Climbing in the Alps – Ailefroide
Information about climbing near to Ailefroide in France:
You can buy a local crag guidebook for €11 at the shop in Ailefroide.
The rock type is granite and the majority of the easy access routes are slabs. The climbs are all about smearing and footwork. If you’re used to climbing with your arms, then get practicing without any handholds!
The grading in the guidebooks is not consistent and should be taken lightly. I’m used to climbing 6b top rope, 6a lead comfortably at the wall. My climbing ranged from struggling on a 3c lead, to leading a 5b fairly comfortably – there really was a lot of variation in the grading and it wasn’t just down to different styles. Some of the rock is polished – particularly the routes closest to the campsite just over the river. However the grade spread is good and there were lots of people around who could have helped retrieve gear if we couldn’t complete a climb.
The guidebook is in French and there seemed to be a lot of jokes that my cursory knowledge of French (A-level!!) didn’t cover. The book didn’t cover route length, which was not useful when there were some people with 50m ropes who got caught short. There didn’t seem to be comprehensive information about lower-offs either, although the guidebook did outline when areas had been bolted, to give an idea of safety.
Usefully, at the crag, a lot of the routes had their names either painted on the rock or inscribed on attachments to the rock at the base of the route, so route finding was ok on single pitch.
As some of our friends found out to their detriment, it’s sometimes hard to find the descent route. If you’re planning a multi-pitch, make sure you’ve had a good look at your route and the descent and leave enough time to abseil down in the light if needed.
What I would take if going again (minimum):
11 quick draws
3 slings minimum (suggest30cm, 60cm, 120cm) I had 2x30cm and 60cm and wanted a longer one.
4 screw gate carabiners
1 full set of nuts for an emergency / extra belay on multi-pitch
1belay device and carabiner
If I were to go again I would take 60m twin ropes or a 70m single rope if I were sticking to single pitch. My reason… If you decide to do single pitch then you’ll need at least a 60m rope, as some of the routes are deceptively long on the slabs. If you decide to do a multi pitch and need to abseil, then 60m will definitely be an advantage and twin ropes seem to me to be the best option, to be able to abseil the full length.
As with all of my posts, please make sure you make your own decisions about gear, routes and climbing partner. The information given is based on our experience and you must make choices based on your own situation, seeking advice if necessary.
Happy climbing in Ailefroide.