Located in the Ecrins national park, Grande Ruine offers a remote summit, good skiing and a nice hut with the only drawback being the long and flat approach. Starting from Villar-d’Arêne it’s about 4 km of flatter skiing before starting the climb up to Refuge Adele Planchard. I joined a CAS group doing the trip as a round trip from the village but perhaps a better way is to climb the summit during a longer tour around the Meije massif.
The first day saw all kinds of troubles, but and after 1) hiring a pair of skis in La Grave for one participant and 2) finding a spare pair of sunglasses for another, we were finally on the way. The approach started quite cold, with strong winds but after we turned left into the new valley at Plan de Valfourche it quickly heated up. Now, instead of getting blasted with snow crystals we were cooked by the sun.
After moving together for most of the approach the group split up on the final climb up to the hut. Everyone in their own tempo, and some people taking the opportunity to get a good workout. With a fairly heavy pack and the strong sun it was a relief to get to the hut and relax for a while.
Since the hut wasn’t yet staffed we soon started melting water and preparing dinner. The menu consisted of soup followed by tuna spaghetti. Maybe not a culinary highlight at home, but certainly welcome after a day of skinning. The winter room is well equipped with blankets and there is no need to bring a sleeping bag unless you get cold very easily.
After a somewhat short night we woke up to beautiful morning with perfect conditions. Setting off from the hut it was biting cold and I skinned the first half hour with most of my warm clothing on. Seeing the colors changing during the sunrise was certainly one of the highlights with the tour.
The glacier was really smooth and no problem to travel on it. We didn’t rope up except for the final climb up to the summit but with sometimes steep slopes and hard snow ski crampons were really useful. The climb itself is quite easy and if you’re experienced it can certainly be done without a rope.
With the wind picking up we didn’t stay long on the summit. The ski down offered mixed conditions and we had everything from powder to spring snow, unfortunately everything also included quite some breaking crust as well…
After enjoying lunch with a stunning view we finished of the last bit of spring snow and started heading back out. It was possible to slide most of the way and with a fair bit of double poling there was no need to put the skins back on.