Scaling the South face of the Saulire

posted: 2016-09-16
Scaling the South face of the Saulire - Courchevel Enquirer
Our trusty steed.
Before we start I have to say I’m a fan of the original Fiat Panda 4x4s. They are just so basic, from the design, which must have taken someone 5 minutes with a ruler, to their legendary ruggedness. This is backed up by the French Gendarmes in the alps who swore by them for a decade. Of the 5 million cars (est) originally build they are becoming increasingly rarer thanks to their utilitarian use and the bane of many Italian cars, rust.

This particular panda was registered in 1991 and is a “special” edition SISLEY which I think has something to do with canoes thanks to many emblems. Initially 500 were built, but in 1989 thanks to their popularity it became a permanent model. For your money you got, metallic paint, roof bars, a bonnet vent, which doubles as a great gopro session mount and an inclinometer on the dash.

One thing this car doesn't have is a rev meter which means you can't equate the engine noise (and there was quite a bit of it in the cabin) to the revs.

On the owners bucket list was to take the car up the Saulire, Courchevel’s highest peak, before it fell apart. Even though, miracle of miracles, it passed its control technique (French MOT) we decided to see if it would make it.

Now I’m not going to make it sound like we were taking it up the north side of the Eiger, The Saulire has many tracks where Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200s service the lifts in the summer. However there are a few points where the gradient exceeds 20 degrees (40%) and the tracks a crisscrossed with drainage channels that are just waiting to catch cars with low ride height.