Dome des Ecrins - Mountaineering


Holiday Overview

An alpinism trip away from the crowds in the Ecrins National Park. Hone your glacier skills, climb the Pic Du Glacier d'Arsine and summit the famous Dome des Ecrins in a weekend.

Climb in one of the hidden gems of the Alps, the Ecrins National Park, one of the largest, wildest and most dramatic mountain ranges in France and bag a big 4000m summit!

This is a mountaineering and alpinism trip geared to preparing you for a successful climb of the Dome des Ecrins 4015m (mountaineering grade: Facile / Easy) in the limited time of a weekend!

The trip includes a day of glacier and mountaineering skills and technique and an acclimatisation climb of Pic du Glacier d’Arsine 3364m (grade: Facile / Easy) before tackling the Dome des Ecrins.

The lesser known Ecrins massif doesn’t get the same number of visitors as the Mont Blanc range but it is the largest National Park in France. In total there are 170km2 of glaciers suspended from over 100 towering summits over 3000m. It’s also rich in flora and fauna with ibex, chamois, golden eagles, wild boar, marmots and even wolves and in the summer months you are sure to see the valley covered in flowers.

The Dome des Ecrins 4015m is one of the highest summits in the Ecrins National Park, just behind the Barre des Ecrins 4102m. With easy access, a 'facile' graded route and some of the best views in the Alps, it a must for all mountaineers.

On the first day of this trip, we will focus on glacier skills on the Glacier Blanc which is a 1.5 hour walk on an easy track from Pré de Madame Carle. This is an opportunity to practice any glacier and alpinism skills that you have used before and learn some new ones!

These include cramponing techniques, how to best use ice axes, moving together on a rope and the differing distances required for glaciers and on the rock, spotting hazards and crevasse rescue. It's a fun and informative day!

After a night in the Refuge du Glacier Blanc, you will set of to the Pic du Glacier d’Arsine. This is a mixed route mainly on snow with some rock scrambling (3a). The aim of the climb is to help your body get used to climbing at above 3000m. You will have a magnificent view of the Dome des Ecrins and the Glacier Blanc throughout this climb.

After spending the night, this time in the Refuge des Ecrins, your aim on the last day will be to climb the Dome des Ecrins 4015m. You will cross the glacier in the early morning. The light at this time is incredible, giving the Dome a beautiful red tinge. You will weave your way up the large snow face of the glacier, avoiding seracs and crevasses all the way to the summit. Once on the summit you can take in the outstanding views over the Alps.

Have a look at our moutaineering kit list for advice on what to bring.

You might also be interested in our weekend Barre des Ecrins Mountaineering trip or our Mountaineering Week in the Ecrins.

Itinerary

Overview

This itinerary is aimed at preparing you for a successful ascension of the Dome des Ecrins summit at 4015m in the limited time of a long weekend!

Your intense weekend kicks off with a day to learn, practice and fine tune glacier and mountaineering skills. After that you will do an acclimatisation climb above 3000m to prepare your body for higher altitude before attempting on the final day the summit of the Dome des Ecrins at 4015m!

There is a chance that we might need to adapt the itinerary if weather conditions aren't favourable, but where possible and safe we will follow this program.

Day 1 - Glacier Skills

Pré de Madame Carle is the starting point for this trip and we aim to set off mid morning from here.

If you have taken the night train to Gap, your guide will meet you at the train station at 6:50 and there will be an opportunity to stop for breakfast and a shower on the way in. If you have stayed overnight somewhere else, we will come pick you up and take you to Pré de Madame Carle.

Once all the group are all together, we will sort out equipment for the 3 days and start the walk up to the Glacier Blanc.

Starting altitude: 1874m

Summit altitude: 2542m

Ascent: 668m

Average climbing time: 2 1/2 hours plus a few hours to practice skills on the glacier.

Pacing yourself and stamina are key in mountaineering, as routes often involve long days with a lot of ascent and descent. This is a relatively straightforward walk on a well-marked path which takes you to the foot of the glacier. Here you will start your glacier skills.

Safety is of primary concern for any mountaineer. The purpose of the day is to go through and practice the essential safety techniques used in alpinism with a focus on skills needed in glacier crossings.

You will learn or revise how to put crampons on and basic crampon techniques, how to move together on a rope, what distances to keep between you in different circumstances, how to use an ice axe effectively, how to stop yourself if you fall. You will also learn how to recognise dangers and look after your fellow mountaineers and yourself whilst climbing.

In June, early in the mountaineering season, glacier crevasses should be filled up or covered with snow. As the season progresses the snow melts, the crevasses open and become more obvious to see. However, the glacier is always moving and there is always a risk of falling into an unnoticed crevasse! This can be deadly so avoiding them and knowing how to save someone if they do drop in is a very important skill.

After having spent the day going through different techniques you will continue on the GR (footpath) feeling very safe and ready for anything to the Refuge du Glacier Blanc ( 2542m) where a hot dinner will be waiting for you.

Day 2 - Pic du Glacier Arsine 33364m

The Pic du Glacier d’Arsines (3364m) is a beautiful mixed route, mainly on snow with some scrambling. You set of from the Refuge du Glacier Blanc on the path towards tonight’s hut, the Refuge des Ecrins. Then you will via off to the right into a wide couloir of snow. You will climb up for about 3.5 hours and throughout the climb you will have superb views of the Dome des Ecrins.

Starting altitude: 2542m

Summit altitude: 3364m

Ascent: 820m

Average climbing time: 3.5 hours

You will be woken up at 4am, this early start is for safety reasons. As the day progresses the sun melts the snow and ice in the high mountains. This thawing increases the risk of rock fall and avalanches. It is also very hard work walking in soft snow where you sink in up to your thighs. It’s best to be coming down while the snow is still hard and can take your weight!

So after a typical French mountain refuge breakfast which consists of bread , jam or honey with a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate you will see off into the dark. Having already prepared your bag the night before, you will put your head lamp on and join the path that takes you to the refuge des Ecrins.

Once you reach the snowy couloir, you will rope up and start the climb up. The sun will start coming up while you in the climb and the light and colours over the mountains is an amazing sight. Towards the top of the climb you will reach the start of a ridge. Here it is time to do a bit of scrambling to reach the summit.

There are stunning views of the Ecrins massif including la Meije, Pelvoux, and the Glacier Blanc and Glacier Noir. Once you've taken in these breathtaking views it's time to head down. Once down, you will then make your way to the Refuge des Ecrins (3175m) which is further up the valley. You have the option to order a hot lunch or snacks here (additional cost). In the evening you will be served a well-earned hot meal (included in the package).

Day 3 - Dome des Ecrins 4015m

You can see the dramatic ridge of the Barre des Ecrins and it's little sister, the Dome des Ecrins 4015m, your objective for the weekend, from the refuge.

All there is between you and this majestic mountain is a glacier, and some snow and ice ....... and a few hours of physical exertion! Now it’s your turn to conquer it!!

Starting altitude: 3175m

Summit altitude: 4015m

Ascent: 840m

Descent: 2230m

Average climbing time: 3 - 4 hours ascent and 2 - 3 hours descent (to Refuge des Ecrins) and 1.5 hours to reach Pré de Madame Carle.

After another early alpine start you will make your way down from the refuge to the glacier. Here you put your crampons on and rope up and you’re ready for the off.

You will reach the Col des Ecrins at 3,300m by following the edge of Glacier Blanc. Here there are incredible views across the North Face. The sun rises behind you as you make your way across the glacier and gives a beautiful rosy effect on the Dome des Ecrins.

From the Col des Ecrins your guide will pick a route that goes up through the huge snow slope, weaving your way up the North East Face between seracs and around crevasses. You’ll arrive at a natural col where you will continue your path until you reach the summit of the Dome.

Here all your hard work will be deservedly rewarded with spectacular views across the vast Ecrins National Park. You will then come back down the same way - although it goes by much quicker and the views and descent techniques are very different from the ones you used going up. It doesn’t feel at all like you are retracing your steps.

You will then make your way back down to Pré de Madame Carle, arriving exhausted but very happy!

You will have the option to stop and order lunch at the refuge or head down to the valley and eat there. Lunches are at your own cost.

Reviews

Mountaineering and Alpinism Holidays - Matt Belton

March 2017

An amazing long weekend mountaineering in the Ecrins range, the best guide and would thoroughly recommend to anyone.

Read More

Directions

The trip starts from Pre de Madame Carle. The closest train station is Briançon which has various connections including an overnight sleeper directly from Paris. The guide can pick you up from the station / local accommodation and take you to Pre de Madame Carle. He will be travelling from Gap so it is possible to arrange for him to collect you from Gap train station. The Briançon night train also stops in Gap.

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