Dauphiné, France

Barre des Écrins, 4101 m

The southernmost 4000 meter peak in the Alps.

“And my soul stretched its wings out wide, flew through the silent lands as though it were flying home” – the poem by Joseph von Eichendorff always comes to mind.

Full delight of discovering this wonderful part of nature and the beautiful ascent, I try to get my thoughts on the right way. How lucky I am to be here now …

The Écrins Nationalpark in the Dauphiné Alps offers many possibilities in a stunning alpine environment: Every year – in the short season from early June to early September – many climbers meet at the foot of the 3943 meter high Mont Pelvoux in the cozy village of Ailefroide. They compete at the granite high balls and surrounding boulder blogs or go sport climbing on the high walls overlooking the Écrins massif.

Not only climbers, but also mountaineers can find rewarding summits in this delightful corner. In addition to a large number of climbing routes, this area offers the highest mountains in the southern Alps – the 4101 m high Barre des Érins and its neighbour Dôme de Neige (4015 m). Enough reason for us to explore the territory and climb some nice mountains. So we started out at the end of the valley to discover something new. On a great sunny day we were aiming to the Refuge des Érins, our starting point for the ascent of the Barre des Érins. The hut is a typical Western Alpine hut – with all of the typical restrictions at this altitude.

The next day we climb Pic de Neige Cordier and Roche Émile Pic, to setup our roped couple to the upcoming difficulties: climbing with crampons on mixed terrain (rock/ice) through a snowy north face flank.

The summit day

Breakfast at 3 o'clock a.m., departure at 3:30 a.m. We made our way on the mostly flat Glacier Blanc in the dark of the night. At its end – and in the light of our headlamps – we started climbing in a hurry up the steep northern slope with its impressively overhanging avalanche debris to avoid getting caught by a crashing Serak. Below the summit north flank and its rimaye we cross from east westwards to a point where it is possible to overcome the rimaye. A 40° steep snow and ice flank leads us to the western secondary Pic Lory. From there we were climbing the west ridge to the main summit of Barre des Érins. The moment as we stood together on the summit sparked a wonderful euphoria in us.


Let’s see where it is:


August 1st, 2008, together with Jürgen Rehm, Guido Schuller, Roland Geiger

First ascent:

Edward Whymper, Michel Croz, Christian Almer, Adolphus Warburton Moore on June 25th, 1864

Starting point:

At Ailefroide in the Écrins Nationalpark you start at the Refuge Cézanne (1874 m). You can sleep at the Refuge Glacier Blanc (2550 m) or at the Refuge des Écrins (3170 m).

Best time of the year:

Beginning of August to beginning of September (July is summer vacation in France)


PD+, II, 40°

Climbing gear:

Complete Glacier equipment, also: 50 m single rope, 1 small set of Stoppers, C4-Camalots #1 – #2, slings

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