Photos by Tim Exley and Tom Livingstone
On the 13th of July, the Young Alpinist Group travelled to Ailefroide, France for two weeks of climbing in the Écrins Massif. The Group, along with mentor Tom Livingstone, climbed various routes over the meet, with an emphasis being put on exploring more adventurous lines to further build on the Group’s alpine skills and experience.
After the successful winter meet held in Chamonix in March 2020, the Group were keen to develop the techniques required for expeditions in the Greater Ranges. With both a trip Alaska in early 2021 on the horizon and a Himalayan expedition in the pipeline, the Écrins Massif with its variable rock and comical (often literally…) guidebooks was an ideal location. Being away from lifts, it was also the perfect opportunity to develop the legs!
The meet began with a handful of climbs on the Secteur Fissure D’Ailefroide, 5 minutes from the tents to get the legs moving after some long drives, but with a good forecast going forward, it was soon time to head into the mountains. With Carrie and Will looking to hit the choss early and enjoy the first shiver bivvy of the meet, a rare repeat of Voie Kelle/Face Sud on the Pic Sans Nom seemed a good option. At the same time Luke and Joe headed to the Aiguille de Sialouze for the more solid rock of Super Pilou, leaving the campsite at sunrise and racing the sunset back at the end of the day. Tim and Tom took a drive to the West of the range, to climb the technical Le Dossier du Fauteuil on the South Face of the Meije into the Meije traverse, a great day climbing with a nice casual descent to pizza!
A variety of strong partnerships have formed within the Group over the last year, in part built due to the frequent varying of partners on meets, so after a quick recovery beverage, it was time to go again! Tom and Joe left the campsite at a leisurely mid-morning to climb the South Pillar of the Barre des Écrins, with a bivvy 100m below the summit. Carrie and Tim soon followed the next morning, leaving at a more usual alpine time, and going up and over in a big day. Luke, a big believer in tapering for performance, spent some time admiring the sights at the local swimming lake and pulling hard on the local limestone.
After a day or so sampling a selection of the cafés in the valley, eyes started looking up again, and the dark South Pillar of the Barre Noire held their gaze. Carrie, Joe, Will, and Tim set off early from the campsite and made good progress, with Will and Tim getting down with plenty of daylight to spare, and Carrie and Joe making it back in time for last orders after an excitingly loose, off-route direct finish to the pillar. Carrie and Will found the energy to go again the next day, climbing Ventre à Terre in a short day on the Aiguille de Sialouze. Joe and Luke, and Tim instead chose to savour their success a little more, and make a few more visits to the lake in between some sunny sport climbing.
Having sufficiently tanned themselves for that summit selfie, Will and Luke set off to climb the South Pillar of the Barre des Écrins, making it down the next day in good time, despite some adventurous route-finding!
It was a good note for the meet to finish on, with the whole Group having climbed the 1300m South Pillar - a route that had a lesson for everyone. The psyche was high throughout the meet, with rest days spend discussing and planning the upcoming expeditions, and conversation ranging from fear in climbing, and climbing ethics, to the price a demi, and the best way to juggle an ice axe.
Thanks again to the BMC, the Alpine Club, Mountain Equipment, Petzl, and Tom Livingstone for their support - here's to the next one!
Dates: 13 - 26 July 2020
Location: Ailefroide, Ecrins National Park, France
Snoopy, Secteur Fissure D’Ailefroide
Snoopy Direct, Secteur Fissure D’Ailefroide
Arafadam, Secteur Fissure D’Ailefroide
Le Désert du Tartare, Secteur Éboulement
Super Pilou, Aiguille de Sialouze
Ventre à Terre, Aiguille de Sialouze
Voie Kelle/Face Sud, Pic Sans Nom
Le Dossier du Fauteuil, La Meije
Pilier Sud, Barre des Écrins
Pilier Sud, Barre Noire
Pilier des Grimpeurs Dilettantes, Tête D’Aval
YAG Members Present: