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.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3-4 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.
- Alternatively, fly to Geneva.
- Bus from Geneva Airport to Grenoble Gare Routiere (6 buses a day, travel time ~2hrs): www.aerocar.fr
- Bus from Grenoble Gare Routiere to BDO: www.transisere.fr
- Alternatively hire a car from either airport – driving times to Bourg D’Oisans are 2hrs from Lyon Airport and 3 hours from Geneva Airport.
Alpine Mountaineering is an endurance sport – ie to get to the summit involves climbing uphill for several hours. Therefore, your fitness and power to weight ratio are very important factors for success. Another important factor is altitude, which people react to in different ways and finally, you need the appropriate technical climbing ability for the trip – please check that you have the correct fitness and tech levels for your trip using the Tech Level and Fitness Level descriptions below.
This is a key factor – you must be at the minimum Fitness Level quoted for your course (see descriptions below). However, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it and the greater your chances of success. Being fit also helps you to recover more quickly between climbs during the week.
Your power to weight ratio
What shape you are has a big impact on your likelihood of success! Eg are you slim and athletic, a normal build, a bit overweight, or 1-2 stone or more overweight? If you are a stone overweight (7-8kg/15lb) , then you will find the trip a lot harder and if you don’t have a solid background in endurance sports, you are likely to struggle. In our experience, if you are more than 12kg/25lb overweight, you may manage some shorter climbs or easier routes with less time pressure, but you stand almost no chance of completing a major alpine summit where speed of ascent is critical for safety. So if you know you need to lose a bit of weight, then start right away and you’ll reap the rewards!
Your personal acclimatization rate
All of our alpine trips involve an acclimatization climb at the start of the week, but everyone responds to altitude in different ways and personal speeds of acclimatization vary widely between individuals. Past experience is a fair indicator – so if you have coped Ok at altitude before eg. on a previous alpine trip, Kilimanjaro, or on a high altitude trek, then this should be good news. Conversely, if you have had problems or been slow to acclimatize before, then you definitely need to come out early, in order to pre acclimatize before the week starts – please contact us for further advice about this.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training advice page.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine mountaineering experience.
Tech level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons / alpine glacier treks or alpine peaks to F standard.
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.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced climber. Regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock / ice and mixed routes at Scottish 5+ or WI5 / alpine routes at grade D and above. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have very extensive experience climbing at this level.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
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.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
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.
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable 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)
- Wicking thermal tops – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Fleece mid layer – or equivalent light insulating layer
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket
- 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 boots – 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 Ilkley offer an excellent mountain 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 the following activities: rock climbing and mountaineering in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. 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.
Insurance for UK residents
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Can I book a single room on my climbing trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens about accommodation, if the weather is very poor and we end up spending extra nights in the valley instead of in huts?
We will make any necessary last minute bookings for the team. On trips taking place outside the Chamonix valley, any extra valley hotel nights will be on a BnB basis rather than half board.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.