/ Aig. du Dibona from Ailefroide?
So, various questions:
- Getting from Ailefroide to the Dibona: google maps suggests a two hour drive going down to Briancon & then round northwards in a big loop. Is there a better way that google maps doesn't know about?
- Guidebook? I can read English, French or German. CampToCamp seems good for individual route descriptions but lacking in overview.
- Route recommendations? If I have previously cruised multipitch 6b in Ailefroide then I'll aim at Visite Obligatoire. If not, what is a bit easier but still good?
Visite Obligatoire is fairly sustained and is not bolted as friendly as the the valley climbs, but is the route to go for.
The other worthy option is the Madier Route, which takes the central line, quite a bit easier and very good.
You will need a small rack for both, set of wire and 2-3 cams should be enough.
I just used the Camp to Camp, and I remember there were topos in the hut.
The Dibona is a marvellous piece of rock, and I've always found the Soreiller hut at the bottom to be a very enjoyable place to stay. I don't know of any better way of getting there than the route you've got from google maps.
The best guidebok for an overview that I'm aware of is the Jean Michel Cambon: Oisans Nouveau Oisans Sauvage, Livre Ouest. It's pretty comprehensive and gives all the routes on the Dibona and surrounding peaks. There may be a colour edition out by now. Generally I'd say the grades Cambon gives are less than generous, whereas those from camptocamp are a little the other way.
Visite Obligatoire absolutely lives up to its name and is one of the best long rock routes I've done in the Alps. It's all bolted (sportingly!). A little easier overall is the classic Madier, though of course it's got quite a tough crux crack pitch. However, I think this has now been superseded in popularity by a combination of routes which avoids the fissure by a detour to the left, and this could be worth looking at. I haven't done it, but there were quite a few parties on it when we were there last year. I expect it's on camptocamp, but if not there are topos you can copy in a folder at the hut. When I did the Madier a few years ago we just had the route scribbled on a postcard.
Basically, the Dibona is such a striking peak that any route is guaranteed to be memorable.
I note that it seems rather odd to be using Ailefroide as a base when a key goal is to climb the Dibona. Because there's lots of other climbing single-pitch and multi-pitch in the area of the Dibona in the Oisans / NW Ecrins around la Berarde. (another guidebook to consider for that is the new 2012 Isere guidebook).
If you don't have a car, then Ailefroide is supposed to be a very nice base for camping with climbs nearby. But then it's an enormous hassle to get to the Dibona all the way no the other side of the Ecrins massif.
But if you do have a car, there's lots of other places to choose as a base -- like say Monetier or le Lauzet -- in driving range of Ailefroide climbs, but closer to other interesting rock in the Cerces, and closer to the Dibona.
Note that there are other worthwhile climbs on other peaks in range of Refuge Soreiller. One idea is to do the _three_ climbs with initials V.O. (I believe all created by the same person). We did not do those, but Mazurka was a worthy adventure, with rather sporty bolt placements, surely bring Trad pro unless you're solid leading well above the given grade).
We did this last year, driving from Ailefroide to do Visite Obligatoire. It's a nice drive - around 2-3 hours depending on the traffic (which can be fairly slow over the Col de Lautaret - clogged up with caravans etc). We set off late morning, had lunch in La Grave on the way (great place to stock up on supplies for climbing the next day), then walked in to the Soreiller hut in the afternoon/early evening.
We used the Oisans Ouest guidebook, but there are also other books available (some in English) in the shops in La Grave.
I've done 3 routes on the Dibona and I'd say that if you're going to do just one, make it Visite Obligatoire. Every pitch is absolutely stunning. Bolted, but very sparsely on some pitches and a few tricky moves. I carried a few cams and they were useful in a couple of places. I thought overall it was quite tricky for the given French grade (6a+ I think), but the hard bits are all very well protected. Some great exposure, especially on the pitches after the Boell Ledge. The pitch immediately after the ledge is awesome - steep jug pulling on perfect granite. Due to the fairly sparse bolting route finding can be tricky in places. I can still remember where it would be easy to go wrong, so if you need any info drop me an e-mail through here and I'll see if I can add any useful info to the guidebook description.
The Madier route is also good, but a bit of a ramble in comparison. We did the crux crack, which was nowhere near as bad as most people would have you believe. Good gear in the back of the crack and face holds to help if, like me, you're not much good at crack climbing. The crux crack was the highlight of the route for me.
Another good option is the Soreiller route (around E1) - less fixed gear, although there are bolts where it really matters. Great climbing all the way, but take a rack.
As others have said, whatever route you do will be memorable, as it's such a beautiful mountain. Enjoy.
> I note that it seems rather odd to be using Ailefroide as a base when a key goal is to climb the Dibona.
The plan to meet up with some friends who are going to Ailefroide came before the realisation that the Dibona is (somewhat) nearby and looks amazing. I'll have to see how it goes wrt available time and motivation to do the extra bit of driving. The Dibona does look amazing though.
There's no other way round except the long drive.
The Aiguile Dibona is as good as everyone has said but the route up the front (Madier) can be very crowded. Rather than hang about we did the first route on this side (Boell - Le Ray) which goes right round to the right then traverses on to the arret above the tunnel pitch area which seems to be the bottleneck. You lose the elegance but still finish up the brilliant last part.
There are a lot of routes on this side of the mountain though, many of which are bolted (some have lines of bolts just next to cracks which is a pity) so route finding can be tricky - a bit of preparation is worthwhile and relatively easy as there are many books on the area with topos that can be photocopied - my favourite is the 100 best climbs series (Rébuffat), there's also "Ecrins, Ascencions Choisies by Chavaillot et Minelli and the definitive pocket sized guide book "Guide du Haut Dauphiné, Massif des Ecrins, tome 1" by François Labande - the last two in French.
The Labande book is a real guide book, not just a selection, very complete but in some ways too complete, a bit hard to find your way through although the route descriptions themselves are fine, they give a fair bit of history about the climbs too which is nice.
The two variants that avoid the Madier crack are on camptocamp (http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/54508/fr/aiguille-dibona-face-s-directe-voie-madier-s#variantes) but to be honest I think it would be a shame not to do it.
Visite Obligatoire is very much on my to-do list.
Just confirming what the others have said, both about the fairly epic drive round from Ailefroide, and the quality of the rock. Visite Obligatoire felt like a solid HVS/E1, and is probably the best rock route I've done in the Alps, despite it being bolted. I'd recommend de-camping from Ailefroide for a few days to make it worthwhile, there is plenty of other quality stuff in the valley. Ideal to drop by at the end of your trip as its on the way back North.
Also, I found valley 6b’s to be quite a bit harder, probably due to the style of climbing: Dibona (V.O. route) was more climbing wall-like (where I get most of my climbing practice), with quite a few pitches on large holds and vertical or even slightly overhanging, whereas the valley climbs were slabby and balancey
I did a combination of Madier and Visite, and it was the best day's climbing I've ever done. We drove round from Ailefroide and stayed in the hut. Got a nice steak before the drive back - perfect.
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