In my view the most beautiful mountain, just discover the north face early in the morning...
A wonderful first 4000m peak I will always remember.
Not technical (but the direct coolidge route, though very short (150m) is quite steep (45/50°). be cautious if icy!
The view from the top is fantastic, there's no village or human activity seen from it, only the wilderness (except mountain huts) which is quite rare in the Alps from a 4000M peak...
In spite of a lot of people climbing les Ecrins, mind the crevasses (and possible serac falls down the slopes)
Two of us stayed at the refuge for 2 days, walking into the refuge from Ailefroide was a long hot slog.
Climbed up the excellent Roche Faurio on the first day and this helped us acclimatise, so well in fact that, the next day we started at 1am and hooned up the Barre snow ascent in no time.
Then we got to the ridge- we slowed down and took a low risk approach going up and down the ridge placing a few slings here and there.
We abseiled down over the Bergschrund, then descended to the glacial plain of the glacier blanc as fast as we could to avoid being under the serac feild as the sun came up!
Check out some photos on http://www.serrechevalier.co.uk/Serrechevalier2/barre.htm
Left Berarde at midnight, reached Col des Ecrins at dawn. Went up north face until end of glacier and then straight for the summit (i.e. not via the dome), reaching it around noon. Another 7 hours for return, making it an 17 hour roundtrip (slow - I know, but soloing I had no-one to carry my pack).
Carried skis, but never used them, as glacier was icy making crampons easier on way up and safer on way down.
Though rightmost part of base is easiest and hence very tempting. But few hours after passing, there was a huge chute of serracs from above - do not use it !!!
The last 200 meters from where the glacier ends were covered by 5-15cm of clear ice plus 50 cm loose snow. This required decent crampons and ice axes.
As an alternative to doing the non stop round trip, I recommend walking up to base of Col des Ecrins in the evening, bivouaking and continuing at first light.
This was my 4th attempt. Very shortly, the previous 3:
March 2002: Stayed in refuge des Ecrins (unmanned in March), but next day clouds came in and we did a lower peak to the right of Glacier Blanc
May 2003: Bivouaced at base of Col des Ecrins, Glacier Blanc carried almost 1 meter of new powder snow, and we did not have skis. Did some rock climbing just to the right of Col des Ecrins and descended. (My partner stumbled in a shoe-lace and pierced his neck with the ice axe in the fall just before la Berarde. He made it to Grenoble in a helicopter, while I had to drive all the way - remember to put those things away when no longer needed)
August 2003: Solo. Bivouacked at base of Col des Ecrins. Glacier Blanche had a crust insufficient to carry my weight, which reuired much energy, and hence slow ascent. About 2/3 up, clouds made visibility low, and I descended. This is why I carried those useless skis on final successfull atempt.
There is a phenomenenal 3 volume guide book covering just about every route to every summit in les Ecrins, but I left it in France. Will update log when I get hold of it.
I had to stay at Breche Lory because it was my first time at 4000m. and I felt so weak to atempt the summit ridge. But next time i will reach the summit :-)
a perfect day with clear sky and warm temperatures even at 4000 m. Thank god 90 % of the visitors of the Refuge des Ecrins only climb the Dome. For me it was the highlight of the summer!