Friday, 26 October 2012

Ailefroide By Jen Wilby


Ailefroide is a tiny village set beneath the mighty Ecrin's in the Southern French Alps. Whilst Ailefroide might be a small village, it's home to some mighty bouldering. The one neccesity for here is power, and lots of it.
The boulders lay along the river from the North at Pre De Madame Carle all the way down to near Pelvoux, which provides you with 17 sectors of face on finger pulling granite action:

Ailefroide is worth a visit, so here is a head's up on the sectors we visited:
1 Pave; A good sector with good landings. Blocs ranging from 5+ to 7c+. Exposed and quiet.
2 Philemon; A large sector with 38 blocs but its set in the woods which means after periods of rain the top outs are mossy and in need of cleaning.
3 Pont; Small sector, suffering from moss as for Philemon.
4 Riviere; 24 blocs, close to each other, easy access but very polished due to the proximity to the river. Very much like the beach bloc at Magic.
5 Champignon; Difficult access due to raised river.
6 Reception; As the name suggests, close to the camping reception area. As per Riviere.
7 Sete; Just don't bother going!
8/9/10 Suprise, Cahutes, Plaque; Very good sectors, exposed and dry quick. Over 97 blocs ranging from 5+ to 8a+. Worth a visit.
11 Manu 01; Really good sector. Exposed with some awesome orange and black blocs. Train your finger strength!
12 40.12 bis; Access not possible due to raised river
13 Manu 02; Really good sector with 14 blocs - go!
14 Kesaco; Good sector to warm up and if its hot lower down in the valley this area will be cooler as it gets little sun.
15 Capitale; Amazing sector in a magnificant mountain side setting with 28 blocs from 5+ to 7c+.
16 Steppe; Awesome sector at the end of the valley much cooler than the others.
* Access across the river may be possible earlier in the season.
Local Chamois Deer
I read on the internet that the best time to go to Ailefroide is from June to September. We arrived at the end of September and during the day temperatures lower down in the valley were high. I would recommend Sept - Nov as being the best seasons, but keep an eye on the snow forecast as the mountain pass does get closed.
The whole of Ailefroide is a campground, literally and its open from May - Sept. So if you go during these months you'll have to pay to stay. Outside of these months you'll get the whole of Ailefroide to yourself and for free :) except for the other cheap van climbing folk. Its a truely beautiful place!
Out of season the nearest shops are in Vallouise, which is where Bloc De Ailefroide guidebook can be purchased for about 14 euros. There is also a cafe / bar in the centre which provides internet access - be warned the 8 til Huit does not do what it says!
Around the Ailefroide / Briancon area there is alot of climbing - enough to spend just a year here I believe! From long multi pitch trad & sport routes which will give you an amazing view of the Ecrins and into the peaks and valleys of Italy, to the hard single sport pitches on streaky black and orange rock. The local routes giudebook can also be purchased in Vallouise. I'll certainly be comming back to the area to check them out!
The end of our trip is looming, depressingly on the horizon. So we're contemplating our futures in the forest of Fontainbleau, which needs no introduction. I've been climbing for about 7 years, and this is the 9th visit to the forest, so I have a very substantial "to do" list. So we'll be staying here until the bank balance tells us its time to return to the UK.
On to Font...
Happy Climbing!



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