Home Les Ecrins, versant Nord Ouest
At 4102 m, the Barre des Ecrins is the highest peak of the Southern Alps. It is part of the Massif des Ecrins and protected by the National Park of the same name. The summit, which offers a magnificent panoramic view, is reached from the hamlet of Les Etages, downstream from La Bérarde.
The Barre des Ecrins is surrounded by four glaciers, namely Bonne Pierre to the north-west of the summit, the Glacier Blanc to the north-east, the Vallon de la Pilatte to the south-west and the Glacier Noir to the south-east.
It is separated from the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins (4015 m) by the Brèche Lory (3974 m) to the west, from the Barre Noire (3751 m) by the Brèche des Ecrins (3661 m) to the north-east and from the Fifre (3699 m) by the Col des Avalanches (3499 m) to the south.
The Ecrins were discovered by geographers at a relatively late stage in the 19th century, even though they were then the highest point in France (Savoy was then part of Sardinia).
English climbers A.W Moore, Horace Walker and Edward Whymper, guided by Michel Croz from Chamonix and Christian Almer from Switzerland, were the first to climb the Barre des Ecrins on 25 June 1864. Cutting steps out of the north face of the Barre, they reached the exposed upper part of the western arête, with its unstable rocks, via the Whymer corridor, before summiting. Edward Whymer described this climb in his book "Scrambles Amongst the Alps 1860 - 1868".
William Auguste Coolidge made the first direct ascent of the north face of the Barre des Ecrins in July 1870, cutting 500 steps.
The first ascent without a guide is accredited to Frederick Gardiner in 1878, accompanied by Charles and Lawrence Pilkington.
The south face was climbed for the first time in 1880 by Pierre Gaspard, accompanied by Henri Duhamel.
The south pillar, which reaches from the Glacier Noir up to the summit, was first climbed in 1944 by the famous climbing couple, Jeanne and Jean Franco.
The Barre des Ecrins is traditionally climbed from the Pré de Madame Carle in the Vallouise (1874 m). The normal route involves climbing the full length of the Glacier Blanc. This is a busy route as it is also the normal route up the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins, one of the easiest 4000 m in the Alps.
Guides from La Bérarde have fitted cables to the Col des Ecrins, enabling them to easily take their clients to the top.
The normal route, which is mostly on glaciers, starts from the Refuge des Ecrins (3170 m) and follows the north face to the Brèche Lory (3974 m, separating the normal routes of the Dôme and the Barre), before following the summit ridge (mixed) to the top.
In late spring, the direct Coolidge route perpendicular to the summit is also an option, using crampons and ice picks and crossing the Bergschrund at a suitable place. Depending on the amount of snow, this route can also be skied.
The south-north transverse of the Barre des Ecrins is also one of the finest classic routes of this part of the Alps.
Les Ecrins, versant Nord Ouest
38520 Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans - La Bérarde