La Meije


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Sport climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 1, 2012 - 05:15pm PT
"La Meije is a mountain in the Massif des Écrins range, located at the border of the Hautes-Alpes and Isère départements. It overlooks the nearby village of La Grave, a mountaineering centre and ski resort, well known for its off-piste and extreme skiing possibilities.

La Meije is composed of three principal summits. The highest point is the Grand Pic de la Meije at 3,984 metres. The Grand Pic is notorious in that there is no "easy" path to the top. For this reason, La Meije was the last major peak in the Alps to be summited. The first ascent was made on August 16, 1877 by Pierre Gaspard and his son and their client Emmanuel Boileau de Castelnau. In 1885, Ludwig Purtscheller and Otto Zsigmondy made the first traverse over the three summits. The south side is widely considered to be the most difficult face of La Meije, and the direct south face of the Grand Pic was only climbed in 1935 and that of the Central Pic in 1951.[1]

The Doigt de Dieu (English: Finger of God), a large snow-clad tower at the east end of the ridge, overhanging the south slopes, is an attraction for mountaineers of various levels of ability.

For mountaineering, La Meije can be approached from two mountain refuges:
The refuge du Promontoire at 3,082 metres, is situated at the bottom of the steep south buttress of the peak, and allows access to routes on the south face of the mountain.

The refuge de l'Aigle at 3,450 metres, is situated at the top of the Tabuchet glacier, and allows access to the north face."

Source: Wikipedia

La Meije traverse

[Click to View YouTube Video]

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 1, 2012 - 05:24pm PT
La Meije et ses Ecrins. Daniel Baud-Bovy.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 1, 2012 - 05:58pm PT
Quel magnifique!

Trad climber
The rock doesn't care what I think
Dec 1, 2012 - 06:00pm PT

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 20, 2014 - 01:16pm PT

La Grave - La Meije
[Click to View YouTube Video]

It's a higher place... and when you're here, you don't think about the world below...
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Aug 20, 2014 - 01:41pm PT
Major Meijer, that Marlow.

Merci, mon ami.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Aug 20, 2014 - 01:42pm PT
Now those are some seriously cool pieces of art!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Aug 20, 2014 - 01:53pm PT
Merci beaucoup!


Trad climber
under the sea
Aug 20, 2014 - 03:38pm PT
Best place I've ever skied...unfrocking believable...all the riff raff stays away because there are no signs, avalanche patrol, ski patrol or anything else. Met and skied with Doug Coombs there and have a ton of incredible memories. Highly recommended...and be sure to get a guide if you go...or your gunna die fer sure

Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 20, 2014 - 06:00pm PT
La Meije!

Cheese truck on Tuesday mornings? Yum!

Boulder climber
Aug 20, 2014 - 06:26pm PT
In 1954, a year after declaring myself a climber, I bought a copy of the translated version (1947) of "High Heaven" by Jacques Boell, reminiscences of climbs he and his companions made in the early 1940s in this general area. It was (and is) a fascinating, well-written account of their mountain adventures, and it inspired me to get out to the Tetons.

Mountain climber
Aug 21, 2014 - 08:04am PT
the Meije is one of the coolest peaks in the Alps, with great classics like the traverse (D), Z - route on the north face (Ice/ mixed) and the Allain route on the south face ( 2400ft, 5.9), which can be ideally combined with the traverse towards the refuge de l'Aigle, a superb old wooden refuge, unfortunately replaced by a new hut this year. the other refuge you use for the traverse, the north face as well as the south face is the refuge du promontoire, run by the Freddy and his wife. they serve a free apéritif before dinner.. so well worth visiting! as with most peaks in the Ecrins massif, the Meije involves a long approach to the hut and a long descent, but well worth it![photoid=373961]

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 21, 2014 - 09:46am PT

Thanks for great additions to the thread. First hand experiences breath life into the thread.

Here's more cinema - wingsuit jump from Doigt de Dieu:
[Click to View YouTube Video]

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 4, 2014 - 07:57am PT

Francois Labande is the author of a great new book "La Saga des Ecrins" published on Editions Guerin. La Meije is the mountain at the center of this alpine history and American William Augustus Coolidge plays an important role at the start and has been given his own chapter.

Here's a presentation of the book with a lot of historical photos (French spoken):
[Click to View YouTube Video]
Juin 2014... La Saga des Ecrins... Le nouveau livre de Francois Labande aux Editions Guérin Chamonix Mont-Blanc... Quelques extraits de la présentation du livre...

"Les premières s'enchaînent : une équipe anglaise composée de Horace Walker, Adolphus Moore et Edward Whymper, guidée par deux pointures, Michel Croz et Christian Almer, atteint en 1864 le sommet de la Barre des Écrins, qui domine le massif. Puis, c'est la ruée vers la Meije : William Auguste Coolidge, guidé par Christian Almer et flanqué de ses deux « compagnes » (sa tante adoptive et une chienne membre d'honneur du Club alpin pour son impressionnant palmarès), accède sans trop de difficultés au supposé point culminant... manque de chance, tandis que, sous leurs pas, se dresse inutilement le Doigt de Dieu, de l'autre côté d'une traversée d'arêtes peu avenantes, la Meije au-dessus d'eux, leur fait un pied de nez. C'est à Pierre Gaspard que reviendra finalement la première de la « Grande Difficile ». Quant à cette traversée qu'Almer n'avait pu observer sans lâcher un spontané : « Unmöglich ! », elle sera à l'origine d'une nouvelle pratique : l'alpinisme sans guide, particulièrement prisée par la fratrie Zsigmondy."

Gaston Rebuffat said: "La Meije, the mountain where you become an alpinist"


Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 4, 2014 - 08:03am PT

And where in France is the "Ecrins"?

The Ecrins are in the South-eastern part of France, and close to the Italian border. "Parc national des Ecrins" is a national parc.

Here's the geography:

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 4, 2014 - 08:09am PT

There are many national parcs in the Southern and Eastern part of France. Below is a map showing us where they are. The parcs are marked with PN or PNR.
The national parc in the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis is not shown on the map.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 4, 2014 - 08:10am PT
Super cool thread, Marlow.
I love that style of paintings!

Sport climber
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 6, 2014 - 12:31pm PT

Ecrins Massif by Frédéric Chevaillot, Paul Grobel & Jean-René Minelli -

Mountaineering in the Écrins Massif showcases the Écrins’ most beautiful summits through a selection of the area’s best lower grade snow, rock and mixed climbs. Authors Frédéric Chevaillot, Paul Grobel and Jean-René Minelli have chosen 25 classic Écrins routes – graded between F and AD – that have come to be regarded as classics due to their quality, their altitude or, simply, their easy access. These routes provide the essential pleasures of mountaineering: getting off the beaten track, enjoying the pure mountain air and delighting in the charms of the high mountains. Most of these routes are at the boundary between hiking and technical alpinism and should be within the capabilities of any fit hiker-mountaineer. Routes and peaks featured include the Aiguille du Goléon; the north ridge of the Aiguille Dibona; the south ridge of Pic Coolidge; the north-east face of the Meije Orientale; and the traverse of the Barre des Écrins ridge, plus many more. Each route features a detailed and comprehensive route description, a sketch map and a route summary detailing the start point, difficulty, timings, height gain, best time of year and the gear required. A conscious decision was made to limit the selection to relatively easy climbs, and so the routes described in this book – a mere fraction of the climbs in the magnificent Écrins Massif – should be within the capabilities of almost all mountaineers.

 See more at:


Sep 7, 2014 - 08:18am PT
I've climbed in the Ecrins Range a fair amount (more than some, less than others), but still have yet to climbe La Meije and do the subsequent ridge traverse. Just a question of that magical combination of availability, good weather, and finding a partner when I'm available and there's good weather.

FYI - the old Aigle Hut was replaced; the new one was installed this summer, and kept pretty much the size, look, and feel of the old hut.

Here is a view of La Meije from 4102m

And also from 4102m a view of Ailefroide's impressive north face (actually three summits: east 3847m, central 3927m, west 3954m). You can see Les Bans (3669m) on the right slightly in the background.

For those of you who travel primarily to Chamonix when in the French Alps, I highly recommend making a specific climbing/mountaineering trip to Les Ecrins. While there is nothing ever truly "remote" in the Alps by American standards, the range is far more isolated from human structures than the Mont Blanc Range. The hut/bivy approaches are long by local standards (2 to 5 hours) and it's much easier to find a summit/route with no one else around.

Chevaillot and Minelli published two now well-known and excellent guidebooks on Les Ecrins (F-PD+, and AD-D+), but both are in French. I had no idea that they finally published a compilation in English. If traveling to the area, a must purchase.

The Dibona is a must as well:


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 7, 2014 - 08:21am PT
Looks good...really good!
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