The Beaufortain and Les Ecrins

Tina, Scott and I have had a busy week climbing and mountaineering finding good conditions and having the odd frustrating moment due to rockfall!

On Sunday we went to the Refuge Robert Blanc in the Beaufortain. The Guardian at this hut is excellent and we had a very enjoyable meal with him before an early start the next day when we climbed the Petite Aiguille des Glaciers (3468m). There had been fresh avalanches the day before. This may be an issue for the next few weeks in the Alps. The glacier was in excellent condition.

We decided to go to Les Ecrins for the next four days as the weather forecast was excellent for this area and there is a little less snow. Therefore we drove on Tuesday towards La Berarde but unfortunately could not get up the final section of the road due to a large scale rockfall the day before making the road unpassable. After a quick discussion we headed to Ailefroide for some rock climbing before overnighting in the valley.

After breakfast on Wednesday morning we climbed in the valley before making the approach to the Refuge du Sele where we got a very warm welcome. The next morning we climbed the South Ridge route to the summit of L’Ailefroide Orientale (3847m) before descending the South West Flank Route.

The South Ridge route on the L’Ailefroide is hard to find in the middle section when snow covered (as it is just now). The glacier section of the South West Flank is threatened by a serac for a good section of it (which is not mentioned in the British climbing guide) and this should be thought about carefully if deciding to do this route.

Yesterday we climbed one of the large granite routes in the valley, Spit on Cup. This newly bolted route can be found in the latest edition of the climbing guide.

There are more photos on the facebook page.

On the approach to the Petite AIguille des Glaciers.

On the approach to the Petite AIguille des Glaciers.

Descending from L'Ailefroide Orientale.

Descending from L’Ailefroide Orientale.

Big Days Out in Les Ecrins

Following a few hours rock climbing at La Duchere crag near Les Contamines last Sunday, Paul and I drove down to Les Ecrins on Monday morning to meet Tina, Scott, Steve and Duncan. We then made the long walk into the Refuge Adele Planchard. The walk begins near La Grave and is very scenic.

Our intention was to climb La Grande Ruine (3765m) on Tuesday morning, however a change in forecast prompted a change in plan. As the weather was forecast to deteriorate at 4am the next morning we opted to climb the peak after dinner. We managed to make the summit in difficult snow conditions before returning to the at 2am. We had a long lie the next morning until 8am before walking out and driving to Ailefroide to overnight.

On Wednesday we walked into the Refuge du Pelvoux before climbing Mont Pelvoux (3943m) on Thursday morning via the Coolidge Couloir. The route was in excellent condition and is best climbed at this time of year when the chance of stonefall is minimised by good snow cover. It is also worth having two axes for the couloir.

Following a short rest we made the 1800 metre hut climb to the Refuge de l’Aigle on Friday at 6.30am. This well named hut (the hut of the eagles) is in a simply stunning location and well worth the effort in getting there.

The approach to the hut involves significant amounts of scrambling, via ferrata and glacier work. It should not be made in poor weather or visibility.

On Saturday we climbed La Meije Oriental (3891m) in excellent conditions before returning to the valley and Saint Gervais for a great meal out in the village.

To see more images of this stunning area please visit the climbnow facebook page.

The team on the summit of Mont Pelvoux.

The team on the summit of Mont Pelvoux.

Paul climbing at La Duchere.

Paul climbing at La Duchere.

Pointes de Burlan

The weather has continued to be perfect in Les Ecrins. Martin, Ivor and I have made the most of this by travelling from Ailefroide to La Berarde. From here, on Tuesday, we made the steep walk to the Refuge du Soreiller.

Martin carbo-loading before the hut walk.

Martin carbo-loading before the hut walk.

This hut gives access to a number of amazing granite summits including; Aiguille Dibona, Aiguille Centrale de Soreiller and Tete du Rouget.

The Aiguille Dibona (3130m).

The Aiguille Dibona (3130m).

We decided to climb the Pointes de Burlan (3299m) via Le Voie Muriabelle (D+,V+). The route gives excellent varied climbing on red granite.

Ivor enjoying steep granite in Les Ecrins.

Ivor enjoying steep granite in Les Ecrins.

The descent can be made either via abseil or a long scrambling ridge. We opted to abseil. Care should be taken with this to avoid the ropes jamming.

Ivor on the descent of the Pointes de Burlan.

Ivor on the descent of the Pointes de Burlan.

 

 

 

 

 

It is worth noting an important mistake in the guidebook. It suggests the route can be climbed on a 30 metre rope. This is incorrect. At least two of the pitches are 45 metres in length. To abseil the route, two 50 metre ropes are required. The route has lots of bolts on the harder sections. On the easier sections, the bolting is sparse and some teams may choose to carry a few wires and a couple of cam’s.

 

Ivor and Martin with the Pointes de Burlan (3299m) behind.

Ivor and Martin with the Pointes de Burlan (3299m) behind.

 

Ailefroide (Les Ecrins)

Martin, Ivor and I are currently in Ailefroide. This brilliant valley is located in Les Ecrins and gives access to hundreds of rock climbs and mountains up to 4102 metres.

Ivor climbing Sueurs des Boucs at Ailefroide.

Ivor climbing Sueurs des Boucs at Ailefroide.

 

As well as climbing a good number of single pitch routes, we have also had a great couple of days climbing Sueurs des Boucs (350m, D+) and Chaud Biz (180m, D).

Martin and Ivor descending from Chaud Biz with the mass of Mont Pelvoux behind.

Martin and Ivor descending from Chaud Biz with the mass of Mont Pelvoux behind.

 

Another Great Week in Les Ecrins

Being investigated by a Marmotte on the approach to the Glacier Blanc Hut.

Being investigated by a Marmotte on the approach to the Glacier Blanc Hut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have just returned from another brilliant week in Les Ecrins. TIna, Scott, Duncan, Steve, Tim and I spent six days climbing out of the Ailefroide and La Berarde valleys. On five of the six days the weather was perfect.

On Monday after some rock climbing in the valley we walked into the Glacier Blanc Hut from where on the Tuesday morning we climbed Les Agneaux (3664m). The mountain was in excellent condition. The French guidebook grades the Voie Normale at AD- while the British guidebook grades the route PD. I know which one I would believe!

After some lunch we continued to the Refuge des Ecrins to overnight.

Tim doing a 'jig' on Les Agneaux with Pelvoux behind.

Tim doing a ‘jig’ on Les Agneaux with Pelvoux behind.

Unfortunately, the weather was poor on Wednesday morning (warm and wet). There is still a risk of full depth avalanches in Les Ecrins at the moment so we opted to descend to the valley and relocate to La Berarde.

At 5am on Thursday morning we left our vehicles and climbed the Aiguille Dibona (3131m). Crampons and ice axe are currently advised at the moment as there is still a lot of snow present on the approach and descent from the mountain. The rock was perfectly dry.

Steve and Duncan at the hut having climbed the Dibona (behind).

Steve and Duncan at the hut having climbed the Dibona (behind).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again on Friday morning the weather was perfect giving us the chance to do some more rock climbing. In the afternoon we walked into Temple  Ecrins Hut. The food at this hut was excellent and the Guardian is very helpful and friendly. After speaking to him we discovered the Voie Normale on Pic Coolidge was not in condition. However, the Voie Originale was in condition. We climbed this route the next morning.

The Voie Originale climbs a steep snow gully at 45 to 50 degrees. The anchors in the gully are not all perfect. Those climbing the route should be able to create a buried axe anchor and it is worth remembering what you go up you must come down!

The team having a break after the couloir on Pic Coolidge Voie Originale.

The team having a break after the couloir on Pic Coolidge Voie Originale.

 

We made the summit of Pic Coolidge (3775m) at 9.30am and had brilliant views all around and out to the Mont Blanc Massif.

Pic Coolidge is a brilliant mountain with interesting, varied routes and provided a great finish to our week.

Tina and Scott near the summit of Pic Coolidge with the Barre des Ecrins behind.

Tina and Scott near the summit of Pic Coolidge with the Barre des Ecrins behind.

 

Mountaineering in Les Ecrins

I am just back from a successful week in Les Ecrins with Natalie and Marcus.

We travelled on Monday from Chamonix to La berarde before walking into the Refuge de la Pilatte. The next morning we climbed Mont Gioberney (3352m). The route was in excellent condition. We wore crampons from the hut to the summit and back.

Marcus and Natalie near the summit of Mont Gioberney.

Marcus and Natalie near the summit of Mont Gioberney.

The next day we spent some time climbing on the granite crags of the Ailefroide valley before walking to the Refuge Glacier Blanc. The temperature on Thursday morning was very cold giving great snow conditions for our ascent of the Pic du Glacier d’Arsine (3364m). We climbed the mountain from the Col du Glacier Blanc giving us some fun scrambling before the snow arête beyond. After descending the mountain we ascended the Glacier Blanc to overnight at the Refuge des Ecrins.

Barre des Ecrins from near the Refuge des Ecrins.

Barre des Ecrins from near the Refuge des Ecrins.

Today we climbed Roche Faurio (3730m) before returning to the valley. The conditions on both Roche Faurio and the Glacier Blanc were excellent.

A team on the ascent of Roche Faurio.

A team on the ascent of Roche Faurio.