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Easy routes in Ecrins

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 philamina 20 Jul 2019

We're off to Ailefroide next week and wondered if anyone had any recommendations for easy routes? I've done a reasonable amount of alpine routes up to AD previously, but have had a few years off and now struggling with confidence- looking for some nice Fs to get my head back into it

Particularly keen to find any routes that can be done in a day, or with a bivi? Something lower with a nice scramble on maybe?

Planning to stay in the campsite in Ailefroide but we have a car for anything a bit further away!

 robgixer 20 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

There are quite a few routes to be done from the Glacier Blanc, from parking area up the valley from Ailefroide. Roche Faurio and the Dome des Neige are both F, and from the Dome it is an enjoyable scramble to Barre des Ecrins proper summit. Easy to bivi around the huts and much more tolerated in the Ecrins. The traverse of Mont Pelvoux is another great route started from the campsite but best done staying at the refuge or in one big day if your fit 2000m+ ascent and descent. The Ecrins and Pelvoux are PD +/AD-

Post edited at 19:19
In reply to philamina The Voie normale on Pic Coolidge could be a good option. From the parking at the top of the valley walk up the glacier noire path to the end and there is obvious bivi spots, you probably won't be the only ones there. It's a classic easy route.

Roche Faurio is another good option but ideally you would stay in the Ecrin hut for that.

Domes de Neige is given facile but can be busy, and is over 4000m and a north face.

 sjminfife 20 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

If you like rock routes then Arete des Cineastes from the Glacier Blanc hut may suit you. I think it is AD/AD+ but you have no glaciers to deal with andit is quite short.

 philamina 21 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

These all sound great - thank you so much for the info everyone! 

Re bivis - is it generally possible to stash the tent etc somewhere whilst doing the route? Or is it wisest to carry it all with us?

Still looking for one day routes if anyone has any to suggest

 BruceM 21 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

Pic du Glacier Blanc is a good day scramble (may need axe crampons) from the parking. Long as you are relatively fit. I do that every year while awaiting my partner to arrive. 

 Slarti B 21 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

As others have suggested, Roche Faurio and Dome de Neige from Ecrins hut are good but Ecrins hut is a long slog from valley. 

If you are looking  for easy F's you could also try Pointe Cezanne from Glacier Blanc. Or, a bit higher in grade, Montagne des Agneaux.

 Pyreneenemec 22 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

I don't really see why 'bivvying' should be just, tolerated. To be honest, I think you need to be out of your mind to want to stay in the Ecrins  hut. This hut  represents one of the worse experiences I have had in my many years of mountaineering. The food was worse than bad; both quality and quantity. The place is always filled to over-capacity and simply isn't a nice place to be !  If you do stay, look after  your stuff, a couple of my mates had their ice-axes stolen ! 


I've never had any problems hiding stuff, it's probably far safer than leaving it in the hut ! 


There are a couple of scanned slides in my album taken on an aborted attempt on the Barre due to a massive over-night dump of snow- 2nd week in August ! 

In reply to Pyreneenemec:

When did you last stay in the Ecrins hut? I think it’s reputation has improved significantly in recent years. If you go in peak season it will obviously be full, it’s a popular hut, I guess this can make the stay less relaxing but that is the case for many huts.

Bivvying is fine and obviously a cheaper option but if you look at it from the hut owners perspective, he’s not getting much money from you but you are probably going to use his facilities and you have the comfort of knowing there is a safe sanctuary near by if needed!

 ali.scott 22 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

Did the Tête Sud du Replat (from the refuge de la selle - it has a bivi area just above it) the week before last and it's excellent. Such a quiet and pretty valley, too. 

 tjhare1 22 Jul 2019
In reply to philamina:

If reasonably fit and keen to do stuff in the upper Glacier Blanc basin (Dome de Neige / Barre / Roche Faurio / Louise) just do them from the Glacier Blanc hut - much nicer place to sleep and stay! This is what I’ve done most times I head up that way and it works nicely. The slog is then in the cool of the morning which is nice too, and it isn’t really that much of a slog anyway! 

I’d second the Cineastes as a nice route to do for you if happy on rock. A similar, but slightly easier, proposition would be the dentes de costes counier above the refuge des bans. The hut is barely an hour from the car, so a perfect one to consider as a day route. Plenty of good bivi sites though if that’s preferred. May still need to carry axe etc for descent - not sure this year.

Another good shout for one with a bivi would be a traverse of the domes du monetier. Bivi at the eychauda lake then traverse and down via the glacier Blanc hut.

Personally I wouldn’t be inclined to do Coolidge from the glacier noir outside of spring... a long slog up a dry glacier.

 Pyreneenemec 22 Jul 2019
In reply to Martin Haworth:

> Bivvying is fine and obviously a cheaper option but if you look at it from the hut owners perspective, he’s not getting much money from you but you are probably going to use his facilities and you have the comfort of knowing there is a safe sanctuary near by if needed!

Most of these huts are owned by the Club Alpin Français. They are there to provide a service to it's members and any other potential users in exchange for a modest fee. The hut keepers make their living by providing meals,drinks and often food items. Traditionally all huts had to provide, if asked, the means to heat/cook your own food and boiling water. Also an area where you could cook  for yourself, more often than not in the Winter section that's open all year. Huts are expensive if you take half-board and I must admit I usually prefer carrying a heavier sack and eating something I like than the usual watery soup, pasta and beef stew ! Of course, convenience comes at a price ! 

You probably know all this but a surprisingly large number of people do not !

Post edited at 16:45
 EarlyBird 10 Aug 2019
In reply to Martin Haworth:

Yes. I thought the Ecrins hut was fine last year. The Guardian was friendly and helpful. The staff were also friendly, and efficient. Any alpine hut is a means to an end and the Ecrins hut fulfils its remit perfectly well.

 DaveHK 10 Aug 2019
In reply to philamina:

I did the Mont Pelvoux from the Ailfroide campsite via the Rochers Rouge a few weeks back and thought it was a great day out. With a night in the hut or a bivvy it would be a pretty mellow trip.

 Marcusk 18 Aug 2019
In reply to philamina:

Hi - slight thread hijack here but what is it like crossing the glacier to the Ecrin hut? Its mainly rocky at he side but there is a small section to cross before the hut. Im off again to Ailefroide next week and want to take my daughter (13 yr old) - she is a strong climber and walker but no alpine experience. A trusted friend recommends not but by his own admittance its been many years since he has been up there...


In reply to Marcusk:

Walked to the upper hut last year. Short section of glacier, didn't rope up. Or use axe and crampons. You might want to but most people didn't bother. Straight forward track otherwise. Seem to remember massive meal was served and not too busy in Sept. 

Post edited at 17:12
 tehmarks 21 Aug 2019
In reply to Marcusk:

I've only been up there in June, at which time it's a very straightforward plod up the glacier above the Glacier Blanc refuge with a moderate snow slope off the glacier up to the hut to wake you up. It's very common to see people (in June) doing it unroped, but there are still slots to fall into (the satellite view on Google Maps gives a good idea of what it looks like in dry conditions - the track follows the right-hand edge). I'd be reticent doing it unroped this late in the season if it's still wet, or after significant snowfall. But like I say, I've never personally ventured up there in late August and I'm known to be cautious.

Standard disclaimer for the likes of jcw: I'm not an 'Ecrins guru' or anything beyond a bog standard punter...

Edit: you can see on Google Maps a faint path which joins the glacier just after the bend - that's one of two ways usually taken early in the season. The other option is to join the glacier lower, which I personally find less effort if the conditions suit. I don't know if it's even feasible to do that at this time of year, but either way if you take the path option you'll avoid the area you're most likely to find something to fall into.

Post edited at 20:01
 Solaris 21 Aug 2019
In reply to Slarti B:

It used to be given F in the Brailsford (AC) guide, but I thought it was solid PD?+; it's now AD owing to retreat of the glacier. Good route though.

 Marcusk 01 Sep 2019
In reply to philamina:

Thanks all - in the end it was/had been very wet with storms so we stayed at the Blanc hut and walked up the side of the glacier the next day but not as far as the Ecrins hut. Some big cravasses and rock fall from the side slopes but a great experience for the girl

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