Beneath the Mighty Barre des Ecrins - 4102m - in the Vallon du Borne Pierre,

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Monday, 18 August 2014

Beneath the Mighty Barre des Ecrins - 4102m - in the Vallon du Borne Pierre,

Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France The Ecrins National Park is home to the southernmost 4000m peak in the Alps, the mighty Barre des Ecrins at 4102m , the lower slopes of which just so happen to be within hiking distance of our base at La Berarde. The view of its snow capped peak and ridge of giant rocky spires had tantalised us during our hike to Glacier Noir the previous week, again when hiking from the Col du Lautaret and also during theprevious 2 days hiking from La Berarde.


Vallon de Borne Pierre under Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France Although mountaineering to such a giant is way beyond our current skills, the chance to hike within touching distance of the vertical cliff faces beneath the peak was a chance we didn't want to miss.

We have really been enjoying our early starts which, despite the cold air in the valley that freezes our fingers, allowing us to enjoy the scenery in near absolute seclusion since most of the other day hikers haven't arrived yet, which is a truly magical time. Setting out early once more, climbing out of La Berarde into the Vallon du Etancons (as on the previous day) we almost immediately turned right and began the challenging climb to Glacier de Borne Pierre.

Vallon de Borne Pierre under Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France  

Climbing alongside the river through thick bushes before emerging onto open rocky slopes, we struggled our way to the base of a massive moraine left by the glacier and extending down the mountainside. Continuing up the steep, rocky switchbacks that ascended the moraine at a snails pace we eventually emerged after more than 2 hours of effort to be treated to the awesome view of the glacier surface, stretching for hundreds of metres ahead of us before turning sharply up to the summit of the Barre des Ecrins far above.

From here the moraine continued on, turning into a precipitous ridge with a steep drop of more than a hundred metres on either side. With the path just 50 cm across in places, we treaded our way carefully, eventually reaching the head of the moraine at more than 2900m altitude and within a hundred or metres or so of the near vertical cliff face rising 1200m further above us. This was the highest we had hiked in the Alps so far, and what a setting to reach to reward us for 3 ½ hours of stiff hiking.

After trying unsuccessfully to capture the majesty of this harsh, enormous environment in photos, we retraced our steps over the treacherous moraine. Stopping before the steepest part of the descent for a bite to eat, looking over the valleys extending beneath us and the peaks above in bright sunshine we marvelled once again at where it was possible for your feet to take you and just how big everything is here. Le Berarde and this area of the Ecrins will definitely be a hard place to leave.


Click here for 7 reasons to visit the Ecrins National Park

Click here for details of 6 amazing hikes in the Ecrins National Park

Click here to see our other walks in the French Alps

Walk Information:
Motorhome Base: La Berarde
Start/ End Point: La Berarde
Distance: approx 5 km to moraine (one way)
Time Taken: 6-7 hours
Level: Hard
Map: IGN Map 3436ET: Meije-Pelvoux / Parc National Des Ecrins 1:25,000
OR: Rando Editions Carte de Randonnees 'Ecrins' 1:50,000






Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France


Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

Vallon de Borne Pierre under Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

Vallon de Borne Pierre under Barre des Ecrins, Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

Ecrins National Park, Alps, France

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