Over the past few years I have visited this region a number of times. I think my first visit was for a Boulder World Cup and the Tout a Bloc festival run by BaBa "Francois Lombard". A few festivals later and a winter visit around 3 years ago on my way to Spain I am back. The Ecrins is truly an area that has it all. In the winter the skiing, boarding, ice climbing and sunny winter rock available makes this a special place to spend Christmas. It has only been this visit that I have discovered the wealth of shady summer climbing available too. With temperatures ranging in the 25 to 30 degree I wasn't really expecting great conditions or amazing crags but, I found myself faced with stunning lines and excellect conditions on a daily basis so much so that sometimes I had to put a down jacket on and even a wooly hat and yet be able to sunbathe or swim in the lake in the valley!!
Here is a little overview of the single pitch sport crags I visited and another multi pitch, this time a total sport route I nick named the Seven 7's.
On the first day we headed to the Vallouise sector Entraygues, home to the amazing Tony Lamiche route San Ku Kai 9a and a new 9a+ from the wonder kid Enzo Oddo. After a quick warm up on a 6c I managed to crimp my way up the bouldery 8a Les Pitchounes followed by another 8a Le Sika Karai De Rika Zarai.
Unknown climber attempting San Ku Kai 9a
Next up was Rocher Des Brumes. Routes of choice were Yvan Colonnette 7b, Papapuk 8a, Papa Tank 8a, La Rentiere Mal Baisee 8a+. A fantastic crag with some very steep climbs. A fairly new venue this crag actually faces South but with the very overhanging nature the routes are in the shade at the moment. A the sun drops lower in the sky the crag will become a more winter friendly venue also.
Jerry Gore enjoying the 6c+ warm up
Here is a video of the stunning 8c there, Une Arquee Pour Le Criquet, with that man again BaBa.
The new Ailefroide crag I visited is a bit of a local secret. Jerry Gore has a topo and I am sure he will lend it to you if you belay him on his project ;-) Anyway if you do get to visit...Punishment Park is the amazing 7c crack with bolts.....it has also been on-sighted with gear before someone starts a thread on UKC. For more info and pics check out two posts ago.
The last single pitch crag I visited was Tournoux. A number of sectors here provide sunny and shady aspects at around 1800m. We opted for the shady side, three routes later we ran away as the low temps were getting to us. Routes of choice were La Ruee Vers L'or 6c+, Rape a Plat 7a+ and the amazing Cost Of Freedom 8a.
The variation of temps available in August was amazing. With many crags in many valleys all at different altitudes make this valley a place for all seasons. So my much so that i bumped into my fried Gabbi Moroni who was running away from the heat at Ceuse
Earlier I mentioned another multi pitch we climbed. This was Daisy Cheine high above the famous (you might have seen it in the Tour De France), Col Du Lautaret.
Looking down to the Col from the start of the route.
Looking up at the wall. The line follows a black streak high up on the left hand side of the wall.
I called it the 7 7's as the pitches go like this. 7a, 7a, 7b, 7b+, 7a+, 7b and 7a+. Not bad for a sports climbing day out. There are plenty of other routes here all bolted (ground-up) around 8 pitches in length. Many of which are around 6c with an oblig grade on 6a/6b. Well worth a visit. At this time of year you will need to wait until the sun comes onto the wall, around 1pm, then it will be shirts off.
FinallyIi just want to say a massive thanks....agian to Jerry Gore for putting me up and putting up with me ( or is that me with him!!) being my guide and motivation. Jerry originally from the UK has lived in the Hautes Alpes year round since 2003. They are always on hand to provide advice and support for families, couples and groups. So like minded people can get the most out of this huge and diverse mountain arena and make full use of the 300 days of sunshine every year - Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter!
Some of Jerrys Chalets
Chalet Chabrand in Summer
Chalet Eyrie in Winter
If you want to read more about Jerry and Alpbase and the climbing in the Ecrins check out his article "10 of the Best" from Climb Magazine Sept 2009.