Barre des Ecrins region of the French alps (Altitude 1515m)
A beautiful alpine area with a mix of superb mountaineering, multi pitch sport climbing and bouldering. The bouldering is on pristine granite blocks. The surroundings are particularly serene. A river runs through the picturesque valley and a glacier at the top of the valley is visible from the bouldering areas. Much of the bouldering has been developed by Anthony Lamiche, a famous local climber who has repeated many hard problems worldwide. Best Time to Go & Conditions. Being an alpine venue, the elevation means that Ailefroide is a good choice for the summer months when it is too hot to boulder in many other European destinations. It rarely gets too hot, but nights are cool so take some warm clothes even in summer.
If you are travelling by car from Briancon, take the RN94 towards Gap. Then, in l’Argentière La Bessée, take the D994 to Vallouise. From Gap head towards Briancon and turn off at l’Argentiere onto the D994. Drive through the villages of Vallouise and Pelvoux and you will reach Ailefroide. A bus service also runs between l’Argentiere and Ailefroide.
Once in Ailefroide, the bouldering areas are all within a short walk. The most accessible area is “Parking” - the boulders are actually in the car park! This is closely followed by the two main areas; “Surprise” and “Cahutes”, which are a few minutes’ walk away.
Accommodation & Provisions
There is a large campsite next to the bouldering areas. The reception can be found on the left as you drive into the village. There is a Spar shop and various other local shops in Ailefroide, selling food and provisions. For cheaper food and a wider choice, l’Argentiere is a short (18k) drive away. There are also a number of climbing shops in the Ailefroide and the villages you travel through on the way to the bouldering. The area is popular with skiers in winter so there are also some nice (but expensive!) café’s and bars. The climbing shops offer climbing gear for hire (including bouldering mats from around 5 Euro), so this is worth bearing in mind if you have limited space or are travelling by plane.
Title: “Ailefroide Topo Blocs” (Anthony Lamiche) Cost: 10 Euros available from shops near the bouldering. Title: “Blocheart” (Harry Roker) Available from Rock + Run (currently out of print). Routes (but not bouldering) are featured in Escalade en Brianconnais.
Grade Spread and Recommended Routes
Over 300 problems graded between font 3 and font 8b. My recommendations would be Surprise Du Chef(7b+ stand, 8a sit), Proue du Parking (7a), Grenouille (7a), Fantastique(6b+)
The area is well situated for various other climbing destinations in Southern France. This means that you can easily add some variety to your trip by visiting other crags nearby. Likewise, if you find yourself on a trip to a different area, Ailefroide would provide a good day trip to break things up and give you a taste of alpine bouldering. It is also worth noting that being situated in a different mountain range to crags like Ceuse, the weather here is often very different. We drove from heavy rain in nearby Gap to dry, sunny conditions in Ailefroide. If you fancy mixing things up without leaving the Ailefroide area, it is worth taking some sport climbing and mountaineering gear as these are both very accessible alternatives to the bouldering. The same is true for canyoning and rafting. The granite is abrasive on the skin, so it may be worth stocking up on skincare products for your trip.