The Hautes Alps are situated in Provence between Gap (to the south west), Grenoble (to the north west) and the Italian border (to the west). The area is sometimes referred to as the Southern Alps or the Ecrins and enjoys better weather than the Northern Alps around Chamonix and it is considerably quieter. In fact this area claims to have 300 days of sunshine a year, stays a lot drier, and offers year-round rock climbing by choosing your crag carefully. The Durance Valley is a huge glacier valley with steep sides where many of the rock climbing areas are located, often with a short approach.
The area is dominated by the 4,000m+ peak of Massif Des Ecrins plus several other 3,000m+ peaks, giving 1,000's of Alpine routes across all grades. There are also around 1,500 sport routes from single pitch to multi-pitch routes up to 600m long - of which the majority are well bolted. This climbing is mainly situated in the Durance Valley around the towns of Briancon, Ailefroide, L'Argentiere-la-bessee and Guillestre, and includes over 75 crags. All of these crags have solid rock with a wide choice of grades to choose from. The type of rock here is very varied from limestone, conglomerate, quartz, gabbro to granite and gneiss - offering many different styles of rock climbing. Ailefroide is home to long bolted multi-pitch sport routes on superb granite rock. Many of these routes are between 200m and 300m long, and graded between F5a to F6c. Ailefroide is also an excellent bouldering area and has many single pitch sport routes – all on granite rock.The map below shows the major crags in the area and the table opposite shows a selection of the popular crags.
Popular Crags in the Durance Valley, Hautes Alps
|Crag||Nearest Town||Type of rock||No. of Routes||Max Height||Grade range||Best Season|
|Rocher Baron||Briancon||Quartz||60||20m||F3 - F7c||Spring|
|Plampinet||Plampinet||Limestone||90||40m||F4c - F7b+||May to October|
|Mont Dauphin Fort||Guillestre||Conglomerate||75||40m||F3c - F8a+||May to November|
|Ailefroide||Vallouise||Granite||350+||500m||F3 - F8b||May to October|
|Fessourier||Vallouise||Limestone||34||40m||F6a - F7c||May to October|
|Clapeyto||Arvieux||Limestone||40||250m||F4b - F6c||May to October|
|La Grande Falaise||Freissiniers||Limestone||140||150m||F5 - F8c||March to November|
|Le Ponteil||Champcella||Limestone||60||200m||F5c - F7c+||March to November|
|Les Traverses||Vallouise||Limestone||130||35m||F4c - F8b+||All Year|
|Le Pouit||Champcella||Limestone||70||80m||F4c - 7c+||All Year|
The Massif Des Ecrins has two peaks over 4,000, which are the Barre des Ecrins (4,102m) and the Dome de Neige des Ecrins (4,015m). Both of these peaks offer excellent Alpine routes that are more isolated than those in Chamonix. The “4,000m Peaks of the Alps Guidebook” details routes up both of these peaks in the Massif Des Ecrins. Other mountaineering guidebooks for the Ecrins are “Ecrins 4102m Mountaineering Guidebook”, “Mountaineering in the Ecrins Massif” and "Classic Routes in the Ecrins". Buy these guidebooks from our shop that describes many excellent peaks above 3,000m such as La Meije and Mont Pelvoux. The 3436 ET - Meije-Pelvoux Walking Map from IGN details the Ecrins and Meije Massifs at a scale of 1:25,000.
AlpBase are a well-established company providing instruction and guiding services in the Haute-Alps, as well as providing accommodation for the area.
What are the top 10 sport crags in the Durance Valley? Find out here...