up diagonally left. When you see the col – a small notch in the ridge with a wooden hut by it – zig-zag up towards it. The final traverse is steep, so put on ski crampons if it is at all icy. This ascent is around 300 vertical metres.

You can also climb directly from the Herse chairlift. Put on your skins at the top of the lift and head straight up until you intersect the tracks from Bochard. This route is a little longer at 400m vertical, but has less traversing.

As mentioned above, once at the col you can return the same way, picking a good line to descend. Or you can cross the col and descend on the left on the line of the old piste.

Skier next to draatic boulder
Starting the climb from Bochard


Although the number of people on the track might give an impression of safety, there are still mountain risks to consider. The route is not too steep, but it is susceptible to avalanches from above. There are rocks and cliffs to avoid on all the descent routes. The routes described cross glaciers, even if they are not heavily crevassed.

If you are heading up here, you need to consider the avalanche risk, the risk of crevasses, and the risk of a slip on steep icy terrain. You might feel like you are on a highway, following a line of other skiers to the top, but an accident is still possible and could have serious consequences.

Lots of ski tourers getting ready at the bottom of the glacier
A busy day at the start of the skinning track

New Lift ahead

A new 3S gondola is already under construction to the Grands Montets. When this opens, the ski area will regain its missing 500 metres of altitude. We can assume that the Pointe de Vue and Pylones pistes will be reinstated and the Rachasses unofficial ski tour track will be finished.

The scheduled opening date is a little elastic, but the new lift will probably be open for winter 2025/26. This means we’ll only have the ski touring route for the current winter and the next one. After that, it’s back to hiking up by the pistes if we want an easy-to-access ski ascent at Grands Montets.

Wooden hut on snowy ridge at the Col des Rachasses
An old ski patrol hut at the Col

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