Mountaineering in the Ecrins?

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  • Mountaineering in the Ecrins?
  • We have camped at Aliefriode right up the valley ,extra fine place .I climbed Mt Pelvoux and Montange des Agnew also super rock climbing and walks .

    Cannot recommend Les Ecins more highly I would lookinto driving all the way up to Alielfrode campsite, cafe, bars .

    Anyone done any mountaineering / climbing in the Ecrin as a break from riding at Deux Alpes, Alpes D’Huez? We camped at Venosc 2 years ago and used the via ferrata there to get up to the resort. This year we’re planning on driving up to La Bararde and maybe do some easy Alpine stuff from there.

    Any suggestions for peaks to climb, around PD grade? Did you need to book the huts in advance, what gear did you use? We’re thinking of Col de Coolridge and a couple of others near by. Would it be safe to leave a small campervan with 2 bikes inside at La Bararde?

    cheers

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    I’ve climbed there a few times, it’s my favourite place to go mountaineering/climbing. There are loads of options at PD and even some F grade routes are good and crossing some of the cols can be as interesting/demanding as climbing peaks. The best we did was a circuit from la Berade to Ailefroide to la Berade in about 8 days.
    D1) Park at la Barade walk to Refuge du Temple Ecrins,
    D2) climb Pic Coolidge, return to Ref. pick up gear walk to Ref. Pilatte
    D3) cross Col du Sele to ref. Sele (or all way to Ailefroide)
    D4) Ailefroide stay at Gite d’etape in village use local launderette to clean all your used clothes, go for a beer.
    D5) thumb lift up to Ref.Cezanne, walk to Ref. Des Ecrins
    D6) climb Roche Faurio
    D7) Climb Barre Des Ecrins
    D8) climb down col Des Ecrins walk to La Barade.

    You def have to do the Barre Des Ecrins (not the Dome de Neige), graded PD and an exciting exposed scramble at great altitude.

    Spin
    Member

    Good multi pitch sport routes around both La Berarde and Ailefroide.

    La Berarde is a beautiful spot and If you’re up to it the Aiguille Dibona is a “must do” summit.

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    In answer to your actual questions
    From la barade, Pic Coolige I thought was a very good route for an F grade. Bit of snow plod (might be gone now), bit of exposed rock scrambling, snow plod, bit of snow ridge, bit of exposed scramble from fore summit to highest summit.
    Mont Gioberney (from Pilatte hut) was ok, nowt special, we did it as an altitude training peak.
    Les Bans, IMO the best PD route in that valley, but very high in it’s grade (PD+), very crevassed approach, exposed steep scrambling, worrying route finding, scarey steep descent back down the route of ascent, we did a couple of rappels.

    It’s the done thing to phone the hut in advance (but that morning will be fine). In July/August the honeypot huts should be booked more in advance (but only a few days).

    For Pic Coolidge rope, crampons, Ice axe, slings.

    At La Barade, we left a car in the public car park for 10 days with no issues, on a second occasion for 3 days.

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    Dibonna is back down the valley a bit, more rock climbing IMO, but excellent. I’ve also done Tete du Rouget from that same hut, which was a superb mountaineering climb, but the most frightening descent I’ve ever done (multiple rappels on a rope that was always too short, loose slabs of rock under a few inches of melting snow).

    Premier Icon glenh
    Subscriber

    Les Bans, IMO the best PD route in that valley, but very high in it’s grade (PD+), very crevassed approach, exposed steep scrambling, worrying route finding, scarey steep descent back down the route of ascent, we did a couple of rappels.

    Yep, it’s one scary ass PD route!

    Gioberney isn’t a particularly exciting mountain itself, but it does have tremendous views, so a good warm up.

    I love both Ailefroid and La Berade, and the Ecrin in general.

    Glad Les Bains is deemed a bit scary its the only mountain I have climbed! That girlfriend had to go!!

    Ooooh, sounds good. Really glad we negotiated 6 weeks off work so that we could get some climbing in and get off the bikes for a while. All those peaks sounds like good options, but I wasnt planning on taking technical axes or too much ice climbing gear.

    sounds like those routes are doable with a walking axe, 50m rope (would take a shorter one maybe, but it abseiling is on the cards then 50m it is), crampons and a few nuts, extenders and slings. Are we talking Grade 3 scrambling / Grade 2 scottish / Moderate type stuff in the main or verging into proper climbing grades on those peaks? Anything in the UK you’d compare some of the rock sections to? I’ve got the Alpine Club guide book on order, so I’m not planning on going armed just with info from this forum (as good as it is)!

    What facilities are there at La Bararde (map shows a church!) and Ailefroide (laundrette and bar)? Not that we’ll need much if using the huts.

    Related question – it doesnt look like a UK BMC card gives you discounts in France any more, I think you now need to buy a Reciprical Arrangement card for an additional £40.

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    but I wasnt planning on taking technical axes or too much ice climbing gear.

    And you won’t need them for F/PD. Maybe take a couple of ice screws, but you probably won’t use them.

    Grade 3 scrambling and winter walking/climbing grade I type stuff, nothing technically serious. The biggest issues will probably be the head game, massive exposure and size and scale of it all and route finding (esp. in the dark). On some of the climbs(ie Les Bans), I found it more mentally tiring than anything else esp. if you’re the one doing all the leading, route finding, decision making.
    A good practise would be Idwal slabs ordinary route-continue scramble up-cneifion arete-y gribin ridge. do it all scramble/alpine style, not pitched.
    Pinnacle Ridge in the lakes maybe, but like I say, it’s not the technical element that is difficult (if you’re already reasonably competent), it’s all the other stuff IMO.
    Facilities at La Barade from memory (2003). Tourist info, v small shop, small hotel or similar, bar/restaurant, BnB/bunkhouse/campsite.
    Ailefriode, pretty much everything and launderette, huge campsite, loads of bolted crag climbing around the village etc (not sure about getting cash).
    Join the AAC(UK) @£45? reciprocal rights in the huts and includes climbing insurance, so if you’ve already got travel insurance the AAC climbing cover will be sufficient for your mountaineering bit of the hols. If you are already in the BMC, then it depends on how often you intend to use the huts (private huts not included) as to whether you plumb for the extra.
    My kit list

    juan
    Member

    but I wasnt planning on taking technical axes or too much ice climbing gear.

    Hum if the weather doesn’t improve you’ll have no other choice…

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    We have camped at Aliefriode right up the valley ,extra fine place

    +1 Lovely place. Beautiful camp site, crags 5 mins walk from the tent – single pitch and multi-pitch. Lot’s of great climbs off Glacier Blanc.

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    Just looking at this site brings back so many great memories from there:

    http://www.gdargaud.net/Climbing/Ecrins.html

    thanks Banana, that’s the sort of terrain I was expecting but wasnt sure how early the starts would need to be in that area. fine with exposure, maybe not quite a happy with route finding in the dark so will reccie the afternoon before.

    I’ve climbed PD routes that are completely straight forwards, with very little gear needed, but did the Petite Aiguille Vert a few years ago and at that time it certainly needed 2 axes and a screw or two, big queues and turning around up near the crux.

    Juan – what’s the weather up to at the moment? Are you saying lots of snow and ice, or the opposite?

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    I’ve climbed PD routes that are completely straight forwards, with very little gear needed, but did the Petite Aiguille Vert a few years ago and at that time it certainly needed 2 axes and a screw or two, big queues and turning around up near the crux.

    Yes, I’m talking generally.
    As I’ve said, as you have plenty of time, I would strongly recommend doing the Barre Des Ecrin, the long summit ridge is superb (I’ve done it twice). The best approach is by the Barre Noir Couloir (AD-) which is a steep but straightforward snow slope, best done with a pr of axes and a few ice screws. However, you can take the normal approach route which is a snow plod and requires no more than a single walking axe.

    The route will determine how early you start, Barre Des Ecrins/Les Bans are def early in the dark starts.

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    2nd Barre Noir Couloir, they’ll be very few groups on it (if any), whereas the normal trail looks like an ant hill with all the hundreds of guided groups trudging up it….

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    Also there’s a route on the other side of the glacier – Pique de Glacier Blanc which is a really nice ridge route – bit like Crib Goch – really enjoyed it and not too hard. Although we nearly died on it. Stopped to regroup and collect gear (moving together) on a huge plinth – size of a grand piano and solid granite. My partner moved off and started traversing then as I stepped up off the block, the whole thing (20+ tonnes) just slid off the ridge leaving a huge gaping hole beneath me – we’d been sat on it 5 minutes earlier chatting).

    http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/54117/fr/pic-du-glacier-blanc-arete-s

    Premier Icon glenh
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    Pique de Glacier Blanc which is a really nice ridge route – bit like Crib Goch

    The south ridge of the Pic du Glacier Blanc is a nice scramble once you are on it, but it does have a pitch of ~severe to get onto the ridge at the bottom.
    Lovely (and fairly short route) though.

    Nice pictures in some links above – thanks.

    Glenh – this is my reason for posting, I’m not happy leading Severe in big boots so I’d avoid getting into that sort of situation unless it was bolted.

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    There’s also a couple of really nice multi-pitch rock routes from the campsite, my fave was “Fissure D’ailefroide”.

    http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=35556

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    Glenh – this is my reason for posting, I’m not happy leading Severe in big boots so I’d avoid getting into that sort of situation unless it was bolted.

    yes – thinking back the glacier had retreated quite a bit compared to our guide book, so we had to move up a bit to find a way onto the ridge – the lower bit was just a blank wall – which didn’t stop us taking a few swings on it trying to get up….

    Premier Icon mugsys_m8
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    Don’t get the alpine club guide (it was written by d brailsford of british cycling dame’s dad). Get the new Seb Constant guide. Much much better and up to date. Weather here near Grenoble is rubbish. 10 déférés ish low cloud etc.
    Much ski touring still being done at medium altitude…..

    For an ezsy day hit: La Râteau from the chair lift at La Grave.

    Live locally ISH. Know the mountains. Ish.

    I heard the new guide is more Snow and Ice rather than mixed, maybe more aimed at winter months? Also £30 vs £14!!

    Maybe I’ll start a “What Guidebook for Ecrins” thread, possibly more interesting (to some!) than “What tyres for Llandegla”?

    antigee
    Member

    i was going to suggest trying to find a copy of the old rebuffat 100 belle plus routes dans les massif des ecrins – but this looks like an on line version

    http://www.camptocamp.org/books/14556/fr/le-massif-des-ecrins-les-100-plus-belles

    Premier Icon fenboy
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    friend of mine might be able to help

    local guide

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    I use the Collomb guide to the Ecrin Park and the Brailsford Alpine club guide. I don’t see what the problem is with the Brailsford, The Colomb guide is just F to AD/D routes, the descriptions and topos I always liked, but the details might be way out of date now I expect, especially on the snow routes.

    Premier Icon glenh
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    I don’t see what the problem is with the Brailsford

    It does have a reputation of being a bit inaccurate in parts. In my experience, I would say that probably around half of the routes I have done that are in that guide are inaccurate in some way, either simply because of a mistake or because of changes on the ground.
    That said, it’s mountaineering, and you shouldn’t rely on a book…..

    It’s worth mentioning that most of the routes on the ecrin see far less traffic than those in some other areas (eg chamonix), so info for guide books is harder to obtain and keep up to date of course.

    Spin
    Member

    I don’t see what the problem is with the Brailsford

    What? Are you referring to the ‘Brailsford Book of Lies and Misinformation’.

    “Climb a rounded whales back for 1000 metres” WTF?

    And don’t expect to use it to actually find any of the multi pitch sport routes on the Dibona. After all it’s not real climbing with bolts is it?

    Get one of the French guides.

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    It does have a reputation of being a bit inaccurate in parts.

    Actually, now you mention it, I do now recall that being it’s reputation. I’ve mostly worked from the old Collomb guide and the previous 90’s Alpine Club Ecrin Guidebook (not sure who wrote it or if it was any more or less accurate). I sold my old 90’s Alpine club guidebook on the campsite in Ailefroide in the late 90’s. Bought the newer Brailsford guidebook, but I’ve only since used it for a few easier PD/AD routes without issues.

    So, how bad is the Brailsford book, seriously? I’m less worried about the £15 I’ve wasted at Amazon and more worried about the consequences of misinformation!

    We’re only planning on F / PD routes (and maybe some bolted stuff lower down).

    I’d imagine there is a train of climbers leaving the huts each morning for the major peaks, even if it is less busy in the Ecrins that the Vallais or Chamonix valley.

    Premier Icon glenh
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    My advice would just be to use it to work out which routes are the ones you want to climb, and other general info, but don’t rely on any details of route descriptions (ask people at the campsite/huts and check out the hut route books for up to date info).

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    I don’t think you should preoccupy yourself with guidebook route description errors. My feeling is that the F/PD normal routes you’ll likely be doing are well documented. Like Glenh says, double check in the hut the night before what their route description is and maybe compare to your guidebook and make some notes. If you’re going July/August then you can use/follow the ‘pack’ as a guide, but outside main season, you might be on our own or can’t rely on others. Most hut guardians I’ve found to be very willingly helpful to give advice.
    Definitely, do a walk of the start of the route the Afternoon/eve before, everytime we’ve not done that it’s started with a lot of wandering around in the dark trying to find ladders and/or paths.
    even at this low grade, I’ve always worked on the principle that I don’t want to rely on others to lead the way.

    Thanks again, that’s good advice to someone who has failed to find Pinancle Ridge and the Dolmen Arete in the past!

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