Durance Valley is a beautiful and quiet place offering an incredible number of routes on solid and varied rock. Climbing in Durance Valley is an unforgettable experience, although the peaks here are much lower than in the Northern Alps (Chamonix area). Luckily, Durance Valley weather is less unpredictable and the quiet atmosphere makes it all the more special.
Climbing in Durance is spread across more than 72 crags which are located around the towns of Briancon, Ailefroide and Guillestre. In this one area you can climb on limestone, conglomerate and quartz, as well as gabbro, granite and gneiss. Such variety of rock offers many climbing styles but it has to mentioned that whichever crag you chose, the walls are always of great quality with no choss.
Two peaks dominating the area are Barre des Ecrins and Dome de Neige des Ecrins. They are both over 4000 metres high and offer great Alpine routes which are more isolated than those over Chamonix. Many peaks of Massif des Ecrins are higher than 3000m and there is a great choice of Alpine routes of all grades.
Durance Valley will also satisfy those looking for sport climbing and bouldering. There are about 1500 bolted routes across a wide range of grades and lengths. There are good quality single pitch sport routes, as well as bolted multi-pitch lines up to 600 metres long. Most of them are well equipped but it is important not to treat them lightly and always be prepared for Alpine style risks.
Bouldering enthusiasts will enjoy the area of Ailefroide where they can find a superb, if small, bouldering area. The blocks of pristine granite are set in the overwhelming scenery of the picturesque Alpine valley dominated by an impressive glacier.
Thanks to the large variety of crags, Durance Valley is a year-round climbing destination. The area is famous for boasting 300 days of sunshine per year, which helps to keep it dry. Naturally, the best season for multi-pitch climbing runs from late spring through to late autumn. In winter you can seek sunny routes on some of the south-facing sport climbing crags. The altitude makes the area a perfect destination for sport climbing and bouldering in summer, when most other European crags get way too hot.
There are many picturesque villages hidden in the valley and many of them have hotels or apartments for rent. For those who prefer staying outdoors, there is a big and pretty campsite near Ailefroide.