2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Barre des Ecrins.
2014 backwards is the elevation of the Barre des Ecrins : 4102 m!
The first ascent of the Barre des Ecrins was made by a multinational party of three British climbers, Edward Whymper, Horace Walker and Adolphus Warburton Moore, with the Swiss guide, Christian Almer, and the guide from Chamonix, Michel Croz.
During this remarkable first ascent, the party traversed a good part of the Massif des Ecrins. The mountaineers set off from La Grave on 23 June 1864, crossed the Brèche de la Meije, (another first), then descended to La Bérarde for the night. The next day they climbed up to bivouac upon the glacier de Bonne Pierre.
25 June 1864 was “a day full of memorable events” (quote Whymper); they crossed the Col des Ecrins, and thanks to the perseverance of the guides who cut many steps in the ice with an axe, they eventually reached the summit of the « Pointe des Ecrins” before descending to the Valley of Vallouise.
The spirit of the project
This anniversary is the perfect occasion to showcase the Massif des Ecrins. All those involved in the project are working closely together to plan a great programme of activities and events.
You can share some pretty incredible and intense experiences in the mountains. Mountaineering is an activity that develops the values of solidarity, sharing and self-control; it teaches you to push your limits and make decisions. Mountain climbing enhances your self-confidence and forces you to be humble. Mountains make you step out of your comfort zone, give you a sense of freedom and are a remedy against the humdrum existence of everyday life!
The Ecrins may have an interesting past but they also have a bright future, with many different projects for young people on the agenda.
The Ecrins mountain range has changed over the last 150 years, and therefore, this anniversary is the ideal opportunity to highlight the richness and fragility of the natural environment. For example, in the last 40 years over a third of the surface area of the glaciers in the mountain range has disappeared because of global warming.
« Les Ecrins »
The wildest and one of the largest glaciated mountain ranges in the Alps, the massif des Ecrins has lavender bushes at its feet and its head in the glaciers!
“A wild paradise created for the joy of man and beast” according to Gaston Rébuffat, and indeed, for all mountain guides and mountaineers, the Ecrins is an ideal outdoor playground with no equal!
With 11000 hectares (27181 acres) of glaciers, the Ecrins mountains are an impressive reservoir of ice with exceptional geological wealth and an abundance of wild fauna and flora. The Ecrins National Park was created in 1973 to protect this preserved environment, designated a “European High Mountain Park” by the Council of Europe.
There are 150 summits over 3000 metres high in the park , and 50 over 3500 metres. The Barre des Ecrins is the highest point at 4102 metres above sea level, followed by other famous summits such as the Meije, Pelvoux, Ailefroide, the Bans and Olan.
Follow the Mountain guides
The first “Compagnie des Guides” in the area was founded by the “Société des Touristes du Dauphiné” in 1875. The “Oisans-Ecrins Compagnie des Guides” (www.guidesdemontagne.com) was created in its present form in 1950. It is the Project manager for the occasion, with the support and help of the Comité départemental du Tourisme des Hautes-Alpes (Hautes Alpes Regional Tourist Board), the Ecrins National Park and the Oisans Tourist Office.
The anniversary event will take place from 23-25 June 2014 and will recreate the route of the first ascent of the Barre des Ecrins.
23 June : set off from la Grave, night at la Bérarde.
24 June : climb to the Vallon de Bonne Pierre with special bivouac (also open to non-climbers).
25June : ascent of the Barre and descent to Vallouise for a festive evening.
One or several of the parties will take part dressed in period costume.
Parties will meet up from all the different valleys in the massif, namely Valgaudemar, the Valjouffrey, La Grave, Vallouise, and la Bérarde and finish the climb together.
Equally, a team will depart from Vallouise on 24 June, for a lively bivouac near the Glacier Blanc (also open to non-climbers), and the next day will join the group that left from Bonnepierre to finish the ascent together. These parties will be made up of guides, mountaineering enthusiasts, mountain rescue, members of the “Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne”, young people and celebrities.
A party of mountain guides will make an attempt to scale the Barre from Valgaudemar, both climbing and paragliding.
Some of the celebrities who will take part in this festive and historic ascent are :
A party spanning three generations, made up of the mountain guide André Giraud, his daughter and grandson, will climb to the summit of the Ecrins, 63 years after his first ascent of the Barre with his father.
Lionel Daudet, a great mountaineer and author whose works include “Le Tour de France exactement”.
Catherine Destivelle – it is not a well-known fact but the famous climber and mountaineer knows the area like the back of her hand as she grew up climbing on many of the epic rock routes in the Ecrins!
Sylvain Tesson, travel writer and traveller, winner of the Prix Goncourt short story prize, and his friend Daniel Dulac, former world rock and ice-climbing champion will also be present!
To mark the occasion of this historic ascent, Christian Burger, the artist who sculpted the statue of Whymper at Argentière, will create a sculpture called “Envol” (flight). It will be carried up to the summit of the Barre piece by piece by climbers from the different parties leaving from all the valleys in the mountain range.
This significant event is another first in the Alps ! To date, the only works of art found on the mountain summits are religious symbols. All summer long the sculpture will stand beside the historic cross cast in aluminium in Argentière which was erected on the summit at the end of the 1940s. The sculpture will be brought back down to the valley at the end of the summer.
Festivities with a Mountaineering theme all summer long:
• 18 June: evening launch of “150 years” in Grenoble, with film screenings and guest mountaineer speakers in the presence of officials.
• from 19 to 22 June: reception for the mainstream press with an introduction to mountaineering.
• from 30 April to 4 May: A team of ski mountaineers from the CAF (Club Alpin Français) will attempt to set the record for the ascent and descent of the Barre .
• Throughout the summer, you will find a range of entertainment and activities, meetings and outings to commemorate the 150 years both down in the valleys and up in mountain refuges.
• A photo exhibition depicting 150 years of mountaineering in the Ecrins will be shown in different venues, available in book form or panels for mountain refuges.
. • 10 July: following in the footsteps of Captain Durand who made the first ascent of Le Pelvoux in 1828 to measure its altitude, an expedition of expert surveyors will attempt the ascent of the Barre and the Dome des Ecrins to measure their exact elevations.
• From 31 July to 2 August : the 13th Argentière la Bessée Book Festival will be dedicated to mountaineering.
• “La Saga des Ecrins”, written by François Labande (author, mountaineer and member of “Groupe de Haute Montagne”) will be published this spring by Éditions Guérin, (the author will also take part in the historic ascent).
• The project also has a strong educational component with a programme of events planned for school children and through the Grenoble Youth Mission. Pupils and students from primary, secondary and high schools in the Hautes Alpes and Isère will take part at their own level, and some will climb the summits.
Many of the mountain refuges close on the weekend of 13 -14 September. There will be a festive and eco-friendly closing event open to all, including school groups, with cleaning and maintenance of the trails to the mountain huts, gatherings and debates to raise awareness about nature and the great outdoors. The following week will be dedicated to history and will end with heritage days on 20and 21September.
And lots, lots more! More events are being planned and there is widespread interest in the project!
Further information on: http://www.guidesdemontagne.com/150ans-de-la-barre-des-ecrins/
The whole mountain area will be rocking to celebrate the Ecrins in 2014!