Climb Europe

Rock Climbing in the Durance Valley, Hautes Alps

The Hautes Alps are situated in Provence between Gap (to the south west), Grenoble (to the north west) and the Italian border (to the west). The area is sometimes referred to as the Southern Alps or the Ecrins and enjoys better weather than the Northern Alps around Chamonix and it is considerably quieter. In fact this area claims to have 300 days of sunshine a year, stays a lot drier, and offers year-round rock climbing by choosing your crag carefully. The Durance Valley is a huge glacier valley with steep sides where many of the rock climbing areas are located, often with a short approach.

The area is dominated by the 4,000m+ peak of Massif Des Ecrins plus several other 3,000m+ peaks, giving 1,000's of Alpine routes across all grades. There are also around 1,500 sport routes from single pitch to multi-pitch routes up to 600m long - of which the majority are well bolted. This climbing is mainly situated in the Durance Valley around the towns of Briancon, Ailefroide, L'Argentiere-la-bessee and Guillestre, and includes over 75 crags.  All of these crags have solid rock with a wide choice of grades to choose from. The type of rock here is very varied from limestone, conglomerate, quartz, gabbro to granite and gneiss - offering many different styles of rock climbing. Ailefroide is home to long bolted multi-pitch sport routes on superb granite rock.  Many of these routes are between 200m and 300m long, and graded between F5a to F6c.  Ailefroide is also an excellent bouldering area and has many single pitch sport routes – all on granite rock.

The map below shows the major crags in the area and the table opposite shows a selection of the popular crags.

Map of the rock climbing areas in the Durance Valley, in the Haute Alps

Map of the rock climbing areas in the Durance Valley, in the Haute Alps

Popular Crags in the Durance Valley, Hautes Alps

Crag Nearest Town Type of rock No. of Routes Max Height Grade range Best Season
Rocher Baron Briancon Quartz 60 20m F3 - F7c Spring
Plampinet Plampinet Limestone 90 40m F4c - F7b+ May to October
Mont Dauphin Fort Guillestre Conglomerate 75 40m F3c - F8a+ May to November
Ailefroide Vallouise Granite 350+ 500m F3 - F8b May to October
Fessourier Vallouise Limestone 34 40m F6a - F7c May to October
Clapeyto Arvieux Limestone 40 250m F4b - F6c May to October
La Grande Falaise Freissiniers Limestone 140 150m F5 - F8c March to November
Le Ponteil Champcella Limestone 60 200m F5c - F7c+ March to November
Les Traverses Vallouise Limestone 130 35m F4c - F8b+ All Year
Le Pouit Champcella Limestone 70 80m F4c - 7c+ All Year

4,000m Peaks of the Alps Guidebook covers the Swiss AlpsThere is a guidebook available, which covers all the sport routes and some classic Alpine routes in the Hautes Alps called "Briancon Climbs Guidebook". Buy this guidebook from our shop.

Mountaineering in the Ecrins Massif GuidebookThe Massif Des Ecrins has two peaks over 4,000, which are the Barre des Ecrins (4,102m) and the Dome de Neige des Ecrins (4,015m).  Both of these peaks offer excellent Alpine routes that are more isolated than those in Chamonix.  The “4,000m Peaks of the Alps Guidebook” details routes up both of these peaks in the Massif Des Ecrins. Other mountaineering guidebooks for the Ecrins are “Ecrins 4102m Mountaineering Guidebook”, “Mountaineering in the Ecrins Massif” and "Classic Routes in the Ecrins". Buy these guidebooks from our shop that describes many excellent peaks above 3,000m such as La Meije and Mont Pelvoux. The 3436 ET - Meije-Pelvoux Walking Map from IGN details the Ecrins and Meije Massifs at a scale of 1:25,000.

AlpBase are a well-established company providing instruction and guiding services in the Haute-Alps, as well as providing accommodation for the area.

Rock climbing photographs at Ailefroide Rock Climbing photographs in the Durance Valley Bouldering photographs at Mushrrom in the Durance Valley Rock Climbing photographs at Le Ponteil, Durance Valley Rock Climbing photographs at Le Ponteil, Durance Valley Rock Climbing photographs at Pave Peak, Durance Valley

To view a larger photograph showing the variety of rock climbing and sport climbing to be found in the Durance valley, please click on the thumbnail images.


Rock climbing guidebook for Haut Val Durance around Briancon and Ailefroide

The Briancon Climbs Guidebook covers all the sport routes in the Hautes Alps, including all the crags shown on the map above. Buy it from
our shop.

What are the top 10 sport crags in the Durance Valley? Find out here...