Rock Climbing

The area around Briancon, Vallouise and L’Argentiere is a mecca for rock climbers. The are hundreds of sites of all grades around the Durance Valley , mostly single pitch climbs as well as longer multi pitch routes in the mountains.

Nice accomodation, ideal for climbing in these areas is available in Argentiere, Vallouise and Briancon.

The local cragging guide book is called “Grimper dans le Haut Val Durance”, written by Yann, Martine et Jean-Jacques Rolland and covers 74 different sites; more than enough for a week’s holiday. All the sites covered are bolted routes and therefore you need loots of quickdraws. Martine and Jean -Jacques are both guides and run the Gite de Tournoux at Puy St Vincent. If you are staying with us and need access to this guide do let us know. Otherwise it is readily available in all the bookshops and climbing shops

We have picked out a few sites which are either close to the kayaking sections or are particularly good for an evening session or for beginners or children. Most of these are “ecole d’escalade” or teaching climbing sites. Whilst that means that they are well bolted – i.e. the bolts are close together, it does mean that they can be more popular during the summer months. Consider going in the early evening and perhaps having an outdoor barbecue as well.

The great thing about climbing in this area is that you can do it easily from April to November. Indeed at the end of the skiing season when the snow conditions mean that it is only appropriate to ski in the morning, climbing can be a great activity for the sunny afternoons. However, some sites are very sunny and if you find yourselves short of snow in the middle of winter then so long as you find a sunny sheltered spot then the rock can be surprisingly warm. We have indicated sites which are “all year round”.

Claree valley – “Rocher qui repond” near Pamplinet 

There are lots of climbs here from Grade 4 to 7 with a height of 15-25m. The site is West facing and is recommended between April and November. There are also barbecue sites around and a large grassy area for children to play around. Also, in the woods around here there are lovely flat trails for children to mountain bike around.

Guisane valley – Rocher du Bez , just up from Villeneuve and Le Bez.

Here there are multi pitch climbs between grade 3 and 6b. Total height is 120m.There are lots of pitches between Grade 3 and 4 so very suitable for people beginning multi pitch climbing. The site faces E/NE and is recommended between April and November

Ramparts de Briancon

Yes, there are even some 30 climbs of up to 10m on 2 sits around the Ramparts of Briancon grading between 3 and 6. One site faces North and is recommended between march and October; the other South and is recommended between February and December.

Rocher Baron Prelles

This site is accessed by coming off the main Briancon to L’Argentiere road at Prelles; driving up the other side of the river; going through the tunnel and some two kilometres up the road taking a turn off right up forestry track. It twists and turns and end high up (1360m) at a flat sunny area. There are lots of climbs here between grade 3 and 6 and is excellent for children. It is also great for children to mountain bike back to the main road. The climbs are up to 20m (there are some very short ones for children which can be easily top roped) and it is recommended between March and November.

Bouchier

At Bouchier, which is reached by means of a forestry road off the road from Prelles to Les Vigneaux (the road which winds around the other side of the Durance and from which you can get good views of the Durance Gorge), there is a 150m climb – Eperon de Bouchier – grading 4c max. Bouchier itself is a lovely village in which most of the houses are being restored. There are a number a walks which take off from Bouchier.

Les Vignettes and les Traverses

This site is reached by taking the road from les Vigneaux to Prelles where you join the main Briancon to L’Argentiere road. There is climbing on both sides of the road when you come around the valley side from les Vigneaux into the Durance Valley . There are also notice boards at the side of the road giving details of the abandoned vineyards with hoses built into the cliff face and wine presses still visible. Most of the climbing around here is quite hard Grade 7s and 8s, but there are also some routes Grade 4 and 5. A lot of the sites face South and although it is recommended between march and November, there re often people found climbing there on still sunny days in January.

Ailefroide

Ailefroide is a lovely high alpine valley above Vallouise and Pelvoux which comes alive in the summer. During the winter months the road is closed and the only access is by raquettes or skis. In the summer there are lots of people who visit it as it is a great base for easy climbing and also for the longer routes. There are also some very good bouldering problems here. At the end of the day there is a really lovely mountain bike ride back down to Vallouise.

Les Collets and Horloge – L’Argentiere

This is our closest climbing, 200m from our house in L’Argentiere and where our children go climbing with school. It is based on the Clock Tower of L’Argentiere and during the summer months is flood lit enabling climbing to take place well into the night. There are over 40 climbs of up to 20m height between grade 3 and 6. The site faces East and you can climb on it all year round. This is also the starting point for the beginners via ferrata on the clock tower.

Fournel valley

The Fournel valley is a fantastic valley. Many adventurous activities can be practiced in this valley; climbing; canyoning; mountain biking as well more cultural activities such as visiting the silver mines and the chardon bleu. If you are climbing in this valley it is worth driving up to the road end because it is such a lovely example of a glaciated valley

This Fournel has both multi pitch climbing sites, up to 80m grading 6-8 and a smaller site of up to 20 m grading 4-6. This site which is a 10-15 m walk away from the road is recommended in summer because it stays cool, but climbing is only recommended there between may and October

Chanteloube – above St Crepin

This site is above the aerodrome at St Crepin. Follow the road around the edge of the aerodrome and head up the hill. There are some 30 climbs mainly grading 3-6, some 15 metres. . This site has the advantage of being able to place ropes for the climbs by walking around to the top of the cliff. The protection is good because it is used a lot as a climbing crag for schools.

During the summer months, the problem is that it can get very busy, especially as it is used by PGL the English adventure holiday company. The site is also in full sun and it can get too hot. However, PGL are normally finished by 4pm and therefore it is a good site for the early evening. There is also plenty of space around it to have a picnic or a barbecue. It is also a good site for abseiling as an abseil can be set up over the overhanging section of the crag.

The site faces East and is recommended all year round.

Montdauphin -Fort

This is situated just off to the left on the road from L’Argentiere to Guilestre just as you are going through Mont Dauphin. The easy climbing is at the bottom, some 4-10m high large outcrops of conglomerate and it can be climbed on all year around. It is an excellent place for the children as it is very close to the tame marmottes.

 Longer multi pitch routes

Name of climb

Height

Difficulty

Palavar les Flots

400m

AD +

La Fissure

250m

D

A titre d’Ailefroide

250m

D-

La Snoopy

250m

D+

Orage d’etoiles

300m

D+

Le bonheur est dans le pre

600m

D

The Ailefroide valley offers fantastic longer multi pitch climbs. There are about 40 routes around Ailefroide from any level (4c to 7a) and differing lengths (150m to 600m). Some examples of climbs offered by the Bureau de Guides des Ecrins around Ailefroide include:

There are also many multi pitch climbs in the Guisane valley. The Arrestes de la Bruyere is a particularly good introduction to ridge multi pitch climb; something Thomas and I did with guide Murray Hamilton for Thomas’ birthday a few years ago. The climbing is not particularly difficult, grading 4, but there is quite a lot of exposure and a long abseil at the end and it is quite a long route. . Certainly an exhausting and exhilarating day

If you are looking for an English speaking guide, contact Murray Hamilton email Hamilton.nash@wanadoo.fr


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