I have just returned from another brilliant week in Les Ecrins. TIna, Scott, Duncan, Steve, Tim and I spent six days climbing out of the Ailefroide and La Berarde valleys. On five of the six days the weather was perfect.
On Monday after some rock climbing in the valley we walked into the Glacier Blanc Hut from where on the Tuesday morning we climbed Les Agneaux (3664m). The mountain was in excellent condition. The French guidebook grades the Voie Normale at AD- while the British guidebook grades the route PD. I know which one I would believe!
After some lunch we continued to the Refuge des Ecrins to overnight.
Unfortunately, the weather was poor on Wednesday morning (warm and wet). There is still a risk of full depth avalanches in Les Ecrins at the moment so we opted to descend to the valley and relocate to La Berarde.
At 5am on Thursday morning we left our vehicles and climbed the Aiguille Dibona (3131m). Crampons and ice axe are currently advised at the moment as there is still a lot of snow present on the approach and descent from the mountain. The rock was perfectly dry.
Once again on Friday morning the weather was perfect giving us the chance to do some more rock climbing. In the afternoon we walked into Temple Ecrins Hut. The food at this hut was excellent and the Guardian is very helpful and friendly. After speaking to him we discovered the Voie Normale on Pic Coolidge was not in condition. However, the Voie Originale was in condition. We climbed this route the next morning.
The Voie Originale climbs a steep snow gully at 45 to 50 degrees. The anchors in the gully are not all perfect. Those climbing the route should be able to create a buried axe anchor and it is worth remembering what you go up you must come down!
We made the summit of Pic Coolidge (3775m) at 9.30am and had brilliant views all around and out to the Mont Blanc Massif.
Pic Coolidge is a brilliant mountain with interesting, varied routes and provided a great finish to our week.