In July 2000, a group from UCCMC attended the third annual MCI Alpine Meet in Ailefroide. Here's what happened...
Ailefroide is a tiny village situated in the Ecrin Massif in the French Alps. The village consists of nothing more than a campsite, half a dozen shops and a pub or two. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in all of the French Alps, which are particularly unspoilt due to the relative remoteness of the region and its protected National Park status. Last summer, 11 members of UCCMC travelled to Ailefroide for the annual MCI Alpine Meet. Our paths to the alps differed greatly. Rachel Stapleton, Jenny Timms and Trish Geraghty travelled to Montpellier en route to Aliefroide, where they met Harry Bach and Jean O' Donoghue, who had come from Edinburgh. Jiri Horak came directly from his home in the Czech Republic, while Conor O' Mahony and Bryan Feeney came from Geneva. Trish's siblings, Richard and Aoife, caught up with us after a night in Marseille, and finally, Dave Clifford arrived once he had recovered his lost luggage in Lyon. Almost everyone participated in courses run by the MCI, and went on to climb several peaks unguided. Between us all, we climbed the following routes:
Here is a more detailed account of the trip.
There are photographs at the bottom of the page.
Pic De Neige Cordier, by alpine standards, is a small, straightforward peak, graded facile and without any real difficulties or objective dangers. Nevertheless, to a group of climbers more accustomed to the Kerry Hills, it provided a suitable challenge as an introduction to Alpine climbing. The route was a two-day affair, with 4-5 hour walk-in on the first day, ending with a bivouac at the Ecrin Hut at 3100 m. Day 2 began with a 4.00 a.m. wake-up call and a 5.00 start. Two hours of easy snowslopes brought you to the summit ridge, where an entertaining yet straightfroward scramble gained the summit 45 minutes later. The descent back to the bivvy site took about 2 more hours, leaving the rest of the day to walk back to Ailefroide at your leisure, feeling more than a little self- satisfied.
The route was climbed by 2 parties from UCCMC. Trish, Richard and Aoife were taken on it as part of their MCI Introduction to Alpine Mountaineering Course, and shortly afterwards, Conor, Jiri, Dave and Bryan completed it unguided.
Pic Coolidge is a gloriously unfrequented route owing to the absence of any hut from which to stage a summit attempt. Unlike most of the other routes in the Ecrins region, one has no choice but to bivouac. The approach walk on Day 1 is absolutely stunning, following the moraine of the Glacier Noir up to the base of the Col De La Temple. Bivvy Sites are in short supply, and we chose to spend the night on an island of rock in the middle of the glacier to avoid the regular rockfall coming down the valley walls.
Rachel, Dave, Conor and Jenny all set out, but Jenny was forced to turn back by illness. The other three spent a cramped night in a bivvy site better suited to two, and started out at 5.00 a.m. Some route-finding and a loose gully brought us to the Col De La Temple, from where 2-3 hours of scrambling and snowslopes brought us to the summit at 9.00 a.m. Great care had to be taken on the descent so as not to dislodge loose rock, and we arrived back at the bivvy at 12.15, where we were treated to the sight of an ice avalanche off of the north face of Pic De La Temple, when part of a hanging glacier finally submitted to gravity. All in all, a fantastic route, the highlight of the trip for me personally. As usual, I irritated my companions by taking lots of photographs.
L'Ailefroide is more akin to a massif than a mountain, with three summits- Occidentale, Centrale and Orientale, or west, central and east. It boasts a wide variety of routes at all grades, the voie normale being the east summit via its south ridge. From a bivouac at the old Sele Hut at 2700 m, the ridge must be crossed by a long system of ledges in order to gain its west flank. From there, access to the summit is afforded by long snowslopes. The second day is a very long one indeed.
Two parties climbed this route. Rachel, Jenny, Bryan and Jiri, in the company of Robbie Fenlon, by-passed the initial ledge system by a steep snow gully, while Conor, with Claire, Grainne and Gill (TCD), stuck to the regular route.
All photos belong to Conor O' Mahony.
More photos can be seen at Dave Clifford's Photo Album and on Jiri Horak's Ailefroide Page.
|© Conor O' Mahony|
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