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Rock climbing at Ailefroide

Sat, August 17, 2013

We have just been lucky enough to spend 12 very sunny days climbing at Ailefroide in the French Alps. From single to multi pitch valley routes on bolts or trad to alpine routes with glacial approaches, Ailefroide has it all. The 'Escalades Autour D'Ailefroide' guidebook by Jean Michel Cambon comes out every two years as there is still a lot of new routing going on. This guidebook is available in the little climbing shop in Ailefroide village. Its not the easiest to understand of guidebooks but once you have got your head around the layout of the crags its possible to walk to some of the crags in just a few minutes from the camp site. Most of the valley at Ailefroide is a camp site. You can choose wherever you like to park your van or pitch your tent. In little flat grassy areas amongst the trees or on the large field, depending on how much sun you would like.

Campsite at Ailefroide

The weather was so hot we tended to climb a route of about 8-12 pitches in the morning before trying to find shade for the hottest part of the afternoon.

One of the few pitches that wasn't a slab
Laisser bronzer les cadavres TD- (Tete de la Draye)

We spent the majority of our time climbing on the multi pitch crags surrounding the camp site trying to chase the shade. Especially after our trip to Pointe Louise up the Glacier Blanc. The Glacier Blanc is really accessible and the path up to the first hut is particularly busy. Many people turn around at the hut and head back to the valley. We continued for about 45 minutes and bivied just before we reached the glacier. It was an amazing spot- nobody else around and with the ice right next to us. The next day when we headed up towards Pointe Louise the temperature was well into the 30's and after a whole day out in the baking sun I was happy to spend the rest of the time chasing shade in the valley!

Glacier Blanc Bivy

Glacier Blanc

During our time at Ailefroide we would regularly hear the squeaking of Marmots but we didn't spot one until near the Glacier Blanc. I was quite happy with how close we got this time and then we walked right next to one on the path on the way back down!


About half way through our stay the forecast was predicting two days of rain. Luckily we only got one night in the end but so much water was coming down the valley that we could hear the boulders move in the river from 100m metres away!

And it rained!

While waiting for things to dry up we headed down the valley and bought a valley cragging guidebook. The guide to climbing in the Briancon, Durance and Queras areas by the Rolland family is a great guide for many of the little sections of rock that are visible when driving around. Some of the crags are fantastic in their own right wile others are great to use as a stop off on the way somewhere else. Our favourite spot that we visited in the valley was Mont Dauphin Fort. Its a conglomerate climbing area that has a large variety of routes in a beautiful position just below the fort. Its also a great area for spotting Marmots!

Valley cragging

As well as attracting rock climbers Ailefroide is also a great area for people not into rock climbing (although I don't know how you could resist with all that fantastic granite around!). There are lots of walking trails and many opportunities for appreciating alpine flowers and wildlife such as chamois and the abundance of butterflies. There are heaps of great kayaking rivers and a big bonus of kayaking is that you never get too hot even in the 35 degree heat!

Butterfies Fournel drops