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TouringTip | Couloir du Pissoir

A tour - a poem!

by Jan Imberi 03/22/2018
When the conditions are right in spring, the Couloir du Pissoir is a more than worthwhile excursion destination in a high alpine setting. Our reporter Jan not only provides a tour description, but also - kissed by the spring muse - a poem about the tour.

Tour description

After starting in Vallorcine at the valley station of the La Balme ski resort at 1260m, take the gondola up to the Tête du Balme, 2321m. From there you ski down towards Col de Balme, 2204m. Then ski over the ridge to Les Grands Otanes, 2680m. Depending on the conditions, ski crampons are an advantage for the easy scramble on the summit pyramid.

On the moderately exposed ridge, continue southwards towards Pointe de Berons on an easy scramble. The ridge can also be bypassed, which involves a short descent and a longer ascent. At the end of the ridge at around 2800m, descend eastwards onto the Glacier des Berons, losing as little altitude as possible, as you immediately continue up towards Croix des Berons 2902m.

From here, you can make a detour to the summit of Pointe des Grands 3101m, or cross the Glacier des Grands directly towards Col du Pissoir 3150m. If you take the summit with you, you then have to descend again eastwards onto the Glacier des Grands to about 3000m. Cross the glacier below a rock band - be careful not to lose too much height due to the risk of crevasses!

The ascent towards Aiguille du Pissoir 3440m to the south-east follows. At approx. 3200m, we descent and traverse towards Col du Pissoir at 3150m. Here it pays to carry as much momentum as possible.

Before the col, turn north to get to the start of the couloir. The entrance to the couloir is easier on the north side than on the east side, where it is heavily interspersed with rocks.

The upper part of the couloir is glaciated, but from around 2700m it becomes increasingly potholed. Beware, depending on the snow conditions, there may be patches of bare ice. The middle section of the couloir is slightly interspersed with rocks, so choose the fall line on the right.

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From 2500m onwards, open terrain follows with spectacular views of the Glacier du Trient pushing down into the valley. Leave the glacier on your right and continue in the direction of Grand Yaret until you reach the valley floor at around 1700m. Depending on the snow conditions and time of year, you may have to take off your skis here and continue on foot. Follow the course of the stream via a hiking trail and then a road to the dam in Trient at 1330 m.


Difficulty: *****

Special dangers: approx. 500m with easy climbing (UIAA I-II) over the ridge. Glacier, steep descent!

Maximum steepness: Couloir entrance approx. 45º

Highest point: 3150m Col du Pissoir

Altitude difference uphill | downhill: 1300 m | approx. 1450 (more depending on snow conditions)

Duration: approx. 9 hours

Best time of year: spring

Maps: Map of Switzerland 1:50,000, no.: 282 Martigny, Map of Switzerland 1:25,000, No.: 1344 Col de Balme, GPS: 46º 00'23.98" N, 7º 00'51.47" E (access Couloir du Pissoir)Note: The PG TouringTips are general descriptions of tours that we like subjectively. They DO NOT REFER TO CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES. Please read the situation report and the weather forecast and plan your tour accordingly!


The first rays of the morning sun bathe the surrounding peaks in a warm orange and the darkness of the sky fades into bright blue.

Not a cloud to cloud the picture.

It's mid-April in the last Swiss village before the French border.

Grand Parorama.

A fantastic day ahead of us.

Couloir de Pissoir our destination.

Off the beaten track.


Through one of the wild valleys of the Mont Blanc massif.

The route is long

The ascent is long

The destination is rewarding.

Cherry trees in bloom in the valley and cold powder on shady northern slopes - what a contrast.

With the first gondola on the last day of the season.

Tête de Balme - the sun is beating down.

The snow is still hard and shining cold.

Our concentration is challenged.

We climb and balance over the abyss.

The sweat is flowing.

The sun is burning.

Our pulse is rising.

Stop at the summit.

The white mountain in front of us.

Thickly packed glacier flanks.

Great expanse.

White reflector

We climb on to the urinal.

Short shadows in the glaring sunlight

Aiguille du Tour on the horizon.

Sharp spurs, pointed spikes

Contrast in granite and ice.

Col du Pissoir and entrance to the gully.

The wind drives the snow in front of us.

First turns in the shady steep face.

The snow is soft and supportive.

Fast breathing on large radii with burning thighs.

Exhilaration in the vertical, weightless and close to the limit.

Banked runs in playful terrain

We chase further down into the valley until gravity forces us to stop at the bottom.

Endorphine hysteria

A look back,

An indescribable feeling.

Unforgettable moment.

Photo gallery

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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