High mountain

Les Écrins - Mountaineering terrain - Dream terrain


The Pays des Écrins is a unique area located at the gateway to the Écrins National Park that preserves natural zones of great beauty. Its main strong points: a wide range of scenery, remarkable sites such as the Pré de Madame Carle, many wild animals and varied vegetation including many species of flower. The valleys, where the typical villages and hamlets are nestled, remain cool thanks to the streams and waterfalls. It also benefits from a favourable climate with plenty of sunshine and an exceptionally blue sky.

The area is authentic and wild and has maintained its natural character. It is ‘high mountain’ by definition. The majestic mountain scenery includes larch wood forests, altitude lakes, glaciers and, of course, the prestigious summits of the Écrins massif.



By choosing the Pays des Écrins to enjoy ski touring, off-piste skiing, telemark skiing or mountaineering, or any other outdoor pursuit, you are choosing authenticity!

The people who live here will share their passion for their land and their roots. Whether covered in lush green or white, discover the unique sites and panorama and enjoy the tremendous view.


Mountaineering is a sport that consists in climbing mountains, following specific routes to reach the summits and using different progression techniques in a high mountain environment: snow and ice courses, combined courses, across rocks, glacier hiking, climbing routes and so on.

A history of mountaineering and guides

Since most ancient times, man has roamed the mountains and ventured to the high mountain area. First this was for purely practical purposes: hunting, gathering, breeding, looking for and collecting crystals, extraction from the slate seams, trade and smuggling, wars, persecutions and religious worship. The mountain passes were crossed for trade purposes.

In the 18th century, this new, still relatively unknown territory, began to interest artists and scientists. Thus, began the first explorations of the Alps. It was the dawn of mountaineering.

In the Hautes-Alpes in 1828, Captain Adrien Durand climbed Mont Pelvoux (which at the time was considered the highest peak in France). He noticed that another summit, a little further to the west, overlooked it (this was the Barre des Écrins).

Then, in 1864, British engraver, Edward Whymper (who was already familiar with the Écrins massif, having previously come to the area in 1860 to carry out an order for some drawings), initiated an expedition accompanied by two colleagues, Adulphus Warberton Moore and Horace Walker. Guided by Croz (from Chamonix) and Almer (Swiss) they climbed the Barre des Écrins on 25th June.

In this way, mountaineering developed in the 19th century, initiated by climbers, who were often from high society and mainly British (although they were not alone. They were followed by Americans, Germans, Austrians, Swiss and French). This is why certain prestigious routes and summits bear their names: Coolidge, Whymper, Tuckett.

There was great international competition to conquer the Alpine peaks; the number of attempts to reach the main summits increased, often leading to accidents, some of which were mortal. Men have continued to push the limits and have achieved major feats.

The scientific goals gave way to tourism. We climbed the mountain just ‘because it’s there’. Travel logs were fashionable. Mountaineering was being modernised but was also becoming more sports oriented. The first Alpine clubs were founded: in France this was in 1874.

The Fraternelle des Guides et Porteurs de Pelvoux en Vallouise was founded in 1909.

The guides and leaders of Les Écrins, combine their experience, their caution and their wisdom so that it is possible to discover the wonderful world of the mountains in the Pays des Écrins. They supervise hiking, mountaineering, climbing, canyoning, via ferrata, skiing, ski touring, ice climbing and so on.

The Pays des Écrins offers an exceptional and renowned high mountain territory where you can climb, walk and breathe. The massif is technical and the approach routes to the prestigious summits are fabulous hikes in themselves.

Since climbing Mont Pelvoux (3,943 m) in 1828 and the Barre des Écrins (4,102 m) in 1864, countless peaks in the massif have continued to attract people. The history of Ailefroide, and more generally of the Pays des Écrins, is steeped in pioneering mountaineers’ feats and was shaped as exploits in the massif unfolded. Therefore, Ailefroide can be proud of its rank as France’s second mountaineering site.

Such adventures can be fully appreciated when accompanied by a mountain leader and undoubtedly provide an opportunity to discover little-known yet appealing domains: the Écrins National Park, the daily life of the mountain refuge wardens or mountain leaders.


Things are changing, but the classics, such as the climb to the Dôme des Écrins, are still very popular routes.

To the extent of their abilities, everyone can enjoy the fabulous experience of a high mountain course in a unique setting. The majority of them are accessible to most: Roche Faurio (3,730 m), les Agneaux (3,664 m), le Dôme des Écrins (4,015 m), le Pelvoux (3,943 m), le Pic du Glacier d’Arsine (3,363 m) ... After a few hours going up, the panorama opens, the great alpine cirque is revealed, and the mountaineers can breathe!