activities for children french alps

a wobbly paradise

Rock Climbing Ecrins, Ailefroide

Rock climbing in the French Alps

Superb Rock Climbing

In the words of the European crag climber’s bible - The Jingo Wobbly “Europe” guide book:

“The (Durance) Valley makes power climbing here a soft summer recreation, with beer intervals! 300 days of sunshine a year = a wobbly paradise”.

These words inspired me to relocate our family to the Southern French Alps in 2003. And I am happy to say this area has just got better and better each year as new crags, sectors, routes and multi-pitch playgrounds continue to be developed.

Currently there are 80+ actual climbing sites (crags). Most of which have at least 3 different sectors and each sector has between 10 and 20 actual routes.

Plus there are 6 different rock types

  • Limestone
  • Granite
  • Conglomerate
  • Gabbro
  • Quartzite
  • Gneiss

The grade range runs from Fr.3 routes just for children to Fr.8c+. Route length is anything from 2m. high boulders to 650m. Big Wall routes!

We have climbed many of the routes in the area, and can advise on the best climbs for your level, experience, time of year, and weather. We also stock a full range of local climbing guide books which we can lend you. jerry is always happy to talk about climbing!

CHILD FRIENDLY CRAGS

  1. Le Rocher qui répond (Grimper) – Vallée de la Claree. 45 minutes drive from AlpBase.com. A great crag for children. Secteur 3 has routes from Fr.3c to 4c. It’s a roadside crag above a forest where the children can play safely. And the routes are only 10m. above the forest. It is shady so cool in summer. Grades from Fr.3 to 7b

  2. Les Traverses/La Vignette (Grimper) – Les Vigneaux. 10 minutes from AlpBase.com you’ll find 10 different sectors from V.Diff to Fr.8a in an impressive alpine setting! All single pitch and well bolted. Something here for everyone. Secteur 5 is ideal for children.

  3. Les Collets (Grimper) – Right by the town of L’Argentiere and only 15 minutes from Vallouise you’ll find single pitch climbs from UK 4a to 5a. An easy start to your week! Shady after 2.30-3pm in the height of summer.

  4. Prelles (Grimper) Mini alpine rock climbs for children. Ask Jerry for details

  5. La Blanche (Grimper). A great child friendly crag at 2,400m. with superb views. It is near Saint Veran in the

    Queyras. Just over an hour’s drive to St Veran from AlpBase, and park at the “pont” marked on the map in Grimper. Then 30 mins walk up a dirt road towards the Refuge de la Blanche. There is plenty of flat ground for children, plus a stream to play in.
    N.B. in July and August between 8am and 6pm you have to park in St Veran and take the shuttle bus.

  6. Rocher Baron (1360m. Grimper) – Rocher Baron is a big 3 secteur crag offering quartzite routes from Fr.3b to 7c+ (routes are normally easy for the grade) with an easy 10 second approach from your car. In summer it can be hot unless a breeze is blowing or you go round to the 1st secteur which is west facing and so sheltered from sun. Otherwise go early or late in day and take a picnic. Secteur 3 at the East end – the first rock that you see as you approach the crag - is great for kids. Highly recommend as an intro to the area, very popular with the Brits. Be warned the dirt track that accesses the crag is quite rough for cars!

  7. Le Chambon – Tramouillon St Crepin (Grimper) – A great single pitch crag ideal for kids and adults alike. Grades range from UK 3a to 5c. Easy for top roping and the children can watch the gliders take off from the nearby airfield. Go after 4pm to avoid PGL instructors and children!

  8. Chanteloube - Tramouillon St Crepin (Grimper) – Another ideal crag for children. Grades range from UK 3a to 5c. 28 climbs all well bolted.

Multi Pitch, Sport Rock and Bouldering In The Ecrins Massif

Guidebooks and maps:

1. For the majority of multi pitch rock routes mentioned below the bible is JM Cambon’s “Oisans Nouveau Oisans Sauvage - Livre Est”. ISBN 2 9502597 6 6. This book will be referred to below simply as “Oisans Nouveau”. Beware when using Cambon’s guides that 5 stars means very badly protected and one star means fully bolted to the Hilti! Available locally at sports stores and newsagents.

2. For information and topos on the 80 plus sport crags in the Brianconnais region use the FFME guide book “Escalade en Brianconnais, Haut Val Durance, Queyras” by Martine Yann and Jean Jacques Rolland, referred to below as “Grimper”. A copy is located in your apartment. It is also available locally at sports stores and newsagents or at half price direct from me! I did the English translation so don’t be too harsh!

Maps

For most of the multi pitch and sport crags mentioned below maps are nice but not essential. The Ecrins Massif is split into 5 IGN maps at 1:25,000 and can be bought at most local newsagents and supermarkets

MULTI PITCH ROCK

N.B. All grades are French unless noted otherwise

1. Montbrison – Tete D’Aval, and the Tenailles

The Tete D’Aval (The Donkey’s Head!) is big. Without doubt it is the showcase of the area when it comes to long hard limestone, and comprises routes offering “Big Wall” exposure, abseils over huge roofs and a tranquil Yosemite atmosphere. Its 33 routes vary in height from 300m to 600m in vertical height, and all have in-situ pro. Most are well bolted but a few require the full range of nuts and friends. Routes rarely exceed the 6b obligatoire level, climbing is comfortable from mid April to mid October, and the approach is a good 1.5 hours approach from the car park above Les Vigneaux.

The classic on the face is Ranxerox (Oisans Nouveau). Graded ED, 7a max; 6a/b oblige, it is 500m long and 19 pitches in total - a super lead for an E3 climber and comfortable for an E4 leader. Allow 10-12 hours for the ascent and 2 hours for the abseil.
Other noteworthy routes include Le Trou Noir (ED+, 350m. 6c max, 6a/b oblige, Oisans Nouveau) and Les Elfes (TD+, 500m. 7a/A1 max, 6a oblige, Oisans Nouveau).

2. Vallon De Sele – The Aiguille de Sialouze (3576m)

A high mountain ‘modern’ crag. These routes require a little more commitment and the use of some mountain gear to get to them, but once on them you’re cruising on mainly fixed gear with rap. descents back to your sack.
Sialouze presents the ambitious rock addict 11 first class examples of high mountain ‘modern’ rock routes from 240m to over 500m in length, and from Difficile to ED+ (from British VS to E6). The classic of the crag is without doubt La Diagonal du Fou (ED-, Oisans Nouveau p.54 ) at Fr.7a, 6a oblige (about E4 6a).

Others to try:
Ventre à terre – 400m. TD (Oisans Nouveau) Super Pilou – 400m. TD- (Oisans Nouveau)

3. Glacier Noir – Pic Sans Nom North Face (3914m)

Another high mountain rock climbing area. The hard classic is Aurore Nucleaire (ED-, Oisans Nouveau), weighing in at a standard 500m. of Fr. 6b max, 6a oblige – UK E2/3.
Please note this route is best climbed early on in the season as it is affected by stone fall.
Just to the left of the North Face proper is the NE Pillar. One not to be missed because it contains two great routes 500m in length and both around the HVS level - Une Septentrion Pour Rire (TD, Oisans Nouveau) and Big Tower Is Watching You (TD-, Oisans Nouveau).

4. Ailefroide Valley

The high alpine valley of Ailefroide is one of the most beautiful in all of France and from a climbers perspective has pretty much everything on tap. There are single and multi pitch routes in Grimper and the Cambon guide also lists over 50 routes all of which are worthwhile, however a few to look out for include the following:

Fissure D’Ailefroide Sector:

  1. a) The regional classic Fissure D’Ailefroide (D, 250m, Grimper) Look out for edelweiss from 3rd week of July for approx. a month. A classic that is cool in summer and Brits love it as it is almost trad climbing

  2. b) La Snoopy (a less polished but a little harder at 6b+;5+ oblige, Grimper)

  3. c) A titre d'Ailes froides (D+, 250m, Grimper)

Secteur de Palavar: These routes offer some of the longest in the valley at 400m in length. Beware steep boulder path which if descending in dark necessitates a headtorch.

a) Palavar les Flots (D-, Grimper) is a well situated grade 5+ classic
b) La vie Devant Soi (TD, 350m, Grimper) is a 13 pitcher culminating in a 6b+ sting in the tail. Alterrnative start

located further uphill from original start (cutting out 4 pitches) is recommended if time is short.
c) Les Predateurs (TD-, 300m, Grimper) is a great route. Between pitch 3 and 7 tricky route finding, with spaced out

bolts which are hard to find in places. Take slings to use for tree belays. Now an extra pitch at top of route which

is well bolted at Fr.6b? Beware rap points are hard to find so bring slings/extra tat which can be useful.

Pilier des Violettes:

Try the 280m Voyage en Cathiminie (Grimper), it’s a delightful 6b tip toeing along the edge of a huge overhang from which descent is made by a free hanging abseil.
N.B. ABSEIL AFTER PITCH EIGHT - DO NOT TRY TO WALK OFF!
Secteur Orange d’Etoiles:

  1. a) Orange d’étoiles (D+, 300m, Grimper)

  2. b) Pilier du Levant (TD-, 6a max, 5b oblige. – Grimper) A great route for an experienced HVS/E1 leader! Remember

    take care to locate the lower abseils on the descent!

Eperon de la voie éteinte:

a) La voie éteinte (D+, 250m, 6a max, Grimper). Varied with great ambiance. Delicate 6a slab traverse and a stunning pitch up a rock fin. Bolts are pretty sparse so take slings and wires – look out for some natural belays. Don’t use a tree for the decent on the second abseil; abseil chain just out of site!

Cascade du Riou Seche:

This west facing crag has three routes on it but by far the most popular is Cascades Blues.
- Cascades Blues (D+, 250m, Fr.6a max, 5c oblige). Ideal for ambitious VS climbers, you can miss out the 6a pitch at the top, and crossing the waterfall on the 6th pitch is easy (rope insitu) unless shortly after a heavy storm. Descent is via three abseils.

5. Massif Des Cerces – Tour Termier, Vallon De La Moulette and Aiguillette Du Lauzet

The Cerces is a line of limestone super crags that fill the high valley between Briançon and the Col du Lauteret. They contain many limestone peaks with fully equipped multi-pitch routes to true summits with big mountain views, but without the need for mountain gear. Here are a few we recommend but there are many more at all grades:
1. Ayla in the Vallon De Moulette (Oisans Nouveau). At ED+, it gets 7b+max, and 6b oblige and really does deserve special mention.

2. Le Feu Sacre (ED, Oisans Nouveau) on the SW face of The Tour Termier (3070m).
3. Les Beaux Quartiers (TD+, Oisans Nouveau p.260) on the Aiguillette Du Lauzet, 30 minutes from the road.

6. Tramouillon St Crepin – South Face of Le Ponteil (1700m)

Our local multi-pitch crag, and definitely one of our favourites. A true sport crag Le Ponteil has most things you could wish for – a short walk-in, superb rock, soaring directissimas', and no crowds. Descent, once you reach the very top is to look for abseil chains in the centre of the face that will take you all the way to the bottom. First ab is to terrace at 2/3rds height. Then look for ab station that goes right past “The Magic Line” route. 3 abseils from the terrace, one of which is very airy, takes you to the bottom. Don’t try and walk off!

a) The Magic Line (ED, Grimper).
b) L’Araignée (TD, Grimper) – takes a series of 3 overhangs direct! c) Freeday (TD, Grimper).
d) Nid D’Aigle (D+, Grimper) the classic VS/HVS of the crag.

7. Fun and easy multi-pitch sport climbs in the Ecrins

a) Vallée Etroite – Tour Germaine (2189m. Grimper) A fully equipped UK Severe multi pitch climb one hour from Vallouise and lying very close to the Italian border
b) Chemin du Roy – Close to Col de Lautaret (1.5 hrs from Vallouise) there are 6 multi-pitch climbs here from UK Severe to E1. “Eperon long de la route” (Grimper) is a classic for Severe climbers

c) Guisane – Rocher du Bez (1450m. Grimper). Only 3km from Briançon and less than an hour from Vallouise this venue is ideal training for V.Diff to VS climbers who want to practice multi-pitch climbing. There are 25 single and multi-pitch climbs and all are well bolted. It is a volcanic crag in an attractive alpine setting, only a (fairly) short walk from bustling ski resort, with pleasant shady with trees, pine needles and picnic bench at its base.

d) Pilier Gris (1600m. Grimper). Close to Briançon this 5 pitch crag has two routes, Severe and HVS. It has recently been rebolted. The descent is by abseil or you can walk off
e) Eperon De Bouchier (1520m. Grimper). Only AD 150m., 4c max – UK easy VS. To access (20 minutes) you walk up via Bouchier village and find a little path by the side of a barn. This leads up to the start which is marked by a piton painted red. It takes 2-3 hours to climb with an easy walk off the back – a fun outing.

f) Bec de L’Ase (1200m. Grimper). A North-facing summer crag with only a few routes but on super rock above an alpine valley, mainly grade sevens. Pleasant 15 minute walk slanting uphill through woodland. Although the base has a small, reasonably safe area, there are danger zones below and one particular nasty bad step to reach it if bringing children – use a safety rope for the bad step.

SINGLE PITCH SPORT CRAGS

N.B. If you are not used to securing the rope at the top of sport crags for top roping ask Jerry for details.

  1. Le Rocher qui répond (Grimper) – Vallée de la Claree. 45 minutes drive from AlpBase.com. Secteur 3 has routes from Fr.3c to 4c. It’s a roadside crag above a forest. And the routes are only 10m. above the forest. It is shady so

    cool in summer. Grades from Fr.3 to 7b

  2. Les Traverses/La Vignette (Grimper) – Les Vigneaux. 10 minutes from AlpBase.com you’ll find 10 different

    sectors from V.Diff to Fr.8a in an impressive alpine setting! All single pitch and well bolted. Something here for

    everyone. There are also many other sectors with a lot of routes in the seventh grade.

  3. Les Collets (Grimper) – Right by the town of L’Argentiere and only 15 minutes from Vallouise you’ll find single

    pitch climbs from UK 4a to 5a. An easy start to your week! Shady after 2.30-3pm in the height of summer.

  4. Reotier (Grimper) – A fun series of single pitch climbs set on 15m. high boulders way up above Guillestre. Grades

    range from UK 3a to 6a. Go for the view not the climbing.

  5. Les Ayes (Grimper) – A high level sports crag (1600m.) offering routes from Fr.6b to 7b+ - west facing so cool in

    summer

  6. Rocher Baron (1360m. Grimper) – A big 3 secteur crag offering quartzite routes from Fr.4 to 7c+ (routes are

    normally easy for the grade) with an easy 10 second approach from your car. In summer it can be hot unless a breeze is blowing or you go round to the 1st secteur which is west facing and so sheltered from sun. Otherwise go early or late in day and take a picnic. Highly recommend as an intro to the area, very popular with the Brits. Be warned the dirt track that accesses the crag is quite rough for cars!

  7. Tournoux (1800m. Grimper) High altitude sport crags with superb views overlooking the Vallouise valley from a shady pine clad hillside. The south-facing crag has easy access and a reasonable base with short and rather bouldery Fr.6’s and 7’s. The north facing crag is great on hot days but starts from a fairly exposed ramp. Routes from Fr.4 to 8b+.

  8. Mont-Dauphin (1000m. Grimper) – A great crag with 10 sectors and an easy approach through trees, below castle walls. NW facing so cool in summer, great routes on conglomerate rock from Fr.4b to 7b+. Check out the marmots afterwards on side road up to Eygliers.

  9. Ailefroide:–

    1. La Gorge (Grimper) Fr.6a to 7b+ superb technical granite climbs, N. facing so cool in summer

    2. Fissure D’Ailefroide (Grimper) Beginners area from Fr.3b to 5c, N. facing but often busy so go early or

      late. BE AWARE this is an old-style sport crag originally intended for multi-pitch climbing so single pitches

      here can be 40 meters or longer!

  10. Le Pouit (1316m. Grimper) A great crag from Fr.5c to 7b+, now a little polished in places. Hot in summer so go

    early or late.

  11. Falaise du Grand Bois above Les Vigneaux. A Via Ferrata crosses terraces on a steep forested hillside to reach a

    flat shelf above which rises some of the best rock in the Haut Durance - rough and featured, once you get over the steep starts. Mainly low Fr.7’s. Excellent mid-summer conditions.

WET WEATHER ALTERNATIVES

  1. La Grotte (Grimper) Hard routes from Fr.6b to 8a+ all in a cave!

  2. La Vignette (Grimper) A few hard routes around Fr.7a that stay dry

  3. Freissinieres Valley – Secteur 2: Grotte des Vaudois – Fr.5c to 6c+ - the routes stay

perfectly dry in heavy rain although a bit polished in places (Grimper)

HOT WEATHER COOL CRAGS!

1. Fournel – Secteur 3 (Grimper). Cool easy climbs between Fr.4-6b+. Shady from 2pm onwards in summer. To approach once you reach the first bend in the road on the North side of Fournel Valley, past the south facing crags on your right, branch left downhill from the bend in the road and after 70m. cross the canal at a wooden bridge.
2. Le Rif D’Oriol (Grimper). Fully shaded climbs in a small river gorge
3. La Gorge (Grimper). Up at Ailefroide on the Fissure D’Ailefroide Secteur. Climbs mostly around the Fr.6b-7b level. Lovely steep granite climbing
4. Falaise du Grand Bois (Grimper). Ascend via some Via Ferrata wires – difficult to find so ask us first.
5. Tournoux (Grimper). A whole series of crags of which pretty much all are cool in summer as they are high, especially Secteur 4. Secteur 2 is the classic and most popular though.

CHILD FRIENDLY CRAGS

  1. Le Rocher qui répond (Grimper) – Vallée de la Claree. 45 minutes drive from AlpBase.com. A great crag for children. Secteur 3 has routes from Fr.3c to 4c. It’s a roadside crag above a forest where the children can play safely. And the routes are only 10m. above the forest. It is shady so cool in summer. Grades from Fr.3 to 7b

  2. Les Traverses/La Vignette (Grimper) – Les Vigneaux. 10 minutes from AlpBase.com you’ll find 10 different sectors from V.Diff to Fr.8a in an impressive alpine setting! All single pitch and well bolted. Something here for everyone. Secteur 5 is ideal for children.

  3. Les Collets (Grimper) – Right by the town of L’Argentiere and only 15 minutes from Vallouise you’ll find single pitch climbs from UK 4a to 5a. An easy start to your week! Shady after 2.30-3pm in the height of summer.

  4. Prelles (Grimper) Mini alpine rock climbs for children. Ask Jerry for details

  5. La Blanche (Grimper). A great child friendly crag at 2,400m. with superb views. It is near Saint Veran in the

    Queyras. Just over an hour’s drive to St Veran from AlpBase, and park at the “pont” marked on the map in Grimper. Then 30 mins walk up a dirt road towards the Refuge de la Blanche. There is plenty of flat ground for children, plus a stream to play in.
    N.B. in July and August between 8am and 6pm you have to park in St Veran and take the shuttle bus.

  6. Rocher Baron (1360m. Grimper) – Rocher Baron is a big 3 secteur crag offering quartzite routes from Fr.3b to 7c+ (routes are normally easy for the grade) with an easy 10 second approach from your car. In summer it can be hot unless a breeze is blowing or you go round to the 1st secteur which is west facing and so sheltered from sun. Otherwise go early or late in day and take a picnic. Secteur 3 at the East end – the first rock that you see as you approach the crag - is great for kids. Highly recommend as an intro to the area, very popular with the Brits. Be warned the dirt track that accesses the crag is quite rough for cars!

  7. Le Chambon – Tramouillon St Crepin (Grimper) – A great single pitch crag ideal for kids and adults alike. Grades range from UK 3a to 5c. Easy for top roping and the children can watch the gliders take off from the nearby airfield. Go after 4pm to avoid PGL instructors and children!

  8. Chanteloube - Tramouillon St Crepin (Grimper) – Another ideal crag for children. Grades range from UK 3a to 5c. 28 climbs all well bolted.

    ECRINS BOULDERING

The best bouldering is in the Ailefroide valley. The guidebook is a little booklet by Anthony Lamiche called “Topo Blocs Ailefroide”. Available at local sports shops. There are also many other bouldering venues in the Ecrins. Ask Jerry for further details.

IFSC Climbing Worldcup (L) - Briançon (FRA) 2017

28 - 29 JULY 2017

PRE-EVENT INFO

START LISTS & RESULTS

  • W O M E N lead
  • M E N lead

PROGRAM (GMT+2)

Friday 28th July

09:00-15:00 Lead Qualifications
19:30-22:00 Lead Semi-Finals (LIVE)

Saturday 29th July

19:30 Lead Finals (LIVE)
22:00 Award Ceremony (LIVE)

You can rock climb generally from march through to November - although you may want a fleece for when the sun goes down at the begining and emd of the season!

ACCOMMODATION

Choose from a wide selection of high quality chalets and apartments ideal for familes and/or groups of friends.

How to find us

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