A week of classic Ecrins alpine mountaineering in this wild and beautiful National Park in the southern French Alps. The Ecrins are a true mountaineers dream: the absence of cable cars demands some extra effort and commitment, but the reward is quiet summits and unspoilt valleys with abundant wildlife. Numerous objectives are available in our target grade range of PD/AD, including the only 4000m peak in the Southern Alps: the Barre des Ecrins.
Please visit our Covid-19 Climb Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
Numerous objectives are available, including the possibility to climb the Barre des Ecrins (4102m). Depending on our chosen climbs, all types of alpine terrain may be encountered, from long glacier climbs to rocky scrambles and narrow ridges. Depending on conditions, some routes may involve more technical sections – but these are never extreme and always climbable wearing big boots with crampons on if necessary.
Most of the peaks involve an overnight stay at a mountain hut prior to the ascent, but a few can be done in a day from the valley using an early start. This is a strenuous week for fit climbers – typical grades are in the range PD to AD.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need previous alpine climbing experience to PD+/AD on snow and mixed terrain, and preferably some rock climbing experience in order to get the most out of this week. There are no cable cars in the region, so good levels of fitness are required as typical routes involve 6-9 hours climbing each day.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 3 nights accommodation in valley bases, including breakfast
- 4 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meals
- Local travel in the guide’s vehicle to complete the course itinerary
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Cable cars
- Lunches, drinks and evening meals for 3 nights in the valley
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point and course base in Bourg D’Oisans is the friendly Hotel Les Alpes, providing comfortable accommodation, and a convenient location in the centre of town. Additional valley nights may be spent in Vallouise in similar standard accommodation, before heading back to Bourg D’Oisans for the final night on Friday. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 3 person) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. Evening meals can be taken in local restaurants in Bourg D’Oisans/Vallouise. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains, we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation.
Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment for the week, before we go on to a detailed discussion of everyones ambitions for the week, together with the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our planning.
We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you. If you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner. PM Overnight in the valley.
AM warm up cragging and rope skills session near to Bourg D’Oisans. PM Hut Approach – walk in to the Refuge de la Selle to spend the night.
Ascent of Tete de Replat Nord/Sud – both offer interesting climbs and are good acclimatisation peaks. Overnight in the Selle hut.
Ascent of Le Rateau – a superb peak at the head of the cirque, with varied climbing first on a rock/mixed terrain, then a brilliant and exposed snow crest leading to the summit. Descend to the valley, overnight in Bourg D’Oisans.
Drive round to Vallouise/Ailefroide on the east side of the range. Afternoon hut Approach – walk in to the Refuge des Ecrins to spend the night.
Ascent of the Barre des Ecrins (4102m) PD-AD depending on which route is climbed. Overnight in the Refuges des Ecrins.
Ascent of Pic de Neige Corider – PD. A shorter day, before descending to the valley and driving back to Bourg D’Oisans for the final night.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
- Traverse of Pelvoux (3943m) PD+ – perhaps the most famous mountain in the range and one of the centre pieces of the Ecrins massif.
- La Meije, climbed from La Grave (big walk in, unless the lift opens early…)
- Lots of other locally well known peaks.
Your course starts and finishes in Bourg D’Oisans, on the North West side of the beautiful Ecrins National Park. The main access points for climbing in the Ecrins are La Berard, just 30 mins away from our meeting point in Bourg, La Grave (30 mins), and Valloise/Ailfroide on the Eastern side of the range (2 hours). During this trip you may visit all of these bases, depending on weather, conditions and route choice/preference. The most common way to reach Bourg D’Oisans (BDO) is to fly, then airport transfer to Grenoble centre, then a bus or taxi from Grenoble centre to BDO.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Lyon: check Skyscanner airline comparison site for best options.
- Bus from Grenoble Gare Routiere to BDO (there are 7 buses a day): www.transisere.fr NB: The bus stop is a few minutes’ walk from the station/Gare Routiere (see map on Transisere website). The last bus on a Saturday leaves Grenoble at 19.25.
- Train from Lyon airport terminal to Grenoble Gare Routiere: www.voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/horaires.
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3, and Tech Level 3 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Wicking thermal top – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Softshell Jacket – mid weight, wind resistant, light insulating layer (or a mid weight fleece jacket)
- Spare warm layer – lightweight synthetic/down jacket or other warm layer
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock climbing shoes – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent walking boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for climbing and mountaineering activities as outlined in the course itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.