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Ecrins Winter Meet 2021

Massif des Ecrins, France

13th-21/02/2021

 

In mid-February, the Chamonix-resident members of the YAG headed down to the Ecrins with the forecast of a high pressure weather system leading to high hopes for high altitude mixed routes… On arrival in this ‘sauvage’ corner of the Alps, we soon discovered that the mountains were not going to make our lives easy, with a high avalanche risk and little ice making for tricky conditions.

After a few scouting trips up the long snowed-up road to Ailefroide and some Ceillac ice for Tom Seccombe, Matt and Connor, Tim and Tom Seccombe were the first to go big with a mission up the Ailefroide Orientale from the Glacier Noir. Having spent a damp night in a snow-cave, they opted for a calf burning but technically straightforward line up the north couloir of the north col, followed by a gully on the south side of the mountain that led to the summit. 

Meanwhile, Tom Livingstone, Matt and Connor were determined to climb the North face of the Meije, despite a high avalanche risk on the snow slopes below the face. Having been turned around by avalanches on their first attempt to the Aigle hut, they decided to start from the Promontoire side, with a very long hut approach followed by a long day of technical climbing on the N face direct. They got tantalisingly close to the summit before the cold wind and lack of bivvy equipment forced a retreat, but nevertheless enjoyed a lot of climbing in good conditions on face.

At more modest altitudes, Joe and Carrie made a traverse of the Tetes de Sainte Margeurite via the Petit Davin, having been turned around by a lack of ice on their intended route. Tim and Carrie then traversed the Lasseron via the central couloir, whilst Tom Seccombe and Joe enjoyed some ice climbing at Ceillac.

With just a few days of the trip left, first Tom and Carrie, then Matt and Connor went for a big day out to climb the ‘Raie des Fesses’ (loosely translated as butt crack line…) on the North face of Pic Sans Nom. They found some fun climbing, some hard climbing and some scary belays on this classic line.

Tim and Joe made big plans to step the sauvage level up a notch with a new route on the north face of the Meije, but were unfortunately repelled by a storm after a long approach with very heavy bags.

The long approaches and lack of people, infrastructure or information on conditions make this area much wilder than the relatively modest altitude of its summits may suggest, and we felt that this trip was good preparation for future expeditions. We learned a lot about dealing with uncertainty, adapting to the conditions and terrain and deciding when to persevere and when to bail. Thanks to Tom Livingstone for coming and climbing with us and until next time, les Ecrins!

Routes Climbed:

Esmerelda, Freissinieres

Formes du Chaos and Sombre Heros, Ceillac

North Couloir into normal route, Ailefroide Orientale

Face N Directe, Meije

Raie des Fesses, Pic Sans Nom

Petit Davin, Tetes de Sainte Marguerite

Couloir N, le Lasseron

 

YAG members present:

Carrie Beadle

Joe Brindley

Tim Exley

Matt Glenn

Tom Livingstone

Connor Read

Tom Seccombe